Welcome to london-railfan.info
Railfanning London‘s Railways

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Visitors to London who are also transport enthusiasts (‘railfans’) sometimes ask for advice as to the ‘best’ things to see on London’s railway network. This page is part of a guide which aims to answer that question.

If this is the first time you have reached these pages then it is best to go to the Opening Page which sets the scene, explains the difference between the small and the large profile trains, offers advice on the best type of ticket to buy and photography tips.

Alternatively, it is possible to view everything on one page

Local Light Railways

London also has two rail networks which provide local transport within relatively small parts of the greater London area. In virtually any other British town these networks would be large enough to form excellent cores serving large parts of the entire conurbation; its only because London is so big that they seem so 'small'.

Many people who live in regional towns outside of London look upon London's transports with envy, wishing that similar investments could be made in their home areas as well. For lower capacity routes trolleybuses (which share the same clean air attributes) would also provide a discernable 'step change' improvement on diesel buses. The core issue here is that the Treasury wants people driving cars so that it can receive high levels of income from the taxes imposed on motoring fuels.

Croydon / London Tramlink
Tramlink Bombardier Flexity Swift CR4000 tramcar. . Tramlink Bombardier Flexity Swift CR4000 tramcar.
The Tramlink system uses 24 Bombardier Flexity Swift CR4000 two-section articulated low floor trams which were introduced
when the system opened in 2000 (above left, seen leaving Church Street tram stop) and 10 Stadler Rail Variobahn five-section
multi-articulated trams which date from 2012 and 2015/6 with 2 more expected in 2017 (below left seen at Reeves Corner tram stop).
Tramlink Stadler Rail Variobahn tramcar. . Tramlink Stadler Rail Variobahn tramcar.

Centred on the large suburban town of Croydon, London's first Tramlink system travels through the streets in the town centre and then splits into several branches - all of which are 'off street' / on private rights of way and include sections of new-build tramway and former railway line. In Croydon town centre much of the track is in the form of a uni-directional loop which trams follow in a clockwise direction.

The fastest trains to Croydon travel between East Croydon station and (depending on route) Clapham Junction & Victoria stations or Blackfriars & Farringdon stations. Typically southbound trains will be heading for the south coast (Brighton, Eastbourne, etc) and also calling at Gatwick Airport. Slower ('all stations') trains also exist, although some of these go to West Croydon - this category includes the East London Line Overground trains.

Other routes to Croydon are via tram / train interchange stations in south London. Mitcham Junction can be reached on (some) Thameslink trains from Farringdon; Beckenham Junction can be reached by (some) trains from Victoria station, Elmers End can be reached by (some) trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations, or via the Docklands Light Railway at Lewisham station. Wimbledon can be reached by the District line as well as some (fast) trains from Waterloo and Clapham Junction mainline stations.

Tramlink map.
Map modified by me, original source & license: Metrophil44 / Wikipedia encyclopædia CC BY-SA 4.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tramlink_map_2016.png

Click map to see larger version in a new window! .

Croydon Tramlink. . Croydon Tramlink.
train and tram tracks . tram tracks embedded in paved road
Most of the Tramlink system operates on a private right of way separate from road traffic.
This Bombardier tram is approaching Arena tram stop.
. However there are locations where trams share roadspace with other traffic. This Stadler tram and diesel bus are on Addiscombe Road.

For tourists a route which allows combining many different types of train in one day would be to take the DLR to Lewisham, a SouthEastern train (destination: Hayes) as far as Elmers End and then the tram. (If you are paying fares using in 'PAYG' mode remember to 'touch-in' at the tram card reader on the tram platform; this will automatically end your railway journey and charge you a tram fare. It is important that you use the correct Oyster card reader - as otherwise you will be travelling on the tram without having paid a fare). To return to Central London travel on the tram to Wimbledon, where there is a wide choice of frequent trains back to Central London. (When changing from tram to train remember to 'touch-in' on a free standing Oyster card reader before boarding the train; this applies to all trains from all railway operators).

Despite what the transport officials may say, life really is simpler with a paper 'One Day' Travelcard, as then you do not need to worry about touching in / out and the risk of being overcharged.

Tramlink tram and delivery driver in central Croydon. . Croydon Tramlink.
With good planning even street trams and delivery drivers can
coexist peaceably - see text below for more information.
. A Bombardier tram passes historic Surrey Street market.

