The history of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (LTSR) can be traced back to the 1850s. Two railway companies, the London and Blackwell Railway and the Eastern Counties Railway, came together when a railway line to Tilbury was planned under two Acts in 1852 and 1856.
At that time there was no intention of running to Southend, but only to 'Tilbury Fort' – as the station was then known – and across the river to Gravesend using steamers to attract visitors to the nearby Rosherville Pleasure Gardens. The company was also interesting in the steamer and cattle trade from Thames Haven. The line at this point was leased to the contractors Peto, Brassey and Betts.
The final few miles were to run along Southend seafront into a station next to the pier entrance, but this idea was rejected due to complaints about noise. Instead the station was located further up the High Street and was opened in 1856.
The line reached Tilbury on 13 April 1854 and a few months later reached Stanford-le-Hope. The Act of 1854 allowed the company to buy up another small local company, the Thames Haven Dock and Railway Company, including wharves.
In the 1880s, when the LTSR became an independent company, they were able to design their own steam engines. These were to become the famous Tilbury Tanks, of which only one now survives – No 80 Thundersley. They all carried names of local places – for example:
- No 3 Tilburies
- No 10 Grays
- No 11 Stanford
- No 16 Low Street
- No 17 Thames Haven
- No 77 Fobbing
In 1912, the Midland Railway took over the line and from this point on the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway ceased to exist. In 1923, the Midland Railway was incorporated into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company.
By about 1933, there was a need for a more powerful engines and in 1934 came 36 3-cylinder 2-6-4Ts numbered 2500 to 2536. These replaced many older Tilbury Tanks.
The railway suffered badly during the Second World War. It was a flying bomb that did most damage to the railway when, in 1944, a V-2 landed directly on siding near to Tilbury Riverside station, destroying over 140 passenger carriages and damaging 2 Gravesend ferries.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, the railway was very rundown due to lack of maintenance. In 1948, the 4 main railway companies in Britain were nationalised to form British Railways.
During this period there was still prosperous ocean liner traffic at Tilbury and there were regular boat trains from St Pancras station in London.
By the late 1950s, it became increasingly apparent that electrification was a necessary step. On 6 November 1961, the first electric train entered service. The last steam trains ran in June 1962.
The railways were privatised in 1997, with the London to Southend line becoming LTS and later c2c. Since then, brand new trains have been introduced.
- The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway by HD Welch, Oakwood Press, 1963
- Down the Line to Southend by Muriel V Searle, Baton Press, 1984
- London, Tilbury and Southend Album by George Dow Ian Allen, 1980