Mapping the Crystal Palace High Level Railway

Nezih Savaşkan
Apr 6 · 3 min read

Since at a young age being gifted several lovely books on topics related to architecture, I’ve long been fascinated by the history of cities (particularly my home, London), and in particular their infrastructure: architecture, design, industry, railways, tunnels, canals, etc.

Although this is very much a sideline “hobby” (indeed this is the first time I’ve shared anything online related to it), I take great pleasure in occasionally digging through archives, browsing photography collections, discovering new facts, and reading sections of books or articles on such topics. Forgotten and lost places are of particular interest to me, and as a South Londoner this includes obvious things such as the “lost” rivers (such as the Effra which passed very close to three homes I’ve lived in), and perhaps less obvious things like the Grand Surrey Canal and the Croydon Canal.

A particular bit of lost (South) London that, at the time of writing this, piqued my interest is the now vanished railway that served the former Crystal Palace High Level station. I remember as a child walking through Dulwich/Sydenham Woods and seeing the old tunnel entrances (without knowing anything about the bigger picture), but it wasn’t until around 2010 or so that I thought about learning more about this line. The trigger? I lived at that time in a house on Athenlay Road in an area between Nunhead and Brockley called Newlands, and my garden backed directly onto where the line would have passed through, just after Brenchley Gardens! Later I lived in Crystal Palace for a few years, just down the road from where the High Level Station was, and that made me think about it again.

There is plenty of information about the line to be found on the internet alone, and lots of photographs too. But none of it (at least what I’ve found) is very consolidated: just lots of bits and pieces dotted around various blogs and archive sites. No doubt there are some good books that cover the topic too.

Last Christmas during some downtime I had the idea to try and consolidate everything I’d found by mapping it on to Google Maps. I’ve mainly done this with photographs and videos, but also some text excerpts too. I’ve tried where possible, and as accurately as possible, to pin each photo I found to the map in the exact position where the photographer would have been standing when the photo was taken. I’ve also mapped as accurately as possible the actual route of the track (and sidings) and station platforms and buildings.

I hope this map assisted collection proves of interest to others! Please do browse around the map. You’ll probably need to zoom in 5 or 6 levels to see all the details, as some markers are quite close together

  • Click on each marker to see photos or information from that particular spot
  • Click the box icon in the top-right of the map above to open it full screen in a new window, and you’ll be able to see a full list of all the marker points. Or click here.

You’ll also notice that I went a step further and included the also defunct and vanished West End of London and Crystal Palace railway line. This line served, amongst others, the now closed Grosvenor Road station, and the demolished Pimlico Terminus which was on the site of Battersea Power Station! I only mapped out the sections of it which have now completely vanished: after Wandsworth it joined the Victoria to London Bridge line which is still active today.

I’ve done my best to credit and link each marker caption to the source of each photograph. If you are a rights holder of a photograph used, please do not hesitate to contact me if you feel I have used your photograph in a way you are unhappy with.

Click here to see the full interactive map.