THE ONE TIME NORTHERN OUTPOST OF LONDON UNDERGROUND
Ongar became a London Underground station immediately post World War II, and was closed, along with North Weald in 1994. There had been a station between North Weald and Ongar called Blake Hall, but that was closed in 1981. I travellled out there more than once before it closed. The village of Chipping Ongar is home to a 900 year old church among other things.
Ongar is 24 miles from the centre of London, and with no interchanges to other lines between Stratford and Ongar, and the fact that one had to change trains at Epping (now the end of the line) it took a long time to get there. This meant that few passengers actually did use the route. This graphic, taken from Danny Dorling’s “The 32 Stops”, shows how far beyond the boundary of Greater London even Epping, the current outpost is:
The solid black route is the 32 stops from West Ruislip to Woodford that Dorling covers in his book, while the grey lines show the other parts of the Central line that are still open.
11.3 miles beyond Ongar is Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, and home to a major rail station with a fairly quick route into London (this picture, extracted from google maps, illustrates):
You might notice from the above picture that there is not a great deal between Ongar and Chelmsford, and indeed my idea for an extension to integrate an otherwise very isolated branch into a wider network features just one intermediate station, at the village of Great Baddow.
An even bolder notion than the one already outlined that occurred to me when I gave such a scheme serious thought some years back was for the Central line to reopened to Ongar, running straight through rather than having the change at Epping, and for Ongar to become the Northeast node point of a London Orbital Railway (with the Ongar-Chelmsford link being a spur off this to the Northeast (well actually rather more east than north). The southeasterly node point would be at Maplescombe in Kent with a spur to Maidstone to connect with existing railways there, the southwesterly at West Byfleet, linking to the existing routes to and through Woking, with the northwesterly node at Rickmansworth, connecting with a northwesterly route to Aylesbury. The northern arm of this orbital route, from Rickmansworth to Ongar makes extensive use of existing but currently lightly used routes (reopen the connection between Rickmansworth and Watford, take over the Watford to St Albans branch, connect to St Albans (Thameslink). Between St Albans and Ongar would be new track with stops at Welwyn Garden City, Hertford North, Hertford East and Broxbourne (all offering connections to the existing network.
To finish, here are some more pictures which might help you grasp some of the detail I have covered above…
I hope you have enjoyed this spectacularly speculative post and will be encouraged to share it.