Station Name: WATFORD HIGH ST.
Still open but included for completeness

[Source: Nick Catford]
Date opened: 1.10.1862
Location: West side of High Street
Company on opening: Watford and Rickmansworth Railway
Date closed to passengers: Still open
Date closed completely: Still open
Company on closing: Still open
Present state: Still open
County: Hertfordshire
OS Grid Ref: TQ113961
Date of visit: Not visited

Notes: Watford High Street station was opened by the Watford & Rickmansworth Railway on 1 October 1862 and was the only station on their single-track branch from Watford Junction to Rickmansworth. The station consisted of a single platform in a cutting between high retaining walls on the west side of Watford High Street. Access to the station was along a footpath at the south end of the bridge parapet on the High Street, running between top of the retaining wall and the Railway Tavern. This led to a flight of stairs down to the platform. At the north end of the platform there was a single-storey brick building with a hipped slate roof. The booking office was at the south end of the building at the bottom of the stairs. Waiting rooms and toilets were accessed from the platform. There was no weather protection on the platform. The 1873 OS Town Plan (reproduced below) appears to show a second exit from the south end of the platform.

Watford High Street did not have, and never has had, any goods facilities, all goods traffic for the town being handled at Watford Junction station. The Rickmansworth branch did, however, serve a number of private sidings. One of these was Benskin's Brewery, a short distance to the south of High Street station. The last rail despatch of beer left in 1953, although barley was delivered by rail until 1956.

The station remained largely unaltered until the opening of the Croxley Green branch in 1912. At this time it was substantially rebuilt on the same site as part of the LNWR's 'New Line' scheme; a new electrified suburban line was built alongside the main line from Camden Junction as far as Bushey & Oxhey where it diverged from the main London – Watford line and, in
a wide sweep, crossed the Colne Valley to reach High Street Junction on the Rickmansworth line 250yd south-west of Watford High Street station. A signal box was provided at the junction a short distance to the south of High Street station. A new island platform was built at High Street; there was sufficient room between the existing retaining walls for the new platform and two tracks. The platform was provided with a substantial canopy with a pitched glazed roof and a deeply fretted valance. Unusually the canopy was supported entirely by girders braced against the retaining walls. There were no buildings under the canopy although there were substantial draught screens. The only building on the platform was the gents’ toilet which was the east end.

At street level, the bridge parapet was removed, High Street was widened, and a new street level brick station building was constructed straddling the cutting. This comprised a covered drop-off point for vehicles protected by a five-bay ridge-and-furrow canopy. This was supported on either side by red brick walls, punctuated at the front by decorative stone courses and finished with ball finials. The interior of these walls and the front of the booking hall was embellished with brick pilasters. At street level the station has remained largely unaltered since it opened, only the service provider and the signage has changed, and buildings around it have come and gone. Since the late 1960s the entrance area has been restricted to pedestrian use as vehicles have been prevented from driving under the canopy.

At platform level there have also been few changes. BR (LMR) maroon half-flanged totem signs were installed in the early/mid 1950s, later supplemented by unusual fully-flanged 4ft totems – the normal length was 3ft. The totems were soon to be removed as by 1960 concrete lamp standards were installed carrying fluorescent strip lamps with the station name on the diffuser; this design was common in BR Eastern Region, but much less so in the LMR. In the 1970s corporate identity signs were fitted to these posts, but these were again changed when the station became part of Network SouthEast and now London Overground.

Until about late 1970s / early 1980s the booking office backed onto the street wall. It had two windows, and the space between them contained very intricate panelling which, according to the Watford Observer had come from St Pancras station. There was a photo and a small feature when this panelling was ‘discovered’ during refurbishment work about 1957; it had apparently been covered up for many years. From the ticket barriers, the first flight of stairs to the platform descended parallel to the High Street then turned right to parallel the railway for the remaining two flights. The booking office is now situated on the opposite wall, at the top of the top flight of stairs next to the ticket barrier so that one person can, theoretically, supervise both inward and outward passenger flows.

In 1950 the station was served by trains on both the Croxley Green and Rickmansworth branches, local main line services from Euston, a service from Broad Street via Primrose Hill and the Bakerloo Line of London Transport. The station also saw a variety of empty stock movements to and from Croxley Green depot adjacent to the triangular junction to the south of the station. One-by-one these services ceased. The Rickmansworth branch closed to passenger traffic on 2 March 1952 and to freight traffic in 1983 when Croxley Paper Mill closed. The Bakerloo line was cut back to Stonebridge Park in 1982, and Croxley Green depot closed in November 1985. There was a regular service to Broad Street via Primrose Hill which was gradually whittled down to Monday-to-Friday rush hours only. The service was diverted to Liverpool Street for a while after Broad Street closed in 1986, but was eventually withdrawn with the closure of the line through Primrose Hill in September 1992. The service on the Croxley Green branch was suspended on 23 March 1996 leaving only the local service from London Euston.

