When I was a small child in the early 1960’s we used to go to visit my Godmother.   She lived in a ground floor flat in Hampstead, at the south end of the Heath beside where the 24 bus terminates.   If it was a nice day we would walk across to Parliament Hill Fields and then cross the railway line on a girder bridge to visit an elderly lady who I knew as Mrs Kelly in Mackeson Road.   It was an adventure that invariably resulted in a tug on Mum or Dad’s arm and a request to stop on the bridge and watch the trains – wasn’t it ever thus with young children?   It was then that I formed a bond with the North London Line.

The passenger services at the time were in the hands of class 501 electric units, of which this is one at Old Oak Junction further along the line in the late 1970’s…10441316995_5c8dcd4056_b

…We sometimes travelled on these to Kew Gardens on a summer Saturday – boarding the train at Finchley Road & Frognal.   They rattled and ground their way between Broad Street and Richmond, any pretence of a suspension system having long since disappeared!  Bars on the door windows discouraged passengers from leaning out as some of the tunnel clearances were tight – notably, Hampstead Tunnel.   There was an air of adventure about that journey too and the picnic at the end of it 🙂

Returning to Parliament Hill Fields and that bridge across the tracks to Mackeson Road.   The bridge back then was child-friendly; a three foot high person could see clearly through the diamonds of the lattice and smell the passing diesel or steam trains.   The bridge probably dated back to the 1880’s.   By the mid 1990’s it was getting a bit rickety and when the line was converted to 25Kv overhead electrification it was demolished.   The replacement was a concrete edifice with walls that even an 8ft tall basketball player would need to stretch to see over!   There are 4 tiny holes that were probably there for construction purposes – too small to photograph through with an SLR camera!   I had to use the Fuji X-E1 to get this shot of a 66501 on an intermodal service from the modern bridge.13411515714_f0b289a28e_c

Back then along with the local electric units I would have seen the early diesels and maybe some steam engines too.   I don’t have any photos but with the wonders of modern computers and Railworks Train Simulator I can have a go at recreating…Class 25 at Parliament Hill Fields

If you can suspend belief for a moment and ignore the overhead wires I can give you a couple of scenes from the 1960’s.   Above we have D5158, a Derby Sulzer Type 2 with a short pick-up freight possibly working from Harlesden to Temple Mills.      Looking the other way from the bridge and here is a J50, 68984, with a short coal train possibly going from Ferme Park to Acton.68984 at Parliament Hill Fields

The 25Kv electrification brought other changes too.   Hampstead Heath station had suffered bomb damage during WWII.   New platform awnings were constructed out of concrete in 1954.   30 years later, and the class 501 electrics were replaced by 2 car 2-EPB units – a backward step as they just couldn’t handle the amount of traffic.   It speaks volumes that the current  Class 378 units have just had to be expanded to 5 cars from 4!   Here is a view of Hampstead Heath station in 1987 with 2-EPB 6320 on an Eastbound service…11452437083_b79fc1b81a_b

…The awnings were removed in 1995.   Hampstead Heath station stands at one end of the tunnel under Hampstead and Frognal – you can see the cutting leading into the tunnel beyond the station in the photo above.   The cutting provides an interesting photo opportunity recreated in railworks below…Class 31 approaching Hampstead Heath…31107 brings a touch of the 1980’s whilst a current 5 car 378 disappearing into the tunnel brings us back to the future!