diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 30, 2006

  Metro-land revisited
  The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

  Quainton Road

The Metropolitan Railway had ideas well above its station. In the 1880s there were plans to boost traffic by linking London to places far outside the commuter hinterland - cities such as Oxford and Manchester. By buying up a failed railway company they reached out as far as the grassy plains of the Vale of Aylesbury, nearly halfway to Birmingham. And at Quainton Road, down an obscure uninhabited country lane, the company established its bridgehead. Here the tracks split, with one branch steaming north [photo] to Verney Junction, the other west [photo] to the hilltop village of Brill. But the railway artfully skirted even the smallest centres of population so there was very little passenger traffic, and the express trains to the Midlands never materialised. When London Transport took over the Metropolitan in 1933 they had no interest in running rural Buckinghamshire services and so retreated to Aylesbury, and later 20 miles further back to Amersham. When Betjeman came to Quainton Road in 1972 he found just a footbridge between deserted platforms, and a rarely-used goods line stretching off into nowhere.

The Metropolitan Railway's official map of Metro-land (1924) [see how far from London it stretches]
A detailed historical map showing the railways of England and Wales, modern and disused [see if you can find Quainton Road]
The Brill Tramway [see in detail what this oddball line looks like today]

The view from the footbridge at Quainton Road is quite different today [photos]. Look down the line and you'll see a second (wheelchair accessible) metal footbridge, several well-preserved buildings and maybe even people waiting for trains. That's because the site has been taken over by the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre - one of those dark, sooty places where grown men come to play with steam engines. There's everything you'd expect - a picturesque station [photos], a museum in a Nissen hut, a tea room, and several sidings full of engines and carriages in various states of restoration. And on special days (like this last bank holiday) the centre runs an hourly diesel service down to Aylesbury, oh-so-briefly reconnecting Quainton Road to the main rail network. On Betjeman's birthday I took a rare opportunity to ride out and take a look.

Two steam locomotives were in operation, one still resplendent in Metropolitan livery [photo]. Visitors were treated to a quarter of a mile ride down the track for a view of some cows in a field, and back again, and back again, and back again [photo]. To make the trip in any way memorable you had to sit in the front carriage, right behind the smoking engine, else you could have been aboard any timewarped train on a return journey to nowhere. Two other scales of locomotive were available, courtesy of the Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineering Society. The medium sized trains were for sitting astride and then being chugged round a small twisty circuit (perfect for keeping keen kids of all ages occupied) [photo]. The smaller sized trains were radio controlled and went round and round in circles on a plywood platform until you got tired of watching. In the nearby picnic area members of the society jostled to buy spanners and oily metal bits from a small kiosk, while visitors treated themselves to individually cling-filmed slices of battenburg to eat alongside a polystyrene cup of steaming tea.

Outside the gift shop a fairground organ played repeatedly, as grating as a ringtone but impossible to switch off. Two volunteers in smart black uniforms guarded the entrance to the downline platform lest any miscreant try entering without having their ticket clipped. Some of the day's visitors spent their time rifling through railway ephemera, others were intent on capturing the perfect shot of a train or two puffing by, but most were content to wander from attraction to attraction in a nostalgic haze. As an extra incentive this weekend, the centre had laid on a Vintage Vehicle Show in the car park. Scores of gleaming motorbikes and a few scooters revved in through the gates and parked up beside a gaggle of US army jeeps. Motorists with Morgans and Morris Minors sat and unwrapped tinfoil sandwiches behind their open boot, then stood around and compared hub caps and radiators with fellow enthusiasts. The road and rail crowd mixed fleetingly, then returned to be with their own kind.

For a brief moment it was just about possible to imagine this old railway junction as the hub of a mighty Metropolitan empire, with the Manchester Express pulling in on one platform to exchange passengers with the Oxford Pullman on another [photo]. But one look out from the footbridge, across acres of empty pasture towards far distant villages, told a very different story [photo]. This station was never meant to be the Clapham Junction of the south Midlands. Quainton Road was always destined to be a museum piece - the pipedream of men playing with trains - and its current destiny suits the place just perfectly.

"In those wet fields the railway didn't pay.
The Metro stops at Amersham today."

John Betjeman at Quainton Road ("Metro-land", BBC, 1973)

The Buckinghamhire Railway Centre [if you like this sort of thing, definitely worth a visit] [if not, chuffing hell]
Inspector Sands also visited on Monday
This Saturday a "Betjeman Special" steam train runs from Marylebone to Quainton Road [tickets £55, in aid of the Parkinson's Society]
More fine photographs of Quainton Road

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards