As part of the ambitious New Works programme of the '30s, there were extensive plans to expand the northern most extremities of the Northern line, known as the Northern Heights. One of these extensions was to be the electrification of the existing Great Northern Railway line which ran from Finsbury Park via Highgate to Alexandra Palace stopping at several intermediary stations along the way. Other plans included electrification from Mill Hill East to Edgware and also the expansion of the Northern Line north of Edgware to Bushey Heath.
When taken over, the existing lines continued to be served by steam engines but it was the Underground's intention to electrify these lines to make them compatible with the rest of the network. Indeed, even the conducting rails along with track-side fittings for cables had been laid between Finsbury Park and Highgate when the onset of the Second World War halted all the expansion projects.
When the war ended, much had changed and the expected increase in traffic to Alexandra Palace never materialised. Electrification never took place and steam traction remained in service until the branch was closed on 4th July 1954.
Part of the line remained in use until 1971 for goods trains and Underground stock movement, but eventually the tracks were lifted and much of the track's pathway has since been re-developed. Almost all of the original track-way from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace has been converted into a public footpath and in 1990, the Parkland Walk was declared a local nature reserve. Indeed, more than a hundred species of wild flower have been recorded along with many species of wild animals including hedgehogs, foxes and even deer.
The original high-level station at Highgate intended to serve as an interchange platform for the branch remains in surprisingly good condition to this day although much of the land around it is now overgrown.
Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park - the Parkland Walk
Sometime in late January 2005, I placed an invitation on the Underground History web site saying that I was going to be walking from Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park along the Parkland Walk to see what remains of the abandoned railway that once ran along its way. The response to the invitation far exceeded my expectations and on February 19th, 45 adults, 2 children and a hearing dog named Lotty joined me on a crisp winter morning for what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hour walk.
Alexandra Palace to Highgate
The walk started out at the Alexandra Palace exhibition hall and followed the track bed towards Highgate.
Part 1 of the walk is described here.
A description of the walk can be found on the web site version and has been broken down into three parts, which can be printed individually.
Highgate's High Level Platforms
As we approached Highgate Underground station, we could clearly see the abandoned platforms that originally served as an interchange with the existing Nothern Line's High Barnet branch. During the walk, we were unable to visit this location as it is private property and locked. In April 2001 I was given the opportunity to visit and photograph this location. Very little has changed since I visited.
Part 2 of the walk is described here.
Highgate to Finsbury Park
The railway's path from Highgate to Finsbury Park is clearly defined along its entire length.
Part 3 of the walk is described here.
Mill Hill East to Edgware
Before electrification, the mainline LNER branched west just north of Finchley Central, passing through two stations (Mill Hill East and the now closed Mill Hill The Hale) before joining what we know today as the Edgware branch of the Northern Line just south of Edgware. Only part of this branch was electrified, a single track running to Mill Hill East. The line from Mill Hill East to Edgware continued to be used by goods trains until the mid 1960s when the line was removed.
There was one intermediary station - Mill Hill The Hale, which served the steam operated line and would also have become a stop on the Underground extension, had it been completed.
Today, looking north west at the end of Mill Hill East's platform, the un-electrified line can be seen running on for roughly 100 yards before terminating. Buildings built since closure soon block the original course of the line.
In mid June, I and a group of intrepid explorers (about 40 in total) went for a walk along the stretch between Mill Hill East and Edgware with some venturing to go even further to Brockley Hill. Find out what we saw in a description of the walk along with many photographs.
North of Edgware
Although work started to extend the line north of Edgware, far less remains to be seen today compared to the other routes mentioned above. I shall cover this section in more detail in the future.
I've recently come across this excellent and well made 9 minute documentary by amateur film maker Jay Foreman which deals with the subject of the Mill Hill East to Edgeware Road (and beyond). Like this web site, the documentary presents the information in a way that makes what could potentially be a dreary subject interesting and entertaining - if not humorous!
If the embedded video doesn't work, you can view it directly on YouTube.
Last Modified: January 3rd 2009
Alexandra Palace to Highgate photographs were taken on the afternoon of April 7th 2001.
Mill Hill East photograph taken on November 24th 2001.
All material on this page is © 2001,2005 Hywel Williams unless otherwise noted.
Please note that this is the printer friendly version of this web page and differs slightly from the online version.