In our look at the Beeching Report itself we saw plans for a considerable number of railway closures, and looked at the reasoning behind the proposal. For London though, there were actually very few closures planned. We now look at these closure proposals, featured on a map in the report, and see what actually happened.

The Beeching Report conveniently has the above map showing proposed closures in London.

Watford Junction – St Albans Abbey

It might be understandable why this branch would have been proposed for closure. The line was a single track, six and a half mile long, un-electrified branch line serving only four stations (excluding Watford Junction). It did at one time have a passing loop at Bricket Wood. In the 1960s the stations would have almost certainly been staffed. The terminus, St Albans Abbey, was not the main station for St Albans and was not situated close to the town centre so it attracted much less traffic than one would initially have thought.

As it turned out, the line was a classic example of what can be done if one cuts costs and develops traffic – as long as the potential demand is there. Since the proposal to close it, two stations have been added and the stations are unstaffed. It is electrified at 25kV AC and operates by the the very cheap and reliable system of “one train working” obviating the need for signalling.

The problem the line has is now one of success, despite the service being restricted to a train every 45 minutes due to it taking 16 minutes to traverse the entire branch. The desirable thing would be to reinstate the passing loop at Bricket Wood which conveniently is exactly halfway alone the line. This would enable a service to be operated every half hour. It could just about be run every 20 minutes, but this would give no recovery time so half-hour off-peak and every 20 minutes in the high peak is probably the most one could expect. Unfortunately this would involve installing two points as well as the plain line track for the loop and signalling the line.

The current proposal which is being developed is to replace the trains with trams. As well as enabling an increase in frequency this is believed to have the added advantage of creating various possibilities to extend the line into St Albans city centre and possibly serve the main station as well. Things do not appear to be going smoothly and costs do not appear to be as cheap as originally forecast, so no visible progress has been made to date. Despite Beeching and the current proposals, it looks like this line will continue in its current form for a few years yet.

Watford Junction – Croxley Green

It was not really surprising that Beeching proposed this line for closure. Indeed it is probably a bigger surprise that it was still open at the time of the report. Consent for closure was refused, which seems a little surprising given the Metropolitan line stations nearby and a peak-hour only service was run. One complicating factor may have been that there was a Bakerloo Line depot at Croxley and if that had to remain open then the actual cost saving by closing the line may have been substantially less than envisaged.

In 1988 Network SouthEast attempted to revive the line by running a half-hourly service during the day. One never knows whether this is done to revitalise a line or simply to prove to those opposed to closing the line that there really was no reasonable prospect of running a worthwhile service. By 1990 the line was reduced to having one inconveniently timed train per day to avoid the formal statutory closure process.

In the next few months it looks likely that the Secretary of State for Transport will approve a scheme for the trackbed to be used as the major part of a scheme to extend the Metropolitan Line to Watford Junction, which will probably result in the bulk of this line seeing more traffic that it ever has done in the past. Those looking to gauge whether this is likely to happen or not would do well to watch TfL’s purchasing in the next few months. Running the service will require an additional unit of S-Stock, and so if TfL activate their time-limited option to purchase an additional unit of stock from Bombardier at no increased price it can probably be assumed that this project has been given the nod, unofficially at least.

Belmont – Harrow & Wealdstone

One of the generally lesser-known branch lines in London is the line from Harrow & Wealdstone to Stanmore. In later years it had an intermediate station at Belmont. The service was run as a shuttle, as the line from the branch pointed away from London and this would have been another factor against its survival. When the Metropolitan Line opened to Stanmore in 1932 passengers deserted the nearby LMS station and twenty years later that station was closed to passenger traffic. Meanwhile at around the same time as the Metropolitan station opened, an intermediate station at Belmont opened on the branch. With the closure of Stanmore Village station (by now it had been renamed to avoid confusion) the branch relied on freight and the passenger takings for tickets from and to Belmont station to support the line. It was not surprising that the station and the branch closed as costs must have been out of all proportion to any benefit. If a train has to be provided for the exclusive purpose of serving one station then, unless that station is particularly busy, it is more or less inevitable that the service is going run at an enormous loss. It follows that its existence can only be justified on either social benefit grounds or, exceptionally, that the contribution to the rest of the network which may otherwise be lost is sufficiently great to justify its retention.

West Drayton – Uxbridge Vine St

This two-mile long line was included in the Beeching Report for completeness, but the reality is that it had already been closed to passenger for six months when the report came out. Vine St was once the principal and indeed only station for Uxbridge. It saw off competition from the north (High St station) but succumbed to the popularity of the frequent electric service offered by the underground from the 1930s. The underground offered a choice of routes to various parts of central London whereas Vine St and the intermediate station at Cowley only offered a ride in a DMU that terminated at Paddington.

It is understandable why this branch closed but in retrospect it is probably a great loss. The Crossrail development team were completely unable to make an economic case for extending many of the trains beyond Paddington. If the train paths into Paddington could have been found then this branch, if at least the trackbed still existed, would have been ideal – just two miles long and serving a major traffic centre, which would give much needed relief to the Metropolitan and Picadilly Lines.

West Drayton – Staines West

The passenger service on this branch actually did close after the Beeching Report but survived much longer due to freight traffic. The branch southward from West Drayton in more than one way mirrors the previously mentioned branch to the north. Again it is one of those branches where one wished that all the trackbed was still there. Unfortunately a critical part was obliterated to make way for the M25. With the trackbed about a kilometre away from Terminal 5 station one cannot help but think how shortsighted it was in the 1980s to allow this route to be built on with an ever-expanding Heathrow Airport so nearby. In the process a potential route from the south west of the airport has been lost.

Palace Gates – Seven Sisters

When one thinks of Beeching closures in London then this is probably the branch line that most comes to mind. Yet again though it cannot truly be thought of as a Beeching closure (at least not as a result of the publication of his report) as by the time the report came out it had been closed for getting on for three months.

The branch suffered a number of problems. It was stretching a point to call the terminus station “Palace Gates”. Any visitors to Alexandra Palace and most areas nearby would have been better off using the nearby Wood Green station – itself subsequently renamed to Alexandra Palace. Noel Park station was too close to the Piccadilly Line stations of Turnpike Lane and Wood Green. This left just West Green station with a decent catchment area. A further problem was that the service went to North Woolwich via Stratford which might have been useful when the docks were still active but by the mid-sixties would have seemed like a service from somewhere to nowhere. Although one might nowadays jump at the opportunity to provide a rail service from the north London suburbs to Stratford, this could hardly have been predicted and it is not surprising that this line closed.

London St Pancras – Barking

It is easy to forget that not so many years ago the term “Goblin” didn’t exist and the service provided was St Pancras to Barking, not Gospel Oak to Barking. One shudders to think how much the class 172s would be overloaded if the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway were to run into St Pancras today.

In the 1960s this would have been a very rundown line undoubtedly run with handed down stock, and passenger services would have been regarded as a bit of a nuisance that got in the way of freight. Undoubtedly Dr Beeching was eyeing up the line for his strategic freight workings and probably wished that the passengers would just go away. No doubt some freight managers think the same today but are probably too media-savvy to say it in public.

Part of the reason why the service was so run down was the belief that people didn’t want to travel by train from suburb to suburb – or at least not in sufficient numbers to make running a service worthwhile from the point of view of the rail service provider. This of course leads to a poor infrequent service which is little used which then reinforces this belief.

Romford – Upminster

This line is slightly unusual and today probably unique in London. It is three and a half miles long with an intermediate station, but the significance of it is that it provides a service between two major centres (and stations). It is thought of as a “branch” but is in fact connected at both ends and a half-hourly shuttle service runs along it. As a result it is of some strategic importance, providing the only regular connection between the lines out of Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street. The fact that removing this intermediate connection would have provided considerable inconvenience for a number of people making journeys that didn’t involve going to London was probably a factor in its survival. Like the St Albans Abbey branch is it now electrified and unsignalled.

London Broad Street – Richmond

The problems with this line would have been very similar to those of St Pancras – Barking. Broad Street station was situated next to Liverpool Street station where the Broadgate office development now stands. The station was once one of the busiest London termini but was already hopelessly oversized for its current purposes. There was no suggestion in the report as to what was to happen to this enormous station, which was in many ways like St Pancras – except that it had even more platforms. If Beeching had got his way then the only trains still serving Broad Street would have been the Watford ‘DC’ service.

It is probably going too far to blame Beeching for the end of Broad Street station, but if the withdrawal of the Richmond service had gone ahead then it would have been obvious to everybody that an enormous plot of very valuable land was being used to provide a terminus for one relatively lightly used not-especially-intensive service. Even though withdrawal did not go ahead as planned, the proposal to abandon the Richmond service probably signalled the inevitable demise of Broad Street and in the years between the report and the closure of the station one felt that the inevitability of it all led to avoiding absolutely any unnecessary expenditure on the station and the track to it.

What actually happened here was that in 1985 the Richmond service was diverted to Stratford. This seemed to be part of a plan to remove services from Broad Street. The Watford Junction services were by now peak-hour only so a token service was re-routed into Liverpool Street and Broad Street sold for redevelopment. The token service was soon withdrawn due to lack of use.

Clapham Junction – Kensington Olympia

One of the more surprising mentions in the Beeching Report is the proposal to close the shuttle service from Clapham Junction to Kensington Olympia. The reason this would have been surprising is not because it was profitable – it wasn’t. In fact it would have been difficult to conceive a way of running a service more unprofitably. As the route was unelectrified the workings were made by steam or in latter years by diesel – generally from a depot many miles away. What was surprising is that it was acknowledged that the service existed at all.

The 1960s were a period when The Avengers was on the television and, in the same month that the Beeching Report came out, the public got to learn about the Profumo Affair. The Official Secrets Act was still taken very seriously and was all embracing. Even the address of the Post Office Tower was supposedly an official secret, although if looking up did not make it immediately obvious where it was located, the sight of a 253 bus with a destination of “Warren St Station (Post Office Tower)” would remove any lingering doubt.

During this period there would be a couple of unadvertised services in the morning from Clapham Junction to Kensington Olympia exclusively for a group of government workers. There would be no workings in service in the return direction in the morning and in the evening the situation was reversed. In fact it turned out that the workers worked at nothing more mysterious than the Post Office Savings Bank at Olympia. Quite why these workers from another nationalised industry were given their own special service at great expense, and quite why ordinary passengers were not supposed to use it has never been made clear. Maybe the railways were worried their special passengers couldn’t get on if they let everyone use it. It has been suggested that they didn’t want that to happen because the fare (and thus the revenue) would be higher if ordinary people had to travel via London.

The obvious thing to do was to electrify the line and build up the service. One of the reasons for not doing so is probably that it got in the way of freight. Another reason would be that it would involve co-operative working between two railway regions. For those who have never experienced it, it is difficult to imagine just how parochial and territorial the regions were. To emphasise the point, it wasn’t British Rail who later proposed reopening some abandoned tunnels and providing a North – South service called Thameslink. It was the GLC. When Chris Green became head of newly formed Network SouthEast he started off by painting all the lampposts red. By doing so he was establishing his position that there was going to be one railway and inter-regional rivalries were not going to be allowed to get in the way – and funnily enough under Network SouthEast a proper service from Clapham – Junction to Kensington Olympia was established, advertised and eventually electrified.

Woodside – Selsdon

No decent proposal of railway closures in London in the 20th century would have been complete without the suggestion that the Woodside – Selsdon portion of the line from Elmers End to Sanderstead be closed. That is assuming it was at the time open of course.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Join the railway from Woodside, south of Elmers End and north-east of Croydon with the nearby line at Selsdon Road in South Croydon. This line would continue to Lewes via East Grinstead – the line to East Grinstead was at that time being built. The tiny flaw in the plan was that it managed to miss the nearby substantial town of Croydon. This meant that no-one could use it to get to Croydon and if potential passengers could get there by other means they had the option of a fast service to Victoria or London Bridge. Unsurprisingly, according to disused stations website, the first proposal for closure was in 1895 – just 11 years after opening.

The line was closed as a wartime economy and reopened in 1927. The stations (Bingham Road, Coombe Road, Spencer Road Halt and Selsdon Road) however remained closed. This was because the Southern Railway weren’t interested in the local traffic. They wanted to re-open the route as a link to a rather fanciful proposed scheme, the Southern Heights Light Railway, from Sanderstead to Orpington. Nothing became of this scheme.

Having made the mistake of re-opening it, instead of cutting their losses and closing it again, Southern Railway decided to electrify it and three of the stations reopened. They accepted the reality that with South Croydon station less than a quarter of a mile away Spencer Road Halt was never going to provide much traffic. So it was that in 1935 Bingham Road and Coombe Road got their trains back and the by now misleadingly-named Selsdon got an extra two platforms in use.

Somehow the stations stayed open during WWII with a sparse service, but the post-war service was on a slow decline with further cuts. Closure was proposed before the publication of the Beeching Report and announced for 4th March 1963, a week after publication, provided of course that there were no objections. Not surprisingly there were objections and incredibly it was refused on the grounds that it would cause hardship to the 650 daily passengers – which doesn’t seem a lot. With Addiscombe station nearby to Bingham Road and Selsdon (now having lost its platforms on the Oxted line) less than half a mile away from South Croydon, it was a surprising decision given the far worse plight of many on rural lines.

The line continued running albeit only in the peaks and ultimately only as a 2-car shuttle service. When the signalling and track for other lines were modernised as part of the 1976 London Bridge resignalling, the line was not included – a decision which spoke volumes for its long term prognosis. One felt that it was left to keep going as long as it could soldier on, but “make do and mend” only works for so long and by the early 1980s the track had deteriorated to the extent that the only sensible options were an expensive wholesale renewal or closure – so closure it was.

In the third and final part on our look at the Beeching Report and how it affected London we will look at the overall impact on London that the report had. In this we will include freight, which is often forgotten when one talks about the Beeching cuts, and other factors.

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There are 156 comments on this article
  1. Steven Taylor says:

    I have always lived overlooking Clapham Junction station. In the 1960s and 1970s I often travelled on the trains between Clapham Junction and Kensington. I never had any trouble getting a return ticket.
    I was able to travel out and back on the same train. Steam hauled initially. As stated, there were 2 trains in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.
    The afternoon trains left between 1600 and 1700. I was usually the only passenger travelling from CJ to KO, but in the reverse direction, the 4 coach train was crowded.
    The 4 carriages used to be stabled overnight opposite my house in Pig Hill sidings at Clapham Junction.

    Some time in the late 1970s, I was unable to make a return trip on the same train, as the trains in the `empty` direction were run as `empties`.

    Happy days.

  2. Fandroid says:

    Can anyone fill in the history of how Richmond to Dalston and Gospel Oak to Barking actually survived as passenger services? Or is that taken care of in the 3rd part?

