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Watford DC Line

Watford DC Line

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Encyclopedia
The Watford DC Line is a commuter railway line
Commuter rail in the United Kingdom
Urban rail, commuter rail, regional rail, or suburban rail, plays a key role in the public transport system of many of the United Kingdom's major cities. Urban rail is defined as a rail service between a central business district and suburbs or other locations that draw large numbers of people on a...

 from London Euston
Euston railway station
Euston railway station, also known as London Euston, is a central London railway terminus in the London Borough of Camden. It is the sixth busiest rail terminal in London . It is one of 18 railway stations managed by Network Rail, and is the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line...

 to Watford Junction
Watford Junction railway station
On 23 January 1975, an express train from Manchester to Euston derailed just south of Watford Junction after striking some stillages that had fallen on to the track. It then collided with a sleeper service from Euston to Glasgow. The driver of the Manchester train was killed, and eight passengers...

. Services on the line are operated by London Overground
London Overground
London Overground is a suburban rail network in London and Hertfordshire. It has been operated by London Overground Rail Operations since 2007 as part of the National Rail network, under the franchise control and branding of Transport for London...

.
The line runs beside the West Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line
The West Coast Main Line is the busiest mixed-traffic railway route in Britain, being the country's most important rail backbone in terms of population served. Fast, long-distance inter-city passenger services are provided between London, the West Midlands, the North West, North Wales and the...

 (WCML) for most of its length. The London Underground
London Underground
The London Underground is a rapid transit system serving a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in England...

 Bakerloo line
Bakerloo Line
The Bakerloo line is a line of the London Underground, coloured brown on the Tube map. It runs partly on the surface and partly at deep level, from Elephant and Castle in the south-east to Harrow & Wealdstone in the north-west of London. The line serves 25 stations, of which 15 are underground...

 shares the track of the line from Queen's Park
Queen's Park station
Queen's Park station is a station served by London Underground and London Overground. It is in West Kilburn at the southern end of Salusbury Road, near the public park from which it takes its name...

 to Harrow & Wealdstone. The London Overground rolling stock used on the line is Class 378 "Capitalstar"
British Rail Class 378
The Class 378 Capitalstar is a type of electric multiple-unit train, part of Bombardier Transportation's Electrostar family. These trains are operating on the new London Overground network...

.

The line is electrified with direct current
Direct current
Direct current is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through...

, hence its name in contrast to the overhead alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 of the adjacent WCML.

History


Services on this line began when London and North Western Railway
London and North Western Railway
The London and North Western Railway was a British railway company between 1846 and 1922. It was created by the merger of three companies – the Grand Junction Railway, the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway...

 (LNWR) completed the Camden to Watford Junction New Line in 1922, to provide additional suburban capacity and more outer-suburban services running non-stop to Euston. It incorporated part of the LNWR Rickmansworth branch (formerly the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway
Watford and Rickmansworth Railway
The Watford and Rickmansworth Railway Company was a short-lived company that ran services between Watford and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, England...

) between Watford Junction and Watford High Street Junction and part of the original Slow Main Line between Queen's Park and South Hampstead
South Hampstead railway station
South Hampstead railway station is on Loudoun Road in the London Borough of Camden. It is about 500 metres south west of Swiss Cottage tube station. It opened in 1879 as "Loudon Road station" and acquired its present name in 1922. Two platforms on the Euston to Watford DC Line remain; those on the...

 stations; two single-track tunnels take the line from South Hampstead to Camden, whence the line reaches Euston station by the main line tracks. Prior to 1922, at which time the entire route was finally electrified, services were steam operated. Although the operation of the line is mostly self-contained, connections at Watford Junction and Camden allow other trains on to it, a facility used occasionally with trains diverted from the West Coast Main Line should an alternative diversionary route be not available.

Signalling


The line opened with conventional semaphore signalling
Railway signalling
Railway signalling is a system used to control railway traffic safely, essentially to prevent trains from colliding. Being guided by fixed rails, trains are uniquely susceptible to collision; furthermore, trains cannot stop quickly, and frequently operate at speeds that do not enable them to stop...

 mechanically operated from signal box
Signal box
On a rail transport system, signalling control is the process by which control is exercised over train movements by way of railway signals and block systems to ensure that trains operate safely, over the correct route and to the proper timetable...

es at each station; this system remained in use after electrification.

