Hitchin & Luton Route Recreation Day
Sunday 2nd September 2012
Prepared by Ian Smith, 12th September 2012.
366: Luton to Wheathampstead: RF308The 366 was a Railway Replacement Route. Not for weekend engineering work or an emergency, but permanently. It replaced the railway between Welwyn Garden City and Luton, and operated on an express basis, not stopping at all stops. The stopping service between Luton and Wheathampstead was provided by the 365 from St.Albans.
RF308 set off from Park Street, and wriggled a way south out of Luton onto the Welwyn road, alongside both the abandoned railway line (now a pleasant walk) and the Midland Main Line, with its frequent service of suburban electric trains to Bedford, and diesels to points beyond.
The railways crossed over the road to the other flank of the Lea Valley before we reached the edge of Harpenden. We sailed on past Batford, where 365s used to visit the estate, and continued down the valley to Wheathampstead. At the roundabout by the remains of old Wheathampstead station we went straight on, following the relatively new by-pass as it seeps down the valley to the next roundabout. There we turned, to take the old road back into the village. We turned north down the High Street, and pulled up at the church. I wonder how many of the passengers noticed that Geoff had switched the 366 blind to the correct destination for this stop: Luton.
304: Wheathampstead to Hitchin: RF308The 304 was neither a Luton nor a Hitchin route, operationally. St.Albans garage provided it, working from St.Albans to Whitwell, where it met and connected with the Birch Brothers route 204 from Hitchin. Eventually London Transport took over the Hitchin end from Birch, and operated throughout as the 304.
Geoff switched the blinds again, setting RF308 up for its northward trip.
We set off again, down the High Street to cross the river and climb up past the station and on up Lamer Lane, climbing up out of the Lea Valley. We passed by Gustard Wood, and on down Kimpton Road and narrow twisting Cooper's Hill to reach the west end of Kimpton. We trickled eastwards through the village, then turned left up Hitchin Road, climbing over the hill before dropping down once again into Whitwell. We squeezed our way through the village. Predictably it was Hitchin Road again that took us on northwards from the east end, across undulating farmland, through St.Paul's Walden. We continued on to join the London Road, the old highway between London and Bedford. That took us straight down towards Hitchin, where we met our outward route at the by-pass roundabout before descending into the town. We drew up alongside St.Mary's Square.
It had been an excellent day. Many thanks to Colin Rivers for organising, to Peter Larkham for conducting, to Geoff Hudspith for all the driving and preparation of the bus with excellent blinds, and for his excellent notes in the programme, and to all the cheerful passengers who came up with a fund of stories and information as we went along.
Most photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.