Wednesday 10 July 2019

Watford to Croxley Green Branch Line

Work on the Watford to Croxley Green Branch Line was begun in 1908 in response to the growing influence of the Metropolitan Railway, with  a new passenger service being created along the branch line originally built to serve the Grand Union Canal. The extension involved the construction of a bridge over the Colne and a much more substantial bridge over the Grand Union Canal. In 1911, after the LNWR took over management, plans were announced confirming proposals for the electrification of the line (along with the existing Rickmansworth branches) and in addition, an electric train shed with sidings was to be built, making connections with the Watford and Rickmansworth line at Croxley Green Junction.

The Watford to Croxley Green Branch Line opened on 15th June 1912 with a freight service being provided from 1st October 1912. The following year, an intermediate station was built; known initially as 'Hagden Lane', it was soon changed to 'Watford West'.  It is interesting to note that Watford West was closed from November 1914 for the duration of the Great War and that on 10th March 1913, Croxley Green station buildings and platform were totally destroyed by a fire thought to have been started by Suffragettes.

Initially the branch was operated by steam power, often a rail-motor, but the Croxley Green electric service commenced on 30th October 1922 (the electrification of the Rickmansworth branch being the last part of the project to be completed and electric trains did not run on that line until 26th September 1927). In October 1922, after electrification was complete, there were 25 trains running to and from Watford and in 1925, the Watford to Croxley Green local service, which had been weekdays only, was extended to cover Sundays. However, by the 1940's, the Sunday service was axed, along with the late evening workings. Although identified in the Beeching Report for closure in 1966, consent was refused, being vetoed by Barbara Castle who was Minister for Transport at the time. A peak service only continued to run for many years.

On 4th December 1982, a new stop funded by the Football Trust, Watford F.C. and Watford Borough Council, was built on the east side of Vicarage Road to provide support for the increased crowds coming to see Watford Football Club, who had risen from the fourth to the first division. The stop, named Watford Stadium Halt, was a single concrete platform costing £200,000 and was opened by Elton John in conjunction with Lord Aberdare. At appropriate times a six car e.m.u. provided a shuttle service to and from Watford Junction. Unfortunately, the success of the club at that time was short-lived and so was the shuttle service. 

In 1988, an attempt was made to revive the fortunes of the Croxley Green branch by running a twice hourly daytime service. However, Croxley Green station had fallen into a bad state of disrepair by this time with the single platform being boarded up and a temporary structure erected on either side of the line. Late in 1989 the rotting original platform was demolished, together with much of the original Watford West station structure. From January 1990 the Watford to Croxley service was reduced to one 7.00am return working from Watford Junction on weekdays only.  

In 1996 a new road cut through the line just east of the Grand Union Canal bridge, severing the route between Watford West and Croxley Green. For a short time services were replaced by a bus and then by an occasional taxi. The branch was 'formally closed' in 2001.

Proposals were put forward to link the Metropolitan Line from Croxley to Watford, but have now been shelved (2019).


West of Watford - Watford Meropolitan & the L.M.S. Croxley Green and Rickmansworth branches by F.W. Goudie & Douglas Stuckey, published by Forge Books 1990. An invaluable source of information studded with photographs.

Underground History - North of Harrow and Wealdstone - Hywel Williams. A history of the line and several photos can be found here of the disused branch line showing it in its entire length.

Wikepedia:  Watford and Rickmansworth Railway.

 Nick Catford:

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