I’ll start this post with a reminder of what this project is about.- I’m trying to visit all the farthest points that I can reach using my pensioner’s Freedom Pass. Here’s the map…

…Additionally, I’m including all the termini for trains. The aim is to be getting out and about to improve my general fitness πŸ‘ You’d be surprised how much leg-work is involved at stationsπŸ˜…

This trip was about clearing off a lone farthest point – on a chilly and cloudy day in north London, I decided to go on a trip out to Elstree & Borehamwood. It may look close to Edgware, but in real time, it isn’t! I can get a bus here from High Barnet, and I can also go to Colindale and Watford but it’s definitely not the same as taking the bus from Mill Hill East to Edgware as I did in a previous Freedom Pass outing. So this was definitely one to do on its own.

The first time I visited this station, the line was not electrified and the old Midland Railway awnings were still in place…

47xxx_Elstree_JUL79

…That was back in 1979. Sadly the awnings were victims of the electrification to Bedford. The current station is a much more modern structure. It lacks the elegance but is possibly more passenger friendly…

Elstree & Borehamwood Station

…shot taken from the road bridge over the line.

I was talking about the possibility of using buses to go between here and Barnet. Here’s a Metroline 107 service that skirts along the very edge of the TfL zone to get here…

Metroline VW1175 (LK11 CXJ) at Elstree & Borehamwood Station

…I’ve ridden the Barnet to Elstree section with Alasdair a few years back but I haven’t done the ongoing trip to Edgware. As for a run across to Watford, that is a non-TfL route. Sullivan Buses operate the 306 route and, in the past, their vehicles were painted in approved TfL red. With the 306 firmly in Hertfordshire, Sullivan’s have now chosen a pseudo London Country Buses green for the vehicles operating that route!..

Sullivan Buses AE1 (MS10 SUL) at Elstree & Borehamwood Station

…Looks Good πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘

One thing I missed were the Uno pink and purple buses – Uno seem to have pulled back from serving the railway station and now only run as far as the bus station.

Back on the station and I got some shots of East Midland Railway services along with the ubiquitous class 700’s on Thameslink services. Here’s a selection of shots 😎 Firstly here’s a Class 222 (222020) on a northbound service to Nottingham with the tunnel under Scratchwood behind…

222020 at Elstree & Borehamwood

…Scratchwood sits on part of the same ridge that we saw in my Hadley Wood post.

I don’t photo the 222’s very often so here’s 222014 on a southbound service…

222014 at Elstree & Borehamwood

…a fast run from Sheffield to London St Pancras – it only calls at Chesterfield, Derby and Leicester on its trip south, which makes it one of the fastest trips of the day though it doesn’t qualify for the epithet ‘Master Cutler’ – that belongs to the earlier 07:25 service from Sheffield.

St Pancras to Corby services are handled by Class 360 units. These are recent transfers from the Clacton and Walton services of Greater Anglia, released following the arrival of the Class 720 units. I think they looked good in their original dark blue but the EMR purple seems to suit them too and I like the detailing around the cab windows. Here’s 360107 leading 360109 northbound…

360107 at Elstree & Borehamwood

I guess we should also include a Thameslink service for completeness – 700046 passes through on the relief lines with a St Albans to Sutton service…

700046 at Elstree & Borehamwood

…Normally scheduled to stop here, it’s running late due to issues with a failed train in the Farringdon area and will run non-stop to St Pancras. The next, also late running, service was only a few minutes behind so passengers didn’t have to wait too long as Thameslink re-jigged their services 😎

Hope you enjoyed this latest trip out on the rails πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘

I’ve had a bit of a break from pursuing my transport goals but, on Monday I was able to get out for one of the more local options. It was a short trip up to Hadley Wood from New Southgate , so I took a bus across to the station and then caught the first northbound Welwyn Garden City service to Hadley Wood.

