Northern Heights

Mill Hill East to Edgware

Another line that formed part of the 1930s New Works programme and as such was due to be electrified was the LNER branch that ran between just north of Finchley Central, re-joining the other Northern Line branch just south of Edgware. Much of the work towards electrification had already taken place when World War 2 halted further development.

After the War, the section that ran from Finchley Central to Mill Hill East was completed as single track and was electrified. The electrification of the line beyond Mill Hill East however was never completed. The line continued to be used for goods traffic until closed in the 1960s when the tracks were lifted.

Mill Hill East station

What's there today?

On Saturday the 18th June 2005, I and a few others (about 40 in total) met outside Mill Hill East with the intention of walking as much of the Mill Hill East to Edgware branch as possible, since much of it has been turned into footpaths and walk ways.

Looking North West beyond Mill Hill East's single platform, the line could be seen to run a little further forming an overrun should a train fail to stop at the station itself (an incredibly unlikely scenario). Once beyond London Underground property, the path taken by the line was obvious as its embankment still exists - as a raised area running in the same direction as the tracks do in the station.

Just beyond the station New housing, blocking the line's original course

The line's original course was however soon blocked by some relatively new housing. Just beyond the houses, the line's course became a pleasant footpath and took a dive under the first road bridge (Sanders Lane, now closed to road traffic and used as a foot bridge). Looking upwards when walking under the bridge, soot marks from steam trains that last ran on the line over 40 years ago could still clearly be seen.

The first road bridge Soot marks from many years ago

Once under the bridge, the track's path formed a pleasant, leafy footpath that could be followed for a kilometer. Alongside the footpath, there were numerous reminders of the path's original use and intention. There were hundreds of "Underground Style" electricity posts that had been placed to carry the cables that would have carried traction current for the tracks that would have carried the Underground trains along this stretch.

Leafy pathway One of the many electric cable posts

It wasn't long before the path reached its second road bridge (again, Sander's Lane, having looped back). This bridge has been widened over the years, and the difference between the old and new bridge section could easily be seen. Be warned, the underside of the bridge today is under occupation - by many pigeons, so if you're the first to walk under the bridge after a while, prepare to be startled by some equally startled pigeons suddenly flying out!

The second road bridge The new and the old sections of the bridge

Once under the second bridge, if you're walking on a pleasant afternoon, you'll probably hear a lot of exuberant shouting in the distance. This area is surrounded by playing fields, a sports centre and is also the home of Copthall Stadium. It's not long before these playing fields became visible and they could be seen skirting both sides of the trackway. Before long, this stretch of the trackway's path came to an abrupt end when the walk way reached Page Street.

Some more electricity posts and the end of the track in the distance The blocked pedestrian subway

At Page Street, there used to be a pedestrian subway under the road, but this has since been blocked. Once over the road, all signs of the track's path has long since been obliterated. Until recently, the land was being used as an industrial area, but is in the process of being re-developed into housing. In order that we could follow the line's course, some walking along local footpaths and roads was required..

Having walked to Bunns Lane and followed it to the location where it goes under the A1 road, a rather curious thing can be seen. Along exactly where the track would have run, there now lies a modern concrete road. It was a strange looking road though as it had a rather post-apocalyptic abandoned look to it, with grass and vegetation encroaching onto what looked like should have been a busy roadway. It turned out to be an abandoned motorway junction!

The second road bridge The new and the old sections of the bridge

Apparently, this was the original end of the M1 motorway, where it merged with the A1 road. It closed in 1977 when the extension to the current M1 reached Staples Corner and remained closed until 1993, when it was re-surfaced and briefly used when a terrorist bomb at Staples Corner caused the shopping centre (and the junction) to briefly close.

Today, the road has barriers at both M1 and A1 ends preventing traffic from using the road, but all the crash barriers, street lights and even a street sign advising motorists of a bend and an advisory speed limit of 30 miles per hour remain as they were when the junction was again closed when Staples Corner re-opened.

The railway line would have followed this road all the way to where the M1 motorway is today and then followed the motorway's course for a couple of hundred metres before bending sharply west just south of Mill Hill Broadway mainline railway station. A walker can regain the line's course just where it is bridged by Bunns Lane, and then runs in parallell with Lyndhurst Park.

The bridge would have been where Mill Hill The Hale station would have stood, with its platforms running beyond towards the motorway. All traces of the platform and station have since gone as the area was a convenient dumping ground in the 1980s and has now completely been covered by land. The arches of the bridge itself have been bricked but clearing the vegetation towards the left hand side of an arch revealed a tiny fragment of the platform.

The bricked up archway of Bunns Lane bridge A fragment of the platform is all that remains

The line's path can now easily be seen running in paralell to the northern boundaries of Lyndhurst Park. In places, gardens have encroached into the land that was once occupied by the railway and in other places the old track's path can be clearly seen, although now a bit overgrown.

The start of the nature reserve Nature reserve path way

At the end of Lyndhust Park, the tracks run into a nature reserve. This is normally locked to maintain the integrity of the nature reserve but I arranged with London Wildlife Trust, who now take care of this stretch, to have it opened so that we could enjoy the beauty of the reserve. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome, putting signs up along the way to attract our attention to various plants and features.

The end of the nature reserve The end of the nature reserve

The end of the nature reserve is the last pathway where the line's course can be followed. On the other side of the road, the track's path goes through an allotment before going directly into Edgware depot. I order to reach Edgware station, we followed a mixture of road side and footpaths, following a designated cycle path to Edgware station.

Edgware Station

It was a very hot and sticky day and this is where the walk ended for most of the walkers, with it's easy access to public transportation (Edgware Tube, and two bus routes ran directly back to Mill Hill The Hale, where some people had parked).

A few intrepid explorers (five) decided to go a little further and walked through the suburbs of Edgware to Brockley Hill, where some workings could be seen that would have been part of the Northern Line's push northwards, should World War Two have not interrupted the expansion programme.

Brockley Hill Viaduct

Here, all that remains of the aborted extension is a series of grafitti strewn stumps which, had they been completed, would have formed a viaduct, allowing the line to bridge the marshy land beneath. Today, only the stumps of the arch bases are there, the arches themselves having long since crumbled away.

There were clear signs on the land of the line's push north of the viaduct - first a raised embankment and then some marks in a field. If these were followed about half a mile northwards, the line's course ran straight into a raised, heavily wooded area and then nothing. Here, at one stage some tunneling had been started, but as with everything else on this extension, had been abandoned at the onset of the war and never completed. Nothing remains of the tunnels today - they flooded, and were partially filled in.

North of here, nothing remains, though at some stage I intend to investigate the proposed extension and see where the stations would have been built.

Many who came on the walk have since contacted me saying they enjoyed the walk. I don't blame anyone for not completing the final stretch - it really was a blisteringly hot and sticky day! To be fair many had already told me that they wouldn't be carrying on due to other engagements. Are there any more planed? Not at present, but I'll let the mailing list know if I think of something to do.

Last Modified: July 3rd 2005

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Most pictures were taken on May 8th 2005 except for ones with people in them, which were taken on 18th June 2005.

Mill Hill East station platform photograph taken on November 24th 2001.

All material on this page is © 2001,2005 Hywel Williams unless otherwise noted.

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