Watford DC line

Last updated
Watford DC line
Watford Junction railway station MMB 29 378210.jpg
London Overground Class 378 Capitalstar at Watford Junction in 2010
Type Commuter rail, Rapid transit
System National Rail
London Underground
Locale Greater London
Termini London Euston
Watford Junction
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) London Overground
London Underground (Bakerloo line)
Depot(s)Stonebridge Park (LUL)
Willesden TMD
Rolling stock Class 378 "Capitalstar"
Class 710 "Aventra"
London Underground 1972 Stock
Number of tracks2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 660 V DC third and fourth rail (fourth rail only on sections used by the Bakerloo line) [1]
Watford DC line
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Watford DC
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Watford High Street
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Metropolitan line
Croxley Rail Link (under construction)
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Carpenders Park
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to Stanmore Village (closed 1964)
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South Kenton
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Stonebridge Park depot (LU)
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Wembley Yard
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Kensal Green
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Queen's Park north sheds (LU)
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Queen's Park south sheds (LU)
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Primrose Hill
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Camden carriage sidings
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Euston carriage sidings
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The London Overground map showing the Watford DC Line London Overground map sb.svg
The London Overground map showing the Watford DC Line

The Watford DC line is a commuter railway line from London Euston to Watford Junction in Watford, Hertfordshire. Its services are operated by London Overground.

Euston railway station central London railway terminus

Euston railway station is a central London railway terminus on Euston Road in the London Borough of Camden, managed by Network Rail. It is the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line to Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central. It is also the mainline station for services to and through Birmingham New Street, and to Holyhead for connecting ferries to Dublin. Local suburban services from Euston are run by London Overground via the Watford DC Line which runs parallel to the WCML as far as Watford Junction. There is an escalator link from the concourse down to Euston tube station; Euston Square tube station is nearby. King's Cross and St Pancras railway stations are further down Euston Road.

Watford Junction railway station railway station that serves Watford, Hertfordshire

Watford Junction is a railway station that serves Watford, Hertfordshire. The station is on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), 17 miles 34 chains from London Euston and the Abbey Line, a branch line to St Albans. Journeys to London take between 16 and 52 minutes depending on the service used: shorter times on fast non-stop trains and slower on the stopping Watford DC line services. Trains also run to Clapham Junction and East Croydon via the West London Line. The station is a major hub for local bus services and the connecting station for buses to the Harry Potter studio tour. The station is located north of a viaduct over the Colne valley and immediately south of Watford Tunnel.

Hertfordshire County of England

Hertfordshire is one of the home counties in southern England. It is bordered by Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to the north, Essex to the east, Greater London to the south, and Buckinghamshire to the west. For government statistical purposes, it is placed in the East of England region.


The line runs beside the West Coast Main Line (WCML) for most of its length. The London Underground Bakerloo line shares the section of the line from Queen's Park to Harrow & Wealdstone. The rolling stock used on the line is Class 378 "Capitalstar", which will eventually be replaced by the Class 710 "Aventra".

West Coast Main Line Railway route in Britain

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the most important railway corridors in the United Kingdom, connecting the major cities of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. It is one of the busiest mixed-traffic railway routes in Europe, carrying a mixture of intercity rail, regional rail, commuter rail and rail freight traffic. The core route of the WCML runs from London to Glasgow, with branches diverging to Northampton, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, totalling a route mileage of 700 miles (1,127 km). Services from London to North Wales and Edinburgh also run via the WCML; however the main London-Edinburgh route is the East Coast Main Line. In addition, several sections of the WCML form part of the suburban railway systems in London, Coventry, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, with many more smaller commuter stations, as well as providing links to more rural towns.

London Underground rapid transit system in London, United Kingdom

The London Underground is a public rapid transit system serving London, England and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.

Bakerloo line London Underground line

The Bakerloo line is a London Underground line that runs between Harrow & Wealdstone in suburban north-west London and Elephant & Castle in south London, via the West End. Coloured brown on the Tube map, it serves 25 stations, of which 15 are below ground, over 14.4 miles (23.2 km). It runs partly on the surface and partly at deep level.