  3. RichardB says:

    I was interested to note PoP’s comment “Another reason would be that it would involve co-operative working between two railway regions. For those who have never experienced it, it is difficult to imagine just how parochial and territorial the regions were” I can well believe this but this parochial and territorial approach does also suggest that at least some of the lines marked for closure were affected by the regional attitude. For example Western region had acquired all the old Southern Railway lines west of Exeter and I am not sure but I think they also had responsibility for the “withered arm”west of Salisbury. It is notable how few of those lines were retained even where in some instances they served larger communities such as west Cornwall than did the old GWR. Similarly the Great Central line had been part of the LNER then Eastern Region before falling into the London Midland Region’s management and given they had custody of the rival lines held by the old LMS I can see they would have seen such an acquisition as a burden to be shed where possible.

    Not all post war cuts were down to Beeching and some of them were probably deserved but the more I read of the methodology and the statistics he and his staff used suggests that the recommendations for closure which appeared in his first report were flawed. I don’t feel that the argument made in some quarters that what survived was the right size railway is true. On that basis had the radical recommendation made in Serpell’s report been implemented that would also have been the right size railway. On a purely commercial basis as was used by Beeching you could have scrapped all the lines and had a “positive” result as money was saved. I am sure rationalisation was inevitable but the methodology used was incredibly crude and only makes sense if you assume that railway traffic would decline as had canal traffic and never grow again.

    What is clear is that London formed the Gordian knot that even Beeching could not cut.

  4. Paul Stevenson says:

    Has there ever been discussion of turning the Elmers End to Seldon line into part of Croydon Tramlink. Most of the line/land is still there for use, isn’t it?

  5. Greg Tingey says:

    A large part of Elmers End – Selsdon IS part of tramlink!

    It is a great pity that the two Uxbridge branches never joined up, a “really-outer-circle” as often proposed by Mr JRT would have been very useful, especialy for frieight.
    GOBLIN & NLL were saved by people power & commuter groups & local MP’s making a lot of noise ……
    It always struck me as odd that the Kenny Belle was so underutilised, at that time.
    Romford-Upmister is wierd as well as wired.
    An ex-LTSR branch is is now connected only at the N end, there being no x-over across the LUL tracks to reach the main line any more at Upminster. It has three pedestrian board-crossings along its’length & there aren’t too many of them inside the GLA area, either – in fact I’d be interested to find out where any others might be (???)

  6. Anonymous says:

    There is a board crossing just south of Riddlesdown Station where a public footpath crosses the line.

  7. Jeanpierre says:

    RichardB, the Western Region did indeed acquire the entire Southern system west of Salisbury (Wilton Junction) on 1 January 1963, in fact I believe most of that part of the Southern was originally put into the Western Region at Nationalisation, but handed back in about 1950. I always thought it would have made more sense to transfer everything west of Exeter into the Western Region in 1963, but that’s well off-topic!

  8. timbeau says:

    How much would it take to speed up the “Abbey flyer” from the current 16 minute end-to-end journey to a speed at which the round trip could be done reliably in half an hour? Is most traffic end-to-end, or are there heavy loadings at the intermediate stations? If the former, would 1tph non-stop and 1tph all stations be possible?

  9. NLW says:

    @timbeau – Even if the stock could do the trip in 30 mins. return, wouldn’t such a schedule require two crews?

  10. mr_jrt says:


    As mentioned before on the subject of the Abbey line….the requirement for signalling is a bit of a strawman. A basic trundle or some such is more than sufficient to protect two single train sections (and indeed, is used for the level crossing), and is also used elsewhere on the network without issue. A minimal set up where the points from each platform to the single line section beyond can only be set when a train is in the opposite platform is absolutely trivial (and/or locked out for single train working), and is certainly less expensive than building a tram depot. The real expense is in leasing rolling stock, which is why I wish this line had managed to get pulled into the LO family so a couple of 378s could have been put into service on it.

    …and given LO’s sadly unique desire for investment, we then might one day get the long-overdue diveunder from the DC lines.

  11. Castlebar says:

    Seems odd that the Paddington – Greenford direct line (the direct route to Birmingham) is shown on the map in red as being in full use and intended to stay so. Was there a change of policy?

  12. timbeau says:

    jrt: – speeding up the service would not require any extra stock – adding a passing loop would.

    NLW – I did say a speed at wich the round rip could be done RELIABLY in half an hour – that implies some layover time at each end, with enough time for the crew to change ends. The current 40 minute frequency gives a layover of only 4 minutes at each end. To preserve this would require an acceleration from 16 minutes to 11, which I admit is a lot (nearly 50%). (The end to end distance is between 6 and 7 miles, so we are talking about an average speed including stops of 36 mph)

  13. Anonymous says:

    The link to the transport-of-delight website in the Woodside-Selsdon bit doesn’t work – there’s an extraneous ” at the end of the URL.[or alternatively there is a missing ” at the start of the URL. Fixed. PoP]

    And I thought that the St Pancras-Barking service was cut back to Kentish Town some time before closure.

  14. Sam F says:

    PoP, is it your view that the closure of Broad St remains a sensible decision in hindsight?

  15. Anonymous says:

    The BML2 people want to reopen Selsdon-Woodside as part of their proposed new Brighton Main Line, with a BML/BML2 interchange at South Croydon/Selsdon, and diverting Tramlink (which now uses all the line except for Coombe Rd-Selsdon) away from the Sandilands tunnels through the streets of Park Hill.

    Can’t see it happening in my lifetime…

    And re Broad St, of course all bar the terminus itself has reopened as LO.

  16. mr_jrt says:

    As I came to discover the history of London’s transport, Broad Street struck me as one of the most monumental wasted opportunities there was. I wholeheartedly agree that even with the LO levels of usage it was never going to be necessary – a terminal is a place for intercity services, not metro ones, but it’s /location/ on the other hand…Right next to a famously constrained intercity terminus in Liverpool Street!

    If only they’d pulled the grand old dear down, extended Liverpool Street across it’s footprint, THEN built Broadgate in the air rights, things would have been SO much better. Just think for a moment how many extra platforms Liverpool Street would have been able to have…

  17. @Sam F

    PoP, is it your view that the closure of Broad St remains a sensible decision in hindsight?

    A very difficult question to answer. First of all was it sensible to demolish such a good building? Then again in architectural merit I don’t think it could match either King’ Cross or St Pancras. Do we have to preserve every half-decent station? Without knowing its true structural state and what use it could have been put to it is difficult to have a meaningful opinion if one is ruled by one’s head. If ruled by my heart I would say it is a tragedy it wasn’t kept and think how we could use all those platforms. Then again a major generator of traffic nowadays is the Broadgate centre which is only there because Broad St station isn’t. Also if I am honest I only vaguely remember the station but my enduring impression is one of an unbelievable number of steps to climb to get to the platforms so maybe it wasn’t so fantastic after all.

    If the station had to go could a replacement have been built incorporating the platforms? After all Charing Cross and Cannon Street station provide both a railway terminal and office space. Alternatively if it was felt that the building was worth saving but that it no longer served any purpose as a railway terminus could the building have been suitably adapted for some other purpose like office space?

    I suppose the crunch question would be: given the choice would it have been better to keep Broad St or build the East London Line and provide a service from Dalston to south London? I can’t answer that. I am not even sure that TfL would have the data to answer that. Maybe a short bi-directional spur into Broad St from the extended East London line would have been the perfect solution.

    One thing I will say is that I don’t think I would have been any wiser than the people who made the decision to close it. I am sure if I was in their position I would have made the same choice. The rise of railway usage in general and the East London Line in particular has been quite remarkable and such a thing could not have been envisaged in the atmosphere that was present in the 1980s. Maybe if it had survived a couple of years more things would have ultimately turned out differently and possibly but not necessarily better. Sometimes its better to get rid of the baggage and start again afresh.

    I think the nearest I can get to answer your question is that in hindsight I don’t think it was a terrible decision but probably not the best decision either. Sorry to be so non-committal but I think that is a really hard question. Fun thinking about it though.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what the Watford-Euston DC line service revisions would have involved?

  19. Anonymous says:

    The Coombe Road URL has the additional/missing “, too.[Thanks. I think those are the only two.  PoP]

  20. Ian J says:

    Just to converge this thread with the roundel one slightly, one of the main elements of the GLC’s campaign to revive the North London Line was to insist that London Transport put it on the tube map. I do think this will have had a big effect on people’s awareness of its existence.

    @mrt_jrt: re: using Broad Street for extra platforms for Liverpool St: I have a vague idea that there were 1970s proposals to do just that (using the flyover that took trains to Bishopsgate goods station to get trains from the Great Eastern Main Line to the Broad Street approaches). This would have been in the context of a scheme that would have involved demolishing and rebuilding both stations as was the fashion then.

    On the closure of Broad Street: ironically it was the 1980s boom in financial services in the City that both made the land it sat on very valuable and also prompted big increases in passenger numbers into the City. As you say, had it survived a few more years it might still be here. The formation from Dalston was four tracks wide so in theory you the East London Line could have coexisted with the existing services. But it was a very indirect route from Watford to the City.

  21. David T says:

    When living in Cheam in the eighties I occasionally used the ‘secret’ Olympia service, when having business in West Kensington.
    Cheam ticket office denied any knowledge of the service, but a ticket to ‘London Terminals’ seemed to be adequate for the purpose.

  22. Hertslad says:

    I’m afraid I don’t buy all these Broad Street what ifs. Regardless of the 1980s city boom, it was closed for a reason. To consider this, just look at the East London Line: terminating at H&I and Dalston, because there’s no sensible place to take the route beyond that. Eastwards to Hackney and Stratford? Already have faster, more direct services to neighbouring Liverpool Street. Northward onto the Great Northern? Would require some serious engineering work to get the other side of the North London Line, and GN electrics have faster, more direct services into neighbouring Moorgate.

    Westwards to Watford and over the NLL is the only service that makes any kind of sense, but even then it’s an awful long way round compared to using the tube. Broad Street was a product of an age where through ticketing was expensive and to be avoided. It provided direct trains to the city for passengers who otherwise would have the inconvenience of using multiple networks. But its location and access route do not justify it in the modern, integrated ticketing era.

  23. REVUpminster says:

    With the forthcoming Crossrail, Upminster Romford could become difficult to find stock to operate it and would be an ideal line to have a tram service with a couple of passing loops, there are a number of place they could be provided, and extended along the north depot reception road to Cranham. Three trams could make a decent service and be stored and maintained in Upminster depot. Four trams and you could have road running up to north cranham via moor lane.

  24. In response to some of the comments:

    @Steven Taylor
    Informative comment. Yes, what the books say isn’t always consistent with what is said by those who were there at the time and have very clear and detailed memories.

    ‘Fraid you will have to make do with Greg’s answer which I am sure is correct.

    I suspect this is a very valid point and one I didn’t really cover. For all the criticism levelled at Beeching and Marples I find the damage done by “the enemy within” more depressing. And of course there was also a disastrous strike in 1955 and a lot of restrictive practices.

    Intriguing idea!

    To a large extent I am with you on this one. It is disappointing that it would appear that Network Rail can’t just raid a railway museum for a couple of no-signalman signalling token systems. Also what happens about terminal control at St Albans (TPWS for slow speed control at St Albans Abbey). Is that not a requirement? And if not, is it not possible to relax the standards a bit more? Personally I would be disappointed to see trains replaced by trams if there wasn’t a significant other benefit as at Croydon where there is street running in the town centre. Then again I have only ever been on the line once, many years ago, so am probably not qualified to comment on what is better.

    The cynic in me thinks that this was kept open so that Marylebone could be closed at a later date and the trains diverted into Paddington.

    @Anonymous 08:46
    I am sure the service was cut back to Kentish Town at some point too. There was a limit to how much detail to give. If I chronicled the stage by stage run down of the Woodside – Selsdon line you would probably get bored reading it.

    @Anonymous 10:38
    It is far from clear. No detail is given but there were no plans for station closures. I suspect the proposal was to cut out a lot of the stops on a lot of the trains to speed up the service. So people would have a less frequent service and some intermediate journeys may be more problematic but once you did get on a train you would get to Euston faster. Not for nothing was the Flanders & Swann lament called “Slow Train” as these were one of the primary targets. Incidently, and off topic, that was one of only two songs I can think of from Flanders & Swann that had no humour in them whatsoever.

  25. Ian J says:

    On the St Albans Abbey line: interestingly Garston station opened in 1966, which suggests that a decision not to close the line was taken early. As ever with 60s rail closures it seems very opaque what the decision making process was.

    @timbeau: The impression I have got when I have been on the line is that it is very much a local railway with people boarding from all the stations heading towards Watford, rather than dominated by end-to-end travel. But that is just a vague impression I have. Commuting to central London from Park Street onwards would be worthwhile, but from St Albans Abbey you would be better off walking to the City station and getting a Thameslink train from there.

    Could it be that the proposed changed service on the Watford DC lines involved changing the balance between the Bakerloo and British Rail service? The Bakerloo went all the way up to Watford Junction at the time.

  26. john b says:

    It’s worth remembering that Beeching was operating at a time before benefit/cost analysis was an established discipline. The methodology he used was the best available at the time, and was a significant improvement on anything that had been done before (remember, at this point BR had just squandered a billion quid *in 1950s money* on the completely ineffective Modernisation Plan, because the “Plan” in its title was a lie. I’m hugely in favour of heavy investment in projects with defined social returns, but not of giving dysfunctional organisations unlimited funds to do things that are almost entirely useless).

    PoP’s piece highlights exactly why Beeching was needed. All the London services that he recommended should be cut were, indeed, completely useless in the form that BR was operating them at the time. Had the billion quid cash injection and the attempt to make the network vaguely sane happened as part of the same process, then the kind of re-routing and new linking we’ve seen over the last 30 years might have taken place. But they didn’t: the rationalisation was accompanied by a very clear “there’s no money for anything, you tried that and you stuffed it up” message from the Treasury.

    The piece (in its relationship to the railway today) also highlights the truly criminal part of politicians’ behaviour post-Beeching: not the closures themselves, but the failure to safeguard trackbeds.

  27. Graham Feakins says:

    Out of all the lines mentioned, possibly just three had the greatest publicity – the North London Line, Woodside -Selsdon and finally Clapham Junction – Kensington Olympia – the latter for the novelty purpose of being reported in the Evening Standard as “London’s Ghost Railway”, since it was not advertised, said to be difficult to get a ticket for (even at Clapham Junction) and ran from a remote and almost unsigned platform at Clapham Junction (Platform 17/sometimes Platform 1) but was indeed said to be run almost as a ‘private’ service for the Post Office workers.