Today, all services to the station are operated by London Overground. It is on the Watford DC Line of the network and receives daytime trains in both directions every 20 minutes on Monday-to-Saturday. In the evenings and on Sundays there is also a 20 minute service in each direction. In the future, the
Croxley Rail Link will involve diverting the Metropolitan Line's Watford branch to Watford Junction via the disused Croxley Green branch. This will see the return of London Underground trains, albeit formed of the Metropolitan Line's surface stock rather than the deep level stock of the Bakerloo Line. It received the funding required in December 2011 and is expected to be operational by January 2016 (see below). There have also been plans to re-extend the Bakerloo Line back to Watford Junction. This would result in another London Underground line serving the station. If this were to happen it has been stated that London Overground services would be withdrawn from the Watford DC Line completely.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CROXLEY GREEN BRANCH
Prior to the planning and construction of the Croxley Green branch, in July 1860 Lord Ebury obtained powers to construct a 4½-mile single-track line between Watford and Rickmansworth which opened in October 1862. The Rickmansworth terminus was located opposite the church to the south of the town where interchange sidings were provided with the nearby Grand Junction Cana (Grand Union Canal from 1928)l. The line ran from the LNWR at Watford Junction with one intermediate station at Watford High Street.

Despite hopes that the railway would bring further economic development to Rickmansworth and would serve the small factories and warehouses which had developed along the Grand Junction Canal, it was Watford which actually grew at a faster pace and drew business from Rickmansworth. The construction of the railway was dogged with financial problems, and a
further Act of Parliament had to be passed in 1863 to authorise the issue of further shares to the value of £30,000 (£40,000 worth of shares had already been issued). The line was worked from the outset by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) who paid the WRR 50% of the gross earnings of the line..

The railway was never particularly financially successful and the Official Receiver was called in only four years after opening. Attempts had been made to remedy their financial problems by opening several freight branches, the most notable being to the Croxley printers and to the Grand Junction Canal at Croxley Green. The company was eventually absorbed in 1881 by the burgeoning LNWR whose station it shared at Watford Junction.

Anxious of the growing influence of the Metropolitan Railway in north-west London, the LNWR added a short branch line to Croxley Green under the New Lines Act. Works commenced in 1908 and the new route opened on 15 June 1912. The semi-rural location of the Croxley Green terminus gave added credence to the LNWR's slogan ‘Live in the Country’. The extension involved the construction of a substantial bridge over the Grand Junction Canal.

The short 1¼-mile Croxley Green branch left the Rickmansworth line at Croxley Green Junction which was substantially rebuilt as a double-track formation as part of the LNWR’s ambitious London suburban electrification scheme. There was one intermediate station at Watford West.

It was always intended that the branch would be electrified as part of the North Western Electrics scheme, but the service opened with steam trains, often a rail-motor.  The construction of the new lines in the Watford area was completed in 1913 and included a  triangular junction with a spur enabling trains from Croxley Green to run south to Bushey and on to London. The western end of the curve retained the name Croxley Green Junction and included the junction between the Rickmansworth branch; the eastern end as Colne Junction. Adjacent to Croxley Green Junction a substantial new depot, known as Croxley Green sheds, was built to house the new electric trains. The opening of a two-track goods yard at Croxley Green enabled freight to be handled on the branch from 1 October 1912.

Electric trains of Oerlikon saloon stock replaced steam on the Croxley Green branch on 30 October 1922. This marked the final stage of the LNWR’s London suburban electrification, just two months before the LNWR became part of the London Midland and Scottish (LMS) Railway on 1 January 1923.  The new two or three-car sets operated 25 weekday shuttle
services between Watford ]unction and Croxley Green. These were augmented by through peak hour services to London termini via the Croxley Green Curve: three up and two down trains served Broad Street while two up and four down provided the Euston service. This pattern changed frequently during subsequent years.  Between 1925 and 1929 some additional through services ran between Croxley Green and Broad Street to serve the British Empire Exhibition (1925) and subsequent attractions at Wembley. In 1925 the Watford to Croxley Green local service, which had been weekdays only, was extended to cover Sundays.

