In 1862 it was proposed that a railway line should be built joining Hemel Hempstead with the Great Northern Company's station at Harpenden via Cupid Green and Redbourn. The line was to be built to link the straw plait trade in Hemel Hempstead with the hat makers of Luton, to carry watercress and also to provide a local passenger service. Nickey Line
A section of the line would be built across land held by local farmer Shadrach Godwin of Grove hill House.
When the railway company wanted to buy land from him he asked a very high price. He might just have been an astute negotiator but it seems he rated the loss of productive land much higher than the price offered. The company suggested a station for his use but he replied that he would be expected to pay a toll for use of it all this even there might have been considerable advantages to access the railway for the transport of his produce.
It was agreed that a significant cutting should be made past the house and park to reduce the noise and annoyance of the trains with an iron bridge supported by brick piers for access; also substantial fences to keep the animals from straying on the line, and compensation for loss of timber and crops.
Even when agreed in 1872 Godwin asked for time to gather his crops before the work began.
The Godwins had their own halt on the Nickey Line, named on maps as Godwins Halt, but it was eventually Godwin's Siding spread over a wide are on the other side of the line. This was where the Sky Ford garage is now and I believe that you can see the remains of the bridge over the railway behind the garage. As the remains of the bridge are at present ground level one can imagine how deep the cutting was.
The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead branch line of the Midland Railway Company was opened on 16th July 1877
The Nickey Line had two main stations in Hemel Hempstead and Redbourn and a number of halts and Godwin, Claydales Brick Works and several other factories had sidings.
In its early days the line transported both local passengers and commuters travelling to London. However as road transport increased the number of railway passengers declined.
It was understandable that the train was called 'Puffing Billy' when you think of the steep pull up from the town.
A Ro-Railer, a hybrid vehicle which used both rail and road, was used for a brief experimental period in the early 1930’s. The last passenger train ran on 16th June 1947.
Commercial traffic also declined. The straw plaiting trade had long since died out and the new local industries were served by road transport. The railway had a brief revival when industrial areas were developed in the north east of Hemel Hempstead. However few of the new companies used the railway line.
Did the railway guards sometimes roast lamb that had 'accidentally' strayed on to the railway line for dinner?
The railway land was purchased in the early 1980’s by St Albans District Council and Dacorum Borough Council. The line was opened to the public in 1985 for use as a footpath and cycleway.
In 1968 what was left of the line was sold to the Hemelite Company, which had been using it since 1959 to transport coal from the main line in Harpenden to the Gas Company on the A41. At one time 6-8 wagons of residual clinker and ash from the power station was then taken to their yards in Cupid Green, for use in the manufacture of building blocks. Was this also the ash used for moulds in the foundry?
By 1979, two years after the railway’s centenary traffic ceased completely and the line was closed.
Crash and Repair of the Bridge Pier
Recently a vehicle hit one of the piers of the bridge and cracked it so severely that the bridge was removed. These are the first of the photos taken of the repair.