    The North London Line was under constant threat of closure during the era unless passenger traffic improved and the North London Line Committee was formed in c. 1972 to get it uniquely on the Underground map and to encourage the traffic. After much publicity through the evening newspapers and so on, the GLC finally authorised the addition to the map in 1977 but with, from what I remember, continuing objections from British Railways because they wanted to close the line to passenger traffic between Richmond & Broad Street.

    On the Woodside – Selsdon line, Bingham Road station in its earlier incarnation was called Bingham Road Halt, just as Spencer Road Halt. It was the busiest on the route after electrification, far busier than nearby Addiscombe terminus on the other branch from Woodside. If it had not been for the train depot at Addiscombe, the closure proposals might have been reversed.

    I was a commuter for some years on the direct trains between Bingham Road and London Bridge and Cannon Street and whilst there were said to be only 650 daily commuters on the Selsdon/Sanderstead trains through Woodside, it must remembered that the service had already been cut back with no between-peak services or on Sundays, later Saturdays as well. Some fellow commuters told me that each London-bound train at Bingham Road would attract 100+ passengers only a few years before I started commuting. I felt at the time that it was the ever-restricted train services that strangled the traffic in classic BR ‘encouragement’ style to prove the line not to be viable. Remember, too, that Coombe Road at that time was hardly surrounded by dense housing but that the population was already building up to where we are today as the very large, Victorian houses and gardens were replaced; also Woodside -Selsdon/Sanderstead was effectively the end of a branch line, with no timetabled connections whatsoever at Sanderstead for the Oxted route. However, I can promise you that, by the time the trains reached the inner London suburbs and London Bridge/Charing Cross/Cannon Street, they were packed solid (mostly 10-car EPB’s), so it is hardly as if the services themselves could not be justified.

    In any case, the Woodside – Selsdon branch had no need to serve Central Croydon as such, since it served the hinterland, usefully relieving the Brighton main line of traffic. For many, it was quicker to walk to e.g. Bingham Road and take a direct train (comparatively lightly loaded but already with most seats occupied) for Cannon Street, Waterloo or Charing Cross rather than wait for a bus to East Croydon and change there for a crowded train from the coast and change again at London Bridge. Needless to say, there was zilch advertising for this advantage but it was notable that, in times of severe disruption at East Croydon, passengers for London were directed to take the bus to Addiscombe to use the trains from there.

    A busy intermediate traffic from Bingham Road/Coombe Road/Sanderstead was formed by the many Dulwich College schoolboys living in Croydon, who changed at Clock House and walked to nearby Kent House to reach West Dulwich. They must use the tram now.

    There cannot be many readers of this who can claim, as I can, to have been on a steam train on the Tramlink route between Woodside and Coombe Road and onto Selsdon! On the other hand, I also went on a memorable tour on a Southern Region 4-COR unit from Richmond to Watford Junction, Croxley Green (gas lit then), Euston and Broad Street – and how sad and delapidated Broad Street was then! It was the way that I first discovered the North London Line and it all seemed so run down.

  28. DW down under says:

    St Albans Abbey branch

    The discussion seems to turn on how to most efficiently move the timetable from 45min interval to something more frequent, but hopefully retaining clockface regularity and being practicable to work for the driver.

    As an aside before we get to that, of course there was the St Albans Abbey – Hatfield Branch. The question is, is there any scope for connecting the Abbey branch to the MML to take the WJ trains into St Albans (City)? I guess I’ll need to fly Air Google and Bing Airways again …. !!

    Back to the branch as is, sans trams. There is an intention to buy rollingstock with higher acceleration and braking capabilities than hitherto available generally. Perhaps one of the 700 class units could be ordered for the Abbey branch, being exchanged with the main pool for maintenance, etc. In that case, with perhaps some skip-stop built into the timetable, a realistic 15 minute run and reversal (turnaround) could be achieved.

    Certainly, with a 321, it would be possible to change the service interval to 40 minutes. This would fit in the LO’s 3tph service, but not with the other operations running on 15:30:60 minute intervals. What this means is 3 trains every 2 hours, rather than 4 trains every 3. Over a period of 18 hours, that would mean 27 trains instead of 24.

    So a combination of Timbeau’s idea modified to skip-stop and faster accelerating/braking rolling stock could achieve a 2tph schedule, without need for infrastructural investment. Now, if there’s enough traffic for a 4-car train every 40 minutes, that would suggest to me that there’s a case to be made now for 2 x 3-car trains and a loop. By their nature, later 3-car trains have a higher ratio of powered to non-powered axles giving greater reliability of acceleration. But equally, the good ‘ol 313 had 66% adhesive ratio and 2 off these would certainly offer an excellent service (probably 3tph, every 20 minutes, no skipping stops).

    Q? – is the traffic there for this, yet?

  29. DW down under says:

    1) Ignore my discussion of 40min vs 45min on St Albans Abbey branch above. Seems that’s already happened.

    2) With regard to a diveunder to connect the DC lines to the Abbey Branch – what would be the point? They are 750v DC (nominal voltage), and would the St Albans pax really want an all-stopper through service? Certainly a means to link in to the outer-suburban AC lines and offer several peak period through services might be, superficially, attractive to Branch pax. But operationally, peak trains would be moving to 10- or 12-car over the planning horizon, and the branch is unlikely to accommodate such trains. Yes, there’s SDO, and yes, you could run a 2-unit (8-car) train, with one unit simply off-platform for the entire Branch. On the Down services, you’d still have the task of “turning out” that unit before the through train continued towards the Abbey. Can it work? Maybe? Would the benefits justify the infrastructure spend? You can answer that. Would the extra traffic justify the labour resource required for “turning out?” Good question!

    3) Upminster – Romford. With the “GE” franchise continuing, I see no real issue with rollingstock. There are several outer suburban runs beyond Crossrail which will require EMUs. The branch would be operated by one of whatever the GE franchisee at the time was using .

    4) While the M25 has overtaken the southern half of the West Drayton – Staines West branch, that of itself would be no impediment to establishing rail service along that alignment to connect the SW into Heathrow. Obviously the capital cost of bridging the M25 (under or over) must be found, and there are a few roads around T5 to be negotiated. To the north, there are clear intentions in CP5 to study in depth how to connect the GWML from the west into T5. The alignment may or may not form part of that.

    5) On the whole, the closures seem sensible to me. It’s also clear that several of the routes had freight and general diversionary capability which helped network resilience. In fact, during WW2, both Palace Gates and Staines West branches were connected through at the outer ends to provide diversionary routes in the event of enemy action closing other routes. This need hasn’t gone away (the enemy might have changed). That such routes were not safeguarded is the real sin of it all, and that wasn’t down to Beeching other than to flag the need.

    DW down under

  30. Paul Stevenson says:

    @greg – true enough about a large part of the Woodside – Selsdon line now being tram, but the section from Coombe Rd to Selsdon Rd has not been built over. It would seem like a natural way to extend the tram to South Croydon, with little disruption to road traffic, except at Coombe Rd itself.

  31. Fandroid says:


    I fear that tunnelling under the M25 would be a bit pointless in order to utilise the Staines West branch to connect the SW into Heathrow. As both Staines and Heathrow are on the east side of the M25, it would have to be done twice. The only usable bit of the Staines West branch left is that part close to the Windsor line. You might be able to scrape alongside the motorway for a distance, but a new alignment would probably be no more expensive than grabbing every last surviving inch of the old route.

    I am intrigued by the ‘the enemy might have changed’ comment. Who did you have in mind?

  32. Fandroid says:

    The Staines West branch and the two Uxbridge lines do really feel like grand lost opportunities. It has struck me many times that if still in place they could have provided a fairly easy route to extend the Piccadilly from Heathrow to Uxbridge from the south. The traffic would mostly have been local, but that’s an advantage, as it would not have added extra load to the existing Piccadilly in west and central London. If a full Tube was too much, then a tram conversion would have been perfect, with loops to T5 and West Drayton station and some street running to reach Uxbridge Tube station.

  33. Pedantic of Purley says:

    A busy intermediate traffic from Bingham Road/Coombe Road/Sanderstead was formed by the many Dulwich College schoolboys living in Croydon, who changed at Clock House and walked to nearby Kent House to reach West Dulwich.

    I actually remember being in West Dulwich booking office in the very late 1970s and a schoolboy from Dulwich College asked for a single to Coombe Rd, Selson or Sanderstead via Kent House/Clock House. I forget which exactly. I was amazed to discover that there was printed stock for this. Apparently he got a lift to school but always bought a single to get home. Presumably his mates would have had special school-rate season tickets.

    This would not have been the first occasion I encountered where a booking office had printed stock for just one person. I once did a shift at Brixton on a Sunday and discovered some West Wickham via Kent House/Clock House singles. None had been sold for years but I instantly thought of a neighbour who lived opposite us who sometimes did the journey but was by then retired.

  34. Paul Stevenson says:

    @fandroid; I was hopeful that the Heathrow Airtrack scheme might have gone ahead (because I live in Guildford). That would have brought the Staines West chord back in to use:

  35. SD says:

    Totally agree with RichardB’s comment about regional rivalries and grudges being the possible reason behind some of the 60s closures. It’s pretty obvious to me that when the Western Region acquired control of the S&D line in the late 50s they set about running it down with what I’m pretty certain was an intent to close it – despite its usefulness as a cross country route – because way back in the 1870s the S&D had turned down a bid from the Bristol & Exeter/GWR to buy it out when it was in financial trouble, instead opting for the LSWR/MR joint option. 80 years later and the old grudges died hard. Same with a lot of the old LSWR west of Exeter which fell into the hands of the ‘old enemy’ who took the opportunity to settle a few scores….

    The move to a sectorised railway should have come in the 60s really. In the Victorian days I can understand why strong regional identities existed, and they did help in building up a decent sized network, but after the 1920s and especially post WW2 such attitudes were incredibly outdated and a huge drag factor. The governments of the day are to blame in my mind for allowing this to happen – they should have stepped in and said to various people in BR something along the lines of “this is absolute crap, your parochial grudges and territorial urges have been passed down the generations but they’re not relevant for today’s world and are now damaging whole areas of the country economically and socially” but they took their eye off the ball here, or more likely they just didn’t give the issue much thought.

    The Western Region of BR have a lot to answer for in my opinion – I’m not sure about the other regions but the WR do seem in my experience to have been the worst for this kind of nonsense, probably down to the fact that of all the big 4 companies the GWR was the only one which wasn’t a merger [it just absorbed the much smaller Welsh lines into it] and consequently at Swindon I think the old attitudes were never really displaced or changed in the way they were on the Southern [for example] when that was formed. Consequently by the 1960s the WR seems to have been a place where the old grudges and the view of ex LSWR routes as ‘enemy territory’ were still very much woven into the mindset of those in charge. I seem to recall that there was consideration given to closing the LSWR main line west of Salisbury which is just bonkers – it didn’t happen but notice how as soon as you pull out of Salisbury there are single track sections and rationalisation everywhere.

    I’m all for tradition and continuity, but not when it starts negatively affecting the future in the way it did then. When the WR inherited those lines they were an asset and could have been developed as such but instead of treating them as such they wrecked them in a petty minded way.

  36. Fandroid says:

    No doubt some lines survived as a result of local management loyalties, but to blame the closure of the S&D on a 90 year old grudge is pushing it! Many of the conspiracy theories in here can be dismissed simply by looking at Beeching’s maps of Passenger and Freight usage. West of Exeter, the only lines not shown as dotted (0-5000 passengers or tons per week) were the GW main line to Penzance, the Torbay branch, the Gunnislake branch(!), the Southern main line as far as Okehampton, the Newquay and Falmouth branches. The LSWR arm was indeed well and truly withered in 1962 (under Southern Region management). Similarly, the S&D south of Templecombe is dotted. When there were several alternative cross-country routes available, (Castle Cary to Dorchester, Westbury to Southampton, it is absolutely no surprise that a problematic route like the S&D was closed.

    The main line west of Salisbury possibly suffered from having too many communities to serve, which inevitably slowed down services. When looking for a route to Exeter to invest in for fast expresses, the GW line looked to be the obvious choice. I count 13 stations closed between Newbury and Taunton. Was that GW favouritism?

  37. Stuart says:

    @ Paul Stevenson “true enough about a large part of the Woodside – Selsdon line now being tram, but the section from Coombe Rd to Selsdon Rd has not been built over. It would seem like a natural way to extend the tram to South Croydon, with little disruption to road traffic, except at Coombe Rd itself.”

    You are correct that the route south of Coombe Road is largely in tact. The only obvious issues are (1) the junction at Coombe Road, where some new housing has removed the embanked course up to where the Coombe Road over-bridge used to be, which may or may not be insurmountable (they had to demolish one or two new houses when Tramlink was built) and (2) the Southern end where the old Selsdon Station was, where another new residential development occupies most of the site. Again there may be a course through, but probably only onto the railway line to Sanderstead

    But more fundamentally, I am not sure that trams need to go there. The area is generally well served for buses along the Brighton Road and trains (Purley Oaks/Purley/Sanderstead) into Croydon. A more interesting extension would be along the Brighton Road to Purley, consolidating the bus routes

  38. Mark Townend says:

    re. St. Albans branch:

    See the linked .pdf for an idea how to create an east – west connection between Watford and the ECML using heavy rail technology, or a segregated light rail network with limited or (ideally) no street running.

    I suggest moving the main line station in St Albans to create a new interchange on London Road less than half a kilometre south of the existing site. The new station would be only around 200 metres further away from the town centre than the existing one.

    At Hatfield, taking a new alignment around the south of the town permits a new station near the University of Hertfordshire. With a north facing junction to the ECML, heavy rail trains could continue to Stevenage or Letchworth, although that would impose extra traffic onto the Welwyn North 2 track bottleneck. Alternatively the line from Welwyn GC to Hertford could be resurrected. in Welwyn that old route remains fairly clear of obstructions through light industrial zones, although a short section on the eastern edge of the town is blocked residential construction; nevertheless a short diversion there looks plausible. The remainder of the route to Hertford is clear although getting across the county town to East station could be difficult now, with much recent residential development across the trackbed. Here a diversion onto street would be useful, favouring LRT technology for the metro. Clearly that would need a segregated alignment between Hatfield and Welwyn GC alongside the ECML.

    At Watford, a heavy rail solution could be linked across the WCML to LU and LO routes, with new service extended to Rickmansworth and beyond. If Tram -Train technology ever becomes viable in the UK, the benefits of being able to interun heavy and light rail vehicles on the same track could reduce the amount of dedicated new route required for the metro, whilst allowing new connections to use the less demanding track geometry of LRT vehicles AND allow some street running, although in my opinion that should be minimised to avoid road traffic interactions and likely resultant extended journey times.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Hi All,

    This caught my eye:

    Southern Heights Light Railway, from Sanderstead to Orpington.

