All Aboard! – The Epping and Ongar Railway

On Saturday we took a trip back in time. Just a couple of stops on the tube from where we live, found us waiting for the bus in the Essex town of Epping, but it wasn’t just any old bus.

Here comes the bus

No this was the kind of bus that my grandfather used to drive in the 1950s and 60s, a classic London Transport double-decker, lovingly restored to its original condition by the volunteers of the Epping and Ongar Railway. We piled aboard, clambered up the stairs, sat ourselves down and waited for the conductor to sell us our tickets (£13 adult, £7 child, bus and train inclusive), before setting off towards North Weald Station.

OK time for a bit of history. In 1997 London Underground closed the Epping to Ongar extension of the tube’s Central Line. Bit of a short-sighted decision given the tremendous boom in commuter house building in the region since then, but we did have a Tory government at the time. Since then a couple of attempts have been made to operate trains on the line with varying degrees of failure, but this year the good folk at the Epping and Ongar Railway have reopened the track at weekends with a collection of heritage locomotives and carriages.

Diesel Shunter Ruston, built in 1965

Disembarking at North Weald we legged over the level crossing to board the diesel carriage to Coopersale. Eventually the Epping and Ongar Railway volunteers hope to restore all the track back to Epping, but for now Coopersale is as far west as the railway can go. Nevertheless it gave those of us who are old enough to remember, the opportunity to revisit some of the railway carriages of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Fortunately the little grey cells were not taxed by any murdered Ameican industrialists and we returned to North Weald,

Corridor train carriages on the Coopersale branch

for the second leg of our adventure.

Signal Box North Weald Station

Where we had just about enough time to scramble back over the level crossing and board the eastbound train to Ongar.

Locomotive Pitchford Hall shot from the old signal box at Ongar station

Only this time the train was pushed by a steam locomotive, the 1929 built Pitchford Hall. So having pushed our train to Ongar, Pitchford Hall got to pull it back to North Weald.

Pitchford Hall gets steam up

We climbed onto the platform of North Weald’s Signal Box, watched her steam up

Full steam ahead

and waved her off. Whether it’s the smell of the coal firing up the boiler or the noise of the engine as it chuffs out of the station there is a real romance about steam that contemporary trains just can’t match. That being said the class 37 Diesel that pushed Pitchford Hall’s train out of the station, still brought back happy memories of the 1960s, when my father worked as a British Railways engineer.

Bringing up the rear a Class 37 Diesel locomotive gives Pitchford Hall a push

This left us with about 40 minutes to explore Ongar Station and its small museum and shop and eat a delicious Hadley’s (an independent Essex manufacturer) ice cream before our return ride

Our ride back arrives

to North Weald arrived for our bus back to Epping Station.

London Transport Double-decker in the country green livery

Congratulations to the volunteers at the Epping and Ongar Railway for making the railway live again and bringing so much happiness to so many people. The railway will operate services on weekends throughout the summer and every day during the 2012 Olympic Games.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact for commercial reuse

9 thoughts on “All Aboard! – The Epping and Ongar Railway

  1. interesting…recently i came across a site which was dedicated to all the closed down underground stations in london…tons of them…i dont have a link unfortunatly…..very interesting……london was closing down obsolete tube stations as long ago as 1907……thats incredible to my mind….i live in south africa and are bragging about opening our first……….

    • Yes there are quite a few, many were deemed to be too close together. The Epping to Ongar branch of the Central Line was originally part of the Great Eastern Railway having been built in 1865. It was taken over by London Transport in 1949 when it became part of the Central Line and eventually electrified in 1957.

  2. Pingback: Classic London Underground Locomotive at the Epping and Ongar Railway | shipscooksstuff

  3. Pingback: Greensted Church and the Fat Turk | shipscooksstuff

    • Hi Jo

      Glad you like it, haven’t been posting (or reading) as much as I used to thanks to getting ratheer a lot of paid freelance work at last, which is quite time consumming, and by the time I have put in a day at the computer my eyes have had enough screen! Not complaining though the work is very welcome


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