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway
London, Midland and Scottish Railway
The London Midland and Scottish Railway was a British railway company. It was formed on 1 January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921, which required the grouping of over 120 separate railway companies into just four...

 introduced an automatic electric signalling system in the early 1930s over most of the route and some signal boxes were abolished. A similar system was also used for a shorter period between Bromley-by-Bow
Bromley-by-Bow
Bromley-by-Bow, historically and officially Bromley, is a place in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is an inner-city district situated east north-east of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

 and Upminster
Upminster
Upminster is a suburban town in northeast London, England, and part of the London Borough of Havering. Located east-northeast of Charing Cross, it is one of the locally important district centres identified in the London Plan, and comprises a number of shopping streets and a large residential...

 now part of the District line
District Line
The District line is a line of the London Underground, coloured green on the Tube map. It is a "sub-surface" line, running through the central area in shallow cut-and-cover tunnels. It is the busiest of the sub-surface lines. Out of the 60 stations served, 25 are underground...

. The very closely spaced mix of automatic and semi-automatic signals, repeater signals, and auxiliary calling-on aspects was intended to let trains to proceed, after a set delay, at low speed past "failed" signals on track with no junctions without the need to contact a signalman, but this could lead to a nose-to-tail queue of trains as they all reached the location of a real line blockage.

Train stop
Train stop
Part of a railway signalling system, a train stop or trip stop is a train protection device that automatically stops a train if it attempts to pass a signal when the signal aspect and operating rules prohibit such movement, or if it attempts to pass at an excessive speed.- Basic operation :The...

s were provided (except at repeater signals) to allow LER
Underground Electric Railways Company of London
The Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited , known operationally as The Underground for much of its existence, was established in 1902. It was the holding company for the three deep-level "tube"A "tube" railway is an underground railway constructed in a circular tunnel by the use...

 trains to operate over the line without the special provision of a second man; this enabled the same practice to be continued with all other Underground and main line stock subsequently allocated to this line and which was provided with trip equipment.

Signal boxes remaining in use in the early 1970s included:
  • Kilburn High Road (closed when the crossover moved to the down side of the station)
  • Queens Park No.3 (closed when control passed to Willesden)
  • Willesden New Station
  • Stonebridge Power House (abolished after LU Bakerloo Line depot opened)
  • Harrow No.2

Normally Kilburn High Road and Stonebridge Power House which controlled only plain track with crossovers were switched out and only Queens Park, Willesden and Harrow boxes were staffed for at least part of the day, to deal with junction and siding traffic. In the early 1980s manual control of signalling was needed for a few months after dragging gear on a train destroyed many electric train-stops which were of a design almost confined to this line (LU train-stops are mostly electro-pneumatic). By this time the signal boxes at Stonebridge Power House and Kilburn High Road had been abolished. Emergency crossovers at other locations were controlled by ground frames enclosed in structures the size of a garden shed.

In 1988 the LMS system was replaced by a more standard system controlled from a new signal box, Willesden Suburban, and the remaining local boxes were abolished. The new system had solid state interlocking, but far fewer signals; as a consequence the maximum traffic capacity of the line was severely reduced. In the early 1960s there were headways of less than 2 minutes between Harrow & Wealdstone and Willesden Junction stations, the section of line used by nearly all services.

In the early 2000s Willesden Suburban was closed and control passed to Wembley Main Line Signalling Centre.

Electrification


The original electrification was on a fourth rail system, similar to that now used by London Underground, which allowed LER trains to use the New Line. Power was supplied from the railway's own power station at Stonebridge Park until the 1960s when it was closed, after which it has been obtained from public supplies. As originally installed, there was provision for interconnection of the high voltage section of the power station to adjacent public supplies for output or intake but this ceased when national supplies were standardised at 50Hz. This power station was used for both internal and external scenes in an early episode of the BBC series Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

in which the building can be seen substantially as it was at the time of closure but after the wooden cooling towers had been removed.

