Watford and Rickmansworth Railway

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Watford & Rickmansworth Railway
Watford and Rickmansworth Railway.png
Map of the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway
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LNWR steam locomotives in the depot at Watford Junction, the northern terminus
Locale Three Rivers District & Watford
South-west Hertfordshire, UK
Dates of operation1862 (1862)1881 (1881)
Successor LNWR (1881-1922)
LMS (1923-1948)
British Rail (1948-1996)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 1917

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.

Watford Town & Borough in England

Watford is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, South East England, 15 miles (24 km) northwest of central London.

Rickmansworth town in South-West Hertfordshire, England

Rickmansworth is a small town in southwest Hertfordshire, England, approximately 17 miles (27 km) northwest of central London and inside the perimeter of the M25 motorway. The town is mainly to the north of the Grand Union Canal and the River Colne. The nearest large town is Watford, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) to the east. Rickmansworth is the administrative seat of the Three Rivers District Council. The confluence of the Chess and the Gade with the Colne in Rickmansworth inspired the district's name. The enlarged Colne flows south to form a major tributary of the River Thames. The town is served by the Metropolitan line of the London Underground and Chiltern Railways from London Marylebone to Aylesbury.

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.


Lord Ebury's railway

Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury Lord-ebury.jpg
Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury

The Watford and Rickmansworth Railway was a business venture of the Whig politician, Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury (1801–1893), at a time of great competition among railway companies vying to construct new, lucrative passenger routes. In July 1860, Lord Ebury obtained powers to construct a 4.5 mile single track line between Watford and Rickmansworth which opened in October 1862. It was nicknamed "Ebury Line" after the railway company's founder and first chairman. The Rickmansworth terminus was located opposite the church to the south of the town where interchange sidings were provided with the nearby Grand Union Canal. [1] The line had two other stations at Watford Junction and Watford High Street and its depot was situated on Wiggenhall Road in Watford.

The Whigs were a political faction and then a political party in the parliaments of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Between the 1680s and 1850s, they contested power with their rivals, the Tories. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute monarchy. The Whigs played a central role in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and were the standing enemies of the Stuart kings and pretenders, who were Roman Catholic. The Whigs took full control of the government in 1715 and remained totally dominant until King George III, coming to the throne in 1760, allowed Tories back in. The Whig Supremacy (1715–1760) was enabled by the Hanoverian succession of George I in 1714 and the failed Jacobite rising of 1715 by Tory rebels. The Whigs thoroughly purged the Tories from all major positions in government, the army, the Church of England, the legal profession and local offices. The Party's hold on power was so strong and durable, historians call the period from roughly 1714 to 1783 the age of the Whig Oligarchy. The first great leader of the Whigs was Robert Walpole, who maintained control of the government through the period 1721–1742 and whose protégé Henry Pelham led from 1743 to 1754.

Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury British courtier and Whig politician

Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury PC, styled Lord Robert Grosvenor from 1831 to 1857, was a British courtier and Whig politician. He served as Comptroller of the Household between 1830 and 1834 and as Treasurer of the Household between 1846 and 1847. In 1857 he was ennobled as Baron Ebury.

Grand Union Canal part of the British canal system

The Grand Union Canal in England is part of the British canal system. Its main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 137 miles (220 km) with 166 locks. It has arms to places including Leicester, Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover and Northampton.

Lord Ebury's vision was to construct a railway running 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) southbound from Watford to Uxbridge Vine Street on the Great Western Railway's Uxbridge branch, eventually providing a new route from Watford to London Paddington via Uxbridge and West Drayton. The GWR offered to put up £20,000 towards the project and in 1863, Parliamentary authorisation was obtained to construct an extension from Rickmansworth to Uxbridge. The GWR later withdrew its offer of funding and the scheme foundered. Lord Ebury's ambition to link Watford and Uxbridge was never realised, and the W&RR was to remain a short branch line for its entire operation. [2] [3]

Uxbridge Vine Street railway station

Uxbridge Vine Street station opened on 8 September 1856 as Uxbridge Station and was the earliest of three railway stations in Uxbridge, London, in the UK. It was the northern terminus of the Great Western Railway Uxbridge branch from the main line at West Drayton. South from Uxbridge town centre the line ran near Whitehall Road and Cleveland Road.

