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GES237 - Abandoned Croxley Link & Stations

On the occasion of the mighty Nottingham Forest FC paying a visit to Watford, I found myself walking back to my vehicle on a warm sunny afternoon. Slightly dejected as we had drawn the match, but were still top of the Championship table. I thought I'd see if there were any explore opportunities about, and my Googlemap showed there was a disused rail line with some stations. The line was only 100m from where I was parked. And so it was that I set off in the warm afternoon sun on a pleasant stroll up an old rail line.

The rail line is known as 'The Croxley Link' and was opened in 1912 by the London & North Western Railway. The original stations were Watford West, and Croxley Green. The Watford Stadium station was added in 1982, by Watford FC under Elton John's chairmanship. It was only opened for special services before and after Matches. The service was electrified in 1922, hence the third rail seen in some photos below. The service changed hands a few times over the years, but was never very popular. It was finally closed in March 1996. The line was then abandoned and officially so in 2001. The Ascot Road dual carriageway cut through the link, creating a permanent break in the rail line. The line is currently in the early stages of renovation, as the line is being reopened. None of the original stations are being used, and a new 'ghost' station will be created at Watford Station (Met Line).

In the map below, the 3 green dots denote the abandoned stations, from left to right, Croxley Green, Watford West and Watford Stadium. The green line near Croxley Green is the future link to the Metropolitan line. The existing Metropolitan line will end from the new junction up to Watford Station (in green box). This will be for servicing and storing trains. Two new stations will be built, Ascot Road near the old Croxley Green station, and Watford Hospital, near the erm, Hospital, as well as Watford FC;s stadium.

After crossing Riverside Park, I followed a well worn path through vegetation and came to the following sign. A sign put up by the Croxley Rail Link board, implying it's railway property.

The sleeper area between the tracks had been cleared recently, with light vegetation slowly re-engulfing the rails. This was looking from the access point above East towards the live line 500m or so down the tracks.

I'm not a big fan of walking on sleepers down rail tracks, being tall, my stride is longer than the gap between sleepers. I either end up doing a bizarre short strides or long Monty Python style Ministry of Silly Walks to hit every other sleeper. The reality is I end up tripping over the odd sleeper now and again. The sun was gorgeous and warm, and the area quiet, so sleepers aside, it was a pleasant walk. Here are the beginnings of the Watford Stadium platform. To the immediate left of the camera is the access path to the platform from the street.

In various states of disrepair, two shelters at the access path from the street. A solid looking palisade gate is just left of camera here. The platform on the right of camera.

A carefully balanced Samsung phone and a 10" dash at the top end (Western) end of the Watford Stadium Station platform.

Watford Stadium Platform from the other side of Vicarage Road bridge.

The outside of Watford West station, the next station heading west. The sign and notice have been there for 17 years with no serviced station. The area between the pavement and perimeter walls are where there used to be a station building.

The platform at Watford West Station looking East. The drivers mirror now engulfed by foilage, just in from where the platform flattens out from the slope.

The steps up to the street and the previously seen Watford West signs. A pleasant canopy used to be here, but was pulled down when the station closed. It can be seen here.

Continuing west and passing under Tolpits Lane bridge, a red barrier sat over the tracks to stop trains continuing to Croxley Green. An old signal box on the right.

Further West still and the tracks have been removed here as it crosses the old Ascot Road. Another old signal box on the left. This is where the new station for 'Ascot Road' will be.

The truncated stump of where the new dual carriageway cut through the old embankment carrying the tracks.

Climbing up the embankment on the other side of the dual carriageway and continuing another 50m or so, I came to the old bridge crossing the Grand Union Canal. Unlike the rest of the route so far, getting on the bridge proved a little tricky. It was guarded with palisade fencing which I couldn't bypass. I walked back a bit and found a piece of knackered old rope, just long enough to make a sling. I was then able to easily pass over the palisade without shredding skin or clothes.

A beautiful English country scene, canal boats moored up by the bridge.

A shot taken later of the bridge crossing the Grand Union Canal, a canal that goes from London to Birmingham, 137 miles long.

Once over the second set of palisade fencing guarding the western end of the bridge, the tracks continued on into deciduous woodland. The light patches in the distance mark where the platforms for Croxley Green Station once were.

The track rails ended a few metres to the camera's left. The rails ran where I was stood to take this photo. Seemed odd that the tracks would be at the top of the passenger steps to the station.

Like Watford West, the signs for Croxley Green have been stood here for 19 years with no service. The steps in the above shot start/end just behind the two black gates.

I now had the joy of walking all the way back, although I skipped the canal bridge and palisade fun and games.

Work on the line officially begins in 2014, with completion set for 2016. More information on the official site here.

This is the how the link will join up with the existing Metropolitan line. The raised track joins the old line by the bridge over the old Ascot Road and at a new station to be built. No mention of what will happen to the attractive old bridge over the canal.