In the 1970s, the track and the rolling stock used on this line and the North London Line
North London Line
The North London Line is a railway line which passes through the inner suburbs of north London, England. Its route is a rough semicircle from the south west to the north east, avoiding central London. The line is owned and maintained by Network Rail...

 were changed to use a modified version of the BR standard third rail system, with the fourth rail (now bonded to the running rail used for returning traction current) left in place on the sections of line shared with LU Bakerloo Line trains. North of Harrow & Wealdstone, now the limit of LU operation, the fourth rail has in most places been dropped on to the sleepers and remains bonded, thus leaving the resistance of the current return path unaltered The fourth rail remains in the normal position from Queens Park to Kilburn High Road Up platform, where a trailing crossover between those two stations is maintained in use to allow reversal of Bakerloo Line trains unable to gain access to London Underground at Queens Park, due to planned work or other reasons. The line is currently electrified at 600 volts DC which provides reasonable compatibility with the 630 volt Bakerloo line stock.

A consequence of converting to third rail with the fourth rail provided only for LU use was that both planned and emergency use of the line by other 3-rail-capable trains was possible. Ignoring recent use of class 508 trains, this last took place when class 416 trains were diverted to Willesden Junction Low Level station when part of the North London Line was closed for a number of weeks in the late 1980s.

The electricity grid Willesden substation in Acton Lane, Park Royal
Park Royal
Park Royal is an area in northwest London, UK. It is the largest industrial and business park in London, occupying about , and is promoted commercially by the Park Royal Partnership...

 supplies 11 kV, three-phase power to ten substations on the line, located at Camden, South Hampstead, Queens Park, Willesden, Harlesden, Wembley, Kenton, Harrow, Hatch End, Bushey and Watford.

Growth


The construction of a curve to link Rickmansworth (Church Street)
Rickmansworth (Church Street) station
Rickmansworth railway station was a London and North Western Railway station in the Rickmansworth area of west Hertfordshire...

 to the Euston
Euston railway station
Euston railway station, also known as London Euston, is a central London railway terminus in the London Borough of Camden. It is the sixth busiest rail terminal in London . It is one of 18 railway stations managed by Network Rail, and is the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line...

 main line was planned. A new line would have then run south to Wembley
Wembley
Wembley is an area of northwest London, England, and part of the London Borough of Brent. It is home to the famous Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena...

, then passed under the main line and run on the east side to Euston, terminating in a loop.

The loop was dropped on grounds of cost and, instead, services terminated at Euston main platforms or ran on the North London Railway
North London Railway
The North London Railway was a railway company that opened lines connecting the north of London to the East and West India Docks. The main east to west route is now part the North London Line. Other lines operated by the company fell into disuse, but were later revived as part of the Docklands...

 to Broad Street. Pressure from local groups led to the building of a curve near Bushey
Bushey railway station
Bushey railway station serves the towns of Bushey and Oxhey and is situated on the Watford DC Line, north of Harrow & Wealdstone. The station was renamed from "Bushey & Oxhey" to "Bushey" on 6 May 1974, even though it is actually sited in the neighbouring town of Oxhey, and the nearest part of...

, diverting the main route for new services over the existing branch line north to Watford Junction instead of south to Rickmansworth. In 1917 LER
Underground Electric Railways Company of London
The Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited , known operationally as The Underground for much of its existence, was established in 1902. It was the holding company for the three deep-level "tube"A "tube" railway is an underground railway constructed in a circular tunnel by the use...

 Bakerloo Line
Bakerloo Line
The Bakerloo line is a line of the London Underground, coloured brown on the Tube map. It runs partly on the surface and partly at deep level, from Elephant and Castle in the south-east to Harrow & Wealdstone in the north-west of London. The line serves 25 stations, of which 15 are underground...

 services were extended over the New Line from Queen's Park station
Queen's Park station
Queen's Park station is a station served by London Underground and London Overground. It is in West Kilburn at the southern end of Salusbury Road, near the public park from which it takes its name...

 to Watford Junction.

Decline


Bakerloo Line services were cut back in stages and ceased north of Stonebridge Park station
Stonebridge Park station
Stonebridge Park station is a Network Rail station in Tokyngton, in the London Borough of Brent. It is served by London Overground and London Underground services, which use the same platforms....

 in 1982; in 1984 they were restored as far as Harrow and Wealdstone.

