A Grand Day Out

Unlike Wallace and Grommit I didn’t take a trip to the moon but somewhere much closer to home on a glorious spring day. I had taken the day off from work as I had to use up some remaining leave before the new financial year on 1st of April. The sun was streaming through my office window from very early on and I decided that a day out photographing freight trains was in order – all I had to decide was where. I know, I could have gone shopping or visiting museums or many other things but I find that watching/photographing trains is very relaxing in that it engages the mind without applying any requirements that are stressful. I had an idea based on a recent visit to Cricklewood – I’d aim to get a photograph of the bin-liner train at Dudding Hill Junction! Getting there is simple from Finchley – a 460 Bus takes you to Cricklewood and it’s a 15 minute walk from there through an area where the roads are named after trees. And that’s quite fitting as I’m heading to Gladstone Park πŸ™‚

I arrived there a little after 10:00 with the intention of staying until around 11:30 before trying my luck elsewhere. The preferred vantage point for rail enthusiasts is a bridge across the the line at Dudding Hill Junction on the eastern side of Gladstone Park. The line itself is referred to as the Dudding Hill loop line. This is a corruption of the local area name Dudden Hill, which in turn is taken from a Saxon settler named Dodda. Wikipedia tells me that the name Dodynghill was recorded in 1544 – so it’s not just a railwayman’s mis-naming!

Normally standing on the bridge is quite a lonely vigil although the occasional local walking their dog or pushing a buggy will pass the time of day with you. On this occasion though a guy with a backpack arrived shortly after me and it soon became apparent that he too was a railway enthusiast. We got to chatting whilst waiting for traffic. He’s much more organised than me – using a smart phone to keep up with movements of freight via the Realtime Trains website. I usually take a quick look at home before venturing out but after that I just go with the flow – there’s something nice about not being certain what you are going to see.

Anyway, the upshot was that we planned around what was running according to Realtime Trains and decided to spend the day in the calm of Gladstone park (apart from a quick walk over to Cricklewood and back to catch a loco that he needed to photograph). In the gaps between the trains we spent the time enjoying the birds singing and watching them preparing for this year’s breeding season. And we caught the rays as the temperature crept up to 20 degrees Celcius – warm for March. I finally had to leave at 15:30 after one long relaxing day out. It’s funny how the simplest of things can bring so much pleasure! πŸ™‚

Some freight photos from the day…

If you have any questions about what freight the trains were shifting, just ask πŸ™‚


  1. What a wonderful vantage point for the photos, Martin. It must have been enjoyable to meet someone as devoted to documenting freight trains as you have been. And the key, I hear, is patience. That’s my problem! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Debra – I don’t often meet others pursuing trains except at busy stations like Clapham Junction. We all have different goals and methods. Whilst others use their smart phones and follow various groups and official sites on the web to check what is running I still enjoy the mystery of not knowing what will turn up. I guess they might think me a dinosaur but it’s not a technical issue just a preference! Anyway, this was definitely an example of a BreatheLighter day πŸ™‚

  2. That signal box has a lifetime memory for me. I am 78 now living in Northamptonshire, but when I was 13-14 I lived at Dudden Hill Lane and I walked to my grandmothers at Cricklewood using that bridge. I paused for a time to watch trains and while waiting on the side which faced Gladstone Park I was eyeballing and aiming small stones to see if I could hit the centre of a rail. Suddenly a hand gripped my shoulder who was the signalman who watching me from behind, he marched me down the embankment across the tracks and sat me down in a chair which was in the left hand corner of the box as you look at it from your picture. He then lectured me and took down all my details and said I would have to go to court. My father was strict and I was scared stiff of what would happen. I watched the post for weeks after expecting a letter from the court. It never happened but I believed what he said, years later I realised he was putting the wind up me. One of those things in life you do not forget. A couple of years ago I took my wife there and explained it all.
    ps. Our house backed onto this line. during the war there were trains every few minutes carrying all sorts of weapons – solders – Americans etc.

    1. A fascinating story from the past Ernest. I’ve not had a similar experience other than whilst taking Photos at Apsley. My friend and I were approached by a jobsworth member of station staff (who probably hadn’t been in the job for long). “You can’t take photos here – It’s against the Official Secrets Act!” At this point we both burst out laughing which left him looking very confused. “That’s ok mate – we’ve signed it” was our response – we both worked for the Post Office and it was a requirement of our employment. The youth wandered off back to the ticket office. I always wondered if the Station Master put him up to it to see how he’d handle the situation.

      The line is gaining importance again as a link to the East Midlands from the Western and Southern Regions – Stone trains form the bulk of the traffic. They’re now looking at resignalling it so I guess the box may go (although it might be retained).

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