Quainton to Cockfosters

No level crossings – they only slow down the trains.

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Copyright © 2020, Michael M Wayman

Why is there no direct rail connection between Quainton and Cockfosters? We decided to do something about that.

And would you believe it? To make it easier there were stretches of tarmac already existing between Quainton and Cockfosters; they were code-named A47, M25 and A111; about 70 km in length.

This made laying of the track very simple, first place the sleepers on the tarmac, then lower from a helicopter the two steel rails, bolt the rails to steel chairs on the sleepers and finally nail the sleepers to the tarmac with explosive nails. NO BALLAST! There are machines that can lay a kilometre of track this way in an hour. This is the rail-on-tarmac technique or RoTTeN for short.

Before we go any further here is a list of translations for our North American friends:


railway terminology railroad terminology
brake van caboose
chimney Johannesburg
driver smokestack
fishplate engineer
gauge joint bar
goods gage
dog cat
guard freight
pump trolley conductor
sleeper handcar
Methyl Tydfil tie
level crossing grade crossing
points pony truck
shunter switch
railway switcher


We built a two kilometre test track near Quainton in just two days. It worked fine, a small works loco ran up and down all day long. Only one problem: some cars and buses wanted to drive over and along the track. I must say that some people are a bit dim, cars and buses are not designed to run on train tracks; we had to winch some of them off the track.

We decided to build the whole 70 km line, initially single track. Fortunately we did not have to apply for planning permission and such stuff, railways have priorities. In three weeks it was ready, the two train stations at each end too.

And someone had a brilliant idea, instead of running twelve trains every morning from Quainton to Cockfosters and running these twelve trains back again every afternoon and evening, we could use one train running to and fro. This saved a lot of money – less trains and less sidings and no train control (one‑train‑running).

We had a problem with the gradients, the stretches of tarmac were not very level and some parts actually too steep for trains. We installed Strub‑system toothed racks on these sections and a drive cogwheel on the train just like a Swiss mountain railway.

After two weeks of test running we opened the train service to the public, not too many passengers to begin with, hopefully passenger numbers and payments would increase.

HOWEVER, big problem: some cars and buses still wanted to drive over and along the track. I must state the obvious, cars and buses are not designed to run on train tracks; we had to build stout metal fences along the route.

Passenger numbers were not growing, still early days. Some of the fences had been removed and large quantities of sand dumped on the track for cars and buses to cross the track. Why had we not built level crossings? Silly question – level crossings are expensive and slow down the trains. The sand was no great problem, the train could just plough through albeit slowly.

It got worse, one night a short piece of track was removed. Really dangerous, the train was nearly derailed. It took hours to reinstate the track and weld the rails. We needed a 24‑hour guard on the whole route – we called in the army.

Passenger numbers have not increased as hoped, but we have plans for the future: to double the track, buy another train and extend the line south of Cockfosters to the East Coast Main Line to St Pancras to provide a non-stop service Quainton to Bielefeld.