Trying to piece together the history of London’s railways can prove to be a fiendishly difficult task.
Take the present day ‘Alexandra Palace’ station (Station Code: AAP) as a good example. Located on the Great Northern Route, which forms part of the East Coast Main Line (ECML), the station is operated by Great Northern (GN) as part of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise, run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
The original station was built by the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and opened in 1859 as ‘Wood Green’, before being renamed ‘Wood Green (Alexandra Park)’ in 1864.
In 1873, the competing Muswell Hill & Palace Railway (MH&PR) opened the nearby ‘Alexandra Palace’ station, which served as the terminus of a branch line from Highgate station on the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway, which was already owned by GNR.
Built adjacent to Alexandra Palace itself, the station was temporarily closed on a number of occasions, owing to lower than expected demand, and in 1891 was renamed ‘Alexandra Park’. The change was reversed in 1898 when the name reverted back to ‘Alexandra Palace’ once again.
Meanwhile, a stone’s throw from ‘Wood Green (Alexandra Park)’, the competing Great Eastern Railway (GER) had opened ‘Palace Gates’ station in 1878, serving as the terminus of the Palace Gates Line, which ran as another branch line from Seven Sisters station on the Stoke Newington & Edmonton Railway.
In 1911, GNR took control of the MH&PR, before the 1921 Railways Act saw the combined company amalgamated into the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923, along with the GER.
In 1929, the Palace Gates Line was extended the short distance north to Bowes Park station on the Hertford Loop Line, itself an extension by the GNR from ‘Wood Green (Alexandra Park)’ in 1880.
With the nationalisation of LNER in 1948, the three competing stations became part of British Railways (Eastern Region), yet only one would exist by the time that privatisation took place in the early 1990’s.
‘Alexandra Palace’ was the first station to close, with passenger services ceasing in 1954, and freight by 1957. The Victorian station building survives, however and is currently used by the charity, CUFOS (Community Use For the Old Station).
‘Palace Gates’ station followed soon after with passenger services on the Palace Gates Line ending in 1963, and freight the following year. The buildings along the line were subsequently demolished and little or no trace of the former station survives.
Despite the two nearby stations having closed, ‘Wood Green (Alexandra Park)’ reverted back to its original name of ‘Wood Green’ in 1971, before finally becoming ‘Alexandra Palace’ in 1982, which remains in use today.
The original station building still exists, standing on Station Road, N.22, directly opposite ‘The Starting Gate’, a Grade II listed public house.
‘Alexandra Palace’ today is served by four platforms; 1 and 2 are the up slow lines, with direct trains to Moorgate; whilst platforms 3 and 4 are the down slow lines, with trains running to Welwyn Garden City on the ECML and Stevenage/Hertford North on the Hertford Loop line respectively.
In the coming weeks and months I am aiming to write more about both the MH&PR and the Palace Gates Line, so hopefully the above will provide some useful context to what comes next.