    I have seen a number of references to this, usually with the Colonel’s name on it. Has anyone ever seen a map of the proposed route? I’d be very interested in seeing it….


  40. castlebar says:

    Not only should commentators on the Beeching Report first read the report, but l would also sincerely recommend reading “I tried to run a railway” by Gerry Fiennes before commenting too.

    He was there at the time. His observations are both contemporaneous and accurate. There is neither guesswork nor hypotheses in that book.

    Regional rivalries and loyalties played a massive part in this. Neither the S&D, the GC nor the Waverley route, now being rebuilt at the northern end by a farsighted Scottish government, had anyone around the table to speak up for them. It is oft forgotten that in the early ’60s, there were many around in senior positions who had been around in 1948 when there companies were nationalised. Some of these had massive chips on their shoulders through grudges dating from 1948 and scores to settle. Beeching actually gave them some opportunity to do it irrespective of any pro bono considerations keeping lines open.

    And l agree with Pedantic of Purley in that the reason the Paddington-Greenford fast line is shown on the map in red, was purely because thay could not have shut Marylebone (and instigated their mad express coachway scheme), that was another “Marples Ridgeway opportunity” in the making, without running fasts into Paddington over it. See my earlier posts on this. Corruption and loyalty to defunct, non-existant pre-grouping regions were a MAJOR factor in delivering the dog’s breakfast we ended up with.

  41. Dave says:

    “During this period there would be a couple of unadvertised services in the morning from Clapham Junction to Kensington Olympia exclusively for a group of government workers. ”

    That is a common fallacy. It was a public service, albeit no advertised until ca1964.

  42. Milton Clevedon says:

    There was also the third ‘Beeching Report’ which was printed (but not published) in March 1965, called the ‘Railway Plan for London’. Rather like the ‘Development of the Major Trunk Routes’, it did the same for London & Home Counties rail services, by discussing in greater detail than the original 1963 report the prospects for growth and for retrenchment in rail services around the London commuting area.

    Perhaps predictably, it supported expansion and investment in outer suburban radial services, and focused on alterations/economies/closures for inner suburban services. In South London, for example, there was talk of simplifying the inner services, and possibly extending the Victoria Line (then under construction to Victoria) to Crystal Palace via Brixton. As another example, economies/closures were sought on GW local services and lines in West London, and there were similar options for the Watford DC network.

    The report was probably shelved because the then-Labour Government had a wafer-thin majority in Parliament, and lines such as the Broad Street-Richmond service (which already had a local anti-closure campaign), and others, went through some marginal London constituencies. Even if the rural rail passenger could be ignored, the London commuter could not. Also interesting is that the report clearly could not have been written without involvement by the London Transport Board, because that body would have been responsible for mitigating some of the impacts on the main lines.

  43. mr_jrt says:

    @Mark Townsend
    I agree about St Albans, indeed, I made this 5 years ago!

  44. Steven Taylor says:

    You may be interested in my post – first one on this thread.

  45. Castlebar says:

    @ Milton Clevedon

    So very true!

    Ealing North was one of those ‘swing seats’ and its then (labour) MP Bill Molloy lived in Uneeda Drive, only 150 yards from Greenford station.

    Another issue yet not touched upon was Wilson, then PM, needed to prove (or pretend to prove) to floating voters in the key marginals that he wasn’t a puppet of the Trades Unions, so some closures went ahead just to spite the railway unions l am sure.

    The old adage about the now branded “Central Wales Line” was that it ran through more marginal constituencies (7 ?) than it had passengers! And the line still lives today. Yet Shoreham-Horsham running through some safe Tory seats was expendable. In fact it was probably closed to deliberately punish the locals for returning Tory MPs. When in government, don’t get mad, but get even.

    Going back to the West Drayton-Staines West question, had the southern end of the line ended up at Staines SR station, the line would probably still be open, but it was only 18 years or so after nationalisation, and the old LSWR management were unforgiving. They’d never allow dirty ex-GWR panniers or diesels into their nice clean electric station. So again, closure was a deliberate intended consequence of two regions being not only unable to work together, but being deliberately hostile to the extent of Southern wanting to “get one over” on the Western – something they had failed to do west of Salisbury.

  46. Stuart says:

    @anonymous “Southern Heights Light Railway, from Sanderstead to Orpington.

    I have seen a number of references to this, usually with the Colonel’s name on it. Has anyone ever seen a map of the proposed route? I’d be very interested in seeing it”

    Me too, and I am making some enquiries. Will share what I find and hope anyone else will

  47. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Well if you find anything out you could always do a short article!

    Southern Railway did put it on some of their maps as a dotted line in 1929. There is a rather nice example in “Southern Electric” by David Brown – expensive unfortunately. The is just over a page about it in “Sir Herbert Walker’s Southern Railway” and I am sure I have read other references to it. I couldn’t find anything about it online otherwise I would have provided a link. There is a very brief mention in the wikipedia page on the colonel. Why do I keep wanting to refer to him as Colonel Sanderstead?

  48. Stuart says:

    @PoP “Well if you find anything out you could always do a short article!”

    I may to just that, depending on what material I can find …

  49. Stuart says:

    … and hope my spelling will be better than the above effort if I do

  50. Milton Clevedon says:

    That’s possibly to do with Kenley Fried Chicken?

  51. Dave says:

    I’ve now found this in my notes regarding the TT commencing 5th May 1969 :
    “The Clapham Jc – Kensington service appears in the PTT for the first time since Winter 1955/56, as Table 41a :
    0818 and 0851 Clapham Jc – Kensington
    1636 and 1709 Kensington – Clapham Jc.”

    The return workings were nominally empties, although one could usually ride back after the first working, but not the second.

  52. Dr Paul says:

    I imagine that growing up and still living in south-west London has coloured my viewpoint a little, but I can’t help thinking that the Great Western and its BR successors were never particularly interested in developing suburban services in and around London. The services that were run seemed to be measly in comparison with what I knew on the Southern region, and even today stopping services from Paddington are short in length and fewer in frequency than most services out out of, say, Waterloo. Poking them away in a far, dark corner of Paddington probably can’t be helped, but seems to symbolise their inferior status.

    If we take into consideration the Uxbridge branches, either of them might have provided a much quicker run into London than on the Underground, and linking them could have provided this fairly important town, the first big one to the west of London, and other places on the route with a loop service. That no attempt was made to connect them also meant that the opportunity to put the town on, say, a semi-fast service from High Wycombe or beyond to London was missed. Perhaps the Greenford loop could also have been used in a loop service, particularly with the opening up of that part of London in the interwar period. The development of the Southern’s suburban services, particularly electrification, went alongside the expansion of urbanisation into Surrey, etc, so a similar development of GW suburban services might have helped increase urbanisation in that part of Middlesex.

    As for the GW Staines branch, I can’t really see how that could have survived, short of big urban development along the Colne valley, but that, even had there been more development around Uxbridge and its environs both before and after the Second World War, was unlikely.

  53. Fandroid says:

    Conspiracy theory no 152.5. Please note that the proposal to convert Marylebone into a coach station turned up in the 1980s (the report was requested by Sir Peter Parker according to Mr Wiki). Well after Dr B left BR. So the survival of the joint New North Main Line between Old Oak and South Ruislip probably had other causes (possibly even freight?).

    Horsham-Shoreham was another set of sad dots on the report’s passenger map and the freight loading was naff-all. It hadn’t been electrified, unlike Horsham-Littlehampton and plenty of other lines around there, so SR management were probably glad to be rid of it. Quite a few ‘dotted-lines’ survived, but usually only if they had a half decent freight traffic or the locals put up a big fight. Said Tory MPs were probably happy to drive to Horsham or the nearest BML station for a nice electric ride to Westminster.

  54. Mark Townend says:

    @mr_jrt, 02:43PM, 26th March 2013

    Clearly great minds think alike!

    One thing I forgot to mention was that independent tracks for LRT between Hatfield and Welwyn GC ought to be possible, as I understand this section of the ECML was 6 tracks wide at one time.

  55. Greg Tingey says:

    Is Riddlesdown inside the GLA area? I think not, but I may be wrong – I said that board=crossing were rare inside the GLA – there is at least one between Churchbury & Chesunt, too, but that also is outside the GLA area. There USED to be on at Copper Mills Jn, for that matter, closed now.

    Mr jrt
    Liverpool St with more platforms, maybe, but … how many tracks between there & Bethnal Green? That’s the real constraint particularly if you extend L St to 24 p/fs!

    … & PoP
    By the time of even 1965, Broad Street was the most appalling dump, its admittedly fine architecture was rotting & bits were falling down/off. Even before the final closure, it had really had it, structurally speaking. I sent a photo to this blog some time ago which showed just how far it had gone – perhaps you can show it, if you can find the copy?

    Ian J
    There were, long ago Watford – Broad ST services via Promrose Hill but they went first ….

    NOT so cynical – that was, in fact the proposal.
    YES it was cut back to Kentish T – & absolutely bloody useless it was too!

    You DO realise that “The Slow Train” is now an internationally-famous “lied” – i.e. deliberately sung, seriously at concerts. The irony.
    Especially when you realise that quite a few of the stations listed, are in fact, still open.

    John B
    “….highlights the truly criminal part of politicians’ behaviour post-Beeching” …
    Today’s news… it is proposed to SELL OFF the Air/Sea Search & Rescue.
    / Ends

    Paul S
    True, but what would be the point, since S Croydon gets you to Central Croydon anyway … ?
    Airtrack can work .. IF something is done about the LC’s. What, precisely? Errr ….

    “Enemies” … Those who are already known to bomb public transport, I would have thought!

    Indeed, outside Swindon, the initials GWR stand for Gas Works Railway, because it was so damned full of itself (to its’ own detriment in fact)

    “Southern Heights”
    I’m sure there are paing references to this in “Klapper” & Alana A Jackson’s “London’s Local Railways” – I’ve seen others as well ….

  56. timbeau says:

    Answering several of Greg’s questions
    Riddlesdown is (just) within the GLA area.
    The very last services to and from Broad Street were the peak hour Primrose Hill/Wattford services,some years after the Ricmond services had been divretd to North Woolwich.

    Dr Paul
    the dichotomy in the degree of enthusiasm for suburban services between the Southern compnaies (and the Great Eastern) on the one hand, and the GWR and the northern companies on the other, was that the latter saw local passengers as getting in the way of their core coal, and intercity passenger, traffics. The former had little of either, so had to cultivate a less profitable market. (less profitable because the revenue from each short-distnace passenger is less, and you need to provide more infrstructure and staff per head to service them)

  57. Pedantic of Purley says:


    You DO realise that “The Slow Train” is now an internationally-famous “lied” – i.e. deliberately sung, seriously at concerts.
    Very clever use of a word spelt the same way as past tense of “liar” but not. Sehr Gut! (Sorry everyone else – private joke)

  58. Mark Townend says:

    Having worked in both camps at various times since the 80s, my recollection is Western Region people saw the Southern as a mere tramway, whilst ‘Southerners’ viewed the Western as little more than a sleepy branch line!

  59. Greg Tingey says:

    Correction & update re: “Souther Heights”
    The very last 3 pages of Jackson’s London’s Local Railways” deals with the Southern Heights proposal & I’ve found a shor reference in Klapper:
    “A scheme backed by the Southern (The Southern Heights) was proposed in 1925, with an LRO obtained 27/11/192.In 1926 the S board decided to guarantee interest on £300 000 ndebentures @ 5% & to provide capital of £140 000 to ekectrify the line ….
    Orpington 15.75 miles to viaTatsfield to Snadestead – single track, stations at: Green St Green, Downe & Keston, Cudham & Biggin Hill, Westerham Hill, Tatsfield, Chelsham, Hamsey Grn & Mitchley Wood” (redacted.
    Make of that what you will.
    The depression & the Green Belt killed it …..

  60. Anonymous says:

    To reply to Greg T and the GWR’s priorities — I think that I sometimes view the past through the prism of the future or at least of my times (not a good thing for an historian, but it’s easy to do that). Yes, the GWR’s priorities were long-distance passenger and coal, my dad can remember travelling down to Wales during the last war, passing train after train of coal-wagons coming up this way. Nevertheless, this legacy has not helped when dealing with today’s travel patterns, especially when aggravated by what happened (or didn’t happen) with, for example, the Uxbridge branches.

    Also with Beeching, and this probably applies more outside London but not entirely, the way that Britain’s urbanisation would go through the 1960s up to today was probably not easy to ascertain then. Certainly a few lines that went would, had they remained, been more used of late than they were at the start of the 1960s. Oxford to Cambridge via Bedford is a case that is often pointed to. I’d add the Buntingford branch, which could have become a feeder for London. Fandroid mentioned the line to Shoreham from Horsham. Most of the little villages on that line have now expanded sufficiently that commuter traffic to Brighton and London and such places as Horsham and Crawley could well have become viable. It’s possible that some of the lines connecting other regional centres would have also done so, for example, Bedford to Northampton.

    I have travelled the North London Line on and off since the late 1950s, when I was a kid visiting relations in North London, and my recollections of it into the early 1970s was one of decay and little use, despite its going where there are no easy bus connections (the engineering works bus substitute is an amazingly involved and twisty route if one is forced to use it). I was not entirely surprised when it was scheduled for closure in the early 1960s. Over the last couple of decades, the NLL has become incredibly busy, standing room only at rush hours despite the more intensive service, and well used off-peak.

    I suspect that this and the similar use of the West London Line and the new services on the East London Line are partly because of changes in travelling habits, including people going around central London to go to work. (However, I doubt that the Palace Gates and Stanmore lines would have prospered in this atmosphere, had they been kept open; certainly not the Staines West line.) Changes in work routines in places outwith Greater London would, I think, have led to various lines prospering today had they been kept open — but who in the early 1960s would have predicted the distances and cross-country routes that people would be travelling to work in 20, 30 or 40 years after then? Sometimes social trends can’t be predicted, and official decisions are made that are regretted within a couple of decades but which can’t easily be put right.

  61. Dr Paul says:

    Greg T wrote that the depression and the Green Belt finished off the idea of the Southern Heights railway.

    And looking at an OS map of the area, the work involved in building it would have been fearsome. There are some very steep hills and deep valleys around there. The cost of building would have been formidable. If they skimped on that, then the gradients and ensuing operational problems would have been enormous.

  62. MBS473 says:

    RE: pedestrian board crossings, there was one between Gordon Hill and Crews Hill on the Hertford North line that you could use to walk to Crews Hill Golf Course. I’ve not been there for 15 years or so but I assume it’s still there.

  63. Slugabed says:

    9:24 26/03
    Yes,It’s still there….isn’t there one on the Enfield Town Branch? I remember being surprised to see one so close to London.
    Don’t forget the one on the Angerstein Wharf Branch,either….

