The Watford & Rickmansworth Railway was the shortest of Hertfordshire’s branch lines – only three miles long with a single stop – because the intended six mile extension from Rickmansworth to Uxbridge was never built.
The line is linked with a prominent enthusiast for the new railways, Lord Ebury, whose house at Moor Park was close to the new Rickmansworth Station. Ebury is credited with the vision of a railway link from west to east across Hertfordshire, but it would have been a long and difficult journey on the lines which finally emerged.
The line was level but had to cross the rivers Chess, Gade and Colne, and the Grand Union Canal. It was built quickly and opened in 1862, but much of its passenger traffic was taken by the new Metropolitan Railway (to Amersham) in 1887. Unlike Hertfordshire’s other branches the line was electrified in 1927, but passenger use still declined and the stations closed in 1951.
Goods traffic remained much healthier in industrial west Hertfordshire, latterly serving Universal Asbestos, Goodyear tyres, Watford Power Station, and Dickinson’s paper works at Croxley Mill, which still had a private siding until 1983. The best known freight, if not the most important economically, was the watercress carried in hampers from Rickmansworth to London every day. Today most of the track can be walked or cycled as the ‘Ebury Way’ from Rickmansworth to around Oxhey Park, with good views across the rivers and canal at the Rickmansworth end.
Photo gallery of The Cole Way
Below you can listen to a selection of clips taken from interviews with people who worked on or lived near the line.