The two-mile branch of rail track winding its way from Harrow and Wealdstone to Stanmore, via Belmont, owes its existence to Frederick Gordon, an entrepreneurial hotelier who wished to ensure his newest venture could be easily reached by train.

Author Mike Hall spent a year investigating the county's railways, uncovering historical facts such as these for his book, Lost Railways of Middlesex.

It charts the rise and fall of the first railway age in Middlesex, accompanied by many photographs and maps that will help enthusiasts explore what has survived.

Harrow's railways, in particular, are steeped in history, with the county's rail network beginning in 1837 when the London to Birmingham line was opened through the town.

Mike studies the story of the old Stanmore station, revealing how Frederick Gordon's purchase of Bentley Priory in Great Stanmore was followed by his fight to raise the capital for a London and North West Railway (LNWR) branch from the main line station at Harrow and Wealdstone.

By December 1890, the Stanmore branch of the track opened, with trains in this "genteel little operation" starting mid-morning and finishing in the early evening, making the service unsuitable for those members of the lower classes with menial jobs.

Despite the ornate, red-brick design of Stanmore station, and despite Gordon's attempts to adhere to the wishes of his neighbours in this exclusive residential district, his hotel scheme at Bentley Priory failed.

After its closure he lived there with his family for a few years and, after his death, it became a school for young ladies.

A cheaper bus service then took passengers to the Northern Line terminus at Edgware and the decision was made not to electrify the Stanmore branch and link it to Euston.

Its future looked bleak.

Even with the development of modest semis and terraced houses in Kenton and Belmont in the 1920s, Stanmore LNWR station missed out.

Instead, in 1932, a stop was built where Kenton Lane crossed the branch, which soon became the main generator of passenger traffic.

The Metropolitan Line then constructed a new Stanmore station in a more accessible position, which was soon to be linked to the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines.

Services between Belmont and Stanmore were stopped on September 11, 1952, only two years after the terminus had been renamed Stanmore Village and all the signs had been expensively replaced.

Mike also writes of the Harrow and Wealdstone rail disaster, which occurred only a month after the closure of the original Stanmore statio A hundred and twelve people were killed when the late-running Perth to Euston sleeping car express ploughed into the back of the 7.31am Tring to Euston stopping train, which was picking up passengers at Harrow and Wealdstone station.

"The book was fascinating to research," said Mike, who, as a history graduate and teacher, is particularly interested in how the building of railways affected suburban development.

"I knew where to look because I have old maps. It was a case of going out and seeing what was still there."

Lost Railways of Middlesex by Mike Hall is published by Countryside Books at 9.95, and is available from local booksellers.

Mike is researching his latest book, Haunted Places of Middlesex.

Anyone with any stories should write to him at 38 Hawthorn Way, Shepperton, Middlesex TW17 8QH.