During the 1930s London tube stock was used on the Croxley Green branch.  Joint LNWR/London Electric Railway (Underground Group) tube stock had been running on the Watford Junction to Elephant & Castle (Bakerloo line) service from 29 March 1920. They were found to be slow in traffic and were eventually replaced with standard underground stock. Nine of the 72 joint cars were transferred to the Croxley Green and Rickmansworth branches.  For most of the 1930s the service on the Croxley Green branch was provided by tube stock although until 1938 normal (full size) stock was used on Saturdays to cope with heavier traffic needs, including shopping and Watford Football Club’s home matches.

Towards the end of the decade 44 shuttle services were being provided on the branch, with four up and two down through trains serving Broad Street and three up and five down serving Euston. This service frequency remained until the outbreak of war in September 1939 when the passenger service was reduced and the tube stock was withdrawn.  Most through trains to London were also withdrawn with some peak hour morning services continuing to run until early 1941 when just one through morning train remained.

The frequent pre-war service was never restored after the war, with much of the line’s traffic lost to buses and the Metropolitan line which provided a much faster service into London. In June 1947 Monday - Friday service was cut back to rush hours only, although one through service to Broad Street was reinstated with one up (towards London) service in the morning and a
down train in the evening.

At nationalisation in January 1948, the Croxley Green branch became part of BR’s London Midland Region.  Initially the service saw little change although BR put on a second up through service to Broad Street. Two years later, however, the branch lost its late evening service. 

By 1953 the passenger service on the branch had been reduced to 32 Saturday and 22 weekday trains.  In 1957 the ageing Oerlikon saloon stock was withdrawn, the last survivors of which had operated the Croxley Green shuttle. They were replaced with class 501 slam-door compartment EMUs.  These did nothing to halt the decline; the Sunday service between Watford Junction and Croxley Green ran for the last time on 10 May 1959 and there were now 21 shuttle journeys between Watford Junction and Croxley Green in the Monday - Friday peak, and on Saturdays these were supplemented by one up peak hour trains and one down serving Broad Street and one up train to Euston. Through Saturday trains to London were withdrawn in September 1961. At the timetable change of 7 September 1963 the Croxley Green curve was illegally closed by BR. Prior to this there were two up Broad Street and one Euston trains on weekday mornings (including Saturdays) and one down Broad Street service on Mondays to Fridays; these were all withdrawn at that time. However from 18 November, on Mondays to Fridays, one up Broad Street train in the morning, and one down train from there in the evening were reinstated.

Identified in the Reshaping of British Railways (‘Beeching’) report for closure in 1963, the formal proposal was published on 20 February 1964. On 20 April 1966 Barbara Castle, who was Minister for Transport at the time, refused consent to the closure between Watford Junction and Croxley Green. However she approved the withdrawal of trains between Croxley Green and Bushey & Oxhey, which took effect on 6 June 1966 when the single train each way to and from Broad Street (through Bushey & Oxhey) was withdrawn. In that year the service was further reduced to 14 down and 12 up trains on the shuttle service. Weekday shuttle services were maintained throughout the 1970s, although the Saturday service was withdrawn. In the early 1970s the whole system had been converted from fourth to third rail, apart from those sections shared with London Transport.

A surprise development in 1982 was the opening of a new station between Watford High Street and Watford West, only a few hundred yards short of the latter. Funded by the Football Trust, Watford Football Club and Watford Borough Council in an effort to ease road congestion on match days Watford Stadium station was opened on 4 December of that year by Elton John
in conjunction with Lord Aberdare. On match days a six car EMU 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.  This was one of a number of developments in the 1980s to this suburban system, none of which really succeeded in countering the impression that the Croxley Green branch was being run down.

In 1986 the line found itself marketed as part of Network SouthEast following the introduction of class 313 saloon stock although on a number of occasions during 1987 and early 1988 a DMU worked the service, possibly due to a shortage of class 313 units. In 1988 an attempt was made to revive the fortunes of the Croxley Green branch by running a twice-hourly daytime service. This optimism was, however, to be short lived. From 22 January 1990 the service was reduced to Monday to Friday peak hours and the 1993 timetable shows just one return morning journey with no evening service.

In 1996 Hertfordshire County Council was allowed to break through the embankment short of Croxley Green station to build a new dual carriageway called Ascot Road; this project severed the line just east of the bridge over the River Gade/Grand Union Canal. A temporary bus service was introduced on 24 March 1996 with the intention of reinstating the rail service after the work was completed; this was expected to be about nine months.

