Saturday, 5 November 2016
The Saturday List #103 - Ten sights you won't see on a short journey from Mill Hill today
1. Mill Hill Broadway Station. This was knocked down and rebuilt in the mid 1960's to accomodate the M1 motorway. Back in 1962, there was no M1 motorway. There was a quaint old station building, with a ticket office, a waiting room a parcels depot and a few sidings for freight (more on that later). There would have been houses on both sides of Station road, and the station building. Where we now have a car park on Bunns Lane, there was a builders depot (run by my Uncles - It was called Fanning builders)
2. Your ticket. For your journey, you'd have paid a few pennies. To pay for it, you'd have selected a few coins from your pocket, maybe a thruppence, a tanner and a half crown. I've no idea how much a ticket to Cricklewood would have cost, but the ticket office would have asked for an amount such as "two and six please". You'd have been given a chunky cardboard ticket. Most of us today would simply tap in with Oyster or contactless. In a few years tickets will most likely be consigned to the museums.
3. The train. This would most likely have been a set of carriages pulled by a steam engine or set of diesel railcar carriages. They would have smelled of oil, smoke or diesel. Now all trains are modern electric trains. The last regular steam engines passed through Mill Hill a couple of years after I was born and the diesel railcars went in 1983 (although the inter city services that zoom through are still diesel powered).
4. Mill Hill The Hale station. The mainline we are travelling on would have passed over the old railway which ran from Mill Hill East to Edgware. In 1962, the station was still there, although disused and there was still the occasional freight service, which went to a freight depot in Edgware, where the Broadwalk shopping centre is now based.
5. Hendon Airfield. In 1962, this would have been an active RAF base. You would have seen a whole selection of RAF planes and activities related as the train pulled out of Mill Hill toward Hendon. Now we have the Graham Park estate.
6. The Welsh Harp. as the train travelled past Hendon, on the west you'd have had a spectacular view of The Welsh Harp. Happpily the Welsh Harp is still there, but you can't see it from the train as numerous offices and other buildings have gone up, blocking the view.
7. The Twin Towers of Wembley Stadium. You do get a fleeting glimpse of Wembley Stadium and the Wemlbley Arch. Back in 1962, you'd have seen the Twin Towers. England would not have won the World cup at that time, so I guess that for many, Wembley wouldn't be the iconic location it is now. People would have remembered the 1948 Olympics as the big event there.
8. Brent Dog track. If you looked to the east, you'd have seen Brent Greyhound racing stadium. This was demolished and Brent Cross shopping centre took its place. I've no memory of the Dog track, but I'd love to have seen it. The North Circular would have passed under rather than over the railway then.
9. Hendon FC football club. This would have been visible to the east over the houses. I am not sure if they had floodlights in 1962 but for many years they were a local landmark, the ground was recently bulldozed as part of Barnet council's stated policy of making Barnet a football club free Borough.
10. Sidings full of coal trains. Cricklewood was a hub of the nations rail freight network. In 1962, there were huge marshalling yards full of wagons carrying coal. These transported coal down from the mines in Nottingham and Yorkshire and would have been despatched to power stations such as Battersea and Bankside. There would have been all manner of other wagons and rail infrastructure. There was a large locomotive depot and carriage works on the site as well. In 1962, Steam would have been the dominant motive power, with a few diesel railcars and locomotives. The smell of the area would have been completely different. To understand the importance of this freight network, consider that central heating was in its infancy. Most homes were heated with coal fires. In 1962, most rail stations had associated freight yards and the biggest business in these was the coal merchant. Mill Hill, Hendon and Cricklewood stations would have had large coalyards, keeping us warm. For many years, Charringtons coal merchants had an office in Mill Hill, the last remnants of this coal industry. Areas like the Cricklewood marshalling yards would receive the long trains from the mines and then these would be split up, with shorter trains dropping wagons of coal at the local smaller sidings. Now in Cricklewood, we have a small depot now for electric trains. The Marshalling yards have either been built on (the cinema and shops are on some of these), left to rot or been taken over by various firms using it for parking and storage of heavy equipment such as skips.
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