Off the rails. The line that never was.

Thursday 24th February 2022

A fascinating exhibition opened at the beginning of this year in Elstree & Borehamwood Museum. I paid a visit a few weeks ago and thought I’d share the highlights with you.

Elstree & Borehamwood Museum is a small one room affair on the second floor of Elstree & Borehamwood library located in Shenley Road just a short walk along from Elstree & Borehamwood railway station. It’s a lovely local history museum which opened in 2000 and is run independently and entirely by volunteers. It began as a community history project with a small collection of objects and photographs and has evolved into a much larger collection of items which now lead to themed displays.

The current theme is all about the proposed extension of the Northern Line from Edgware to Bushey Heath which would have seen intermediate stations at Brockley Hill and Elstree. I’m not surprised to see the Museum report “we are crowded out every day …. busy days every day” which is spledid news for the hard work of the volunteers. There’s nothing like an exhibition about a tube line that almost got built to create interest.

Wall mounted poster sized explain the background to the line, how work started on construction, including the depot near Bushey Heath which became famous for becoming London Transport’s Aldenham bus overhaul works, and the reasons why the line never got built after the Second World War despite much of the preparatory work having been completed.

Best of all there’s a large scale working model depicting the extension with replica 1938 stock Northern Line tube trains running up and down making for a fascinating display to appeal to all ages.

There’s Brockley Hill …

Elstree South …

The depot which would have been located between Elstree South and Bushey Heath…

And the terminus at Bushey Heath…

And you can watch model tube trains shuttling along the tracks between these stations for hours.

The story of “the line that never was” is also told in a wonderful book written by Tony Beard and published by Capital Transport in 2002.

This obviously gives much more of the fascinating detail and explains why the depot was sited where it was and the trials and tribulations over finalising the names of the stations which were originally proposed as Edgwarebury, Elstree and Aldenham.

Copies of Tony’s book can be purchased online at the usual second hand websites at a whole variety of prices. It’s a highly recommended read giving a very readable fascinating account of “the line that never was”..

The exhibition can’t possibly cover the story quite so comprehensively as Tony’s book but the enthusiastic volunteers have done a great job summarising the highlights and the model is great fun.

It’s on until 20th August.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.

Next blog, Saturday 26th February 2022: D is for Durham.

19 thoughts on “Off the rails. The line that never was.

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  1. On one of the display boards is an image of a platform sign from Golders Green showing the stations to Edgware and a connecting line to Bushey Heath which would be served by trains via Finchley Central. I discovered this sign turned round and used as a blackboard listing bus cancellations in the former sidecourt, now bus station, at Edgware. I rescued the sign and it is now on display in the LT Museum depot at Acton.

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  2. As a child I lived close to Mill Hill (The Hale) station and can just remember the occasional freight train running along it to Edgware. After it closed it became a favourite dog-walking route for years! I also remember the never-completed arches at Brockley Hill. Passenger traffic between Finchely (Church End) and Edgware was ‘susended’ for electrification and, apart from the short section serving the Barracks at Mill Hill East, never reinstated. Right up till the end of the 60s it was possible to go to the booking office of Mill Hill (Broadway) station and purchase a rail ticket from The Hale to Mill Hill East which was valid on the 240 bus. I did buy such a ticket, for fum, but never tried to use it! Incidentally there was an earlier exhibition (c.1967) in the late 60s at the Church Farm House Museum in Hendon on “The First Railway to Edgware” but this didn’t, as far as I reclall, deal with the Bushey Heath extension. Well done Elstree Museum!

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  3. At Alexander Palace the only remnants of the station are the old Booking office. It is now used as a community centre

    The ends of the Northern Line were originally LNER lines and those services originally ran into Kings Cross. Parts of the line were still used by BR for freight up until about 1970. A part of the line was also used for stock transfers from the Northern City Line which was isolated from the rest of the underground network. There were usually hauled by an LT battery locomotive

    Further pictures and details of the lost stations can be found here http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/

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  4. Well done to all who were involved in putting this display together (and for rescuing unique artefacts). And thanks Roger for visiting the museum and publishing your write-up.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another interesting site linked to the Alexander Palace line is that of Alexander Palace itself. The Palace was never the success it was hoped it would be . It originally occupied about 200 acres but much of that land was sol off to keep the Palace afloat

    The first Alexander Palace burnt down a couple of weeks after it opened but it was rebuilt, Another serious fire occurred in the 1980”s

    The first regular television programs were broadcast from Alexander Palace in 1936 The last TV programmes Broadcast from Alexander Palace were fort the Open University

    During WWII Alexander Palace was used as an Internment Camp

    Alexander Palace now has a Theatre. It had always existed but had been closed at the outbreak of WWII and had never reopened. In 2016 though restoration of it started and is no complete, IT is pretty much an original Victorian Théâtre

    The place was also served by a couple of tram routes. I am surprised they managed to get up that hill
    Today the place is served by TfL bus route W3

    The ice rink at the Palace has also been used to film some of the Dancing on Ice scenes

    https://www.alexandrapalace.com/

    https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/alexandra-palace

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  6. Always fascinated by the massive interest always shown in the LT railway Bushey Heath extension that never was. If only we could be celebrating (tin hat on!) a similar situation with HS2 in the future.

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  7. Andrew’s comment on tickets being valid on the 240A bus prompts a memory. The tickets issued via the bus had the issuing station underlined. The link between Finchley and Edgware during electrification was originally by single deck rail replacement buses. When the line was opened to Mill Hill East was opened in 1941 the special bus service was withdrawn and tickets became valid on the local buses. Mill Hill (The Hale) ticket office was closed and tickets sold from the Midland station. As far as I am aware there was no through ticketing by bus on the other sections of the LNER being electrified for the Northern line, namely Finsbury Park – Highgate – East Finchley/Alexandre Palace

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  8. TfL funding crisis: new Covid bailout deal agreed with Government

    The latest deal gives TfL an additional £200m and will run until June 24.

    The new deal “also includes the potential for a longer-term capital investment settlement for TfL”, the Department for Transport announced but it could lead to more Tube strikes as Mayor Sadiq Khan remains under Government orders to reduce the costs of TfL’s staff pension scheme.

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  9. FREE Bus Travel in March

    Only in the Newport Unitary Authority area in South Wales though

    Operators taking part in this are Newport Bus, Cardiff Bus and Stagecoach. That’s probably all the bus operators in Newport

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  10. They did that in December too. Cardiff tried it, but it was very poorly advertised and the bus companies had virtually no warning either.

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