In about 1989 London Transport floated the idea of diverting the Metropolitan line away from its remote west Watford terminus and, by means of less than a mile of new alignment, linking up with the Croxley Green branch to gain access to Watford Junction: this eventually became known as the 'Croxley Rail Link'.

In March 2001 the Strategic Rail Authority, in collaboration with Railtrack and Silverlink Trains Ltd, published a proposal to officially withdraw the service between Watford ]unction and Croxley Green in June that year and to close the line between High Street Junction and the terminus, as well as the stations at Watford West and Croxley Green. The public notice
recognised that since March 24 1996 ‘the scheduled passenger service has been provided by means of a substitute bus service’ and mentioned that ‘there is a prospective project .... to link the Metropolitan Underground Line to Watford Junction.’ The announcement concluded: ‘The closure of the Croxley Green branch would enable its use for that project.’  A closure date of 18 June 2001 was proposed but this could not be met as the SRA received 34 objections.  Despite these, the Department of Transport approved closure in a letter dated 6 November 2002 which also stipulated that track and formation must remain intact for five years.  No closure date was specified and Silverlink Trains continued to run a replacement bus service.

In November 2002 it was reported that the branch had been deleted from the Network. From 29 September 2003 the replacement bus service (in practice, a taxi on demand) was withdrawn at the start of the autumn timetable – 71/2 years after the last regular train. In September 2005 all points, signals and associated equipment, including the trailing connection at Watford High Street, were recovered from the branch.  All the track and remaining bridges remained intact.

The Croxley Rail Link in its current form involves the ending of passenger services between Croxley and Watford Underground Station. As this constitutes a proposal to close a route to passenger services, and to close a station, a formal closure process involving London TravelWatch is required. The London TravelWatch Board have set up the Watford Station
Closure Panel. The panel held a public meeting in Watford on 14 June 2012. Construction work is expected to start in June 2014 and be finished by January 2016.

When the Croxley Rail Link is built, direct services into Watford Junction from Amersham would also be possible, thus linking the commercial centre of Watford to the new developments in Aylesbury, as well as providing the Chilterns with transport connections, via the Junction, to the North and other destinations.

The Croxley Rail Link will require the construction of the 'missing link' between the existing Metropolitan line and the Croxley Green branch. Under approved plans, the link would begin at a new junction near Baldwins Lane, about a kilometre north-east of Croxley (Metropolitan line) station, and be carried via a new viaduct and bridge over the Watford Road dual carriageway and the Grand Union Canal. This would then join onto the former Croxley Green branch where new double track would be laid on the disused trackbed up to Watford High Street station.

The submitted proposals also detail the addition of two intermediate stations to the line - both new constructions. The existing, but closed, Croxley Green station would be replaced with a new Ascot Road station close by. A second new station would be opened on Vicarage Road, to be called Watford Hospital; this would also serve the football stadium. 
This station will replace both Watford Stadium and Watford West. Both of these new stations would be provided with full Underground facilities with the exception of a staffed ticket office; ticket machines would be available instead.

A further proposal is to use an existing but seldom-used chord towards Amersham via Rickmansworth which would allow direct services to and from central Watford, thus improving local public transport in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Under this proposal, Amersham trains would run along an existing viaduct which connects Rickmansworth to the Watford branch of the Metropolitan Line south of Croxley; from there, services would continue along the proposed new viaduct to the Croxley Green branch Line and on to Watford Junction.

For more pictures of Croxley Green and the Watford - Croxley Green branch line see the Abandoned Tube Stations web site.

Tickets from Michael Stewart. Route map drawn by Alan Young. Bradshaws from Chris Totty. and Nick Catford.

Further reading: West of Watford Goudie F W & Stuckley Douglas - Forge Books 1990

Sources:

  • The London Railway Record No. 28 July 2001
  • Wikipedia - Various pages (some text copied under creative commons licence
  • The Rail Chronology web site. There has been much debate about the closure date of the branch. This web site clarifies the closure process.

To see other Stations on the Croxley Green branch click on the station name: Croxley Green, Watford Stadium & Watford West

See also Rickmansworth Church Street
See also Croxley Green triangular junction and depot


The original Watford & Rickmansworth Railway station at Watford High Street looking north-east in the early years of the twentieth century. The booking office was on the platform. Signs for two other rooms can be seen projecting from the wall behind the booking office.
Photo from Watford Library


1873 1:500 OS town plan shows the original Watford High Street station as built by the Watford & Rickmansworth Railway. The station had a single platform on the down side of the line with a building at the east end of the platform which included a booking office and waiting rooms. Access was along a path from High Street and down a flight of steps alongside the booking office. What appear to be steps up to as second exit are seen at the other end of the platform.