  64. Anonymous says:

    The London Gazette notice about the application for a Light Railway Order for the Southern Heights Light Railway is at

    SR suburban route maps of the time showed its route: a copy I had has unfortunately got itself lost (last seen about 40 years ago).

  65. DW down under says:

    Fandroid @
    08:56AM, 26th March 2013

    “I fear that tunnelling under the M25 would be a bit pointless…”

    I was thinking in terms of T5 towards the SW needing to cross the M25, is all.

    “I am intrigued by the ‘the enemy might have changed’ comment. Who did you have in mind?”

    The “enemy” now is anything that causes a need for diversions: blockades, “incidents,” the fruit of a prolonged period of underinvestment, major projects, political stupidity – could be summed up as “the enemy within” I suppose.


    DW down under

  66. DW down under says:

    Mark Townend @
    12:50PM, 26th March 2013

    re. St. Albans branch:

    Mark – there’s no harm in dreaming, but relocating St Albans City station would be a big ask on a busy working railway (ie not cheap). Then there’s St Albans London Rd station, now a private residence within an estate. From an environmental and community perspective, there would be some significant negatives.

    What would be useful is a link from the Abbey Branch to City station. Whether by reversal, or by deviation. I understand that at one point, this was under active consideration, but didn’t appear in any of the web search items I found. Would anyone have a URL to which I could refer?

    Would closure of Abbey Station to allow through operation to City cause runctions in the ranks? It would be not dissimilar to the Met Watford station situation.


    DW down under

  67. DW down under says:

    mr_jrt @
    02:43PM, 26th March 2013 wrote:

    “@Mark Townsend
    I agree about St Albans, indeed, I made this 5 years ago!”

    That’s one tight curve you’ve got south of Abbey, branching towards the old Hatfield line.

    Not sure about the connection from the Abbey Branch to the MML, either. You’ve got it going under the MML then swinging north very tightly to join the MML Up Slow.

    I rather wonder whether it would be better for an independent track to run up to an extra platform (if possible) at St Albans, with a wired crossover for diversionary use and maintenance train access. Having ramps on both sides would be wonderful, expensive and involve signalling.

    DW down under

  68. Mark Townend says:

    @DW down under, 10:44PM, 26th March 2013

    The old London Road station area I would avoid by a new alignment to the south, although that would require expensive new bridges under the MML and A1081.

    Spookily, the ‘wideway’ between the fast and slow track pairs at the site of the MML platforms widens appreciably for a good 12 car+ length. They may be sufficiently far apart to insert a new island together with access arrangements between them with minimal rearrangement of tracks. Together with matching outer platforms perhaps a station could be built fairly easily here after all.

    An enlargement of the area appears here . . .

  69. DW down under says:

    @ Mark

    Looking at the close up, you’re VERY close to houses, and without a good compo budget, that plan is just an idea – nice to float, but going nowhere. Likewise, the cost of deviations around the London Rd station environs and to provide a southern approach to Hatfield would mean the need for a very substantial passenger base, or some strongly over-riding community benefit. The original branch served a mental hospital and a Salvation Army employment centre. If they were still in place, there’d be some (but not that many) “brownie points” in serving them. What’s the 21stC equivalent community benefit?

    The route across to Hatfield would be nice to have. But there’s some other questions:
    – How well do the local buses load? Are they seriously held up by congestion in Hatfield or St Albans?
    – What is the passenger imperitive that drives re-establishing a rail link between St Albans and Hatfield?
    – Is it a significant commuting corridor?
    – What constraints to private car usage are there?

    OTOH, connecting an existing electric railway into the local main line station for interchange does have a good passenger imperitive. Even then, the gestation time can be prolonged – consider the Croxley Link.

    So, I’d suggest focussing on how to bring the Abbey Branch into St Albans City station.


    DW down under

  70. DW down under says:

    PoP wrote an article “Beeching: Freight and Final Conclusions”

    1) The comments field is missing – hence I am posting here;

    2) There seems to be a typo in: “Central Croydon located on its own short branch off the Brighton main line closed for the second and final time in 1890 – having previous closed in 1871 but reopened again in 1866.”

    DW down under

  71. Don’t know how that happened. There doesn’t appear to be anything different about the latest post. I can’t see whats wrong so we will have to wait for John Bull to fix it – assuming it is a problem with LR.

    Thanks for pointing out typo. Actually re-rereading it the reason I mention Croydon isn’t that obvious so I have expanded it a bit as well as corrected it.

  72. mr_jrt says:

    @Mark Townsend
    …or of course, you could say fools seldom differ 😉

    @DW Down Under
    It is indeed a sharp curve. The options are a) to pass to the south east to avoid the housing, but you then don’t serve a huge market in south St. Albans, b) you make an expensive tunnel, otherwise c) you have a curve with a ridiculous speed limit. I figured that as you’d have trains stopping at “St. Albans South” anyway, a low-speed curve was an acceptable compromise.

    There were plans to sell off the Abbey site for development, build a new station and divert to City station, so Network Rail clearly thought c) was viable.

    As for beyond St. Albans, I think the old route to Hatfield is still viable with a fair bit of work, so you could link the major traffic generators of the Galleria and Hatfield station to Watford Junction and the Harlequin. this way you would enter Hatfield from the north, could have platforms on the western side where there is space, then dive under the ECML and veer off cross-country towards Hertford where you could rejoin the old branch around Cole Green, as you can see here.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Re: Southern Heights light Railway

    Thanks all for the info, so far it hasn’t really revealed much more than I already knew. My initial start for this was a book on the life of the Colonel, as it appeared that he was involved in the second scheme. The other having been around 1901.

    I do like this talk of starting about 180 or thereabouts south of the station, in my books that’s in the middle of the embankment between there and Chelsfield and quite a long way up! A much better idea would have been to curve off straight after the station, and then use the hillside to reach the north side of Green St Green, cross the A21 and then continue along Shire lane, I suspect the line then would have run along west side of Downe and crossed the Main Road in Biggin Hill around St. Winnifred’s road. After that my knowledge of the proposed route is vague, as there is a steep drop to the valley and I believe a viaduct was proposed to reach Tatsfield. This would indeed have been a structure of quite epic proportions.

    After that I have been able to find very little other than the short descriptions of stations. Knowing the Colonel the name of station can quite easily refer to a place several miles away, so any name I take as an “approximate” location!

  74. Happy Al says:

    @Greg 6.42 pm 26th.
    I worked near Dalston Junction 1960/65 and there were trains to Wat/jct ,Hertford N and Welwyn. There used to be a pub on the platform.

  75. Stuart says:

    @Anonymous “Knowing the Colonel the name of station can quite easily refer to a place several miles away, so any name I take as an “approximate” location!”

    Wow – you know or knew the Colonel ?! 😉

    Indeed, the suggested names of the stations are quite amusing: “Downe & Keston” are miles apart. Anything west of Downe would require a huge dog-leg to get from Orpington to “Biggin Hill & Cudham” (also a way apart)

    The Sanderstead to Tatsfield part of the line should be relatively doable – a bit of a climb to get up to Hamsey Green from Mitchley Wood. But probably similar to the include up to Tenterden on the Kent & East Sussex

    But it is an interesting area to look at a railway. Quite a big gap in the network (and metropolis) between the East Grinstead Line and Orpington main line. Presently the good folks of all the places served are wholly reliant on car and bus. But I guess if the Mid Kent line had been extended down to Keston and on towards Westerham, it may linked up or taken some demand. The Green Belt stopped the area from being significantly developed. A rail link towards Biggin Hill might have changed the merits for its development as a secondary London airport

    I am following up a lead to some potential more info on the Southern Heights Light Railway, and will report back here with anything interesting

  76. Graham Feakins says:

    This lovely clip, in good colour, shows King’s Cross in 1956. Soon diesels would replace steam power and Mr. Hammond, General Manager of British Railways Eastern Region, explains how he will reduce his fleet of locomotives by a factor of four but it was obviously not enough to satisfy Beeching.

  77. Al Green says:

    I’m surprised that no-one has explained the reason for the secrecy around the Kenny Belle service. Most of the passengers were spooks and didn’t want the general public to know who they were. The bit of the PO they worked for was not the Savings bank, whatever it might have said over the door. They worked in the section that intercepted and opened the mail of anyone the government regarded as a commie, which at the height of the cold war was a lot of people. Some worked for PO and some for MI5. They didn’t want to be recognised and so really wanted the train to themselves. Hence almost total secrecy about the existence of the service to discourage others from using it.

  78. Anonymous says:

    @Al Green
    I’d not heard that theory before. A curious way of hiding: provide a special train rather than open it to all so you can mingle unobtrusively. (Does everyone using Vauxhall station work for MI6?). If anyone working there really didn’t want to be identified, they would walk down the road to West Kensington, rather than take the spooks’ special.

    But that sems to be the way they think – there was famously a railway bridge over the M5 which wasn’t shown on any OS maps, thereby flagging up to anyone who might be interested that it was supposed to be “secret”.

  79. Steven Taylor says:

    @Al Green

    Interesting comment re `Savings Bank` staff. To think I used to sit with them on the train. I might have been arrested as a spy or traitor!! Especially as I took pictures of the train on the platform with the Post Office staff boarding etc.

    Seriously, I do not really `buy-in` to the theory that the `Kenny Belle` was so secret. I knew all about it. OK – I do live at Clapham Junction, but as I have previously stated, I had no trouble buying tickets.

    Also, I seem to recollect that during the 1960s, a B.R. line was shown on the `all railways` geographically correct map London Transport used to publish – the name escapes me. This started at Clapham Junction and was shown stopping at Kensington Olympia.

  80. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I have to say I don’t believe the story though I have to say the 1960s were awash with such ideas. Then again they were awash with reports of UFOs. The main reasons I do not believe it are:

    1. The argument of anonymous 09:56
    2. Kensington Olympia as far as I am aware just wouldn’t be an appropriate location to do this. If it had been Mount Pleasant sorting office near King’s Cross I might have started thinking it was plausible. If you intercept mail you have to do it quickly and without delay. Delayed mail on a consistent basis, compared with other people not-suspected, is a classic giveaway.
    3. If it had been true then surely this would have been declassified by now. And there are people like Ian of IanVisits who invariably sniffs these things out.
    4. It is inconsistent with Steven Taylor’s clear and uniquivocal recollections.
    5. It wouldn’t have been in the Beeching Report!!!

    I can quite see how writers would want to twist “unadvertised” and “little-known” to “secret” to make something extremely dull appear more interesting. I even sunk to that level myself but I least I had the decency to admit afterwards that there was almost certainly nothing sinister about it.

    It has however made me think about it a bit more. Could I present my reasons for what I believed happened? Unfortunately it is rather dull.

    Southern Region ran this service I believe. I suspect that they weren’t going to let someone else run it as they wanted to keep their fiefdom. Or maybe it was just a poisoned chalice that no-one wanted. A steam or diesel service in the suburbs would have been totally at odds with the image that they wanted to present. Furthermore, and more critically, it would have been hideously expensive to run. In all probability every extra carriage and every extra return working would have been unthinkably expensive for a region based as much as possible on electric services. So whilst it wasn’t exactly a secret, as in official secret, absolutely nothing was done to publicise the service. That would include not informing their own staff. In those days it would have been quite normal for BR to have a local fares offer which deliberately was not circulated to all stations so in a similar way it would not surprise me that station staff at Cheam would not know about it.

    This begs the question: why didn’t they electrify and run a decent service? Well I just don’t think they would have thought that there would have been any decent demand. Remember the District Line at Olympia then (as now M-F) would have been Exhibition Service Only so one couldn’t easily use the underground to continue one’s journey. Also probably they wouldn’t get the government to agree to the expenditure which would probably have to include the cost of a substation. I suspect though that the region responsible for Olympia (London Midland?) just wouldn’t have wanted an isolated section of third rail and all the procedures and complications that would entail. Besides third rail was a Southern  thing.

  81. timbeau says:


    I like the theory, and suspect that it’s not far from the truth – certainly network ignorance is nothing new – I was once refused a ticket to Blackheath at Victoria (“you need to go to Charing Cross”) despite the existence of an easy change at Peckham Rye (there is of course a through service now.

    But the LMR had an extensive conductor-rail network of its own, (including the basis of the modern London Overground) – until 1971 operating to the same standards as LU but then converted to SR-type third rail. Indeed LMS electric units ran through Olympia on the Willesden – Earls Court route until 1941.

    A more likely reason for not improvng the service is likely to be that both the SR and LT would lose revenue if people were persuaded to go that way instead of the alternative route via Victoria. It only came into its own when congestion at Victoria meant that they physically couldn’t take any more on that route.

    The evening shuttle, for much of the time I knew it, was operated by a Class 33 +TC unit, which would then run empty to Waterloo to operate a peak hour peculiarity – a Yeovil portion attached to a regular Southampton Line stopping service (8VEP), which would be detached at Basingstoke. Hybrid diesel and “straight” electric power working together in in one train, as proposed for the IEP, is nothing new!

  82. JimJordan says:

    What a wealth of nostalgia yet again.

    The Paddington – Greenford – Birmingham line around 1962 was being used by many people (me included) as an alternative to the WCML as a route to Birmingham because of the electrification of the old LMS. The Birmingham Pullman was in use and about then the Westerns were introduced.

    I used to commute West Hampstead – Gunnersbury on the NL while working at LT Chiswick. The trains were well filled during the rush and colleagues who came from futher up the line would reserve me a seat. There was a VERY strong feeling about keeping the line open. I attended a lobby at the H of P which had a surprisingly large attendance. The then home secretary (was it Henry Brooke?) addressed us and said “I used to use this line to go to school, I shall be sorry when it closes” He had a majority of about 10,000 then and lost his seat at the next election. Was there a connection?

    While working at Handley Pages in the late 1950s I would travel to Birmingham from Park Street, change at Watford J. They had printed tickets which surprised me. A peaceful line then.

    Re printed tickets, I used to buy a Network SE day return from Kingston to Bookham for my evening return home as this was the cheapest ticket. Getting to Kingston in the morning I could not use my Network Card (how convoluted can you get?). After a few weeks having a ticket written for me printed tickets appeared. There must have been some form of system which put this into action after so many purchases – or did the booking office staff complain? I had tickets in order from 0000 to about 0013 and then some wierdo bought one and I lost the sequence!

    I did also manage the Kenny Belle once from K to CJ but could not return as there wasn’t time to book a ticket. Steam hauled of course.

  83. Pedantic of Purley says:

    After a few weeks having a ticket written for me printed tickets appeared.

    A switched on booking clerk would order these as soon as he believed there was going to be a continuing demand – even if it was just one person. It made the 4 weekly accounts easier to do and less susceptible to to errors. It also reduced the possibility of fraud by the passenger and the potential accusation of possible fraud perpetrated by the booking clerk if too many written tickets were issued. I never experienced it but was told to do nothing that would encourage an unannounced visit from the auditors as it was disruptive and not pleasant even if you had done nothing wrong.

