Friends in Highgate Places

London’s Underground network teems with abandoned sections to tantalise the railway enthusiast. The Epping-Ongar line and the Aldwych branch are probably the two most well-known examples of routes which have closed after outliving their usefulness.

Even more interesting to me, however, are the lines which were planned but then abandoned. Most never even got off the drawing board, but some reached quite advanced stages, with construction work taking place before the eventual plans were dropped.

So, on a rainy Sunday morning, I was taking photographs of an abandoned station platform through a barbed wire fence.

Highgate High Level

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Croxley Music

Photo of disused information boards at Croxley Green“FUCKING CUNT!”

The angry-looking man from whom this utterance came turned around and noticed Ian and I staring incredulously at him.

“Not you,” he said, apologetically, “I mean me.”

He stormed off to his car, which he proceeded to kick and punch several times, in a scene reminiscent of Basil Fawlty at his frustrated worst. Having dented the bodywork, he got into the vehicle, cursed loudly to himself several more times and then drove off with engine roaring, at a speed completely inappropriate to the residential area in which we found ourselves.

Ooo-kay then.

Sign reading "Fibrerod Pultrusions"Scott was still inside the corner shop and missed this entertaining tableau. As soon as he rejoined us, we soldiered on towards the end of the line at Croxley Green.

More side streets beckoned, where terraced houses rubbed shoulders with small industrial units in various states of dereliction. Our attention was drawn to this lovely sign on one of the still-functional factories.

I have no idea what a Fibrerod Pultrusion is, even after reading their web site (yes, I Googled it). Still, I wish the firm all the best with their Pultrusion-related endeavours.

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I’ll give ’em Watford!

Worn, dirty sign reading: "Welcome to Network SouthEast"

I made one of my occasional trips to London last weekend, and amidst a whirlwind of tourism, theatre and Soho-based frolicking, I made time for a Station Master trip.

I also met up with an old friend from school, Seb Patrick. We spent a good deal of time catching up, and during the conversation I mentioned that I was planning to take the London Overground out to Watford.

“You’ll love the Overground,” he advised, “everyone loves the Overground.”

He was right, of course. Ever since the launch of “London’s new train set”, as the initial publicity described it, I have been in love with the idea of the Overground. Transport for London took a disorganised collection of neglected, unloved railway lines and invested wisely in them, creating a useful transport network for the 21st century. It’s been a huge success with passenger numbers increasing dramatically in the four years that the system has been in operation.

Robert outside Watford High Street Overground stationCertainly as I trundled up the line from Euston, I was impressed. The new Capitalstar trains, with air-conditioning and wide gangways between coaches are light years ahead of most other commuter trains, although it is strange to see Tube-style longitudinal seats on a “main line” train. I alighted at Watford High Street, which felt cared for and welcoming, as did all the other stations the train passed through. In short, the Overground is the standard to which other suburban rail networks should aspire.

However, amidst all this life, there is death. I was here to explore a forgotten part of the system, which has not benefited from the recent investment. That is the Croxley Green branch, a short stub which leaves the Watford DC Line just south of Watford High Street station.

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