This weekend saw the resumption of passenger services on a former section of the London Underground Central Line. After a huge amount of effort by a dedicated team of volunteers, this weekend saw steam trains running between North Weald and Ongar Station, and a diesel running through the woods to Coopersale and back, and vintage buses running a shuttle service between Epping underground station and North Weald, and North Weald and Ongar.
The efforts of the volunteers were rewarded by beautiful weather, and on Sunday we drove to Ongar and had a great time. There’s a car park next to Ongar Library, just over the road from the station, which you can’t miss as there is a small red steam engine sitting proudly behind the railings.
The Ongar station is in good condition, with a definite Victorian vibe to it. They have shipped in a signal box – the top half coming from Mangapps Railway Museum. It’s not properly operational, so you can climb up the wooden stairs and have a look around.
Hearing the whistle from the approaching steam train alerted us to the arrival of the train, which had engines at each end, and a range of carriages. We hopped on the First Class! It’s ten minutes or so to North Weald Station, through the countryside, where we grabbed a sandwich and a tea from the catering ladies at that station, that had a lovely vintage van and red bus on the forecourt. Then we took the diesel, which headed through the woods to Coopersale and back. The plan is to eventually run all the way to Epping.
Back at North Weald, we clambered aboard a gorgeous green double-decker bus of the kind we are old enough to have used in our youth (and Josie, Epping-born, was very familiar with).
There is a scheduled timetable with trains running every weekend to the end of the year, with long weekends during the summer, and a full week for each of the Olympic 2012 weeks. Vintage bus and steam enthusiasts should also look out for the North Weald Bus rally at the nearby airfield, which the train services will link with. There’s also a tie-in with Ongar Carnival, and later in the year Santa will be arriving by train.
There’s a flickr slideshow below, and underneath a video which will give you a feel for the day we had. Ongar High Street has a lot to offer, but we only made it as far as The Cock Tavern, which offered a good range of real ale!