    There was also the issue you did not want to have to write out a ticket when there was a queue or someone had left it to the last minute to catch their train. Writing out the ticket was trivial but the details had to be recorded and, as it took time, the temptation sometimes was to do that later and hope you didn’t forget. It was a real sinking feeling when you did the daily balance and find that you have forgotten to record the details and you cannot remember what is was. You daren’t lie in case you are found out. Revenue Inspectors took a particular interest in handwritten tickets – and they weren’t checking up on the passenger. You couldn’t ignore it because the station accounts have to be signed off and blank ticket stock would always be checked. So it would have to be a letter to the Station Manager or higher to explain why the accounts were incomplete.

  84. Greg Tingey says:

    The M5 bridge went to Dinham Factory where at one time the RN kept very highly explosive devices!
    BLS ran a tour there- & I was on it!
    Oh, & it was the M4, not the M5 – now renumbered to Msomethingorother … – the original Severn Bridge road, anyway.

    Kenny Belle was previously a standard 4MT 2-6-4 tank haulage!

  85. Anonymous says:


    Right first time, I think – wasn’t the mystery bridge over the M5 to ROF Bridgwater?

    And the steam-hauled Kenny Bell used the only plastic-bodied Mk1 coach, S1000.

  86. Graham Feakins says:

    @JimJordan – Jim, you can indulge in a little more nostalgia with this You Tube 25. mins, which taken from a Channel 4 programme of 1984: Losing Track: 5. Beeching:

    There’s a piece covering the North London Line and Broad Street in it.

    P.S. I wasn’t the weirdo you mention but might have been if I’d known!

  87. DW down under says:

    @JimJordan referred to the Birmingham Pullman as a diversionary service during the WCML. Of course, this was also the era of the Blue Pullmans on the Midland main line route through to Manchester, for the same reason.

    DW down under

  88. Greg Tingey says:

    “Southern Heights”
    There are three pages, right at the end of “Jackson” on this, with some fascinating detail.
    IF the editors wish it, I can convert these to *.pdf-format & send them on for discussion.
    All very fascinating stuff, for a pie-in-the-sky!

  89. Mono says:

    RE: pedestrian board crossings – There is another one near Upminster on the C2C main line, just outside Cranham, which is just about inside the GLA

  90. JimJordan says:

    PoP – thanks for the background to the generation of printed tickets, I had not realised the complexities behind that window. I had got well enough known for the good looking young lady booking clerk to start writing the ticket when she saw me coming.

    Graham – thanks for the link to the NLL film, brought back many memories. I now use the East Suffolk which was another reprieved line.

  91. @Greg,
    Thanks for locating that. No need to do anything. I have a copy of Jackson – just haven’t got around to reading it yet.

    @Anon 1:09 27th March
    Assuming your email address given is genuine, I’ll try and get around to sending an attachment of it in the next few days. Bit busy at the moment…

    It is surprising how quickly one gets to recognise passengers who are, let us say, out of the ordinary. Probably more than they would realise and possibly like. Whether they would like the way we referred to them is another matter. “Forest Gate” is late today! etc.

  92. John says:

    I was looking at a 1908 half-inch OS map. This shows an ‘old railway’ that linked the St Albans Abbey Branch to the Midland Main Line. Was it ever built and/or used?

  93. That would be the Hatfield to St Albans Railway. But, as far as I am aware, it didn’t link the St Albans Abbey branch to the Midland Main Line. As can be seen from the map on this page it went underneath the Midland Main Line but was completely independent of it. Note that St Albans Abbey was never a “through” station though it was once the terminus for two branches.

    As if to make the point that railway closures were nothing new, most of the branch closed completely in 1951although part of it survived for freight until 1964. The bulk of it is now a cyclepath called the Alban Way,

  94. Greg Tingey says:

    The RJD DIagram for that branch/junction is shown inside this link.
    It was part of the GNR …..
    Matched the opposing Hatfield branch that looped through Hertford (GN) to connect with the GER @ Hertford East.

  95. John says:

    It is definitely not the Hatfield branch : see here

  96. John says:

    ps The current 1:25,000 map shows the formation from How Wood as far as the A4183

  97. Slugabed says:

    Yes,there used to be a connection between the Watford-St.Albans Branch and the Midland Main Line South of Park street.
    The formation joining the MML was very clear when I travelled that line a lot in the 80s,as were the abutments of the bridge that carried it over the A5.
    When it was closed/lifted…I don’t know.

  98. mr_jrt says:

    I was of the impression it was a construction spur – used by the Midland to move materials from the LNWR’s branch to the construction site of their London extension from Bedford, presumably to give rail access before the line from the north reached it.

  99. DW down under says:

    Following up @ John’s post:


    “There was another railway line, built in 1866, which linked the above London and North Western Railway branch line to St Albans, to the newly constructed Midland Railway’s main line from Bedford to St Pancras, at Napsbury. It was a goods line in brief use, closed by 1910, called the Park Street Branch and was operated by the Midland Railway. The railway bridge bridge near Sycamore Drive was demolished around 1948 after being damaged by a giant propellor being delivered to the Handley Page aircraft works.”


    ” …. This note illustrates one such choice entirely to the south of the A414 North Orbital Road. Running north east from How Wood station there used to be a railway link known as the Napsbury link passing Hedges Farm and built to mainline standards. Some evidence of this line is still to be found, we believe. It was provided to enable construction traffic for what is now known as the Midlands Mainline via the Abbey line, which was pre-existing at that time. The former Napsbury link might provide the alignment for a new Midlands Mainline connecting link. … ”

    And for further interest, from:,

    “London Colney: Napsbury Park: Siding Way Napsbury Park was the site of the former Napsbury Hospital, formerly called the Middlesex County Mental Hospital, which was built in 1905. Most of these large institutional hospitals had isolation hospital annexes and a railway connection for the transfer of patients and for bringing supplies in. Napsbury was no exception and a siding left the site of the former Napsbury station on the Midland Railway’s main line coming down this route towards the Hospital. It was known, unsurprisingly, as the Napsbury Siding, hence the name of today’s road. When it was dismantled I do not know but Napsbury station is shown in use, and the siding existing, on the 1940s Ordnance Survey Popular Map.”

    Hope these helped answer the question.

    In terms of a practical way of extending the Abbey Branch into City station, I think this alignment is too far south, but as a main line link, it looks excellent.

    DW down under.

  100. Anonymous says:

    The western end of this conection can clearly be seen on Google Earth, including the bridge abutmebts where it crossed the old A5 (now A5183).

  101. timbeau says:

    This linkie suggests Mr JRT was correct, it was a construction line. Several links were built during WW1 and WW2 to faciliate troop and munition movements (e.g Staines), and the substantial nature of the surviving earthworks might suggest this line might have been used in this way. It does not appear in my 1922 atlas.

  102. Slugabed says:

    12:18 31/03
    Your first quote refers to the line under discussion….Napsbury is on the other side of the Midland line.
    The link is clearly visible curving away from the L&NWR branch on Google earth here:

  103. Slugabed says:

    …oops,zoom out one notch,please!

  104. DW down under says:

    RE: Napsbury Link

    Indeed, the Disused Stations site entry for St Albans London Rd does include:

    “There was a scheme to provide a triangular junction with the Midland line to the east of London Road Station, this was never built but a contractors connection was later built from Napsbury Station on the Midland to a point just south of Park Street Station on the LNWR line into St. Albans Abbey during the construction of the Midland line. Although the line was never made permanent it was substantially built and there have been many local requests over the years for the link to be reinstated.”

    This is the third specific record I’ve seen available online concerning this long-gone, but clearly not forgotten link.

    DW down under

  105. DW down under says:

    @ slugabed

    But did you notice also, on the Up side of the MML, the barest hints of the old siding into Napsbury Hospital. Siding Way in the new estate gives a clue. It’s only the difference in the vegetation that demarks the alignment, but it’s discernable.

    DW down under

  106. Mark Townend says:

    Seeing as the discussion has arrived at the St Albans area once again, I thought I would table my latest LRT version of the Rickmansworth to Hatfield ‘South Hertfordshire Metro’. . .

  107. Greg Tingey says:

    The “other” branch from St Albans Abbey WENT TO HATFIELD – as both your map-link & the RJD show.
    There was a separate, much shorter-lived connection to the MML – as several other correspondents have noted, with useful details – OK?

  108. Steven Taylor says:

    Re Park Street – Napsbury connection.

    On Page 16 of my copy of S.C. Jenkins `Watford to St Albans Branch` (Oakwood Press – 1990), it states that although it was only ever used by contractor`s traffic, it was intended as a permanent connection. Hence the substantial nature of earthworks. No reason given as to why it was never used by passenger traffic.

  109. Anonymous says:

    I suspect the reason it wasn’t used would be somewhere on the spectrum between
    – the LNWR not giving running powers to the Midland (why encourage a new rival for the Midlands to London traffic?), especially over a single – track branch line
    – a better connection between the two already existing between Bedford and Bletchley

  110. DW down under says:

    Anonymous @ 08:29PM, 31st March 2013

    You’ve missed the most likely:

    The Midland Rly not giving the LNWR rights into St Albans City (or beyond) – to protect their traffic into London.

    The Contractors’ work would have finished well before 1870, yet the link remained until 1910. I suspect that when it was convenient to both companies, freight was worked through.

    And to describe Bedford-Bletchely as a better link seems odd to me. A better link to where?

    For a minor link closed over 100 years ago, it certainly has sparked some interest.

    Happy All Fools Day 🙂

    DW down under

  111. DW down under says:

    @ Mark’

    Hi. Had a look @ your St Albans diagram. I think this has more chance of getting up than a heavy rail proposal.

    A minor detail: Watford High St has an island platform.

    I take it that the passage under the WCML you are proposing is at Stephenson Ave (A4008). I think you would need to have the line pass under the northern arch, and provide a bridge over the River Colne on the eastern side to maintain access for the footpath (cycleway/bridle path?) that currently uses that arch (there already being one on the western side).

    ISTM, there’s room for double track through the arch (ie a shade over 6m), even a double-track tube or Met line type railway (just). The curvature required at the eastern side to access WJ is within the capabilities of tube, Met and 20m National Rail trains. So those seeking to provide a link from Croxley throught to St Albans could well use this alignment. Some loss of recreational grass fields and some environmental impact on the Colne River – but nothing disastrous. Indeed, the river could be culverted through the arch to allow a 2nd track if the space is too substandard for double track under a single arch.

    The possibility of the “Herts Metro” taking over the Chesham off-peak service would be something that would appeal to LU, I think. The Metro cars would need to be quite substantial (NR standards of vehicle strength and crumple zones) to run on the shared sections.

    Unfortunately, the service misses St Albans City, unless some street running in St Albans is included. From the aerials, the traffic doesn’t look to be favourable to street running. I have my doubts whether the Interchange station you have shown would be acceptable to NR, FCC, EMT and/or other TOCs. It’s too close for a separate station, but at the very extremity of the car park.

    But let’s take another look – and I hope Jamie (jrt) is lurking. One of the buildings between St Albans City and the Hatfield branch underbridge has been demolished and the area seems to be part of an enlarged park’n’ride. That means the curve needed to get from the old underpass into St Albans City can use that space and make it quite manageable for tube, Met and 20m suburban car trains. On the western side of the line, in order to use the MML underbridge, the route would need to run along the vehicular access to the light industrial units that now sit over the old formation, or the large building fronting the street partially demolished. I think it would be easier if alternative vehicular access were provided along the building’s southern flank, even if that means sacrificing a 6m wide strip of green belt.

    The only key issue to grapple with – and I don’t know the answer – is whether bypassing St Albans Abbey would be detrimental.

    The old alignment between St Albans and Hatfield is now a country walk. There would be a political battle royale if any proposal to reclaim it for rail should be made subject to formal consultation. I don’t think the imperitive to re-open the link is exceptionally strong, but you or others lurking may have some O-D data which suggests otherwise.

    I guess at both ends, the imperitive for local travel is to connect with the City Centre, not an outpost. That does strengthen a case for linking up using the Stevenson Ave/River Colne viaduct route at the southern end. For commuting, WJ is a good destination. St Albans City is mainly an attraction for Thameslink and for services to the north.

    DW down under

  112. mr_jrt says:

    Indeed, always, always lurking. 🙂

    As you say, WHS does indeed have island platform…a strangely long one.

    I think Mark’s proposal, like my own, assumes closing St Albans City in favour of the new interchange. It’s a short move, but the alternative is some sort of passenger travelator alongside the railway as the only solution for an improved interchange to the current abomination. Having used the existing city station several times (usually changing from the Abbey station), it’s not the best located. It’s served by a B road from the city centre requiring a huge great bumpy bridge to get it over the station complex, and the forecourt is on the wrong side of the station, and is off on an even more minor road, making bus service poor. Having a new station on London Road would be much more suitable for the road traffic levels, not to mention it’s on a through road, so more, and and more useful, services would be able to directly serve it. In my proposal, the other side benefit of moving the station south is that you can then justify a smaller local station in the northern suburbs of St. Albans, so everyone wins, really.

    I’m not a fan of anything involving on-road sections, especially when they would be detrimental to the case for a proper heavy-rail link in the future. Like you, I’m interested to get more details on what Mark proposed for the WCML diveunder, as this is the main difficult problem. The last time I thought about this was to widen the DC lines to four tracks immediately past the Radlett Road bridge, with the middle pair descending at a suitable gradient to get them safely under the sidings and WCML mainline, before emerging slightly into the BT car park before rising up to run alongside the WCML into the Abbey line platforms, using a chunk of the siding alignment that exists. The fact the line is on an embankment at this point is quite helpful. I’m not sure if a tunnel would be preferred here, or a set of bridges. I guess it depends how deep you would want to get the connection…I suspect bridges would be easier to build in stages as you could close the slow lines one long possession, put in piles and build the abutments, then one weekend put in the bridge deck. Repeat from the other side for the fast lines and then just dig out underneath. Tunnelling an underpass would probably need everything built in one go…

  113. Mark Townend says:

    @DW down under, 03:43AM, 1st April 2013

    Thanks for pointing out the Watford High Street configuration, I’d forgotten about the island, but that explains your previous proposal for low level tube platforms on the outside to cater for varying vehicle boarding heights.

    At Watford, yes I was thinking of passing under the north arch of the Stephenson Ave bridge – how fortunate the London & Birmingham Railway had the foresight to build such a useful structure over 150 years ago! Using this alignment does impose quite sharp curvature however, fine for LRT and possibly tube, but a little tighter than ideal for anything heavier.

