Colindale and Hendon Aerodrome

Some transport history of the area

This page was published in conjunction with our Colindale Running Day in 2010.
The Philips ABC Atlas of London for 1930 showing bus and tram routes (roads marked in yellow), "London Aerodrome" and the Finchley to Edgware railway.  Click for a larger version.
Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all (Herodotus)



The GNR line from Finsbury Park to Edgware via Highgate, Finchley Central, Mill Hill East and Mill Hill The Hale opened in 1867.  This line became part of the pre-war Northern Heights project, under which the Northern Line would be extended beyond Highgate (the station now known as Archway) over existing steam-operated rail lines.  The line from Finsbury Park had branches to High Barnet and Alexandra Palace, and the plans also envisaged an extension north of Edgware to Bushey Heath.  Steam services ceased in 1939 and were replaced in part by rail-replacement buses from Finchley Central to Edgware.


The war, and subsequent green belt policy, meant that the Northern Heights project was never completed.  The extension from Archway to High Barnet opened in 1940, and to serve the Mill Hill Barracks the branch to Mill Hill East was electrified and opened, still as a single track, in 1941 – the last element in today’s Northern Line.  The Alexandra Park branch, which passed under Muswell Hill by a weak bridge that forced London Transport to work the busy 212 with single-deckers, continued to operate a shuttle from Finsbury Park until 1954, but the section between Mill Hill East and Edgware never reopened to passenger traffic and closed completely in 1964.  Despite considerable work, including the building of the depot (which later became LT’s Aldenham Works), the extension north of Edgware was never built.


Catch Jay Foreman's video commentary on the Northern Heights project here.  Five points for spying the King Crimson snippet.


One of the classic posters advertising the Underground - Hendon Aerodrome in 1914.

Image © London Transport Museum


The tube

The main tube line in the area is the Northern, whose Edgware branch runs north from Golders Green via Brent Cross, Hendon Central, Colindale and Burnt Oak to Edgware.  The extension north from Golders Green was built largely over open fields and was opened in 1923 (to Hendon) and 1924.  The eastern branch divides at Finchley Central for Mill Hill East (see above) and High Barnet via Totteridge & Whetstone, all former steam railway lines.


To the west, the Jubilee Line to Stanmore started life in 1932 as a branch of the Metropolitan from Wembley Park, then in 1939 became part of the Bakerloo, finally in 1979 (for the Silver Jubilee in 1977) the Jubilee Line.



Hendon Aerodrome, despite being marked optimistically on the 1930 map as 'London Aerodrome', never was an airport - before the second world war, London's airport was at Croydon.  Rather, Hendon was principally a military establishment from the first world war onwards, hence the lack of bus services to the aerodrome.   


Learn more about the history of the aerodrome at the RAF Museum site.


Bus services to the aerodrome

An early service to Colindale was route 60, from 1923 (before the tube station opened), with services from central London to 'Hendon Colindale Avenue' terminating at the Phoenix Telephone Works on Edgware Road.  These were extended to Colindale Station in 1925, with buses running light from the station to turn on a 'private road belonging to Grahame White Ltd' - the owner of the aerodrome. 


The exception was on the day of the annual RAF Display, when buses did not run along Colindale Avenue, presumably because of the crowds.  Instead, extra buses were laid on from the Phoenix Works, an arrangement that continued to 1930, when the service was withdrawn north of Cricklewood outside peak hours.


STL1604 heads up Lower Regent Street bound for Colindale in 1948.

Image © London Transport Museum


The entrance to the aerodrome was where now is the roundabout at the junction of Grahame Park Way and Aerodrome Road; the private road referred to was Booth Road, just short of the roundabout, into which buses reversed to turn until 1947.  It was only from 1953 that passengers were carried along Colindale Avenue and Booth Road (as far as the turning point at Aeroville Road).


The RAF Display remained a magnet for the public, with

for example East Surrey (the precursor to the London Transport Country Area) advertising a trip from Reigate in their 1931 timetable.  Bus services meanwhile continued to serve only the station, with an outer section of London route 8 being replaced by the new 140 in 1932.  The 79 also served Colindale Station from the war years until after the redevelopment of the aerodrome site in the 1970s.  Meanwhile, the years after trolleybus withdrawal saw 142 and 292 use Colindale Annesley Avenue as a terminus, reminiscent of the journeys that ended at the Phoenix Telephone Works.


Trams and trolleybuses


The running shed at Colindale Depot.  The open land behind was used by George Cohen's 600 Group to break up the majority of the fleet.

Photo © Mike Beamish


L3 class 1462 stands outside the admin block of Colindale Depot awaiting a new crew.  The entrance to the running shed is to the left.

Photo © Mike Beamish


Metropolitan Electric Tramways launched the area’s first electric tram service in 1904 between Cricklewood and Edgware, a relatively undeveloped area at the time.  The tram depot and the nearby hospital were the stimulus for the first suburban development of Colindale, in Colindale Avenue and Annesley Avenue.  Elsewhere in the area, trams were introduced between Whetstone and Highgate from 1905 and extensions brought services to Canons Park in the west and Barnet Church in the north by 1907.


The Edgware trams operated from Hendon Tram Depot adjacent to Annesley Avenue in Colindale, the scene in 1910 of the first trials in Britain of a trolleybus.  Trolleybuses replaced trams in 1936 and the depot was renamed Colindale when Central Road Services was formed in 1950.  The depot operated the 645 and 666 until January 1962, when the depot was closed and demolished; the site on Edgware Road is now occupied by Merit House.  


The end - trolleybuses await their fate behind Colindale Depot.

Photo © Geoff Plumb


Land behind the depot was used from 1959 to 1962 by the George Cohen 600 Group for scrapping a large number of London's trolleybuses - a range of photos and notes are on Mike Beamish's site, with views both of trolleybuses working in the area and of the scrapping.  A short video is on YouTube.