Station Name: ALEXANDRA PALACE

[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: 24.5.1873
Location: At the end of The Avenue, adjacent to Alexandra Palace
Company on opening: Muswell Hill & Palace Railway
Date closed to passengers: 5.7.1954
Date closed completely: 5.7.1954
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: The platforms have been demolished but the station building at the end of The Avenue still stands and has been restored as a community centre.
County: London
OS Grid Ref: TQ295902
Date of visit: April 1968, May 1981 & April 2007

Notes: When the station was opened it had two wooden platforms, by the early 20th century the station was in poor condition and it was rebuilt with an island platform. The station never had a freight service although coal to heat the palace was delivered by rail.

Alexandra Palace station's fortunes were inextricably linked with those of the Palace itself, and it was closed on nine occasions due to insufficient demand. The Great Northern nevertheless, wanted to encourage residential traffic to the line, and when it reopened the terminus in March 1891 after one of its periods of disuse, it was given the name of Alexandra Park, to emphasise the area rather than the Palace. Unfortunately, the hoped-for traffic failed to materialise, and it was closed again in the April of the following year. The first period of closure was on 9th June 1873 after the palace was gutted by fire but it soon reopened to take people to see the ruins and remained open until August 1873.

No doubt to promote confidence to would-be commuters, the GNR eventually made an agreement with the MH&PR whereby the station should remain open on a permanent basis, and therefore from 1898, it came back into full use with its original name restored.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FINSBURY PARK TO ALEXANDRA PALACE LINE
The Edgware, Highgate & London Railway obtained an Act in 1862 to build a line from a junction with the GNR at Seven Sisters Road (now Finsbury Park) to Edgware. The following year the Midland Railway received authority to build a line between Bedford and St. Pancras which would provide a quicker route into central London from the Mill Hill area.To improve the prospects of their Edgware line the EH & LR proposed a branch from Highgate to Muswell Hill serving the new Alexandra Palace leisure complex and an extension of the main line from Edgware to Watford.

Both proposals were approved by Parliament in 1864 as was a further branch from Finchley to High Barnet in 1866. In 1866 a further act was obtained by the independent The Muswell Hill & Palace Railway to extend the branch from Muswell Hill to a terminus adjoining the Palace.

The ‘main line’ between Seven Sisters Road and Edgware proved more costly than expected and shortly before completion the local company was taken over by the Great Northern who opened the line on 22nd August 1867 with intermediate stations at Crouch End, Highgate, East End Finchley, Finchley, Hendon and Mill Hill; but the extension to Watford
was never built. On the 1st April 1872 the High Barnet branch was opened with the Alexandra Palace branch opening on 24th May 1873; the section between Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace was still owned by the Muswell Hill & Palace Railway although worked by the GNR. The Alexandra Palace branch was an immediate success providing the most convenient route to the Palace from central London but the service was suspended a few weeks after opening when the palace was gutted by fire and was not reinstated until May 1875. Initially the branch was well used but within a year the MH & PR was in financial difficulty as passenger numbers fell dramatically. Several periods of closure for the terminus followed as the GNR failed to attract residential traffic to the line.

Suburban growth on the main line as far as Finchley began in the 1860’s and a further station at Stroud Green was opened on 11th April 1881. Residential traffic between Muswell Hill and Highgate was also improving and an additional station at Cranley Gardens was opened in 1902 but Alexandra Palace station continued to be underused.

In 1911 the Muswell Hill & Palace Railway was purchased by the GNR and although passenger numbers had improved this was halted by competition from the new more convenient tram services. Through trains to central London outside the rush hour were withdrawn during WW1 when a weekday shuttle between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace was
introduced.  Although the full weekday service was restored at the end of the war the branch was never to fully recover and passenger numbers at all stations between Highgate and Alexandra Palace plummeted.

In 1935 the London Passenger Transport Board announced their 'New Works Plan' which included a proposal to take over the ex-GNR line between Finsbury Park and Edgware and High Barnet, including the Alexandra Palace branch.

These would be incorporated into the Northern Line with a new connection with the Northern City line at Finsbury Park providing a fast and frequent service of electric trains into central London.