Great Western Railway former railway company in the United Kingdom

The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west of England, the West Midlands, and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament on 31 August 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838. It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who chose a broad gauge of 7 ft —later slightly widened to 7 ft 14 in —but, from 1854, a series of amalgamations saw it also operate 4 ft 8 12 in standard-gauge trains; the last broad-gauge services were operated in 1892. The GWR was the only company to keep its identity through the Railways Act 1921, which amalgamated it with the remaining independent railways within its territory, and it was finally merged at the end of 1947 when it was nationalised and became the Western Region of British Railways.

West Drayton railway station

West Drayton railway station serves West Drayton and Yiewsley, western suburbs of London. It is served by local trains operated by Great Western Railway. It is 13 miles 71 chains (22.3 km) down the line from London Paddington and is situated between Hayes & Harlington to the east and Iver to the west.

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 Union 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). [2] The initial daily service consisted of five trains each way from Rickmansworth to Watford. The line was worked from the outset by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), who shared Watford Junction station with the W&RR. For the first 19 years, the LNWR operated services and paid the W&RR 50% of the gross earnings of the line. [4]

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.

Attempts were made to remedy the W&RR's financial problems by opening several freight branches; a branch was driven along the edge of Croxley Common to serve Dickinson's paper mills and the Grand Union Canal at Croxley Green, and another short branch near Watford High Street served the warehouses of Benskins Brewery. [5] The line ran close to the watercress beds of the River Gade and a steady trade developed in transporting hampers of watercress to Watford Market, resulting in the W&RR trains being nicknamed "Watercress Trains". [6]

John Dickinson Stationery defuct British paper company

John Dickinson Stationery Limited was a leading English stationery company founded in southwest Hertfordshire. Later merged to form the Dickinson Robinson Group. In the 19th century, the company pioneered a number of innovations in paper-making.

Croxley Green village in Hertfordshire, England

Croxley Green is a village and large suburb of Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, and a civil parish in England. Located on the A412 between Watford to the northeast and Rickmansworth to the southwest, it is approximately 20 miles (32 km) northwest of central London.

Benskins Brewery

Benskins was the pre-eminent brewery in Watford, and Hertfordshire's biggest brewer until its acquisition by Ind Coope in 1957.

The Official Receiver was called in four years after opening. [1] Despite all attempts to make Lord Ebury's railway into a commercial success, the company faced bankruptcy and in 1881 it was absorbed by its operations partner, the burgeoning LNWR. [5]

Extension to Croxley Green

Croxley Green terminus, photographed in 1984 Croxley Green station geograph-3338698-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
Croxley Green terminus, photographed in 1984
River Colne railway viaduct (the "Bushey Arches") Watford, River Colne railway viaduct - geograph.org.uk - 95981.jpg
River Colne railway viaduct (the "Bushey Arches")

In the early 20th century, suburban railway competition was on the increase and the growing Metropolitan Railway was steadily expanding in north-west London. Although the Metropolitan did not reach the town of Watford until 1925, the LNWR was keen to act against emerging competition and in 1908 began work on a new branch line to Croxley Green. The extension involved the construction of a substantial bridge over the Grand Junction Canal. Passenger services on the new route commenced on 15 June 1912, with freight services starting on 1 October. [6]

The following year, the LNWR built a new stretch of track from Watford High Street over the River Colne to Bushey & Oxhey railway station, with another connecting line turning south towards Rickmansworth. This new, triangular junction not only created a connection between the former W&RR lines and the LNWR's "New Line", but also enabled passenger services to run directly from Croxley Green to London Euston for the first time. The semi-rural location of the Croxley Green terminus gave added credence to the LNWR's slogan "Live in the Country". [6]

In March 1913, Croxley Green station was burned down; it was suspected that the fire had been started deliberately by suffragettes. [7]

Electrification and pre-war years

Electric services were introduced over the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway on 16 April 1917 worked by tube trains of the London Electric Railway (LER) running through from Queen's Park to Watford on weekdays only until a daily service was introduced in July 1919; this was done to cope with the voltage drop caused by the branch being supplied only from the Watford end. These services were supplemented by LNWR trains from Broad Street during peak periods and steam trains from Euston. The Croxley Green branch was electrified on 30 October 1922, with Rickmansworth following in September 1927 as part of the LNWR's New Line Project. [8]

With the vesting of the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway in the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR) in 1923, the nine joint LNWR/LER electric tube cars became known as "watercress trains" due to the volume of watercress gathered in the Chess Valley that the trains often carried in their luggage compartments. The stock was finally withdrawn in 1939 with the introduction of emergency war timetables and replaced with main line size electric stock. [9]

