"Harrow-on-the-Hill is an island [...} And the constant click and kissing of the trolley buses hissing is the level to the Wealdstone turned to waves, and the rumble of the railway is the thunder of the rollers as they gather up for plunging into caves.”
People in Harrow can enjoy a nostalgic steam train journey through the ‘Metroland’ made famous by the former Poet Laureate John Betjeman in his poems and 1970s TV documentary, as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Chesham branch of the Metropolitan Line.
The steam hauled trains, which will travel between Wembley Park, Rickmansworth, Chesham and Harrow-on-the-Hill next week, will give you the chance to travel along this historic Metroland route and experience what it might have felt like to make the journey many years ago.
The journeys are being organised by the London Transport Museum.
Metroland is a term we do not hear much anymore. It is not, as some would believe, a theme park solely devoted to trains of the past, but rather a stretch of land to the north west of London that connected the rapidly beating heart of the capital to the leisurely strolls that could be found in the countryside in Middlesex, Herts and Bucks.
The name Metroland is perhaps most recognisable as the name and setting for the television film, narrated by John Betjeman, in which he travels to the old Wembley Stadium and Harrow School.
Julian Barnes also used Metroland as the title for his novel and subsequent 1997 film starring Christian Bale and Emily Watson. But the term was intended to capture the essence of a beautiful, unspoilt, countryside that was at the same time connected to one of the busiest and most important cities in the world.
The steam train that will travel down the historic route today will be made up from a number of trains that are sure to please enthusiasts. The train that will be used over the two-day period will be made up of from parts of other trains, some of which are more than 100 years old, such as the Metropolitan Locomotive No 1; the L150 Steam Locomotive, the Metropolitan Milk Van; the Chesham Set, the Sarah Siddons electric locomotive; and the Metropolitan Jubilee carriage 353.
But those unfamiliar with trains, and their history, will still enjoy the opportunity to travel in the older, and more charming, steam trains down one of the more historic train lines that have become replaced by newer, more cost-efficient models, which lack the soul of their older counterparts.
And while modern trains do fit today’s lifestyle of getting from A to B in as little time as possible, it would be nice to have a train journey where you can look out of the window and embrace the scenery without having it whizz past you the next second.
The Metropolitan Line train journeys will take place at various times, on August 16 and 17. Details: 020 7565 7298, ltmusuem.co.uk