Hadley Wood is on the borders of the London boroughs of Barnet and Enfield. Much of Hadley Wood’s history belongs to Barnet though – it was on Hadley Common that the Battle of Barnet was fought during the Wars of the Roses. It was a decisive battle that saw the death of the Kingmaker, Richard Neville – the Earl of Warwick, and a victory for the Yorkists and Edward IV.

If you walk east down the hill from Hadley Highstone – the obelisk commemorating the battle – and through what is now known as Hadley Woods, you will come eventually to a railway line – the Great Northern mainline from King’s Cross. I was brought here for picnics quite often as a child and watched the trains passing with my Father from behind the low fence that existed back then. It was there that I watched steam hauled express trains and saw my first ever diesel – an English Electric type 1. The seeds of a life-long interest were sown here. But, we’re not in Hadley Woods on this trip although my train passed through them as I headed north and I saw the glade where we used to picnic through the train window. Instead we passed through a tunnel before entering the station named Hadley Wood a little further north.

Hadley wood is quite a unique station – there aren’t very many stations outside of an urban landscape that have tunnels at each end. The Great Northern Railway built the line in the 1850’s. The tunnels were a necessity to overcome the ridges of rocks and clay laid down by the glaciers of the last ice age (I live on one of these a little further south!) while keeping the track as flat as possible. In fact there are three tunnels in close proximity, Hadley Wood South, Hadley Wood North and Potters Bar. So lets take a short walk north from Hadley Wood Station and look at the lie of the land beyond Hadley Wood North Tunnel…

700108 seen from Waggon Road, Hadley Wood

…In this shot, I’m standing on top of the ridge through which Hadley Wood North Tunnel is bored and just on the left hand edge of the image you can see the portal of Potters Bar Tunnel. Around here there is a mix of suburban dwellings, brought about by the railway, and farmland. We’re right on the border of the London Boroughs of Barnet and Enfield too – the road I’m on even changes name from Wagon Road to Waggon Road at the borough boundary! In the shot above, the train is in Enfield but once it passes through that tunnel it will be in Hertfordshire. And when I was born, Barnet was in Hertfordshire.

Hadley Wood Station wasn’t a passenger station at all to start with – it was a goods station called Beech Hill Park and opened in 1884. However, the passenger station opened the following year on 1st May 1885. For much of its life there were just the two platforms and the old buildings of the GNR and subsequently the LNER. In 1959 the station was completely rebuilt by British Railways, of which more in a minute, but the current ticket office post dates even that rebuild and was probably constructed in 1976 when the railway was electrified…

Hadley Wood Station_01

…There is some local pride displayed on the bridge abutment and within the station itself in the form of plaques telling the history of the trains that worked the line and also about local engineering hero Sir Nigel Gresley…

Sir Nigel Gresley plaque, Hadley Wood Station

Popping down onto the station, we find 4 platforms but, except for emergencies, the centre platforms are out of use…

Hadley Wood Station_02

Looking north from the London bound platforms, we can see the portals of Hadley Wood North Tunnels…

700137 at Hadley Wood

…Something will strike you as odd – the tunnels don’t look alike. When the line opened in the 1850’s, the 4 track route north became just 2 tracks south of Hadley Wood and through the tunnels to Potters Bar, saving the costs of making second bores through the hills in the area. The Great Northern Railway and its successor, the London & North Eastern Railway, were always strapped for cash and this two-track bottleneck was lived with throughout their existence. Despite this handicap they ran some of the most prestigious high speed railway services in the UK along this route including The Flying Scotsman – I suspect that the corporate pride instilled in every employee back then was crucial to achieving the high standards of service that the LNER was known for. In 1959 the nationalised British Railways rebuilt the line through Hadley Wood – making a second bore for all three tunnels and rebuilding the station with 4 platforms to relieve the bottleneck. In the photo above, the right hand tunnel is the original, the left hand one is the 1959 addition. By the way, there is another bottleneck further north at Digswell Viaduct near Welwyn, but even BR blanched at the thought of making that 4 track! The Class 700 unit in the photograph is bound for Brighton from Cambridge – I doubt the GNR entrepreneurs actually envisaged such a service when they first started the company!