(Additional text for the above image) In a world of busy streets and shops which do not have rear accesses delivery drivers need to be able to park close to their destinations. The row of yellow dots painted on the road surface which delineate the tram's swept path give 'white van' delivery drivers confidence that even when the kerbside loading bays are full and they have to park on double yellow line they are still not blocking the tramline.

The 'street tramway' part of the system starts on the Croydon side of Sandilands tram stop and extends over the full town centre loop plus a small distance on the Wimbledon route as far as the bridge over the railway. Lebanon Road tram stop is on a local transport only corridor used by trams, buses and other local traffic. The town centre loop is single track and mostly restricted to either to 'trams only' or trams and vehicles which need to deliver goods to local shops. Some of the loop is also pedestrianised. At some tram stops (eg: West Croydon) the passenger waiting area is also the footpath.

The Wimbledon route includes single and double track sections, plus (just west of Merton Park tram stop) some interlaced / gauntlet track. On this route the best places to watch / photograph trams are between Ampere Way and Wandle Park. Being a former railway many sections of the route are not accessible, and its also worth remembering that with trams travelling at speeds of up to 50mph (80km/h) so it is often not safe for people to be too near the tracks.

Apart from the tunnels midway between Sandilands and Lloyd Park tram stops, the New Addington route is entirely brand new and includes some pleasant rides through woodland. Its often possible to observe / photograph passing trams from a parallel road and from the many road and foot crossings across the track. One of several good places to watch passing trams from the trackside is the area around Coombe Lane tram stop. I've done this several times, and also walked deep into the woodland areas and enjoyed what is more akin to a remote countryside walk than being in a big city. Beyond Addington Village tram stop & bus interchange the trams run alongside Lodge Lane, but because the trams are to the west of the road so in the afternoon the sun's position may inhibit photography. Near King Henry's Walk the tramway passes through the middle of a roundabout and there is also a small single track section where the trams pass around a building which was there before the tramway was built. In France the New Addington route (especially) would have featured 'lawn' track which blends in harmoniously with the local area; as I understand it this was not done on Tramlink because the people who built the tramline had no previous experience of building tramlines which included lawn track. However what this also means is that it is relatively easy to follow the tram route if using online satellite imagery services - such as Google or Bing maps.

Most of the route from Sandilands to Elmers End is a former railway, although it has been heavily rebuilt with a former one-stop branch line (to Addiscombe) being closed and the former stations now being barely recognisable as such. Apart from road crossings the best place for lineside views are in the area around Arena tram stop, which includes the South Norwood Country Park. Although the route is operated on the normal road traffic 'line of sight' principle, restricted sightlines mean that the junction where the Elmers End and Beckenham Junction routes diverge is fully signalled.

British light rail / tramway / streetcar signalling. Signals controlling trams leaving Arena tram stop and travelling towards either the Elmers End or Beckenham Junction routes.

The upper signal advises tram drivers whether to 'stop' or 'go' whilst the lower signal tells them which route has been set, ie: left towards Beckenham Junction or continue ahead towards Elmers End.

The animation is of course 'speeded-up' - what are seen here as 10 second periods of apparent inactivity represents 5 - 10 minutes.

This image (along with another Tramlink signal animation) can be found on the citytransport.info website at this link:
Road Junctions, Level Crossings And Traffic Signal Priority ..

Tram Fares

Although the two main railway stations in Croydon are in zone 5 the entire tramway system is a special fares zone and any prepaid Travelcard season ticket which is valid in zones 3, 4, 5 or 6 can be used on the trams.

If you only wish to travel on the trams (and perhaps buses as well - but NOT trains) then using Oyster PrePay / contactless bank cards / other compatible electronic payment devices in 'pay as you go' (PAYG) mode represents the cheapest way to pay fares as your 3rd journey in a calendar day will be cheaper and then the rest of your journeys (on that day) are free! If you want a souvenir of your visit then although slightly more expensive the One Day Bus & Tram pass will be ideal. These can be bought at many locations including most railway station ticket machines, Oyster Ticket Stops and Tramlink ticket machines at tram stops.

If you are staying for five days (or more) then a weekly / longer bus and tram pass might be worthwhile - note however that these can only be used with an Oyster card.