The "DC" in the title refers to line being electrified using direct current. This was done in the early twentieth century with conductor rails (for compatibility with the London Underground's four-rail system and the now AC/DC-split semi-orbital North London Line). By contrast the WCML uses overhead alternating current.

Direct current Unidirectional flow of electric charge

Direct current (DC) is the unidirectional flow of an electric charge. A battery is a prime example of DC power. Direct current may flow through a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through semiconductors, insulators, or even through a vacuum as in electron or ion beams. The electric current flows in a constant direction, distinguishing it from alternating current (AC). A term formerly used for this type of current was galvanic current.

Third rail type of electricity transmission of railways

A third rail is a method of providing electric power to a railway locomotive or train, through a semi-continuous rigid conductor placed alongside or between the rails of a railway track. It is used typically in a mass transit or rapid transit system, which has alignments in its own corridors, fully or almost fully segregated from the outside environment. Third rail systems are always supplied from direct current electricity.

Alternating current electric voltage which periodically reverses direction; form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences; form of electrical energy that consumers typically use when they plug electric appliances into a wall socket

Alternating current (AC) is an electric current which periodically reverses direction, in contrast to direct current (DC) which flows only in one direction. Alternating current is the form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences, and it is the form of electrical energy that consumers typically use when they plug kitchen appliances, televisions, fans and electric lamps into a wall socket. A common source of DC power is a battery cell in a flashlight. The abbreviations AC and DC are often used to mean simply alternating and direct, as when they modify current or voltage.


Services on this line began when London and North Western Railway (LNWR) completed the Camden to Watford Junction new line in 1912, to provide additional suburban capacity and more outer-suburban services running non-stop to Euston. It incorporated part of the LNWR Rickmansworth branch (formerly the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway) between Watford Junction and Watford High Street Junction and part of the original slow main line between Queen's Park and South Hampstead stations; two single-track tunnels take the line from South Hampstead to Camden, whence the line reaches Euston station by the main-line tracks. Prior to 1912, at which time the entire route was finally electrified, services were steam operated. Although the operation of the line is mostly self-contained, connections at Watford Junction and Camden allow other trains onto it, a facility used occasionally with trains diverted from the West Coast Main Line should an alternative diversionary route be not available.

London and North Western Railway former railway company in United Kingdom

The London and North Western Railway was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. In the late 19th century the L&NWR was the largest joint stock company in the United Kingdom.

Watford and Rickmansworth Railway railway line

The Watford and Rickmansworth Railway (W&RR) ran services between Watford and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, England. The company was incorporated in 1860; the line opened in 1862. The Rickmansworth branch was closed in 1952, and the remaining line was gradually run down and eventually closed in 1996.

South Hampstead railway station

South Hampstead railway station is on Loudoun Road in the London Borough of Camden. It is about 550 yards (500 m) south west of Swiss Cottage Underground station. It opened in 1879 as "Loudon Road station" and acquired its present name in 1922. Two platforms on the Euston to Watford DC Line remain; those on the slow main lines were largely demolished in the 1960s. During the West Coast Main Line electrification the original LNWR street building was replaced by one in the 1960s "brick lavatory" style and a new station footbridge was constructed. Traces of the removed station canopies and older footbridge can be seen in the brickwork of the retaining walls on both sides of the line.


The line opened with conventional semaphore signalling mechanically operated from signal boxes at each station; this system remained in use after electrification.
The London, Midland and Scottish Railway introduced an automatic electric signalling system in the early 1930s over most of the route and some signal boxes were abolished. A similar system was also used for a shorter period between Bromley-by-Bow and Upminster now part of the District line. The very closely spaced mix of automatic and semi-automatic signals, repeater signals, and auxiliary calling-on aspects was intended to let trains to proceed, after a set delay, at low speed past "failed" signals on track with no junctions without the need to contact a signalman, but this could lead to a nose-to-tail queue of trains as they all reached the location of a real line blockage.

