The Alban Way
The Alban Way is a footpath and cycleway which follows the course of the former Hatfield and St Albans Railway. At the Hatfield end, it starts close to where the branch line diverged from the East Coast main line, from London to the north and Scotland, and at the St Albans end, finishes close to where the branch met the London & North Western Railway branch between Watford and St Albans, a distance of just about 6 miles; but if we take off the gap in the Way, close to the Galleria, in Hatfield, where the A1(M) has to be crossed, and the track bed has been lost, then it will be reduced to less than 6 miles. There are numerous entry and exit points along the way. It is part of route 61 of the National Cycle Network. The branch line closed to passengers in 1951, and freight lingered on until 1968. The track was pulled up and the track bed lay dormant for well over a decade. In about 1982, plans were made for turning the track bed into a footpath and cycleway, these plans coming to fruition when, on Sunday 8th December 1985, the Mayor of St Albans, the Rev Robert Donald, officially opened the first section, a 2 ½ mile stretch in the middle, running from Nast Hyde to Hill End. At that time it was called The Smallford Trail, Smallford being roughly half- way between the two. The finances had been provided by the Countryside Commission and various councils and businesses along the route, with the labour being provided by the Manpower Services Commission and volunteers. A further official opening took place on 17th April 1988, by the Mayor of St Albans, Councillor Charles Gunner, by which time the name Alban Way was used.
A Walk along the Alban Way
In June 2013
At the beginning of the Alban Way, in Hatfield, close to the point where the branch left the main line is the sculpture “Railway and Air”; this would have been at the top of the north embankment, where the track curved westward.
This is one of the 1,000 mileposts funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland to mark the creation of the National Cycle Network, being marked as being on route 61, 3 miles from Welwyn Garden City and 5 ½ from St Albans.
Looking back towards Hatfield; the above milepost can be seen in the distance, where the path turns left.
Part of the platform of Lemsford Road Halt, very much covered by vegetation. The halt was built in 1942 for the benefit of the workers at the de Havilland aircraft factory
The steps leading up to the former Lemsford Road Halt.
This is where there is a break in the Alban Way: the A1(M), with the Galleria behind. The railway crossed diagonally to beyond the sign in the middle of the picture.
`The Barnet bypass, looking back towards the A1(M) in the distance, just before which the Alban Way turns left away from the track bed.
The platform at Nast Hyde Halt is hidden under the foliage; the halt was opened in 1910, to service the nearby estate.
The Blackberry Arch
The platform at Smallford, looking east, and Smallford Lane Bridge. Originally planned as the one stop between Hatfield and St Albans, it didn’t open with the line in 1865, but followed in 1866.
The Smallford station ticket office, a grade II listed building, is on the platform, but is on private land, a busy industrial site. (The stationmaster’s house is also on site.)
The platform at Hill End, opened in 1899, for the benefit of staff working at the Hill End hospital.
Adjacent to the Alban way is what remains of the cemetery of the Hill End hospital, with a few gravestones still to be seen.
The remains of the buffer stop at the end of the Salvation Army siding: in would come paper and out would go the “War Cry”.
The platform of Salvation Army Halt, built in 1897; it serviced the workers at the Salvation Army printing works and those at the Sanders’ orchid nursery.
The bridge taking the Midland main line to and from St Pancras, built in 1868, then widened in 1894; looking west, the near side is the 1894 extension.
An interesting left-over is this telegraph wire holder on the London Road Bridge.
London Road station, originally called St Albans, was the original terminus, until the line to the LNWR’s St Albans station was opened, in 1866. It is a grade II listed building.
A fine view of St Albans Cathedral is seen from the line, this taken with a telescopic lens.
A pedestrian underpass, looking south.
Cottonmill Lane Bridge, looking east, with the former junction with the LNWR branch from Watford a little distance behind.