1898 1:2,500 OS map shows no change to the layout of the station. A number of private sidings brought much needed revenue to the Rickmansworth branch. The siding serving Benskin's Brewery is seen to the south of the station. The last rail despatch of beer left in 1953, although barley was delivered by rail until 1956, The brewery closed in 1972, and the office building now houses Watford Museum. Benskin’s beer is still brewed in the UK by Carlsberg.

1914 1:2,500 OS map. The station was completely rebuilt as part of the North Western Electrics scheme which was completed in the Watford area in 1913, a year after the Croxley Green branch opened. The station was provided with two tracks serving an island platform, with a new street level building straddling the lines and platform.

1939 1:2,500 OS map shows little has changed on the railway. The ridge-and-furrow street level canopy in front of the building is clearly shown.

The new Watford High Street station entrance in the second decade of the twentieth century. Note the drop-off point for passengers in front of the station entrance beneath an impressive ridge-and-furrow canopy. It was clearly expected that the station would be busy.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

The 'new line' from Euston opened with steam traction on 10 February 1913 with electric trains operating from 16 April 1917 when the Bakerloo line was extended from Queens Park to Watford Junction via the new Bushey Curve and Watford High Street. To operate services north of Queens Park, 72 additional cars were provided in 1920; these were known as the Watford Joint Stock and were owned partly by the Underground and partly by the London & North Western Railway. They proved slow and unreliable, so they were replaced with new trains of standard stock in 1930. Nine of the 72 joint cars were transferred to the Croxley Green and Rickmansworth branches. One of them is seen here c1931 on
a service to Rickmansworth.

Although the line came under the control of the LMS in the 1923 grouping the station exterior remained unchanged for many years. By 1933 signs had been changed. Note the underground roundel on the right side of the building indicating that the station had joint use.
Photo from John Mann collection

Watford High Street station looked run down and grubby in the early post-war years. The joint stock was withdrawn in 1939 and replaced with spare Oerlikon stock, two of which are seen here. The train on the right is a Rickmansworth service.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

The last serviceable Oerlikon unit is arriving at Watford High Street from Croxley Green on 20 February 1960. The low voltage bare wires which were used for the guard to dispatch the train were still in use at that time. The guard's flagstick had a metal piece at the end, and he touched this against the wires which connected to a bell near the driver. At some Metropolitan line stations a similar system was employed except that an illuminated 'S' was displayed by the starting signal. BR (LMR) maroon totem signs were fitted by the mid 1950s but by 1960 they had already given way to new illuminated signs. The gents' toilet seen under the bridge is the only building on the platform.
Photo by David Pearson

Watford High Street station looking north-east in 1963.
Photo from Stations UK and John Mann collection

Watford High Street station looking north-east in March 1974. By this date corporate identity signs had been fitted. The station canopy is unusual in that it is supported entirely by girders braced against the retaining walls.
Photo by Alan Young

A train of 1972 Mark II tube stock approaching Watford High Street station, running empty from Croxley Green depot to Watford Junction on the morning of 26 April 1979. A number of trains of this type worked alongside 1938 stock. Shortly after this date they were transferred to the Northern line. The shortfall was made up by transferring 1938 stock trains from the Northern line. Coincidentally the current Bakerloo line is operated entirely with this type of train. As can be seen, High Street Junction signal box has gone, and the facing crossover is visible. A Class 501 is seen leaving the station.
Photo by David Pearson

A Bakerloo line train at Watford High Street station in April 1982.
Photo by David Pearson

The rear of a Class 501 EMU with a London Euston to Watford Junction train at Watford High Street station in August 1983.
Photo by Keith Long from his Flickr photostream

A Class 501 EMU forming a Croxley Green train at Watford High Street station in May 1985.
The erstwhile franchisee, Silverlink, operated older rolling stock of classes 508 (as seen here in November 2007) and 313 on this line. With the transfer of the line to TfL, new rolling stock was ordered and entered service early on 2009. The new trains are Class 378.
Photo by Dr.Neil Clifton, reproduced from Geograph under creative commons licence

There has been little change in the external appearance Watford High Street station since it was built, only the service provider and signage has changed. This view is from May 2009.
P
hoto by Sunil Prasannan. reproduced from Wikipedia under creative commons licence


Click here for more photos of Watford High Street station


 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


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