The Railway comes to East Finchley

Article by Tony Roberts, first published in The Archer, May 1998.

When first opening an old map of Finchley I was surprised to see the railway marked as the “Edgware Line” not the “Barnet Line”.

The 1850’s and 60’s saw the construction of most of London’s network of suburban railways, including, in 1867, the Highgate and Edgware Railway, connecting to the GNR at what is now Finsbury Park, and subsequently bought up by them. Double tracks, initially to Highgate, were extended to Finchley, [Church End] when, in 1872, a double track branch line was added from Church End to High Barnet. A year later, a further branch was opened from Highgate to serve the newly constructed Alexandra Palace, with an intermediate station at Muswell Hill. A shilling return fare from Kings Cross included admission. Within 16 days of opening, the palace was burned down with loss of 3 lives, but fortunately for the railway, a second palace opened two years later.

As the surrounding countryside was built over, additional stations were built at Stroud Green (1881), Cranley Gardens (c.1905), the Hale (1906), and West Finchley (1933).

Traffic grew and with time the single track to Edgware and the bottle neck into Kings Cross became an embarrassment. Some services were re-routed into North London Railway’s Broad Street via a connection at Canonbury but the problems persisted. Then came a possible solution to all the line’s problems. In 1933 the Government formed the London Passenger Transport Board with powers and funds for a London-wide programme of New Works. The proposals included a thorough electrification programme, conversion of the remaining single track from Finchley to Edgware to double, extended to Bushey, and to overcome the bottlenecks, new links to the Underground via Highgate and to Moorgate via the Metropolitan Railway at Finsbury Park. Work started in earnest but then the War intervened. What happened to these dreams we will explore next time. 

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