The New Works plan was adopted and shortly before the start of WW2 the lines began to appear on underground maps. It was expected that Northern Line trains would be running into Alexandra Palace by 1940. Work on the electrification and new infrastructure started alongside the steam service which continued to operate.

With the start of WW2 the service was once again reduced although work on the electrification of the Alexandra Palace branch ceased in 1940 although some work continued north of Highgate on the Edgware and High Barnet lines.

London Transport had every intention of completing their New Works plan and although several lines, including the Alexandra Palace branch were shown 'under construction' on some underground maps until 1950 work never restarted.On 3rd July 1939 the existing northern line service was extended from Archway to East Finchley where it surfaced alongside the LNER line from Finsbury Park just south of the station.  The steam trains which formerly served High Barnet and Edgware were cut back to East Finchley and after March 1941 all trains were diverted to Alexandra Palace instead but this improvement in service was short lived when all through trains were withdrawn and once again replaced by a limited shuttle.

Through services to Kings Cross were reinstated after the war but were suspended to save coal between 29th October 1951 and 7th January 1952. After local pressure a peak hour only service using Victorian locomotives and ancient rolling stock was reinstated but it was clear that final closure couldn't be held off for long and closure was announced in 1953 as the

number of passengers travelling on the line didn't justify its electrification.  A shuttle service continued to run until the 3rd July 1954 when all stations closed to passenger traffic.

Freight traffic continued to serve Muswell Hill until 14th June 1956, and Cranley Gardens until 18th May 1957 after which date the line north of Park Junction was abandoned. The conductor rails were removed between January 1954 and February 1955 and the track north of Park Junction was lifted by early 1958. The section of line between Finsbury Park and Highgate remained open to freight traffic with Highgate High Barnet and Mill remaining open until 1st October 1962 and Edgware until 1 June 1964.

The line was also used for a weekly transfer of tube stock between Drayton Park and Highgate Wood sidings until 29th September 1970, with trains being hauled by LT battery locomotives. This eventually ceased because of the condition of a bridge and the flyerover over the main line north of Finsbury Park. The remaining track was lifted in January 1972. 

Before final closure the line had been used as an unofficial walkway. The section between Cranley Gardens and Alexandra Park including the St. James Lane viaduct was adopted as a Parkland Walk by Haringey Council in 1976 and the section between Finsbury Park and Highgate was similarly adopted a few years later. The Parkland Walk was officially opened in 1984 following extensive re-surfacing and improvements to access. The 3.9 mile walkway and cycleway is divided into two sections Finsbury Park to Highgate and Cranley Gardens to Muswell Hill and is now London's longest nature reserve and is incorporated into the 78 mile Capital Ring.


Main historical source: London Railway Record No's. 6 & 7 (January & April 1996) published by Connor & Butler.
Further reading: Northern Wastes by Jim Blake and Jonathan James published 1987 by North London Transport Society ISBN 0 3267304 02

Other web sites: Northern Heights - includes many pictures of the line in April 1970
Piccadilly line.org.uk web site, Underground History web site, Abandoned tube stations web site,
Urban 75 web site & A wander along the Northern Heights.

Special thanks to Ian Baker, Peter Wright, Jim Connor, Jim Blake, John Alsop, Brian Hardy, Dave Bosher and Richard Casserley and others for their photographs and Brian Halford for the tickets.

To see other Stations on the Finsbury Park - Alexandra Palace line click on the station name: Finsbury Park, Stroud Green, Crouch End, Highgate, Cranley Gardens & Muswell Hill



Alexandra Palace Station in June 1937
Copyright photo by H. C. Casserley





Alexandra Palace Station looking north east in 1948
Photo by J. L. Smith

Alexandra Palace looking north east in 1951. Note the crossover and lever frame under the bridge. This was used when non-push-pull sets were in use and the incoming locomotive had to 'run round' is coaches.
Copyright photo from Stations UK

Alexandra Palace Station forecourt in April 1968
P
hoto by Nick Catford

Alexandra Palace Station looking north east, taken from a similar viewpoint to the 1948 picture above.
Photo by Nick Catford

Click here for more pictures of Alexandra Palace Station

 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


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