Railway signalling the principle of signals used to control railway traffic

Railway signalling is a system used to direct railway traffic and keep trains clear of each other at all times. Trains move on fixed rails, making them uniquely susceptible to collision. This susceptibility is exacerbated by the enormous weight and inertia of a train, which makes it difficult to quickly stop when encountering an obstacle. In the UK, the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 introduced a series of requirements on matters such as the implementation of interlocked block signalling and other safety measures as a direct result of the Armagh rail disaster in that year.

London, Midland and Scottish Railway British “Big 4” railway company, active 1923–1947

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) was a British railway company. It was formed on 1 January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921, which required the grouping of over 120 separate railways into four. The companies merged into the LMS included the London and North Western Railway, Midland Railway, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, several Scottish railway companies, and numerous other, smaller ventures.

Bromley-by-Bow district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Bromley, commonly known as Bromley-by-Bow, is a district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London, located on the western banks of the River Lea, in the Lower Lea Valley in East London. It is part of the traditional county of Middlesex, but for administrative purposes was part of the County of London following the passing of the Local Government Act 1888, it later became part of Greater London in 1965.

Train stops were provided (except at repeater signals) to allow London Electric Railway (LER) trains to operate over the line without the special provision of a second man; this enabled the same practice to be continued with all other Underground and main line stock subsequently allocated to this line and which was provided with trip equipment.

Train stop

Part of a railway signalling system, a train stop, trip stop or tripcock is a train protection device that automatically stops a train if it attempts to pass a signal when the signal aspect and operating rules prohibit such movement, or if it attempts to pass at an excessive speed.

London Electric Railway underground railway operator

The London Electric Railway (LER) was an underground railway company operating three lines on the London Underground. It was formed in 1910 and existed until 1933, when it was merged into the London Passenger Transport Board.

Signal boxes remaining in use in the early 1970s included:

Normally Kilburn High Road and Stonebridge Power House which controlled only plain track with crossovers were switched out and only Queens Park, Willesden and Harrow boxes were staffed for at least part of the day, to deal with junction and siding traffic. In the early 1980s manual control of signalling was needed for a few months after dragging gear on a train destroyed many electric train-stops which were of a design almost confined to this line (LU train-stops are mostly electro-pneumatic). By this time the signal boxes at Stonebridge Power House and Kilburn High Road had been abolished. Emergency crossovers at other locations were controlled by ground frames enclosed in structures the size of a garden shed.

In 1988 the LMS system was replaced by a more standard system controlled from a new signal box, Willesden Suburban, and the remaining local boxes were abolished. The new system had solid state interlocking, but far fewer signals; as a consequence the maximum traffic capacity of the line was severely reduced. In the early 1960s there were headways of less than 2 minutes between Harrow & Wealdstone and Willesden Junction stations, the section of line used by nearly all services.

In the early 2000s Willesden Suburban was closed and control passed to Wembley Main Line Signalling Centre.


An Oerlikon electric train at Harrow and Wealdstone (1956) Oerlikon electric train at Harrow and Wealdstone.jpg
An Oerlikon electric train at Harrow and Wealdstone (1956)

The original electrification was on a fourth rail system, similar to that now used by London Underground, which allowed LER trains to use the new line. Power was supplied from the railway's own power station at Stonebridge Park until the 1960s when it was closed, after which it has been obtained from public supplies. As originally installed, there was provision for interconnection of the high voltage section of the power station to adjacent public supplies for output or intake but this ceased when national supplies were standardised at 50 Hz.

In the late 1950s, the original electric multiple units built for the line were replaced by new Class 501 rolling stock. These were in turn displaced in the mid 1980s by Class 313 units. The line is now operated by London Overground Class 378 "Capitalstar" units.