The Croxley Green
Croxley Green railway station
Croxley Green is a disused railway station near Watford, outside London, UK. It is located between Watford and the village of Croxley Green to the west of Watford, at the end of a short branch line.-History:...

 branch fell into disuse in the 1990s, and is now derelict. It is planned to divert the Metropolitan Line
Metropolitan Line
The Metropolitan line is part of the London Underground. It is coloured in Transport for London's Corporate Magenta on the Tube map and in other branding. It was the first underground railway in the world, opening as the Metropolitan Railway on 10 January 1863...

 over the branch and on to Watford Junction (for more information see Croxley Rail Link
Croxley Rail Link
The Croxley Rail Link is a railway engineering proposal to re-route part of a London Underground line in Hertfordshire, outside London, UK. The project would divert Metropolitan line Watford branch services after station away from station to via intermediate stations using a reopened section of...

). Some clearance or preparatory work has been reported as having occurred in late 2006.

Operators


The line was operated by British Rail
British Rail
British Railways , which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the "Big Four" British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail, in stages...

 (from 1986 as Network SouthEast
Network SouthEast
Network SouthEast was one of three passenger sectors of British Rail created in 1982. NSE principally operated commuter trains in the London area and inter-urban services in densely populated South East England, although the network reached as far west as Exeter...

) until privatisation. From March 1997 until November 2007, the line was operated by Silverlink
Silverlink
Silverlink Train Services Ltd was a train operating company in the United Kingdom. It operated routes in North London and from London to Northampton...

.

In November 2007 Transport for London (TfL)
Transport for London
Transport for London is the local government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London in England. Its role is to implement the transport strategy and to manage transport services across London...

 took full management control of all the intermediate Watford DC Line stations as part of the London Overground (LO) service with staffing during opening hours, automatic ticket gates and planned station refurbishment to the standard of the Tube network.

Services


The local passenger services which over the DC line are:
  • Watford Junction to Euston, operated by London Overground; services run through Watford High Street and all stations to Euston; at Willesden Junction trains stop at the low-level platforms;
  • Harrow & Wealdstone or Stonebridge Park to Queen's Park, operated by London Underground; these services share track with Overground services as far as Queen's Park, before branching off onto dedicated track on the LUL Bakerloo Line
    Bakerloo Line
    The Bakerloo line is a line of the London Underground, coloured brown on the Tube map. It runs partly on the surface and partly at deep level, from Elephant and Castle in the south-east to Harrow & Wealdstone in the north-west of London. The line serves 25 stations, of which 15 are underground...

    , via central London to Elephant and Castle.


During the partial closure of the North London Line in autumn 2008, London Overground's Monday to Saturday services were diverted away from Euston, running instead via onto the North London Line and on to Stratford; the Sunday service was normal.

London Midland
London Midland
London Midland is a train operating company in the United Kingdom. Legally named London and Birmingham Railway Ltd, it is a subsidiary of Govia, and has operated the West Midlands franchise since 11 November 2007....

 also run a fast service from Watford direct to London Euston along the West Coast Mainline (which runs parallel to the Watford DC Line), usually calling at Bushey and Harrow & Wealdstone before running non-stop to Euston. The service offers a quicker alternative to the all-stations London Overground service, especially as the operator now accepts TfL's Oystercard ticketing. At Watford Junction, Watford - Euston services are advertised as terminating at South Hampstead, in order to persuade passengers for Euston to take the frequent faster services
London Midland
London Midland is a train operating company in the United Kingdom. Legally named London and Birmingham Railway Ltd, it is a subsidiary of Govia, and has operated the West Midlands franchise since 11 November 2007....

. The opposite does not apply at Euston.

Discontinued services


Past services, all of which closed in the 1980s and 1990s, have included:
  • Watford Junction (or Bushey & Oxhey
    Bushey railway station
    Bushey railway station serves the towns of Bushey and Oxhey and is situated on the Watford DC Line, north of Harrow & Wealdstone. The station was renamed from "Bushey & Oxhey" to "Bushey" on 6 May 1974, even though it is actually sited in the neighbouring town of Oxhey, and the nearest part of...

     or Harrow & Wealdstone) to (later to ) via Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill to Euston or Broad Street
  • Croxley Green to Watford Junction
    Watford and Rickmansworth Railway
    The Watford and Rickmansworth Railway Company was a short-lived company that ran services between Watford and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, England...

  • Watford Junction (or Bushey & Oxhey) to LU Bakerloo Line via Queens Park


When the south curve of the triangular junction between Watford High Street and Bushey existed, a few trains used Croxley depot (now demolished), which was shared by LU and BR trains.

