Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Midland - St Albans review 1

St Albans Abbey train at Watford Junction station


24/11/07 - Watford Junction to St Albans

Cost of ticket £.00  -

Dept Watford Junction 11.25   Arrive St Albans 11.38 

Journey time 16 mins

Distance: 6 ½  miles  Weather: cloudy and cold

Train type: 4-car  Class 321  Sprinter EMU  (single track all the way)

Railway company: London Midland

Frequency of trains - one every hour


The weather is cloudy but cold today - about right for this time of the year. The St Albans train leaves from Platform 11 of Watford Junction station, which is out on a limb from the other platforms, separated by a children's nursery and a multi-story car park. The train company is now London Midland, having taken over from Silverlink Metro a mere two weeks ago. The carriages are still in Silverlink livery, though their logos have been covered over, but there's nothing to say it's a London Midland train. There are various sidings belonging to London Concrete on the right, but there's nothing in them today. When I get on the train there's a cleaner busy emptying the bins and clearing up yesterday's newspapers from the seats. So it's pretty obvious that this train has come straight from the carriage sidings. The train is virtually empty with less than 10 people on it. There is an announcement from the guard before we set off, telling us the names of the stations we will be stopping at and to add to the cheer, he finishes off his list with, "and good old St Albans Abbey!" We pass terrace houses on the left and factory units on the right before they swap over to factories on the left and terraced houses on the right! We stop at Watford North, a single platform station, with a bus shelter and wooden fencing. Then we move away over a level crossing and pass more factories on either side of the track. The scenery then changes to more houses with some tower blocks on the on the right. We are still in Watford as we arrive at Garston station, (not to be confused with the one in Liverpool). It's identical to Watford North except that the bus shelter has a perspex roof. We move away from the town of Watford and onto an embankment, before going under the A41 and M1 in quick succession, before we enter a cutting. The train reaches about 50 mph and all you can see is woodland on both sides of the track, indicating that we must be nearing Bricket Wood. The station has a single platform, which is covered by a large canopy. Sadly there's graffiti on the walls, which may well have been cleaned up in the Silverlink Metro days. There's also a builder's merchants situated in the old station yard to the left of the station. We speed off again and go over the M25, as the woodland gives way to scrubland on the right. The guard then comes along the carriage and checks our tickets. Some houses appear on the left as we stop at How Wood, another single platform station. We leave and pass large detached houses as we come onto another embankment. Park Street station is next, which looks down onto the river Ver and surrounding fields. It now becomes hilly as we enter another cutting, before emerging on the outskirts of St Albans. There's a gas works and factories on the left with plenty of housing on the right. We then come into St Albans Abbey station about three minutes early. It is an island platform station, though only one track now exists. The station is open with a car park and bike shed, plus the obligatory bus shelter. The return train leaves on time at 11.48.

Summary: A busy commuter branch line in a quite affluent area of England, so no doubt this line should be safe for many years to come. One thing I did notice on my return journey was that quite a lot of passengers did get on the train, but due to the quick succession of stations the guard wasn't able to get to check everyone had a ticket. So maybe there were some fare dodgers on the train.