In the 1970s, the track and the rolling stock used on this line and the North London Line were changed to use a modified version of the BR standard third rail system, with the fourth rail (now bonded to the running rail used for returning traction current) left in place on the sections of line shared with LU Bakerloo line trains. North of Harrow & Wealdstone, now the limit of LU operation, the fourth rail has in most places been dropped onto the sleepers and remains bonded, thus leaving the resistance of the current return path unaltered. The fourth rail remains in the normal position from Queens Park to Kilburn High Road up platform, where a trailing crossover between those two stations is maintained in use to allow reversal of Bakerloo line trains unable to gain access to London Underground at Queens Park, due to planned work or other reasons. The line is currently electrified (like all shared lines) using the standard compromise voltage of 660 V. This falls comfortably within the lower permanent voltage limit for the Capitalstar stock (500 V) and the upper permanent voltage limit for the 1972 tube stock (760 V). [2]

A consequence of converting to third rail with the fourth rail provided only for LU use was that both planned and emergency use of the line by other 3rd-rail-capable trains was possible. Ignoring recent use of Class 508 trains, this last took place when Class 416 trains were diverted to Willesden Junction Low Level station when part of the North London Line was closed for a number of weeks in the late 1980s.

The electricity grid Willesden substation in Acton Lane, Park Royal supplies 11 kV, three-phase power to ten substations on the line, located at Camden, South Hampstead, Queens Park, Willesden, Harlesden, Wembley, Kenton, Harrow, Hatch End, Bushey and Watford.


The construction of a curve to link Rickmansworth (Church Street) to the Euston main line was planned. A new line would have then run south to Wembley, then passed under the main line and run on the east side to Euston, terminating in a loop.[ citation needed ]

The loop was dropped on grounds of cost and, instead, services terminated at Euston main platforms or ran on the North London Railway to Broad Street. Pressure from local groups led to the building of a curve near Bushey, diverting the main route for new services over the existing branch line north to Watford Junction instead of south to Rickmansworth. In 1917 LER Bakerloo line services were extended over the new line from Queen's Park station to Watford Junction.


Bakerloo line services were cut back in stages and ceased north of Stonebridge Park station in 1982; in 1984 they were restored as far as Harrow and Wealdstone.

The Croxley Green branch fell into disuse in the 1990s, and is now derelict. In the early 2000s the county council proposed to divert the Metropolitan line over the branch and on to Watford Junction (for more information see Croxley Rail Link).


The line was operated by British Rail (from 1986 as Network SouthEast) until privatisation. In the Network SouthEast period, it was rebranded as the Harlequin line, after the stations of Harlesden and Queen's Park.

From March 1997 until November 2007, the line was operated by Silverlink. In November 2007 Transport for London (TfL) took full management control of all the intermediate Watford DC line stations as part of the London Overground (LO) service with staffing during opening hours, automatic ticket gates and planned station refurbishment to the standard of the Tube network.


An old Silverlink Metro train calls at Harlesden Unit 313119 at Harlesden.JPG
An old Silverlink Metro train calls at Harlesden
The line is also shared with the Bakerloo line 1972 Stock at Harlesden.JPG
The line is also shared with the Bakerloo line

The local passenger services which run over the DC line are:

During the partial closure of the North London Line in autumn 2008, London Overground's Monday to Saturday services were diverted away from Euston, running instead via Camden Road onto the North London Line and on to Stratford; the Sunday service was normal.

London Northwestern Railway also run a fast service between Watford Junction and London Euston along the West Coast Main Line (which runs parallel to the Watford DC Line), calling at Bushey and Harrow & Wealdstone before running non-stop to Euston. The service offers a quicker alternative to the all-stations London Overground service, especially as the operator now accepts TfL's Oystercard ticketing. Some peak services to/from Euston are advertised as starting/terminating at South Hampstead or Queens Park or Harrow and Wealdstone in order to persuade passengers to take the frequent faster services.

Discontinued services

Past services have included:

When the south curve of the triangular junction between Watford High Street and Bushey existed, a few trains used Croxley Depot (now demolished), which was shared by LU and BR trains.

