This Monday, the 5th May marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the train station at Watford Junction in North London.
The station was originally the London terminus of the St Albans Abbey Branch Line, which was opened by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR ) on 5 May 1858. It was the first railway to reach the town of St Albans and when it opened just had the two end stations and two intermediate stations (which almost closed as soon as they opened). Other stations were added later.
Watford Junction itself rebuilt in 1909 and again in the 1980s – with yet more work planned for the next few years. The station wasn’t the first one in the town though – as an earlier station had existed just to the south of the current building as part of the London & Birmingham Railway from Euston. That building still exists – although it is used as a car showroom.
The LNWR received parliamentary powers to construct the branch line on 11th February 1853, and work finally started in the early months of 1856. The delay was caused in large part by the refusal by Earl of Verulam, a large landowner in the area to sell land to the railway company. Although the railway companies had quite staggering powers to seize land, going up against a Noble Peer proved unusually difficult.
The line never really lived up to expectations as plans to expand it were cancelled due to lack of funding and the line very nearly closed completely in the 1963 Beeching Plan. A protest saved the line though, and it still acts as a commuter railway.
The station itself may be linked up to the London Underground if proposals to extend the Metropolitan line from Croxley to the station along disused rail tracks.