Since the trams charge a flat fare irrespective of distance travelled so passengers only need to 'touch-in' on an Oyster card reader on the platforms before boarding a tram at the start of the journey. There is then a 70 minute time limit in which journeys should be completed, and during this time the next 'touch-in' (perhaps because it was necessary to change to another tram to complete the journey) is not charged.

As tram and bus fares are mostly priced identically it is also possible for passengers interchanging between a tram and a bus to benefit from the 60 minute Hopper fare for a free second journey. Even passengers interchanging between buses and trams at Wimbledon station are entitled to benefit from Hopper fares, however to get around the station ticket gates blocking the Hopper fares passengers will be charged a second fare at the time of travel but are then supposed to receive an automatic refund of the second fare at a later date.

Hopper fares are only available for two consecutive 'street transport' journeys (two buses or a tram and a bus), which means that you must NOT use the same payment card to pay a fare on a different transport, such as a train. (This is expected to change in 2018)

Because an Oyster card which has a negative PAYG balance is then blocked it must be topped-up and the negative balance cleared before starting the second (free) journey. This comment does not apply to other types of London electronic ticketing as these do not have an e-purse

It is also possible to buy single tickets from the ticket machines which are located on tram stop platforms. These paper tickets are valid for 90 minutes and include a change of tram, if this is required to complete a journey. However this is an expensive way to pay fares and therefore is something you should only do if you just want to go for a ride on a tram and do not have any other way of paying your fare.

Tramlink ticket machines also sell tickets valid to zone 1 underground stations - however these journeys must be made via Wimbledon and the District Line. They are not accepted on any other railway services. (This is because the other railways charge higher fares to passengers without Travelcard season tickets). Note that travelling via the District Line from Wimbledon can take much longer than some of the alternatives. The ticket machines also sell other paper tickets, such as One Day Travelcards, which of course can be used on any train within the relevant zone - and make for a nice souvenir of your visit!

Tramlink ticket machines also sell through tickets for use on tram feeder bus routes T31, T32 and T33, but even though the cost is the same as any other journey, through tickets must be selected at the time of purchase. If the journey starts on a feeder bus then speak to the bus driver.

There is a Tramlink information shop in George Street (near East Croydon railway station / on the other side of the road) which sells tickets and offers travel advice.

East Croydon Railway Tramlink station. . Croydon Tramlink Shop.
The largest stop on the Tramlink system is at East Croydon,
which has three platforms and is right outside East Croydon
mainline railway station. This was filmed at about 4:30pm / 16:30.
. A short walk from East Croydon station towards Croydon Town centre is the Tramlink information shop which offers travel advice and sells tickets.

Cheapest Fares From Central London Zone 1

The cheapest way to travel to Croydon from London Zone 1 is to take the District Line to Wimbledon. This is because Wimbledon station is in Zone 3 and the maximum daily fare using pay-as-you-go (PAYG) ticketing on Oyster, contactless bank credit / debit cards or smartphone apps (in 2016) is £7.60. You will save money even if you only make 2 train journeys and 2 tram journeys (without Hopper discount). It is also possible to pay Zone 3 fares by travelling to Wimbledon on SouthWest Trains from Waterloo (and Southern from Victoria - but you must change trains at Clapham Junction). Be careful with the Thameslink trains that serve Wimbledon station as some of them travel via zones 4 and 5.

If you travel to Croydon via the train / tram interchanges at Mitcham Junction, Birkbeck, Beckenham Junction or Elmers End which are in Zone 4 then the maximum daily fare using PAYG ticketing (in 2016) is £9.30.

If you travel to either East Croydon or West Croydon stations then because these are in Zone 5 the maximum daily fare using PAYG ticketing (in 2016) is £11.00.

These fares apply all day - with daily price capping there is no extra charge if you travel in the rush hours.

If you buy one-day ride-at-will Zones 1-6 or 1-9 paper Travelcard tickets then you can travel via any route. Whilst these are the simplest tickets to use and afterwards make for nice souvenirs they are also the most expensive. Monday - Friday off-peak One Day Travelcards can be used after 9.30. At weekends and bank / public holidays they can be used all day.

Visitors who have BritRail / Eurail Passes should use these between London and Croydon and perhaps for travelling on Tramlink use either PAYG or buy a Bus And Tram Pass.

