Cars, Buses and Trains

My gloss on an excellent little fact sheet produced by George Monbiot.

INTRODUCTION

This post was inspired by a fact sheet created by environmental campaigner George Monbiot which you can read in full by clicking the screenshot below:

screenshot-2017-03-06-at-8-29-41-am

CARS

This short piece outlines some very valid objections to the over-use of cars. However, the pollution aspect of the problems caused by the over-use of cars (which in this country has reached scandalous proportions) is more properly a criticism of the fact that the vast majority of cars continued to be powered by the infernal combustion engine. There are many non-polluting means of powering vehicles available these days. Addressing the pollution issue however does not address the problem of congestion. To avoid misunderstandings: Monbiot’s fact sheet is bang on the money, and everyone should read it in full.

As an example of my own approach as a non-driver, here courtesy of google maps is a suggested walking route from my home to the scout hut on Beulah Street, which I quite often have cause to visit:

scout-hut-walk

My usual choices of walking routes are actually longer than those recommended above because I prefer routes that spend less time around roads even if they take longer (see this post from yesterday for examples of two routes that I used on Saturday). There is a bus route that I could use if so inclined – there is a stop close to the Wootton Road end of Beulah Street but for a journey of this distance I positively prefer Shanks’ pony.

However, I freely acknowledge that while cars are over-used for short journeys there is another reason why there are far too many cars on British roads, and that leads to the next section of this post…

BUSES AND TRAINS

British public transport is in a shocking state. There are many people, particularly in rural areas, who have no public transport options available to them, and even where there are public transport options they are overpriced and unreliable. It is only by creating a public transport system that works for those who use it that we can seriously reduce car usage. 

I always like to include photographs in my posts, so to conclude this little post here is a shot of the front of King’s Lynn railway station:

railwaystation

 

The Great Anomaly

An account of the Metropolitan line with some bold and imaginative suggestions for the future.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest addition to my series “London Station by Station“. My post on the Hammersmith and City line enjoyed some success, and my second essay in covering a whole line in one post, Project Piccadilly, was even more successful, featuring in two online publications. So now I am producing a third post of that type, this time on the Metropolitan line.

ANOMALIES

Metropolitan by name, very unmetropolitan by nature. Also, it is classed as London Underground, but most of its length is in the open air. The only stretch of this line is currently constituted that follows the original Metropolitan Railway is from just west of Farringdon to just east of Baker Street (The original eastern terminus was at Farringdon Street, just south of the present station, and the Metropolitan platforms at Baker Street (nos 1-4) are not those used by the original line). Almost the entire length of the current line (and there was once a lot more of it as you will see in due course) developed from…

A SINGLE TRACK BRANCH FROM BAKER STREET TO SWISS COTTAGE

In 1868 a single track spur was opened from the Metropolitan Railway running north from Baker Street to St John’s Wood Road, Marlborough Road and terminating at Swiss Cottage. It was this little spur that caught the attention of Edward Watkin, who saw it as having a role to play in achieving his dream of a rail network linking Paris, London and Manchester, his three favourite cities (he would have managed this had he not been baulked over his version of the Channel Tunnel, which eventually opened a century later).

EXPANSION

That single track spur would be doubled, and from its next point north, Finchley Road, quadrupled and it would spread out into the hinterlands of Buckinghamshire, giving rise to a number of new branches. At its absolute height there were branches terminating at Uxbridge (sill present in its entirety), Stanmore (still served but not by the Met), Watford (still present as opened in 1925), Chesham (still as opened in 1889), Verney Junction (a place of no significance near modern day Milton Keynes) and Brill (at 51 miles from Baker Street the furthest point from London reached by any London Underground line). The latter two branches were closed in the middle 1930s, services terminating at Quainton Road just beyond Aylesbury for a time, until further paring back to Aylesbury (still served by mainline trains, with a new station at Aylesbury Vale Parkway just beyond Aylesbury itself) and finally Amersham, the current outlying point of the system, a mere 27 miles from Baker Street.

After the expansionism of Watkin, the third of the three great figures in the development of the Metropolitan took over, Robert Hope Selbie, creator of “Metroland”.

To help you orient yourself here are some maps…

Brill and Oxford.
Brill and Oxford.
The Metropolitan Railway and its connecttions.
The Metropolitan Railway and its connecttions.
“Metroland”
The area around Verney Junction.
The area around Verney Junction.

To finish this section, The Stanmore branch, along with the intermediate stations between Finchley Road and Wembley Park, and new tube-level intermediates between Baker Street and Finchley Road was taken over by the Bakerloo line in 1939, and then to ease congestion on the latter by the new Jubilee line (with brand spanking new stations at Bond Street, Green Park and Charing Cross as well).