Looking south and here’s a view with Hadley Wood’s north bound platforms and the BR built South Tunnel in view…

801112 at Hadley Wood

An Azuma unit, 801112, leads sister 801103 through the station on a London King’s Cross to Leeds service.

So, there you go, a little bit of history not too far from where I live. A day out with the trains enjoyed and some good walking in the countryside too 😎 Another Freedom Pass trip planned soon – see you then πŸ‘

Time to catch up with last Friday’s trip. Like Thursday last week, I was looking to get some last shots of the Southern’s Class 455 units and visiting a couple of locations for my Freedom Pass Project.

I targeted Sutton as my initial destination. It’s actually one of the simplest of termini to get to for me. I take the Northern Line down to Kentish Town and get a Thameslink train to Sutton from there. The service is operated by 8-coach Class 700 units which route to their destination either via Wimbledon or Mitcham Junction. They’re actually working around a loop in south London with Sutton as a nominal terminating point. Some start from Luton or St Albans and others from Blackfriars (more on this later). When they arrive in Sutton the service terminates on the through platform where it arrives. It then immediately becomes the next departure going outbound in the same direction of travel to the other end of its route. So, if it came down via Mitcham Junction, it will return via Wimbledon and vice versa. Here’s a Map showing the Sutton loop…

Sutton Loop

Sutton is quite an interesting station with, in addition to the Thameslink services, Southern trains going through to Epsom and to Epsom Downs from Victoria. There’s a continuous stream of trains and passengers throughout the day, justifying quite a large station building…

Sutton Station

Back on the platforms, while waiting for the next train to Epsom Downs, I was treated to a light engine movement – 73961 ‘Alison’ came off the line from West Croydon heading towards Epsom…

73961 at Sutton

…It’s a handy shot to illustrate the state of the platform canopies – there is currently a major rebuild of the station going on.

The Epsom Downs services are why I went to Sutton – they were one of the routes operated by the Southern Class 455’s and I wanted Epsom Downs as a terminus. Here’s 455804 arriving at Sutton from Victoria on its way to Epsom Downs…

455804 at Sutton

… and here’s 455818 at the Epsom Downs terminus…

455818 at Epsom Downs

…There’s very little to show at Epsom Downs, just this narrow platform πŸ™„

Back to Sutton and a shot of ‘818 in the ‘Downs branch platforms…

455818 at Sutton

Sutton has one interesting photographic opportunity – trains arriving from Mitcham Junction approach up quite a steep incline…

377609 at Sutton

…The lines on the right go to Wallington and West Croydon. Class 377 units like the ones in this photo will be taking over the 455’s duties – something made possible by the reduction in passenger numbers following the COVID pandemic. No new stock – just a redistribution of the existing units and keeping to a slightly reduced service.

Speaking of timetables, Thameslink have probably changed theirs more often than any other operator during the pandemic. When I was setting up my Freedom Pass Project I thought I had captured all the existing Thameslink termini within my area. But I was in for a surprise – My train home from Sutton was terminating at Kentish Town! Some services used to terminate here, then they didn’t, now it seems they do again – duly added to my spreadsheet and ticked off on the same day πŸ˜‚πŸ‘ Here’s 700035 terminated at Kentish Town…

700035 at Kentish Town

That was my last farewell to the 455’s trip – I didn’t go hunting for them on Saturday because there would be too many others pursuing that same objective. Instead, I went to photograph the Duchess at Alexandra Palace. I will post a final Southern 455 farewell sometime soon to share some shots that didn’t make these Freedom Pass posts.

Meanwhile, back on South Western Railway, the other 455’s remain in service…πŸ˜‰