    At St Albans it looks like that entire former car park area between City station and London Road, along the eastern side of the MML is being fully developed for high density residential apartments. Whilst that may be good for urban density, the passenger railway and public transport business generally, it probably precludes threading even a light rail alignment between the blocks to link the branch and mainline stations.

    Therefore a connection to City station via the west side of the of MML would seem a better bet as you describe, and whilst it may be possible ( and expensive) I can’t see how it could be compatible with a Hatfield reinstatement.

    Abbey station gets about 200k users p.a. the highest on the branch by far except for Watford Jn (clearly!) and because Abbey is an isolated terminus, the figure is meaningful as it can only include branch line users. Removal of the stop in favour of a diversion to the mainline could be a serious disbenefit to a very large proportion of these users. Abbey is about the same distance to the town centre as is City (approx 800 metres), but any ACTUAL origin or destination slightly south of the nominal centre (town hall/market place), including the abbey church itself is closer to Abbey station. Abbey also serves the St Stephans and St Julians area, with fairly extensive low density housing estates within walking distance, and there are a number of modern offices and other businesses surrounding the station including Premier Foods headquarters.

    An on street diversion of LRT between the existing stations, aside from being disruptive and expensive is likely to be somewhat slow, with intermediate stops and road intersections, so no better than busses.

    I expect a Hatfield route reinstatement project would have to fund construction of a foot and cycle trail alongside or broadly parallel to the rail line. Although not a trivial expense, I’m sure that would be a lot cheaper than finding an alternative LRT alignment, and except at bridges the parallel path would probably fit within the former railway fence-lines even though the railway was single track. At narrow bridges, the reconstructed footpath could ascend or descend to the road level, something that could actually increase it’s utility as a pedestrian link and as a ‘feeder’ network for the new LRT stations. The ‘peace and quiet’ of the path being ‘ruined’ by the adjacent rail is bound be a sticking point however.

    In Hatfield my Birchwood station is around 300 metres from the old town centre shopping precinct (perhaps it could be named Hatfield central instead), and the LRT alignment also serves:

    – The Galleria shopping destination, which also forms a gateway to the massive redevelopment of the former De Havilland aviation site for commercial and residential purposes.

    – The University of Hertfordshire (formerly Hatfield Polytechnic) with approx. 30,000 students and staff.

  114. Dr Paul says:

    Jim Jordan: ‘I used to commute West Hampstead – Gunnersbury on the NL while working at LT Chiswick. The trains were well filled during the rush and colleagues who came from further up the line would reserve me a seat. ‘

    My early years’ travelling on the NLL was off-peak, hence the perceived lack of use. Perhaps the officials doing the research only monitored the line when the rush-hour was over. One can prove practically anything with figures, especially if the figures aren’t exactly honest to start with…

    Is there any possibility of the connection between Camden Road and South Hampstead being reopened for passenger traffic, along with the station at Primrose Hill (which is a bit closer to the popular market than Camden Road)? Seeing how well used the NLL is these days, this might not be a bad idea for developing more usage.

  115. DW down under says:

    Thanks Mark and Jamie

    I looked at the Linden “fly through”, and groaned. The problem with using Bing and Google aerials and bird’s eye or “earth” views is that they’re seriously out-of-date. Makes it hard when my “mohoscope” has such a delay built in! 🙂

    But yes, the Linden scheme certainly screws up my suggestion. To relocate St Albans City station may be less of an issue than I thought.

    Two options: (1) What would be needed is to widen the formation (tight but I think do-able) such that the platforms can be extended about 50m south, then build ramps up to a new overline concourse, ticket hall and gateline. The ramp up from the Branch platform(s) would also meet this new overline concourse. The use of ramps obviates the need for lifts. The old concourse would remain and become the northern concourse, the new would be the southern.

    (2) Divert the tracks to the south of the light engineering facility on London Rd, such that it passes to the south and rises on an embankment as it approaches London Rd. It crosses London Rd on a new bridge and runs alongside the MML into a bay platform built into the west side car park at St Albans City. I’d expect a new parking station to be built over the new bay platform.

    BTW, with the loss of parking facilities, ISTM that St Albans is going to need a Parkway station, probably near St Albans Enterprise Centre and Sandridge Gate Business Centre. …. or the Soccer Club gets moved (dodges bricks, etc)!! 🙂 There may be a case for a southern parkway, in which case the Abbey Branch would connect by either a deviation or by reversals.


    DW down under

  116. Mark Townend says:

    I have made a few minor changes to the Herts Metro diagram which still appears under the same file name . . .

    @, mr_jrt 11:59AM, 1st April 2013

    Yes my proposal like yours, assumes closing St Albans City in favour of the new interchange. A mechanised link from London Road to the existing City station site might be possible but would be expensive to build and maintain I think for relatively little usage.

    London Road would be a better site for the mainline station anyway for the reasons you state, however it would be a big upheaval in the city to move, but I think worth it in the long term and it fits in well with your idea for an additional local station further north on the main line.

    I also don’t really like the whole idea of the on-street section myself, not because I think there’s any hope of running ‘proper’ heavy rail services over the Hatfield link, but simply because it imports delay risk into journey times, and shared street running is generally slower than reserved track. In addition it could turn out fairly expensive and disruptive to construct on street with utility diversions etc. However there is a residential development right across the former trackbed at ‘The Lindens’ in St Albans Road West. Although the Alban Way path manages to squeeze past this, there is insufficient room to accommodate a single track. Perhaps the block could be compulsorily purchased along with parts of the Fiddlebridge industrial area opposite to restore the original route. That would be expensive, but whether any more so than the street running option would need to be studied in detail. Some of the Fiddlebridge industrial area estate would need to be removed for the street running option as well and the old alignment already provides a bridge under Cavendish Way, the busy road crossing the south portal of the A1(M) tunnel next to Galleria, so the cost of a similar new bridge at the south end of Roe Green Lane would be avoided.

    Using LRT technology is an important element in developing local rail links as I think the hill climbing and curve negotiating attributes of LRVs can significantly reduce the costs of route construction, irrespective of the street running ability, any use of which I think should be minimised as much as possible. Level Crossings on the other hand are much easier to incorporate in LRT routes than heavy rail, eliminating the costs of expensive flyovers and the unpopularity of such large new structures, especially in residential or historic areas. There is also the long term hope that suitably designed LRVs will one day be ‘allowed out ‘ onto selected parts of the heavy rail network as ‘tram-trains’ following the European example. My Rickmansworth proposal for this would be another good pilot scheme alongside the Sheffield project announced by Government.

  117. DW down under says:

    @Mark and Jamie

    I only raised the street running as an option for tying in Abbey station with City, avoiding reversal. But as I’ve said, it simply wouldn’t work with the traffic levels evident in the aerials of St Albans.

    If the City station was to be moved south, and a north station added:

    1) where would car parking capacity and bus interchange be provided for South?
    2) where in your opinion(s) should the North station be located, and its car parking capacity, bus interchanges, etc.
    3) where and how are St Albans terminators to be accommodated
    4) would the present station site be worth anything on the real estate market to help offset the costs?

    Another question. I note that the University at Hatfield has 30,000 students and staff – but what is the catchment for this campus? Not only in terms of the physical distribution of ex-TAFE tertiary institutions (everybody wants to be a University, these days, it seems), but also in terms of the actual travel behaviour of students.

    I’m trying to get a handle on what would generate enough daily demand to offset the hue-and-cry when a proposal to interfere with the Alban Way goes public.


    DW down under

  118. Mark Townend says:

    OK easy one first . . .

    3) terminators currently draw forward into a centre siding between the slow lines immediately to the north of the platforms. I’m sure the same siding could be used if the platforms are relocated further south.

    Here are typical timings for a reversing move

  119. Mark Townend says:

    Useful link about University transport –

    The following document has some graphs of mode usage up to 2009, but doesn’t help much on ODs.
    Clarifies that there are multiple campuses, including a site in St Albans.

    Uniquely (they claim apparently), they have their own bus company running all over Herts, and beyond!

  120. mr_jrt says:

    As Mark says, central reversing siding. In my gold-plated version, I want to build in passive capacity for extended freight aka. metro lines from Hendon (which would terminate here on the “rail M25” interchange), so I suggest more platforms. In my version I have a fast island, a up slow island, and a down slow island. The two centre slow lines can act as bidirectional terminal platforms from both sides and directions with suitable crossovers. Ideally, I want the fast lines to stop here too, so in the platinum-plated version there are two fast island platforms…but these are much, much, less essential if Thameslink has separate metro tracks into London as it’ll only be stopping here until it reaches West Hampstead.

    As for the “north” station…as shown in my old proposal linked above, I imagine a good location for said “north” station would be at the intersection of Sandridge Road, Beech Road, Marshalwick Lane, and St Albans road:
    There’s a handy lump of industrial land there that could be redeveloped. It’s purely residential/commuter though, so just like the rest of the various minor Thameslink stations north of St Albans, really, and would just serve to relieve the roads across town and the crowding at the new interchange further south.

  121. Mark Townend says:

    Gospel Oak and Camden again . . .

    If the rerouted GOBLIN cannot connect with the NLL at Kentish Town, then let the NLL move to Kentish Town instead, hence also avoiding the need to provide four tracks through Camden Road station.

  122. Greg Tingey says:

    No good
    Too far from the Southampton Arms

  123. answer=42 says:

    The Kenny Belle Mystery

    The story I read many years ago was that that British Railways did not own the bridge across the Thames outright but had to pay a fee to two elderly sisters every time a train traversed the bridge. Hence unwillingness to provide a regular service.

    Probably a faery tale but a good one.

  124. DW down under says:

    @ Mark and @ Jamie

    1) I’d be using St Albans NORTH as the terminal station for TL trains terminating at St Albans, not “South/Midland Rd”.

    2) Where do you expect to put car parking at St Albans North? Over the “allotments” to the east? I’d mentioned a location about 300m further north as a prospective “Parkway” station.


  125. DW down under says:


    You should’ve posted that 2 days earlier!!

    It’s doesn’t sound like an old wives’ tale, but rather, ….. an old sisters’ tale!! 🙂


  126. mr_jrt says:

    No, I’d expect it to just serve the residential areas surrounding it, so no need for much car parking beyond the short stay variety. If you absolutely had to have a large car parking provision, then it’s situated on an industrial park. Obtain some more of the land and build one on that. No need to touch the allotments.

  127. DW down under says:

    @ Jamie

    That’s why I looked at a Parkway station just a few hundred metres further north, adjoining the industrial estates there. There seemed to be more land suitable for parking there.

  128. mr_jrt says:

    True, but you’re just moving the station further from the residential areas of St Albans and moving its catchment area even more out into the fields ( I already worry my station’s site is too far north as it is, but I figure a few more years of limited development at the current rate should help alleviate this issue). Building a parkway is pointless if the car park is going to be full of people who would have been able to walk to the station if it were closer – incidentally, one of the reasons I left a sharp curve in my plan so a new St Albans south station could continue to serve the southern suburbs on the Abbey line route currently handled by the Abbey station.

  129. Slugabed says:

    12:01 03/04
    Lovely story,probably “borrowed” from Putney and Fulham:
    I went to school in Putney and this story was still doing the rounds,as was the theory that each sister built a church on either side of the river (Putney and Fulham churches look VERY similar)
    The Cremorne Bridge was opened in 1863 and was backed financially by the GWR,L&NWR,L&SWR and LB&SCR,and it was designed by the L&NWR’s engineer,,,no need to lease it from spinsters…

  130. Slugabed says:

    answer=42,I don’t suppose you remember where you read that?
    London myths are an interest and I’d like to chase up the reference….ta!

  131. DW down under says:

    @ jrt

    I take your point about footfall or pedshed.

    That would mean the South station would be the main park’n’ride.

    I think Abbey should be retained, with reversal.

  132. Mark Townend says:

    @DW down under, 01:44PM, 3rd April 2013

    I agree Abbey should be retained, whether the extension to Hatfield is ever built or not.

    Here’s my first draft for St Albans South Interchange Parkway . . .

  133. mr_jrt says:

    @Mark Townsend
    Very nice.

    I think you don’t need to have the orbital platforms so far from the mainline ones though…unless you’re planning an at-grade crossing, the orbital is going to have to be below road level, as the old railway was. Building a bridge long enough to have the platforms underneath means you can have them up next to the mainline viaduct if need be.

    Speaking of which, I think you underestimate how wide you’ll have to make the platforms on the mainline. Given you;d have to widen the bridge anyway, you may as well go the whole hog and build 3 islands for terminating services, and optionally, rebuild the current section so the orbital can have its platforms directly underneath the mainline station. Given that this is all fanciful, all options are on the table at first 🙂

    You might even argue for demolishing the modern properties on the old alignment and building replacements on the area to the south where we both propose our stations to go. Just a thought.

  134. Mark Townend says:

    @mr_jrt, 06:33PM, 4th April 2013

    Thanks for your comments.

    I originally envisaged a level crossing over London Road, but that would be quite a vertical difference up and back down again, and it would always be a major traffic conflict, although there would be little problem getting under the Midland arch over the old line – it’s huge! Placing the car parking to the west of the road really needs a grade separated pedestrian route to the station however, so I thought why not make that underpass a little bigger and use it for the LRT too.

    From the eastern extremity of my LRT platforms to the mainline station entrance is only around 100 metres using the stairs, and a little longer via the ramp of course. I went for a single track under London Road in order to limit the span of the underpass and fit in with fairly difficult geometry to line up under the existing Midland arch, which although huge in the vertical, could only realistically accommodate 1 track alongside the Alban Way. I also wanted to leave sufficient room to grade a cheap DDA ramp down to the eastbound LRT platform from the west side of London Road without too much annoying zig zagging.

    I measured the existing rail to rail distance where my new centre island is shown to be around 9m for a significant length on Google Earth; that should be enough. I think the minimum for an island is 3m edge to edge, whilst obstacles such as stairs, lifts and other buildings need to be at least 2.5m clear of the edge, although I understand these minima could be modified for any specific design in the light of passenger modelling. I’m assuming the new platforms CAN be built on the existing earthworks and structures, except where the new side platforms are supported separately next to the Midland arch. Significant further rebuilding of the large embankments and bridges would take a project into the stratospheric league financially and could be very disruptive to existing rail users. I would go as far as predicting it would thus have no hope of making any kind of business, environmental or other kind of case.

    It may be possible theoretically to erase an entire residential estate, but the compensation budget would have to be massive, and the PR would be disastrous! Compulsory purchase of commercial property on the other hand at least rarely raises heartfelt emotional opposition, unless the buildings have particular historical or architectural merit, which is rare and not relevant in this case with respect to the long row of older units demolished for my LRT station. I’m hoping the existing landlord and tennants would be attracted to the shiny new commercial units to the south by favourable terms and good prospects for increased business from rail users.