SPECULATIVE SUGGESTIONS

Of the Metropolitan branches that are still served by that line, the Amersham and Watford branches would be subsumed into my plans for a London Orbital Railway (Rickmansworth would be the northwestern corner of the orbital network itself, with a spur running via Amersham and Aylesbury to form significant connections at Oxford and/ or Milton Keynes (see the section above, and also my post “Ongar”). The Chesham branch would then become one of just two Metropolitan branches, with a northward extension to Tring and another interchange with mainline railways. The Uxbridge branch would remain unchanged, though gaining a connection with the Orbital route. At the other end, Aldgate would be abandoned as a terminus, the track connection from Aldgate East to Shadwell be revived for the Metropolitan, and a connection via New Cross to South Eastern tracks and Metropolitan services running through to Sevenoaks would further increase the London Underground presence in Southeast London and West Kent (see Project Piccadilly for another envisaged connection to this part of the world). The reason for projecting this line over existing track rather than looking at a completely new route is that is one of the old lines, built to mainline specifications and its tunnels were built using the cut-and-cover method, which makes building new tunnel sections more problematic than for a deep-level tube line.

THE TRANSITION POINT

At this stage of proceedings, having seen the Metropolitan lines past, present and a possible vision for its future we are going to make a journey along the line as it is currently constituted, so fasten your seatbelts…

ALDGATE – BAKER STREET

This section has been covered in great detail in previous posts of mine:

BAKER STREET – FINCHLEY ROAD

This is the last underground segment of the Metropolitan line, and you can see the platforms and some of the signs of old stations which were closed when the Bakerloo line Stanmore branch opened in 1939. Just before emerging into the open air, the Metropolitan tracks diverge to make way for the emerging Jubilee (former Bakerloo) tracks. From the platform at Finchley Road one can see the 1939 tunnel end. As at other places where ‘tube’ and ‘subsurface’ trains enter tunnels close together there are protective mechanisms to prevent a subsurface level train that gets on the wrong tracks from reaching (and colliding with) the beginning of a tube tunnel.

FINCHLEY ROAD – WEMBLEY PARK

There are no fewer than five Jubilee line stations between these two, all originally served by the Metropolitan and hence with platforms at the ‘compromise’ height also seen where the Piccadilly shares tracks with the District and Metropolitan lines. The Metropolitan has four tracks between Finchley Road and Moor Park and this feature is used to enable trains to Amersham to skip stops – they go fast from Finchley Road to Harrow-on-the-Hill and then fast from Harrow-on-the-Hill to Moor Park. On the route used by Watford and Uxbridge trains (there are currently few through services to Chesham) the next stop is Wembley Park. Whichever route you are on this section features the highest speeds anywhere on London Underground, in the vicinity of 70mph.

Wembley Park is the local station for Wembley Stadium. Between those who think that England has no need for a single national football stadium and those who think that the national football stadium should be in the midlands Wembley has a lot of detractors. I have sympathy with both the camps mentioned in the previous paragraph – I would not have gone for a national football stadium but even accepting the need for such, the midlands would have been the place to build it. I did get to the original Wembley once, to attend a mass given by the then pope, John Paul II.

WEMBLEY PARK TO HARROW-ON-THE-HILL

There are two intermediate stations between these two, Preston Road, which has been served since 1908 and Northwick Park, which opened only in 1923.By comparison, Harrow-on-the-Hill opened in 1880. Harrow-on-the-Hill is the first stop on the line from Marylebone to Aylesbury and it is also the point at which the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan diverges from the rest.

THE UXBRIDGE BRANCH

For more detail on this branch please consult Project Piccadilly. Rayners Lane, where the two lines converge for the run to Uxbridge is one of only two direct interchanges between the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, the other being at that vast node point, King’s Cross St Pancras.

HARROW-ON-THE-HILL TO MOOR PARK

Amersham trains, as mentioned above, run non-stop between these two stations. Watford trains call on the way at North Harrow, Pinner, Northwood Hills (where Bodilsen UK had one of their shops when I worked for them as a data input clerk) and Northwood. Of these four stations, only Pinner (1885) dates from when the track was laid down, the others being later additions. Moor Park itself only opened in 1910, originally as Sandy Lodge, which became Moor Park & Sandy Lodge in 1923 and Moor Park in 1950. Moor Park marks the end of the section on which there is a division between slow and fast services. In the days before it was considered necessary to include all London Underground stations in travel card zones, Moor Park was the outermost station on the Metropolitan which could be legally visited on a travel card (the only other section of London Underground to be outside the travel card zones was the eastern end of the Central line, where the boundary station was Loughton). The other point of significance about Moor Park is that it is the divergence point for the…

WATFORD BRANCH

Just two stations, Croxley and Watford, both opened in 1925. Croxley is less than 200 yards from Croxley Green, terminus of a minor side branch of the mainline railway from Watford Junction. This has given rise to various proposals involving linking the Metropolitan to Watford Junction. My own speculative scheme is for this branch, and the Croxley Green branch to form part of the northern leg of the London Orbital Railway, along with the Amersham branch, making use of the Rickmansworth-Watford curve, and another underused branch line between Watford and St Albans. For more on this part of the world I recommend F W Goudie and Douglas Stuckey’s book “West of Watford: Watford Metropolitan & the L.M.S Croxley Green and Rickmansworth branches. Also, do check out my post on Watford and Watford Junction.

