See a drool-worthy model tube train, and learn about THREE unbuilt extensions to the Northern line.
In a parallel and thrilling universe, it's possible to catch the Northern line beyond Edgware. In the 1930s, London Underground was seriously considering an extension to Brockley Hill, Elstree South, and on to Bushey Heath.
A new exhibition at Elstree & Borehamwood Museum brings the plans to life with the kind of model train that will make certain people weak in the knees. I mean, just look at it:
The model, built by Tony de Swarte over lockdown, takes up most of the length of the museum (which isn't difficult; the museum is about the size of a station waiting room). It shows how the three additional stations would have fitted into the landscape as it was at the time.
The model is peppered with glorious details (watch out for Thomas the Tank Engine), with buttons and switches to play with. We took along our mini-Londonists and they were enraptured.
Although the model is undeniably the main draw, it's worth taking time to read the text on the walls. Here we learn that the extension was all set to go ahead. One of the stations was designed by no less a figure than Charles Holden, and some tunnelling was even completed. But then the second world war, followed by the creation of the green belt, knocked the project on the head.
To Mill Hill and beyond
Little evidence now remains of the Elstree extension, though a related expansion scheme still imposes itself on the local landscape. This is the Mill Hill extension, which would have seen tracks continue from Mill Hill East through a new stop at Mill Hill The Hale, and on to Edgware.
Lots of work was put into this part of the scheme before it was abandoned, and you can still walk along the track route through Mill Hill. Remains of a viaduct can also be found to the north of Edgware, as Jay Foreman explores in his hilarious video about the extension.
A tube to Borehamwood
In a third — and little-known — scheme, plans were also put forward for an extension to serve the burgeoning film industry in Borehamwood. This wheeze predated the Elstree proposal, and would have seen the Northern line advance from Edgware to "Borehamwood East" station via Moat Mount and Sterling Corner. The area was then fields but is now a major conurbation, and home to the studios that make The Voice and Strictly Come Dancing. The town could sorely use a tube line, and it's a pity this was never built. Perhaps now Sky is opening a massive new studio in Borehamwood, it's time to reconsider?
This is a cracking little exhibition, which will appeal to tube fans and anyone who loves gawping at model trains. It's certain to prove the most popular exhibition this tiny museum has yet staged.
Off the Rails: the Line That Never Was is at Elstree and Borehamwood Museum (top floor of the library) until 20 August 2022. Entrance is free. The town is just 20 minutes on the Thameslink from London St Pancras, and is part of the London LOOP walking route.
If you're in the area, be sure to have a peek at the new Eastenders set, and wander round the local Tesco, which is built on land that was used to film Star Wars (a fact that is scandalously lacking in commemoration!).