Watford and Rickmansworth Railway

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The Watford and Rickmansworth Railway Company (WRR) was a short-lived company that ran services between Watford and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, England. It was incorporated in 1860 and the line opened in 1862.

Lord Ebury's railway[edit]

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. 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. A further Parliamentary authorisation was obtained a year later to construct an extension from Rickmansworth to Uxbridge to connect with the Great Western Railway's Uxbridge branch, but this was never realised.[2]

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).[3] 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 paid the WRR 50% of the gross earnings of the line.[4]

The railway was never particularly financially successful and the Official Receiver was called in only four years after opening.[5] 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 Union Canal at Croxley Green. The company was eventually absorbed in 1881 by the burgeoning LNWR whose station it shared at Watford Junction.

Extension to Croxley Green[edit]

Anxious of the growing influence of the Metropolitan Railway in north-west London, the LNWR added a short branch line to Croxley Green. Works commenced in 1908 and the new route opened in 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 Union Canal. In March 1913 Croxley Green station was burned down, possibly by suffragettes.[6]

Electrification and pre-war years[edit]

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.[7]

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.[8]

Decline and closure[edit]

Railways of Watford and Rickmansworth
West Coast Main Line
Abbey Line
Watford Junction
West Coast Main Line
Watford High Street
High Street Junction
Colne Junction
Watford DC Line
Watford Stadium Halt
Watford Vicarage Road
former Watford and
Rickmansworth Railway
Watford West
Croxley Green
Watford
Cassiobridge
River Gade
Grand Junction Canal
planned overbridge
Croxley
Rickmansworth
(LNER / MET)
Metropolitan line
Rickmansworth
(Church Street)
 KEY 
Network Rail
LMS
Croxley Rail Link
MET & LNER

Rickmansworth branch[edit]

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.[9][10] Today the track has been removed and the platforms and station buildings have been demolished. A considerable length of the trackbed is now used by the Ebury Way Cycle Path.[11]

Croxley Green branch[edit]

Although identified in the Beeching Report for closure, consent was refused and a peak service was run for many years. In 1988, an attempt was made to revive the fortunes of the Croxley Green branch by running a twice hourly daytime service. This was abandoned in the early 1990s and services were reduced to one 6.00am return working from Watford Junction on weekdays to avoid the costly process of officially closing the line.[12][13] In March 1996 the line was 'closed', when a new road resulted in cutting through the route between Watford West and Croxley Green. The branch was formally closed in 2001[14] and services were replaced by a bus, and then by an occasional taxi.

The facilities at the two principal stations along the route, Croxley Green and Watford West (Watford Stadium Halt, built in 1982 for the use of football supporters visiting Watford FC, was only used when Watford were playing at home)[15] were significantly downgraded in the late 1980s and early 1990s despite the aforementioned attempt in 1988 to revitalise the line with the introduction of regular services. 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.[16][17] 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, remain in situ.

Future[edit]

Main article: Croxley Rail Link

In December 2011 the UK Department of Transport announced that the Croxley Rail Link scheme would proceed, at a cost of £115.9m, with completion expected in 2016.[18] The project will incorporate most of the Croxley Green branch into a diversion of the Watford branch of the London Underground (LU) Metropolitan line to Watford Junction station.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Welbourn, N. (1998). Lost Lines London. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allen Ltd. p. 110. ISBN 0-7110-2623-8. 
  2. ^ Davies, R.; Grant, M.D. (1984). Chilterns and Cotswolds (Forgotten Railways). Newton Abbot, Devon: David St John Thomas. p. 35. ISBN 0-946537-07-0. 
  3. ^ Davies, R. and Grant, M.D. (1984), p. 35.
  4. ^ Davies, R. and Grant, M.D. (1984), p. 36.
  5. ^ Welbourn, N. (1998), p. 110.
  6. ^ Welbourn, N. (1998), p. 111.
  7. ^ Davies, R. and Grant, M.D. (1984), p. 37-38.
  8. ^ Davies, R. and Grant, M.D. (1984), p. 38.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ Welbourn, N. (1998), p. 112.
  12. ^ North London Electrification
  13. ^ http://underground-history.co.uk/croxley.php
  14. ^ http://www.westwatfordhistorygroup.org/watfordtocroxleygreen.htm
  15. ^ Disused Stations - Watford Stadium
  16. ^ Disused Stations - Croxley Green
  17. ^ Disused Stations - Watford West
  18. ^ http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/local-authority-major-transport-schemes/scheme-decisions-december-2011.pdf

Coordinates: 51°38′25″N 00°26′20″W / 51.64028°N 0.43889°W / 51.64028; -0.43889