A fine account of public transport in the Watford area.
A fine account of public transport in the Watford area.

RICKMANSWORTH

Rickmansworth opened in 1887, and in 1925 link from Rickmansworth to Croxley on the Watford branch was opened, and subsequently closed in 1960. Rickmansworth is also the outermost station on the Metropolitan to have been shown on Henry C Beck’s first attempt at a schematic diagram of London Underground (one of the great design coups of the 20th century).

Henry C Beck's first schematic diagram of London Underground.
Henry C Beck’s first schematic diagram of London Underground.

RICKMANSWORTH – CHALFONT & LATIMER

This section opened in 1889, with one intermediate station at Chorleywood. These days Chalfont & Latimer has two services running from it: through services from Aldgate to Amersham and a shuttle service to and from Chesham. Ironically given that it now has the minor role, Chesham opened first in 1889. In 1989 to celebrate the centenary a steam service ran through to Chesham, starting from Baker Street.

THE CHESHAM SHUTTLE

It took 50 years from the idea first being mooted for Chesham to acquire a train service. Edward Watkin, under whose aegis the line was opened envisaged a further northern extension making use of a natural gap in the Chilterns to connect with London and North Western (as it was in those days) at Tring. Further information about the Chesham branch and its history can  be found in Clive Foxell’s book “The Chesham Shuttle”. The journey from Chalfont & Latimer to Chesham is the longest single stop journey on the system at 3.89 miles (a mere 24.3 times the length of the shortest, from Leicester Square to Covent Garden).

Foxell

AMERSHAM

This is the end of our journey along the current Metropolitan line. It is the highest point above sea level anywhere on the system, 500 feet up in the Chilterns. Beyond here, the current main line continues to Great Missenden, Wendover, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury and Aylesbury Vale Parkway.

AFTERWORD

I hope you have enjoyed the ride so far. I will finish this post by making one final reference to my future vision of public transport in and around London, and the role of the Metropolitan in it. Given the closeness of its integration with the London Orbital Railway Network, and the fact that my envisaged south eastern extension utilizes London Overground, and that it would make sense for the London Orbital Railway to form the outer limits of the London Overground network, I could see the Metropolitan line being subsumed completely into a greatly expanded London Overground network, meaning either that the Metropolitan line would disappear from London Underground maps or that the Hammersmith and City line, which contains the entire surviving portion of the original Metropolitan Railway should be renamed the Metropolitan in deference to its history. Here a couple of map pics to finish, one a heavily edited shot from the Diagrammatic History an one showing the current Metropolitan line’s connections.

DSCN4926 DSCN4927

A Soupcon of Family History

An account of mission mixing photography with family history.

INTRODUCTION

This weekend just gone we were in Kegworth to attend the wedding of a cousin of ours (see future blog posts). A coincidence of the registry office not being big enough to accommodate everyone and a road in Kegworth bearing a rather curious name led to a mission to carry out some research…

THE BACK STORY

Dr Jeffares of Kegworth was sufficiently honoured in his own town that a street was named after him. Dr Jeffares’ Great Great Grandson is my nephew Zachary, present on this side of the world for once (he and his  mother live in Indonesia). Since neither Zac nor I were going to be at the ceremony itself, it seemed a good idea to get a picture of him and the street sign that bears his ancestor’s name…

LOCATING IT

Use of google maps turned up all the information necessary to find the road in question, especially as  we were booked into the Kegworth Hotel and Conference Centre, which as you will see is very close to the target…

The google street view showing me what I would be looking for.
The google street view showing me what I would be looking for.
The google map picture showing the location in detail.
The google map picture showing the location in detail.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS

Given our starting point of the Kegworth Hotel and Conference Centre, it was a very brief matter to locate the Jeffares Close sign. After discovering that I could not get a shot from the same side of the road as the sign I crossed and used the telescopic zoom lens on my Nikon Coolpix P530 to get pictures from long range…

JCZ JCZ2 JCZ3

This final pictures is customised for use as a featured image...
This final pictures is customised for use as a featured image…

Special Post: Ongar

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest in my series “London Station by Station“, the second post in this series to feature a station to have fallen victim to the axe (see also the piece on Aldwych).

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:

DSCN6534

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):

Ongar to Chelmsford

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…

A close up of the the end of the Central line as it used to look (from The Diagrammatic History)
A close up of the the end of the Central line as it used to look (from The Diagrammatic History)
An illustration of the Rickmansworth-Watford connection mentioned in the text.
An illustration of the Rickmansworth-Watford connection mentioned in the text.
A view of the Watford-St Albans links mentioned.
A view of the Watford-St Albans links mentioned.
An old London Connections Map with the emphasis on main line railways.
An old London Connections Map with the emphasis on main line railways.

DSCN6527

I hope you have enjoyed this spectacularly speculative post and will be encouraged to share it.