The Morning 'Nickey Train' at Roundwood Halt

A Top Person's Journey to London

Nickey Line - Roundwood Halt
LHS archives, LHS 011871
The old wooden bridge at Roundwood Halt, built by Jesse Catton when developing Roundwood Park - 1930s.
John Wyborn, c.1948
The old wooden footbridge and Roundwood Halt
John Wyborn, c.1948
Nickey Line - Footbridge between Roundwod Park and Moreton End Lane, shortly before demolition and construction of the Nickey Line path
LHS archives

Each morning my mother and I would settle down to breakfast in the front room, watching the road come to life. The ‘Nickey’ train would arrive from Hemel Hempstead at Roundwood Halt at ten past eight. It would connect with the main London express which left Harpenden at about half past. Since many London offices opened at nine thirty, with the bosses arriving at ten, the morning Nickey was very much a Top Person’s train. 

Most of the passengers wore formal office dress, pin striped trousers, bowler hats and umbrellas, in the style of Neville Chamberlain. From eight o’clock onward they would begin to gather on the platform, passing our house from the other end.

At eight minutes past, the train would approach and – to warn any pedestrians who might be using the level crossing across the fields near Claygates’ apple orchard – the driver would give a short playful hoot on his whistle.  At once the road would spring to life. Like a flock of startled pelicans, stockbrokers, lawyers and company directors would break into a canter with umbrellas and briefcases swinging. As the train got closer, the chase would become more desperate, till the engine stopped at the Halt with a screeching of brakes. Thereafter there would be a stampede until with a final ‘hoot’ the train would pull away, leaving a dispirited rearguard of frustrated executives. They would slowly and resignedly pass our house on a long and tedious walk through the avenues to catch the next express at the main line station. There was no second chance with the Nickey.

Each morning this little scene would be re-enacted. It was usually the same gentlemen who cut it fine, and we came to recognise them. 

Comments about this page

  • John Wyborn doesn’t mention a notable figure who went against the flow, descending from the train from Hemel Hempstead and making his way across the bridge and down Moreton End Lane to Moreton End School: the headmaster, Mr Codrington.   He had a little goatee beard, wore a wideawake hat and a cape, and created a slightly alarming, rather theatrical impression.   It seemed a bit of a comedown for him after the passenger service ceased and he had to make his way to Harpenden on the bus from Boxmoor.

    By Peter Ford (13/08/2015)

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