Harrow Borough away… I usually travel to their ground by bus but, with my newly restored rail enthusiasm, I decided this time to take the train. The nearest station to their Earlsmead stadium is Northolt Park – Just under 10 miles and 14 minutes from Marylebone station. So, an 82 bus from Finchley to Baker Street plus a 5 minute walk and I could catch the train 🙂
Anyway, I got to thinking on the bus ride… I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember ever travelling from Marylebone station in my previous incarnation as a train spotter. In fact I’m pretty certain that I didn’t and that’s despite travelling the length and breadth of the rail network! In fact, apart from the line to Wick and Thurso in the far north of Scotland and a few obscure branchlines I travelled much of the British Rail network. So, it’s rather embarassing to realise that I never once travelled on the old Great Central Railway route out of London 😦
Why that should have been didn’t take too much working out. In 1966, as a result of the Beeching Report, the once great mainline was closed north of Aylesbury. Services became the sole province of Diesel Multiple Units – not a locomotive in sight. For enthusiasts of my generation, haulage by locomotives was something we collected so the line out of Marylebone was only to be visited for the purpose of collecting the DMU’s numbers but not for travelling on them. I can even recall a rush hour spent on the balcony of some flats beside the line in the Lisson Grove area in an attempt to log some units that had avoided being seen! Marylebone was effectively a backwater.
It wasn’t the only one – Fenchurch Street in the City was also a loco free zone and shunned by spotters. To collect the Fenchurch Street electric Multiple Units you went to Barking by Underground and watched them there with the added advantage of seeing freight trains going to Tilbury Docks and Dagenham 🙂 I have actually travelled from Fenchurch Street since my original time as a spotter. A run out to Vange Marshes to do some spotting – of Birds!
Times have moved on – just about every passenger train on the railways now is a Multiple Unit of some persuasion. The exceptions are the HST’s which, ironically, many of us originally looked down on and gave the derogatory nickname of Trams; the Class 91’s on the East Coast expresses and the Class 90’s used on Norwich services from Liverpool Street. So, suddenly it’s ok to collect haulage on a DMU because you really don’t have a lot of choice in the matter!
But what of Marylebone? The company running the lines to Aylesbury and High Wycombe – Chiltern Railways – have put a lot of effort into building custom with clean and reliable services. And the route network has gradually been expanded to Oxford, Banbury, leamington Spa and Birmingham. And, suddenly, Marylebone has Locomotive hauled trains on their Birmingham expresses! I can see that I shall have to take a trip to Birmingham sometime from Marylebone! But, that’s for the future… for the journey to Northolt Park it’s a humble class 165 DMU. Oh, and the timekeeping was execellent 😉