An interchange with the Stanmore branch line once existed at Harrow & Wealdstone. This short branch line was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts; the empty trackbed is still visible at Harrow & Wealdstone adjacent to the eastern ticket office. [3]


Metropolitan line

A diagram of the proposed rail services Croxley rail link.png
A diagram of the proposed rail services

Another proposal to bring London Underground service to Watford Junction is the Croxley Rail Link, [4] which envisages diverting the Watford branch of the Metropolitan line along a re-opened stretch of track to the west of Watford, effectively reinstating the former Croxley Green to Watford Junction service. Underground trains would then join the DC line at Watford High Street, potentially forming an interchange either with London Overground or the Bakerloo line, depending on the outcome of other projects. Funding for this project has now been agreed as of 23 November 2015 and the Metropolitan line will gain an interchange with Overground services. [5] This has now been put on indefinite hiatus pending funding shortfalls.

Bakerloo line

Various proposals have been made to alter services involving both extending or truncating Bakerloo Line services but there has been no basic change until 2015 other than to rolling stock and service patterns. As of 2015, plans and suggestions (from official bodies and others) connected to development of Crossrail and the Old Oak Common area have current potential consequences.[ citation needed ]

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Metropolitan line London Underground line

The Metropolitan line, colloquially known as the Met, is a London Underground line that runs between Aldgate in the City of London and Amersham and Chesham in Buckinghamshire, with branches to Watford in Hertfordshire and Uxbridge in the western London Borough of Hillingdon. Coloured magenta on the tube map, the line is 41.4 miles (66.7 km) in length and serves 34 stations. Unlike the deep-tube railways, its tunnels are just below the surface and are of a similar size to those on main lines. Just under 67 million passenger journeys were made on the line in 2011/12.

North London line .a line in north London, England

The North London line (NLL) is a railway line which passes through the inner suburbs of west, north-west and north London, England between Richmond in the south-west and Stratford in the east, avoiding central London. Its route is a rough semicircle.

Queens Park station (England) London Underground and London Overground station

Queen's Park is a interchange station on the Watford DC line and Bakerloo line served by London Overground and Underground respectively. It is today widely considered to have an associated district, Queens Park. It is at the southern end of Salusbury Road, near the south-east corner of the public park from which the area has taken its name and in its early years hosted a ground of Queens Park Rangers F.C., today instead based close to White City and Shepherd's Bush. The station is in Travelcard Zone 2. In the 20th century the station and accordingly the immediate area dropped its descriptor which is well-known parent area, once a parish and so preserved by the Church of England and Hampstead and Kilburn .

Kensal Green station London Underground station

Kensal Green is a Network Rail station served by London Underground Bakerloo line and London Overground trains. It is located in College Road, London NW10 close to the junction with Harrow Road. It is about 0.5 mile (750m) route distance from the older Kensal Rise station located to the north east on the North London Line, which was itself named Kensal Green until 1890. The station is in a cutting with tunnels on either side.

Willesden Junction station London Underground and London Overground station

Willesden Junction is a National Rail station in Harlesden, north-west London, UK. It is served by both London Overground and London Underground services.

Harlesden station London Underground and London Overground station

Harlesden is a Network Rail station on Acton Lane in northwest London, served by London Overground and by London Underground Bakerloo line trains. The railway line here is the border between the Harlesden and Stonebridge residential area in the east, and the Park Royal industrial estate to the west. The southern end of Willesden Brent Sidings separates the station from the West Coast Main Line.

Stonebridge Park station London Underground and London Overground station

Stonebridge Park is a National Rail suburban rail and London Underground station in Tokyngton and Stonebridge, north-west London. The station is served by services operated by Arriva Rail London and London Underground Limited services. It is on both the London Overground Watford DC line and London Underground Bakerloo line. It is located on Argenta Way, and is named after the nearby junction connecting the North Circular Road (A406) with the Harrow Road (A404).