Bakerloo Line


It is proposed that the Bakerloo Line
Bakerloo Line
The Bakerloo line is a line of the London Underground, coloured brown on the Tube map. It runs partly on the surface and partly at deep level, from Elephant and Castle in the south-east to Harrow & Wealdstone in the north-west of London. The line serves 25 stations, of which 15 are underground...

 will be re-extended to Watford Junction by 2030. If this happens, the Overground services north of Kilburn will probably be terminated.

The Autumn 2006 document from TfL, "A Rail Strategy for London's Future", said that the plan was eventually to transfer the Watford DC Line north of Harrow & Wealdstone back to the Bakerloo Line, effectively ending the Watford DC Line. The London Overground service may then operate from Queen's Park to Primrose Hill Junction, serving South Hampstead
South Hampstead railway station
South Hampstead railway station is on Loudoun Road in the London Borough of Camden. It is about 500 metres south west of Swiss Cottage tube station. It opened in 1879 as "Loudon Road station" and acquired its present name in 1922. Two platforms on the Euston to Watford DC Line remain; those on the...

 and Kilburn High Road
Kilburn High Road railway station
Kilburn High Road railway station is a London Overground station situated near the south end of the Kilburn High Road, London NW6 in the London Borough of Camden.-History:...

; from there using the currently freight-only line to Camden Road
Camden Road railway station
Camden Road railway station is in the London Borough of Camden in North London. The station and all trains serving it are operated by London Overground. It is on the North London Line and in Travelcard Zone 2....

 (potentially leading to the re-opening of the disused Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill railway station
Primrose Hill was a railway station at Primrose Hill, in the London Borough of Camden, London, England.It was opened on 5 May 1855 as Hampstead Road, replacing an earlier station of that name . It was renamed Chalk Farm on 1 December 1862 and became Primrose Hill on 25 September 1950...

 station for interchange with Chalk Farm
Chalk Farm tube station
Chalk Farm tube station is a London Underground station near Camden Town in London. The station is on the Edgware branch of the Northern line, between Camden Town and Belsize Park stations, and in Travelcard Zone 2. The station stands at the junction of Chalk Farm Road/Haverstock Hill and Adelaide...

 on the Northern line
Northern Line
The Northern line is a London Underground line. It is coloured black on the Tube map.For most of its length it is a deep-level tube line. The line carries 206,734,000 passengers per year. This is the highest number of any line on the London Underground system, but the Northern line is unique in...

); and onwards to Stratford via the North London Line. However, this will mean losing a direct link from the Bakerloo Line's main railway to Euston station, as DC trains would be withdrawn between Primrose Hill Junction and Euston.

A date has not yet been specified for this change; prospective tube map
Tube map
The Tube map is a schematic transit map representing the lines and stations of London's rapid transit railway systems, namely the London Underground , the Docklands Light Railway and London Overground....

s illustrating the future of London Overground and Underground services continue to show the Watford line as part of the Overground network in 2010. The Best And Final Bid documentation for the Croxley Rail Link
Croxley Rail Link
The Croxley Rail Link is a railway engineering proposal to re-route part of a London Underground line in Hertfordshire, outside London, UK. The project would divert Metropolitan line Watford branch services after station away from station to via intermediate stations using a reopened section of...

 project indicates that this extension is now "unlikely" because "TfL’s plans to extend the Bakerloo Line to Watford Junction are on hold indefinitely due to funding and business case constraints."

Metropolitan Line




Another proposal to bring London Underground service to Watford Junction is the Croxley Rail Link
Croxley Rail Link
The Croxley Rail Link is a railway engineering proposal to re-route part of a London Underground line in Hertfordshire, outside London, UK. The project would divert Metropolitan line Watford branch services after station away from station to via intermediate stations using a reopened section of...

, which envisages diverting the Watford branch of the Metropolitan Line
Metropolitan Line
The Metropolitan line is part of the London Underground. It is coloured in Transport for London's Corporate Magenta on the Tube map and in other branding. It was the first underground railway in the world, opening as the Metropolitan Railway on 10 January 1863...

along a re-opened stretch of track to the west of Watford, effectively reinstating the former Croxley Green to Watford Junction service. Underground trains would then join the DC line at Watford High Street, potentially forming an interchange either with London Overground or the Bakerloo line, depending on the outcome of other projects.

External links