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.
Certainly 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.