Croydon Tramlink. . Croydon Tramlink.
Elmers End is one of several stations where the trams stop within the railway fares paid area. This view shows a Bombardier tram in the single terminus platform and a northbound SouthEastern Class 465 train. . When Tramlink first opened its trams were painted in a red and white livery similar to that used by the first generation tram system which closed in 1952.
This location is close to Reeves Corner tram stop. The tram in the new livery had stopped to wait for the other tram to cross the single track Wandle flyover.

At Elmers End and Wimbledon the trams stop inside the stations' fares paid areas. To avoid possible problems with the electronic ticket gates and possibly being charged a railway maximum fare ALL passengers travelling TO Wimbledon who are using Oystercard ticketing, no matter what type - ie: even if it is a Travelcard season ticket - are supposed to 'touch-in' before boarding the tram. There is more information about Tramlink ticketing at Wimbledon station in the Wimbledon section of the page which looks at busier stations in zones 1-4. Elmers End does not have electronic gates so tram passengers with PAYG Oystercards arriving here should only use the free standing card readers if interchanging to the trains, but make sure you use the correct card reader, as otherwise you will end up being charged both a tram fare AND, when you touch-out at your destination, a railway maximum fare. This will be expensive! Passengers starting a tram journey here only need to use the tram card readers, if you arrived here by train then these will also act as a 'touch-out' for the railway journey.

Croydon Tramlink. . Croydon Tramlink.
The Beckenham Junction route includes a route-shared section alongside a little used 3rd rail electric railway. Both tramway and railway have their own bi-directional single tracks. This composite view was taken from the footbridge next to Avenue Road tram stop. . George Street tram stop is one of the tram stops located
along the town centre loop.

On the Beckenham Junction route much of the section beyond Birkbeck is alongside a little used 3rd rail electric railway branch, both railway and tramway are single track and the trams have some passing loops as well. Avenue Road tram stop is next to a bridge over the tracks where if you are fortunate you will be able to film a tram and a train in the same view (alas, my attempt was not successful, hence the composite photographic view). Note that because of mainline trains and their third rail electric power supply system there is a very strict prohibition against walking anywhere near the track; this is for safety reasons. Anyone who is foolish enough to contravene this regulation and manages to avoid being killed by electrocution / hit by a passing train and is caught by the police is likely to be prosecuted for trespassing on the railway.

West Croydon Railway Tramlink station side entrance. . Croydon Tramlink.
The town centre loop passes by West Croydon station - this shows the side entrance which is on the platform used by London Overground trains which have just arrived from north London. . Being electrically powered means that trams are good for the urban environment.
A Bombardier tram passes an air pollution monitoring facility.
Interlaced track. . Sandilands Croydon Tramlink.
Interlaced tracks under a narrow road bridge.
This is near Merton Park tram stop.
This Bombardier tram is travelling from Wimbledon
to New Addington via Croydon town centre.
. This section of tramway alongside Addiscombe Road was originally supposed to use lawn tracks, but the people who built the tramway wanted the tracks to be paved. In the distance is Sandilands tram and bus stop with a Bombardier tram travelling towards Elmers End.
Two examples from overseas showing something that Tramlink lacks.

Lawn / grassed trackage is a visually attractive feature which helps the tramway visually blend into the landscape - especially when the tracks are alongside existing parkland. Where required privet hedges act as a safety barrier discouraging people from walking over the tracks. In Europe many tramways include lawn trackage - especially on new-build tramways.

Lawn trackage was included in Tramlink's design brief, but because the British Government's regulations give the company which builds tramways much control over how the construction project is achieved so it was possible for this to be omitted from the final design.

More images showing lawn track and other similar ideas for overhead wire support poles can be found on this page at the citytransport.info website:
Lawn Track - Creating Green Corridors. .

Lawn tram track flanked by privet hedges. A lawn with the swept path of light rail / tram / streetcar track delineated by flowering plants.
Lawn trackage flanked by privet hedges
on route 8 in Basle, Switzerland.
A variant of lawn trackage which comprises low-level flowering
plants around the tracks, designed to help delineate the swept
path of the tramway in Zwickau, (south eastern) Germany.

Tramlink is also looked at in the Wimbledon station section of the page about busier stations in zones 1-4. This includes a photograph showing a District Line Underground train and a Bombardier Tramlink tram.

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This page last updated 28th August 2017 (changes to line colours)
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