Wembley Central station London Underground and railway station

Wembley Central is an interchange station on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), London Overground and London Underground on the Watford DC line in Wembley, in north-west London, served by suburban services operated by London Underground Limited (LUL) and Arriva Rail London and regional services operated by London Northwestern Railway and GTR Southern services. It is on the modest-sized east-west High Road. The station serves Wembley Stadium and the nearby Wembley Arena.

North Wembley station London Underground station

North Wembley is a National Rail suburban rail station on Watford DC line in North Wembley, north-west London. The station is served by suburban services operated by Arriva Rail London under the London Overground brand and London Underground Limited services. It is between South Kenton to the north, and Wembley Central to the south and located on the south side of East Lane, part of the London Borough of Brent, serving residents of North Wembley and western parts of Wembley Park.

South Kenton station London Underground and railway station

South Kenton is a National Rail suburban rail station in Kenton, north-west London. The station is served by suburban services operated by Arriva Rail London and London Underground Limited (LUL) services. It is on both the London Overground Watford DC line and Bakerloo line between Kenton to the north, and North Wembley to the south. It is located between The Link in the Sudbury Court Estate of North Wembley, and Windermere Grove in Kenton, in the Wembley postal area.

Kenton station London Underground and railway station

Kenton is a National Rail suburban rail station on the Watford DC line and the London Underground Bakerloo line, situated on Kenton Road in Kenton, north-west London. The station is served by London Overground and London Underground Limited services. It has an out of station interchange (OSI) with Northwick Park station on the London Underground's Metropolitan line.

Harrow & Wealdstone station London Underground and railway station

Harrow & Wealdstone is a railway station on the Watford DC and West Coast Main Line in Harrow and Wealdstone in the London Borough of Harrow. It is served by London Underground Bakerloo line, London Overground, London Northwestern Railway, Southern services. The station is located between The Bridge, and Sandridge Close, Harrow with entrances leading to both.

LNWR electric units

The LNWR electric units were ordered by the London and North Western Railway for its suburban services in London. The first cars, made with Siemens equipment, arrived in 1914, and these were followed by two larger batches of units with Oerlikon equipment. The trains were formed into 3-car units, with first and third class accommodation in open saloons. Following the 1923 grouping and absorption of the line into the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), similar LMS electric units, but with accommodation in compartments, were purchased to run with the Oerlikon units in 1926 and 1932. The trains were all withdrawn by 1960.

Kilburn High Road railway station

Kilburn High Road railway station is a London Overground station on the London Euston to Watford DC Line near the south end of the Kilburn High Road, London NW6 in the London Borough of Camden.

Hatch End railway station railway station in London, England

Hatch End is a railway station in the London Borough of Harrow, in north London, and in Travelcard Zone 6. London Underground's Bakerloo line trains served the station from 16 April 1917 until 24 September 1982. London Overground services on the Watford DC Line from London Euston currently serve this station.

Bushey railway station station serving the towns of Bushey and Oxhey

Bushey is a railway station in Hertfordshire which serves the towns of Bushey and Oxhey. It is situated on the West Coast main line, 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Harrow & Wealdstone, on an embankment. North of the station, the railway crosses the Colne valley on several viaducts.

Watford High Street railway station Railway station and planned London Underground station

Watford High Street is a railway station in Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. It is served by the Watford DC Line on the London Overground network. It is the only station on the line's sole deviation from the West Coast Main Line.

British Rail Class 501 class of 57 British 3-car electric multiple units

The British Rail Class 501 electric multiple units were built in 1955/56 for use on the former LNWR/LMS suburban electric network of the London Midland Region. A total of 57 three-car units were built.


  1. Hanif Kapadia (10 May 2015). "Trains at Headstone Lane, Harrow, London" . Retrieved 24 March 2018 via YouTube.
  2. BS EN 50163
  3. "Harrow & Wealdstone - Stanmore Village BR". www.abandonedstations.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  4. "Croxley Rail Link". tfl.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  5. UK, DVV Media. "Metropolitan Line Extension funding agreed". railwaygazette.com. Retrieved 24 March 2018.