Palace Gates to Seven Sisters – The lost railway line of Bounds Green, 1878 – 1963

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N7 class Locomotive No.69621 seen at Palace Gates on a local train from North Woolwich in September 1962 just three months before the line's closure. This engine has survived into preservation and is currently undergoing a refit on the North Norfolk Railway. The photo also reveals the sheer scale of the footbridge over the platforms. [photo: R. Hobbs]

This would have been one of the very last Steam workings on the Branch as Stratford Shed closed to Steam in the second week of September 1962 and the N7's and L1's were replaced by the Brush Type 2's - or Class 31 as we later came to know them. The Branch itself was the very last part of the old Great Eastern Suburban Network in North London to use Steam.

I think this 1920s image must have been taken close from Dagmar Road as the rail flyover for the Hertford Loop is out of frame. Centre extreme left in the background, the Palace Gates engine shed can be seen (located then at the bottom of Imperial Road) and, moving right on the same plane, is the splendid but rather grandiose foot bridge over the platforms of Palace Gates station.

The edifice in the centre further right is described a crushing mill (for coal probably) on OS maps and later became a Charringtons coal distribution centre in the 1950’s. The carriage sidings shown are now covered by the High Speed Train depot and the road bridge carrying Buckingham Road over the line is centre right. The engine shown is an Atlantic class C1 4-4-2 passenger locomotive originally built by Henry Ivatt for the Great Northern Railway in 1904. ©Rail-Online

The Palace Gates Link to the Hertford Loop

I was always curious as to why the Palace Gates branch was so belatedly linked to the adjacent Hertford Loop and the extensive carriage sidings at Bounds Green started by the Great Northern (and later further expanded by the LNER). My research reveals that when the Palace Gates branch opened in 1878, there were already adequate interchanges between the GN & Great Eastern at Canonbury and Stratford, and the Enfield Line was then a short dead-end branch. However, once the Loop was completed, the notion of a connection began to grow and the site was surveyed and photographed in 1922.


The Grouping and consolidation of the Big Four must have added further impetus to the idea of a link when the North London Line came under the LMS, and a connection at Bounds Green would have offered movements between the GE & GN sections without leaving LNER rails. Authorisation for a 13 chain link was obtained from Parliament in the LNER Act 1924, but the powers expired without renewal in 1929 with nothing being built. The original Proposal was for a full running connection with a junction to the Enfield line by the Bounds Green Road just short of Bowes Park Station.


In 1930, a cheaper and simpler siding connection was made from the Up Enfield line with just 170 yards of single track being laid over flat ground already owned by the LNER (marked A & B on the 1935 OS map). No further Act of Parliament or even LNER Board approval was required, so the exact operational date is not recorded. The link enabled suburban rolling stock on the GE branch to access the newly installed carriage washer at Bounds Green via a headshunt at the GN end of the connection, and easy access to Stratford shed for GN loco’s requiring major repairs. The Kings X steam crane could also now access the GE section, and ‘Hush-Hush’ experimental Locomotive No. 10000’s journey to the Norwich Exhibition in May 1931 also used the connection (what a helluva spot that would’ve been!). During WWII the connection was used by coal trains destined for Temple Mills via Hertford from New England, the trains being split at Palace Gates due to the gradients on the GE section.

However, full through running from the Enfield line to the GE section was still not possible with this simple track arrangement. Wartime pressures led to the 1944 addition of two sets of points near the Bounds Green Road that meant the connection became a fully signalled route, both Down & Up, worked by Acceptance Lever between the Bounds Green & Palace Gates signal boxes. After the War, weekly excursion trains were run from Hertford North and Gordon Hill through to Southend Victoria & Central, often stopping at the stations on the Palace Gates Line to pick up additional custom.

Source: ‘The Great Northern Mainline in London – Bounds Green & Bowes Park’ by Peter Kay, British Railways Illustrated Vol 7 April 1998  

The crew of Thompson L1 2-6-4T  Tank Locomotive No. 67723 pose at Palace Gates station. Photographer, Dr Ian C Allen, neglected to record the exact date but it will have been between 16th September 1961 & 1962 – the exact year of her last allocation at Stratford before withdrawal and the end of steam on the line. If there was a tear-up in my local, I’d definitely want the fireman in my corner! There's a rare glimpse of the massive Charringtons Coal Distribution Centre that closed in 1984 just left of the engine. . 


Connecting the communities of Bowes Park and Bounds Green in north London.

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