If you live out near Ongar on the furthest north-eastern edges of London
next this weekend, listen out for the sound of steam trains chugging along a disused part of London Underground’s Central Line railway.
After a few years of work, the Epping-Ongar Railway will reopen to the public with a weekend of events, including trips on their recently acquired steam trains.
The Epping-Ongar Railway was originally built as part of a mainline service back in 1865, but taken over by London Underground in 1949 and added onto the end of the recently extended Central Line. However, the service, which was never fully upgraded to LU standards had to run mainly as a shuttle service and traffic never took off in the way that had been expected.
Generally, the railway expanded into rural areas and houses built up around them, but that did not seem to catch on here. The line was closed at the end of September 1994.
You can see it on the tube map here from 1970.
A restoration of services by a private company took place between 1998 and 2007, which later sold the line to the current heritage railway.
And so to next week, when services – in steam – resume on the line once more, and will run most weekends thereafter.
To start the service, the railway will hold a Special Gala Weekend, with tickets at £17 per adult (£8.50 per kid, £44.50 for a family, etc) and that includes:
- Heritage bus ride from Epping Tube Station, through Epping High Street to North Weald station.
- A return ride on a steam train between Ongar and North Weald
- Ride on the diesel shuttle train from North Weald through Epping Forest (towards Epping), before arriving back at North Weald
You can travel on each heritage transport more than once, though at peak times a “fare usage policy” applies.
Buy tickets here.
To whet your appetite, I took a visit to the North Weald station last year when they had an open day to mark the restoration of the station building.
If visiting, then a couple of other local attractions which I might suggest are worth looking out for are the North Weald Airfield Museum which is a short walk from North Weald station.
Another which is on my list of “places I really want to visit” is slightly harder to get to, depending on whether you can take the steam train to Ongar and then go off for a wander and catch a different one back (which I think you can based on the 2nd paragraph). If so, then Greensted Church is a decent walk away, but as it is the world’s oldest surviving wooden church, it sounds like it is worth it.
Update: There is a vintage bus route that will go right past the church on the day – included in the price for the event.
Some other attractions highlighted by the EOR Railway. Well, it’s not often that a Londoner leaves the M25, so you might as well make the best of it!
Of course, look out for Steam Trains running along the Metropolitan Line next year as part of its 150th anniversary.