HIGHGATE WOOD SIDINGS & PARK JUNCTION
BRIEF HISTORY OF HIGHGATE DEPOT, HIGHGATE WOOD SIDINGS & PARK JUNCTION (Text by Raggajohn)
Highgate Depot is situated to the east of the (erstwhile) main lines to Finsbury Park and was adapted from the original LNER depot in 1939 for the Northern Line. Prior to this, access into the shed was only available from the southern end but the ‘new works’ gave access from the northern end as well. To the west of the formation lay Wellington LNER freight sidings.
The divergence of the lines to East Finchley and Alexandra Palace was known as Park Junction, just north of the tunnels leading to Highgate LNER station and Finsbury Park. A new power signalbox was provided here by LT in 1939 to replace the mechanical GNR box controlling Park Junction, to cover movements in and around the depot and to eventually control the Alexandra Palace branch once handed over to LT. Highgate Wood Sidings were built in 1939 in the 'V' between Highgate Depot and the Alexandra Palace branch (but parallel with the branch) and consisted of 6 electrified sidings for tube stock with hand-worked points controlled by a shunter.
Approaching Park Junction on the last day of passenger service. Highgate Depot can be seen in the centre with Park Junction signal box to the right
Photo by Alan A. Jackson
Passenger services between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace were discontinued from 3.7.1954 (LNER services from Finsbury Park to East Finchley and beyond ceased when the Northern Line took over in 1940). Freight ran via East Finchley until 1962 and to Alexandra Palace until 1956 - the branch tracks were lifted in 1957. Between 1966 and 1970, the Finsbury Park - Highgate Depot section was used for the transfer of 1938 stock to and from the Northern City Line via Drayton Park. This ceased from 29.9.1970 due to weak bridges on the route and tracks were lifted from Finsbury Park up to the Highgate West tunnels between 1971-72.
Heading south from East Finchley, the double track line continues past (and over) the Northern Line tunnel mouths to a point just before the depot where the erstwhile northbound track converges into the southbound track and the depot access road then diverges to the left of the southbound line. The southbound line then continues (as far as the Highgate West tunnel mouths of the old line to Finsbury Park and is now used as a test track and for access to new depot roads. However it wasn't always this way.
The Finsbury Park route was closed from 29.9.1970 and the tracks lifted from Highgate West tunnels to Finsbury Park. From then until the depot (temporarily) closed in.1984, the southbound and northbound main lines from East Finchley continued almost all the way to Highgate West tunnels, where the northbound road merged into the southbound road which became a reversing shunt neck into Highgate Wood Sidings, ending a little way into the eastbound tunnel mouth - the westbound tunnel mouth standing trackless alongside (a non-electrified portion of west bound running line existed for this tunnel but was removed in the late 1970's). This tunnel mouth is notable in that it had been damaged by a Second World War bomb and was subsequently rebuilt in concrete. The tunnel mouths at the south end were blocked off to prevent trespassers reaching the live depot tracks to the west.
1938 Northern Line stock in Highgate Wood sidings in April 1970
Photo by Peter Wright from Northern Heights web site
Trains entering Highgate Wood Sidings headed south along the SB main line, reversed in the shunt neck and shunted back out into the sidings. Trains leaving the sidings entered the shunt neck, reversed and headed north to East Finchley, diverging onto the remaining section of the NB main line. The southern access tracks into the depot itself converged into a connection with the SB line/shunt neck near to the junction of Highgate Wood sidings. They were removed at the end of 1982, with just north end access remaining. A shunters cabin was provided for the sidings shunter, situated south of the depot building at the entrance to the sidings.
Photo:Park Junction signal box in August 1990
Photo by Nick Catford
By now, Park Junction signalbox was the only manually-worked cabin left on the Northern Line after the rest had been converted to programme-machine control from Coburg Street, it being kept primarily to supervise entry and exit to the depot. Due to a decline in patronage, Highgate Wood Sidings were declared surplus and closed in December 1982. The area was abandoned and soon became semi-derelict, with sections of track being lifted here and there over the next few years, and the junction with the shunt neck was fenced off from the rest of the depot.