HDL Metrolander railtour

Saturday 14 May 2011

This article was last modified on Thursday 24 November 2011

[PHOTO: Train and passengers in preserved station: 89kB]

Above: The Metrolander railtour and some of its passengers are seen on the platform at Quainton Road, shortly before departure for Hastings. The Metropolitan Railway architecture, the British Railways Southern Region design, and the red K6 telephone box all are reminiscent of years gone by. Photo by Robert Stewart.

Hastings Diesels Limited’s 48th public railtour was from Hastings to Beaconsfield (for Bekonscot Model Village & Railway), Aylesbury, and beyond the normal limit of passenger services to reach Quainton Road, home of the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

It is believed to be the first time that a Hastings DEMU has ventured beyond Aylesbury on the former Metropolitan Railway. As well as visiting the working steam museum at Quainton Road, passengers were able to travel on our train to Claydon Junction.

The weather held fair for the trip, the train ran trouble-free, and the running was to time throughout except for the final run home from Kensington Olympia onwards in which we consistently made up time and arrived back at Hastings 27 minutes early!

Historical data

The train was formed thus: 60118-60501-69337-70262-60529-60116, with motor coach 60118 Tunbridge Wells leading on departure from Hastings. It returned in the same orientation.

The publicity leaflet, final timings, and map of the railtour route remain available.

Cab video footage

Video footage from a forward-facing camera mounted in the cab has been made available via the links below. Despite further investment in equipment we still have some vibration problems at some engine-speeds, and are working to solve this issue. The video material at these links is © Copyright Andy Armitage 2011.


Various photographers have taken video-footage depicting this railtour and have uploaded it to YouTube; the following is a link to a starting-point, but does not represent the definitive collection:


[PHOTO: Train in depot yard: 55kB]

Above: 1001 receives a final check-over and has its water-tanks filled at St. Leonards Depot, in the afternoon of the day before the railtour. Photo by Andy Armitage.

[PHOTO: Train in station platform: 65kB]

Above: Our train calls at Beaconsfield, and the traincrew receive tea and bacon butties from the buffet car! The train’s headboard includes a silhouetted representation of the statue at St. Pancras station of Sir John Betjeman, whose interest in “Metro-land” was such that he made a film of that name in 1973.

[PHOTO: Semaphore signal: 50kB]

Above: After running via various spurs in the Willesden and Ealing areas we reached Greenford Junction; this attractive lower-quadrant semaphore signal gave us authority to proceed onto the largely-mothballed New North Main Line alongside which runs the Central Line to South Ruislip.

[PHOTO: Railway beneath overbridge: 61kB]

Above: The view ahead on the former Metropolitan Railway (later the Met & Great Central Joint line), which closed to passengers north of Aylesbury in 1966. A single low-speed track remains available from Aylesbury, through Quainton Road to Calvert for access to a landfill site there. Here we see the site of Waddesdon Manor station; a platform is just discernable in the grass beyond the bridge.

[PHOTO: Station nameboard: 57kB]

Above: Quainton Road station was part of the Metropolitan Railway system, and has a complex history perhaps best read on Wikipedia. It has been restored as a museum, the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

[PHOTO: Train at preserved station: 66kB]

Above: Upon arrival, our train waited in the platform (whose length it exactly fitted!) prior to operating two shuttle trips north beyond Calvert to the end of the remaining Great Central Main Line at Claydon Junction.

[PHOTO: Preserved station with train: 50kB]

Above & Below: These two contrasting views were taken from the footbridge, looking first to the south (where the existence of the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre is highly evident, and our train masks the missing track) and then to the north. They may very well be described by the words of John Betjeman:

This is a part of the Metropolitan Railway that’s been entirely forgotten. […] It was to have been the Clapham Junction of the rural part of the Metropolitan. With what hopes this place was built in 1890. They hoped that trains would run down the main line there from London to the Midlands and the North. They’d come, from the Midlands and the North, rushing through here to London and a Channel Tunnel and then on to Paris. But alas, all that has happened is that there, a line curves away to the last of the Metropolitan stations in the country in far Buckinghamshire, which was at Verney Junction. (Metro-land, 1973)

[PHOTO: Preserved station: 71kB]

[PHOTO: Train under bridge: 79kB]

Above: The train passes beneath the solidly-constructed bridge carrying the road that gives the station its name. 1001 was just setting out on its second shuttle trip to Claydon. Photo by Anthony Frost.

[PHOTO: Track in countryside: 74kB]

Above: We ventured north down what little remains of the true Great Central Main Line, from Quainton Road past Calvert; there the track turns right, up a spur and onto the farthest remnant of the Oxford – Bletchley Line at Claydon Junction. The view here to the east shows the headshunt and the run-round loop, with the limit of operational railway beyond. Through to Bletchley the track still exists—where it has not been stolen—but it has not seen trains for several years.

[PHOTO: Train seen from on adjacent track: 51kB]

Above: The traincrew have just changed ends at the Claydon headshunt on the Varsity Line. The Master Cutler headboard was carried on the GCR main-line sections as a “nod” to the express passenger train of that name which used to run to Sheffield over the Great Central Railway, between the end of World War 2 and the running-down of the line prior to closure.

[PHOTO: Train on curve among fields: 77kB]

Above: One of the shuttle-trips returns from Claydon LNE Junction via the spur leading onto the Great Central Main Line. Photo by Glenn Salt.

[PHOTO: Train approaches on single track: 56kB]

Above: This stunning view shows the Hastings DEMU nearing Quainton Road after its second visit to Claydon. It has just passed the site of the convergence (from its left) of the last vestige of the Metropolitan Railway via Grandborough Road to Verney Junction. Photo by Robert Stewart.

[PHOTO: Train in preserved station: 83kB]

Above: The railtour awaits departure from Quainton Road with its return working to Hastings. Photo by Robert Stewart.

[PHOTO: Preserved station and train: 67kB]

Above: The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre site is bisected by the former Met & Great Central Joint line whose remaining single track still runs right through it. On the left, behind the signal-box, is the platform for the Brill Tramway which closed in 1935; on the far right is the Oxford Rewley Road station building which, having lain derelict in Oxford since 1951, was rescued to Quainton Road around the turn of the century. Photo by Robert Stewart.

[PHOTO: Train departing preserved station: 75kB]

Above: Shortly after 3 o’clock the railtour departed Quainton Road for the sedate journey back along what is now a freight-only line to Aylesbury. Will regular passenger trains ever come this way again? Photo by Robert Stewart.

[PHOTO: Trains in station: 67kB]

Above: Back at Kensington Olympia, our train is held while a London Overground service, operated by a Class 378 electric unit, departs wrong-road from the northbound platform with a service to Clapham Junction.