    Yes of course its all fanciful, but I prefer to start from a cost saving viewpoint whilst preserving the essential features!

  135. DW down under says:


    It looks good, but somehow I expected the Branch platform to be closer to the underbridge, and the main line platforms to be to the north.


    I don’t think more than 4 platfrom faces are needed at the Parkway/City South Station.

    Provision for terminating trains would be needed at North station, so there we’d be looking at no platforms on the fasts (like Bedford), one northbound side platform on the Down slow, one terminating and reversing platform on an island, and the other side of this island being for the Up slow. That way, all southbound trains leave from the same island. Any fast line trains stopping at St Albans would be at the Parkway/South interchange.

  136. Twopenny Tube says:

    The map at the start of the article reminds us that there were services from Broad Street to the GN suburban lines, at the time of the report. These were I think peak only, and were still running in the late 60s. I think they were loco hauled (Brush 2s, perhaps ‘Baby Deltics). Had they ceased by the time Braod Street was closed for good? The map does not show the Moorgate services, to the GN suburbs via Kings Cross. Did these services get a mention in the report itself?

  137. Mark Townend says:

    @DW down under, 06:21AM, 5th April 2013

    If there’s no passing loop on the LRT at South Interchange (and I don’t really think there needs to be), then a single platform could be moved a little towards the London Road underpass. I placed the new main line platforms where the fast and slow lines are already further apart than immediately north or south thereof, with (I think) room for the centre island without significant expensive earthworks.

    Another alternative would for the new north station to be a simple 2 platform design, possibly an island between the slows slewed apart. In that scenario the reversing might be moved north to Harpenden station, where there’s plenty of room in the car park area to move the up slow to the outside face of the existing up island and reuse its former alignment as the bay. That would create the configuration you described, although obviously the extra running time would have to be factored into the timetable and rolling stock diagrams, and the existing centre siding could be retained for short turn-round in the event of late running. Given that the existing St Albans terminators form one end of the the ‘Wimbledon Loop’ service, an extra train and a little more turnround allowance than the 10 minutes via the existing siding could provide some extra resilience. The other end of The Loop is Luton, and the Harpenden bay might also be usful sometimes for short termination to get the service back on schedule.

  138. Mark Townend says:

    @Twopenny Tube, 09:54AM, 6th April 2013

    I think GN suburban into Broad Street finished much earlier, long before the station was finally closed. At the end there was only a single platform for the remaining electric units, and the bufferstop was eventually moved right out beyond the station buildings to allow their demolition before the new Graham Road curve was opened, finally allowing the limited remaining service to run into Liverpool Street.

  139. mr_jrt says:

    @Mark and DW
    I disagree about not needing more platforms. Having services terminate on the Thameslink running lines means you block them for the duration of turning out the entire train. This is very time consuming and impacts capacity greatly. Having four faces available means the inner two can be used for conflict-free terminating, and this leaves the outer two available for normal operation. It also means more services can both operate as well as stop there.

    As I said before, my motives are that whilst this is incredibly useful for the line as it is, I want the freight lines extended up from Hendon for a segregated local service. As it stands, doing so requires finding the space though Mill Hill, Elstree, & Radlett. Elstree is easy enough I think once you move the crappy station buildings, but the other two are quite tight, and St Albans will be all but impossible I think, so terminating these proposed lines at a St Albans interchange on London Road makes sense, and they would need their own platforms (and as they’d be taking over from Thameslink metro, Thameslink would just need two platforms as as at all other stations).

  140. Mark Townend says:

    @mr_jrt, 01:07PM, 6th April 2013

    My Harpenden proposal WOULD provide an additional central bay platform, avoiding termination and ‘clear out’ on the down slow. The retained existing centre siding at St Albans would not be used normally except for short turn back in the event of late running or possibly as a bolt hole for a spare train or cripple. Whilst six tracking south to Hendon would be very nice to have, it’s really a separate objective with much wider implications.

  141. timbeau says:

    The GN services to Broad Street and to Moorgate via York Road (and back via the Htel curve) ceased in 1976 when the direct route via Essex Road opened. I remember it well. Most services were operated by Class 106 Cravens units (formerly used on the Midland & GN line) or by Class 31s with non-corridor suburban stock. The Cravens units were not best suited to the services but had to be used because suburban dmus (e.g the ex-Lea Valley dhmus (Class 125) used on other GN suburban work) were all long-framed and wouldn’t fit the tight curvature of the Hotel Curve

  142. mr_jrt says:

    Quite, but if you’re going to go through the expense of building a new station, you need to do the work in one hit otherwise it works out too disruptive to do later. Case in point: Reading. Those additional platforms are going to see very, very little use for many years (current temporary slewing aside), but they’re being put in now because it makes the most sense to do so now whilst everything else is being done. Likewise, widening the formation for an additional island makes sense to me regardless of the fanciful metro scheme because Thameslink is full now, and said scheme will probably have to happen in the mid term as it’s the only way to increase capacity on the route (beyond cutting all MML services beyond Nottingham once HS2 opens and using the paths for Thameslink).

    …unless of course you have ideas on how to squeeze more onto the MML slow lines between St Albans and West Hampstead without abandoning Radlett, Elstree, Mill Hill, Hendon, and Cricklewood?

  143. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Twopenny Tube

    No mention in the report and as you point out they don’t appear on the map.

    I suspect the reason is that British Railways never owned the track from King’s Cross to Moorgate so it was probably an oversight although I suspect closure would have never been a realistic thing to pursue.

    Which raises the question: Is the Thameslink track between King’s Cross and Farringdon still owned by London Underground?

    Oversights in such scenarios are not new. In 1947 the Tallyllyn Railway was really run down and on many days did not operate because something broken needed fixing. In that year the Ordance Survey resurveyed the area and marked it on their maps as a disused railway. As a result it never got included in the list for nationalisation in 1948.

  144. Anonymous says:

    “Gospel Oak and Camden again . . .

    If the rerouted GOBLIN cannot connect with the NLL at Kentish Town, then let the NLL move to Kentish Town instead, hence also avoiding the need to provide four tracks through Camden Road station.

    You surely cannot sacrifice two of the six tracks through Kentish Town to London Overground, given how much Thameslink traffic there is.

    Or could you build an six-platform station (plus two through tracks), WEST of Kentish Town Road?

    Would Barking trains terminate there?

  145. Mark Townend says:

    @Anonymous, 05:23PM, 6th April 2013

    The MML arm of TL will carry around half of the traffic over the core which is only 2 tracks. Clearly it might be possible for some overtaking of TL stoppers by fasts to occur at Kentish Town, but with the greater connectivity available perhaps more or even ALL TL trains might like to stop there. There is the issue of platform length though with only around 200 metres available, 2 coaches short of a 12 car. Perhaps SDO might be appropriate?

    Currently Platforms 3 and 4 are only planned to be used for terminating services, see . . .

    I can’t see an entirely new station fitting in west of KT Rd, especially seeing as the area would have to accommodate the ramp taking the NLL lines from the centre pair up and over TL toward Gospel Oak.

    Yes Barking trains would terminate at KT in a new bay built to the west of Kentish Town Rd. There’s ample room to construct a 6 car platform, although connecting a passageway under the road to access the rest of the station might be challenging. A separate exit with improved pedestrian road crossings would be more economical.

    My original phrasing should have been . . .

    If the rerouted GOBLIN cannot connect with the NLL at Kentish Town, then let the NLL move to Kentish Town AS WELL, hence also avoiding the need to provide four tracks through Camden Road station.

  146. DW down under says:


    It’s my understanding that the Corporation of the City of London owns the CWL alignment from Farringdon to Moorgate.

  147. DW down under says:


    I am quite firm that offline terminal platforms are best, and propose exactly that at St Albans North, in lieu of St Albans City. So, I agree with you up to there.

    But for passenger convenience, it is best if only ONE island was used to board trains towards London. That is how Luton is organised. Having two reversing platforms means for passenger convenience they have to be bays. Because they’re not through tracks, approach speed is lower, and it takes longer to reverse.

    If St Albans City is to close, then if there’s a business case for sextuplication of the MML (rather than ATO), it could extend through the demolished City site to the new North station. In that case, yes – you’d need platforms to suit. I still maintain that passenger convenience needs to be taken into account in designing them.

    BTW – only 8 of 24tph divert to the ECML via Canal Tunnels. That leaves 16tph up to West Hampstead. How many of those continue north?


    I’m not sure that a further extension to Harpenden is needed. We’ve simply substituted St Albans north for the previous St Albans City as the reversal. I think the BCR would go down the drain if you wanted to rebuild three stations on the MML.

    If the Barking service is to be terminated in a separate northern platform@ KT, I have already described the 2 stages needed to provide passenger access – as you say, start with separate access from the road bridge. At a later stage, build a footbridge across the tracks to the concourse side, and a subway under the road there to join the rest of the station.

    I’m struggling to understand WHY the NLL should be diverted – that is, what is the major benefit or pressing need that would drive the benefits case for the project? I can see a certain elegance, and a degree of reduced maintenance – but would the capex amortised over the life of the altered assets exceed the saved maintenance? I’m really not sure.

  148. Mark Townend says:

    I suspect the 2 ends of the Wimbledon loop only turn back at different stations (Luton and St Albans) because 4 trains an hour can’t be accommodated reliably at either the single centre platform at Luton, or in the St Albans centre siding.

    I suggested the Harpenden extension because there’s plenty of room on railway land to achieve your ideal up slow island layout; it looks like there used to be a loop and/or sidings around the outer face of the up slow platform there.

    I’m assuming the new St Albans north station might be at Marshalswick, with public access where the A651 crosses the railway. Making room for the junctions could result in the platforms sited a fair distance north of the bridge in order to avoid rebuilding it, and require significant formation widening extending over the embankment to the north of the site, so I suggest a simple island between the slows could be a much cheaper option to construct needing only minimal widening of the formation closer to the bridge.

    Poor performance of the Sutton-Wimbledon loop has been a hot topic on LR and elsewhere. The 10 minute layover for the current St Albans reversing move is not really long enough and can easily be eaten into by delay in clearing out a train as we’ve discussed. I suggest adding an additional train into the Loop service circuit to improve reliability. That wouldn’t work with the current timetable and St Albans turnback siding, but it could work if those trains were extended to Harpenden, and in addition to solving the clear out problem by terminating in a centre bay it would also result in a longer, more resilient turnback time. Now for the final piece in the reliability puzzle, the existing siding at St Albans could be retained to be used for a short turnback of a down Luton OR Harpenden train that is running significantly late so it can be slotted back into its planned corresponding up timings. Note there are no existing alternative short turnback opportunities between Kentish Town and St Albans.

    The main idea of diverting NLL via Kentish Town is to retain the NLL interchange with the Barking line if that is also diverted there. That interchange is clearly a well established convenience at Gospel Oak now so would have to be retained by some means. It also creates a better quality interchange between TL & NLL than at West Hampstead, and might be a cost effective way of creating capacity through Camden Road for HS1/2 transfer traffic and freight, by removing the Overground services from that area entirely, and thus avoid having to widen the formation to take 4 tracks.

  149. DW down under says:


    I doubt the present traffic mix on the Midland TL suburbans is a result of inability to handle 4tph on the reversing platform @ Luton. It might have something to do with serving a rather large catchment at Luton, coupled with running times from St Pan TL.

    Yes, having to “tip out” before proceeding to a reversing siding is very wasteful of time and staff resources. Perhaps the new policy should be only “tip out” if the train is not reversing to make a service run back. Then all that happens after “This train terminates here” announcement is “Next stop xxxx” where xxxx is the terminal station. Any pax who inadvertently stayed on the train can exit when it returns to the platform. But that is a major legal and risk issue so we’ll let the authorities press on with that one.

    The design I have proposed for St Albans North specifically as a terminal station must have a platform face for reversing trains off the Slow running lines. With a through platform face serving as the reversing platform, approach speeds can be optimised – and there’s no “tipping out.” Consequence: improved turnaround and recovery performance, and better line utilisation.

    Averaging out Luton and St Albans by making Harpenden the terminus I think does a major disservice to Luton, and could lead to avoidable operational problems with crowding.

    WRT reversing trains between KT and St Albans, West Hampstead appears (from Joe Brown’s 3rd ed Atlas) to have a suitable track configuration – certainly trains are terminated there.

  150. Mark Townend says:

    @DW down under, 06:28AM, 7th April 2013

    I wasn’t thinking of terminating both arms of The Loop at Harpenden, rather leaving one end at Luton and moving the other from St Albans to Harpenden, where the additional platform at the existing station should be fairly easy to construct by moving the up slow line over into in a narrow strip of the former yard area, now part of the large station car park.

    I did a timetable search . . .

    Yes you’re right about West Hampstead, reversal from the south is available by going into Cricklewood depot and out again. Its a rarely used movement, with only a few trains in the morning and evening peaks currently planned. There are regular terminators all day in platforms 3 and 4 at Kentish Town however, some of which also continue ECS to and from Cricklewood,

  151. Greg Tingey says:

    DO NOT EVEN THINK about terminating GOBLIN trains @ Kentish Town – ANY “Kentish Town”.
    That perpetuates the present unsatisfactory state of affairs, & actually makes it WORSE!
    You wan to run electrified GOBLIN services further West, if at all possible, with a careful re-arrangement of the p/fs @ Gospel Oak, so that they can stop there ….
    Really, armchair “Planners”, grrr …..
    Almost as intelligent as the people resonponsible for the no-station for the Barbican Centre!

  152. Anonymous says:

    @Greg Tingey, 11:49AM, 7th April 2013

    Ah yes Greg, what I forgot to say earlier is my NLL + GOBLIN to Kentish Town proposal also achieves an interchange for both with the Northern Line! There’s also the little matter of freight which thereby gains a nice long independent connecting line between Goblin and NLL where such trains can wait to their hearts content for a forward path on either without delaying following passenger trains. It’s comfy this Chaise Longue . . .

  153. DW down under says:

    Somewhat OT, but for those who have an interest, the paperback version has been delayed, per this message from

    Alan A. Jackson, Desmond F. Croome “Rails Through the Clay: A History of London’s Tube Railways”
    Estimated arrival date: October 08 2013 – October 12 2013

  154. Anonymous says:

    re the Watford to St Albans branch, has everyone noticed that the very, very recent changes to trackwork at Watford Junc. would now allow a St Albans to London direct service. Now theres a thought!

  155. Graham H says:

    @Anonymous – no, it isn’t – you cannot run 8 car trains on the branch, let alone 12 cars, so running anything shorter would waste all that lovely capacity so dearly to be bought by HS 2. Anyway, what’s wrong with the TLK service (apart from the obvious incompetence of the management)?

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