Kensal Green Station at 100

On the back of my last post about the rarely-used-in-passenger-service Primrose Hill link on the Overground, I was doing some reading about this railway and came across the fact that my local station, Kensal Green, was opened on 1st October 1916. “That means the 100th anniversary is only a couple of days away!” I thought to myself.

Today I wandered down to the station, and wondered what special treat London Underground might have put on to mark the occasion. Last year Kilburn Park and Queen’s Park stations reached 100, and a series of posters depicting the history of the stations were put up, and I thought perhaps the same might have been done for Kensal Green’s special day.

On reaching the station, it was quickly and disappointingly obvious that no such love had been given – no champagne reception, no balloons, no posters – I couldn’t even see a single member of staff. Combined with the gloomy weather, it made for a pretty poor show. Trying not to be too downcast by it all, I proceeded to make a brief photographic survey of the ticket office and platforms, and went on my way.

History

The tracks that Kensal Green serve were laid down in 1912 by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), who needed extra lines alongside what we now know as the West Coast Main Line to provide more suburban capacity into Euston. They were electrified from the start and carried trains serving the Watford-Euston and Watford-Broad Street routes, amongst others.

Kensal Green in 1954. The 1912 era tracks running to the north of the West Coast Mainline clearly visible. (Map thanks to the National Library of Scotland)

Meanwhile, the Bakerloo line, owned by Underground Electric Railways Ltd (UERL), had been open between Waterloo and Baker Street since 1906. It slowly extended north, taking an awkward route via Paddington by 1913, and reaching Queen’s Park in 1915, where it met the LNWR railway. Soon tube services were running all the way up to Watford Junction, and Kensal Green station opened in 1916 serving both LNWR and UERL trains. The legacy of this is that the platforms are at a compromise height between mainline and deep tube sized cars, you step up onto an Overground train and down into an Underground one.

Ownership of the stations on this stretch north of Queen’s Park was by LNWR, and this eventually passed to British Railways when it was created after the Second World War. In 1980 the original station was demolished and a super modern shed was built to replace it. During the early 80s tube ridership was falling because of depopulation and economic decline, so the Bakerloo line terminus was cut back to Stonebridge Park. British Rail services continued to ply between Watford, Euston and Broad Street. Passenger figures eventually started to recover with the mid-80s economic boom and by 1989 the Bakerloo had been re-extended back to Harrow and Wealdstone.

The old Kensal Green ticket office in 1980 whilst the replacement was under construction, and the scene today in 2016. (top picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

When the railways were privatised, Silverlink took over the franchise for the Watford-Euston services and management of Kensal Green passed to them. By this point Broad Street was long demolished and so National Rail trains were running just into Euston. Like much of the railway under Silverlink’s responsibility, the station became quite rundown in this period, and controversy arose due to the stations often not being manned and the consequential increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Transport for London was eventually given the powers to take over the running of the line and so control of Kensal Green went to the Overground on its creation in 2007, and with it came lots of improvements to the station ambience and new rolling stock serving the route.

The Future

There is talk of the Bakerloo being re-extended back to Watford Junction, and a brand new southern extension to Lewisham and beyond. With it should come new tube trains to replace the increasingly decrepit 1972 stock currently serving the line, but this isn’t expected to come much before the 2030s according to the current timetable.

A possible blow to Kensal Green could come from High Speed 2 works which potentially threaten the Overground services into Euston, although it seems like nothing is 100% decided on this yet.

So there we have it for now. Whatever happens, and whatever routes it serves, let’s hope Kensal Green station will be around to serve the local residents for another 100 years.

And here are some of my favourite shots from the time I’ve lived here…

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