Rolling stock

ImageStock typeDate
Aylesbury High Street Station geograph-2211784.jpg LNWR 0-6-2 freight tank locomotive [10] 1862
Oerlikon electric train at Harrow and Wealdstone.jpg LNWR Oerlikon electric units [11] [5] 1922-1930
Steam versus electricity (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928).jpg LNWR/LER Joint Tube Stock [12] 1930/31
Class-501-train-B2-headcode.jpg British Rail Class 501 [13] ?-1986
Buxton railway station (Derbyshire) in 1978.jpg British Rail Class 104 [13] 1987
313 Original NSE livery.jpg British Rail Class 313 [13] 1986-1996

Decline and closure

Watford West station, 1985: The Croxley Branch was kept in operation by British Rail until 1996 Watford West station 1985 - geograph.org.uk - 3302830.jpg
Watford West station, 1985: The Croxley Branch was kept in operation by British Rail until 1996
Ebury Way Cycle Path Ebury Way.jpg
Ebury Way Cycle Path
Railways around Watford and Rickmansworth
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Watford Junction
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Watford High Street
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Watford West
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Croxley Mills
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(Church Street)
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Croxley Rail Link

Rickmansworth branch

Notwithstanding the introduction of electric services, the Rickmansworth branch suffered in the face of the more direct services to London provided by the Metropolitan. Traffic was also eroded by the increased bus competition and private car ownership. Passenger services ceased in 1952 and most of the branch closed entirely in 1960 although track remained in place for a number of years afterwards. Rickmansworth (Church Street) railway station and the tracks leading to it continued to be used for goods services until 1967 when it was completely closed and the line cut back to one of the intermediate freight sidings. It served a papermill near Croxley Green between circa 1940 and circa 1984, as OS maps of the time show. [14] [15] Today the track has been removed and the platforms and station buildings have been demolished. A considerable length of the trackbed is now used as the Ebury Way Cycle Path. [16]

Croxley Green branch

Although identified in the Beeching Report for closure, consent was refused and a peak service was run for many years along the Croxley Green branch. In the 1980s, attempts were made to revive the fortunes of the Croxley Green branch: a special football station, Watford Stadium Halt, was built in 1982 for the use of football supporters visiting Watford FC, although it was only used when Watford were playing at home. [17] In 1988, a twice-hourly daytime service was introduced to further revitalise the line, but this was abandoned in the early 1990s and services were reduced to one 6.00am return working from Watford Junction on weekdays — a parliamentary train, run specially to avoid the costly process of officially closing the line. [18] [19] The facilities at the two principal stations along the route, Croxley Green and Watford West were significantly downgraded in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, the original covered platform at Croxley Green was removed in 1989 and replaced with a temporary scaffolding platform with no protection from the elements, and at both stations the covered staircases were demolished and replaced with open stairways. [13] [20]

In March 1996, services to Croxley Green ceased when the construction of the new dual-carriageway Ascot Road severed the route between Watford West and Croxley Green. As the line was mothballed rather than formally closed the stations, along with the track, street-level signage and the remaining station facilities, were abandoned rather than demolished, and, apart from the scaffolding platform at Croxley Green, remained in situ for many years. The branch was not formally closed until 2003. [21]

Metropolitan line extension

A proposed scheme known as the Croxley Rail Link was announced in 2010 by the Department for Transport which planned to extend the London Underground Metropolitan line to Watford Junction by re-opening a section of the Croxley branch of the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway, with two new Tube stations, Cassiobridge and Watford Vicarage Road. The scheme was cancelled in 2018 due to funding problems. [22] [23]

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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.

Croxley tube station London Underground station

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Watford Stadium Halt railway station

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Croxley Green railway station disused railway station

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  2. 1 2 Davies & Grant 1984, p. 35.
  3. Cooper, John (2014). "The Watford & Rickmansworth Railway". Rickmansworth Through Time. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN   9781445640839. Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
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  6. 1 2 3 Oppitz 2005, pp. 42.
  7. Welbourn 1998, p. 111.
  8. Davies & Grant 1984, pp. 37–38.
  9. Davies & Grant 1984, p. 38.
  10. Oppitz 2005, pp. 41.
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  12. Oppitz 2005, pp. 44.
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  15. "Ordnance Survey of Great Britain New Popular Edition, Sheet 160 - London N.W." Vision of Britain. Ordnance Survey. 1945. Archived from the original on 15 January 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  16. Welbourn 1998, p. 112.
  17. "Watford Stadium". Disused Stations. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  18. "North London Electrification". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
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Coordinates: 51°38′25″N00°26′20″W / 51.64028°N 0.43889°W / 51.64028; -0.43889