I made the trip one weekday afternoon, when the stations in question were fairly unpopulated and the services conspicuously empty. Indeed, by the time I got to the end of the line at West Ruislip, I was the only person left on my train. That's never happened to me before. An entire train being operated for the benefit of just one passenger. For myself. I felt a bit humbled.
This portion of the line came into operation just after the Second World War and had, it seems, been intended to stretch even further into Buckinghamshire had green belt legislation not come into force. Most of it has the appearance of being quite rural, but unlike the other end of the Central Line, outcrops of habitation are never that far away.
Hanger Lane is not only in the middle of but also underneath the titular gyratory, where the Western Avenue meets the North Circular Road. It's not entirely underground, however, and light passes down inside the station thanks to its cunning design:
The outside of Perivale turned up in an episode of The Thick Of It: a suitably remote location for a vaguely important middle-ranking minister to find himself temporarily sidetracked.
There was a real find waiting for me at Greenford:
No, not just a flower shop called Making Scents. I mean this:
A wooden escalator! And, apparently, the only one still in operation on the entire London Underground. Plus, it's the only instance of an escalator ascending from street level up to platform level anywhere on the network. Why it still exists is presumably because a) it's not below ground, and hence escaped the cull that followed the King's Cross fire of 1987; and b) now that smoking is banned everywhere on the underground, wooden furnishings are officially safe again.
To top everything off, there's a great view of Horsenden Hill from the platform.
At Northolt it was back to the familiar layout of the booking hall at street level and the platforms on an island reached via a massive staircase:
Functional, but at least it was discreet compared to this:
South Ruislip looks better on the inside, with an attempt at tasteful decoration, but it's hard to find anything positive to say about the exterior. It's all one colour, I suppose. And it curves. Erm...
Here's John Betjeman:
Gaily into Ruislip Gardens Runs the red electric train, With a thousand Ta's and Pardon's Daintily alights Elaine; Hurries down the concrete station With a frown of concentration, Out into the outskirt's edges Where a few surviving hedges Keep alive our lost Elysium - Rural Middlesex again.
And here it is, from the platform:
To the end of the line:
Like I said, I was the only person to disembark at West Ruislip. I didn't realise it, but I'd had the whole train to myself. I also had the whole station at my disposal, as nobody was around to either travel or drive back the way I'd came. Clearly the place had some kind of staff in attendance...didn't it? These hanging baskets suggested as much:
Outside the station I could see the tracks continuing into Buckinghamshire, where they carry services operated by Chiltern Railways:
Eventually someone showed up to run the red electric train all the way back to Epping, and I was on my way again.