It was opened on 2 May 1870 as Childs Hill and Cricklewood nearly 2 years after the Midland Railway had built its extension (now called the Midland Main Line) to St. Pancras. The station acquired its present name in 1903.
To the north of the station, a motive power depot was built with a large roundhouse in 1882, with a second in 1893. With this was built a large marshalling yard and, in later years, LMS Garratts would be seen with their massive trains of coal from Toton in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields.
A loop line, no longer in existence, was built heading north on the western side of the railway yard, then turning east underneath the main line at the viaduct over the River Brent (and also now the North Circular Road), then south on the eastern side. This obviously allowed trains to reverse direction, but also conveniently joined the railway yards on the two sides of the main lines.
Between 1899 and 1926, a number of proposals were put forward to build an underground railway along the Edgware Road from Central London to Cricklewood via Kilburn, and envisaged the construction of a Tube station at Cricklewood. None of the schemes succeeded and the line was never built.
Thameslink run 24-hour services on the Thameslink route. The typical off-peak service is four trains per hour southbound to London, Wimbledon and Sutton, and four trains per hour northbound, of which two terminate at St Albans and two at Luton. Thameslink services to and from Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Brighton stop here at night only, but pass through without stopping during the day. After midnight, an hourly service (not calling at Farringdon, City Thameslink or London Bridge) from Bedford to Three Bridges runs.
East Midlands Trains InterCity services from Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester run through at high speed on the Midland Main Line, but do not stop. Interchange with these services can be made at Luton and St Pancras International.
Refurbishment of Cricklewood station has been carried out on the subway with cladding, lighting and a repaired floor. A renewed ticket office window with improved use for wheel chair and hearing impaired people.
A new Brent Cross Thameslink station a little further north is proposed and the four platforms at Cricklewood station are not being extended from eight to 12 carriages. The other Thameslink stations north of the River Thames remaining with eight-car platform lengths are Hendon and Kentish Town. South of the River Thames Elephant & Castle southwards on the Thameslink suburban (Wimbledon/Sutton) loop, and on the Catford loop line towards Sevenoaks, will likewise remain eight-car stations. The developers of the Brent Cross Cricklewood development are planning to upgrade Cricklewood station. National and London government support for the new station was confirmed in March 2014. The Brent Cross Cricklewood development project, as approved by Barnet Council, does include improving Cricklewood station's forecourt and providing step free access to all platforms.
From March 2009, Southeastern and Thameslink began running some peak hour trains from Sevenoaks to Luton, though in the off-peak these services turn back at Kentish Town.
Other trains from south of the River Thames within the larger Thameslink network may call at the station from 2015, when it is likely that the existing Sutton Loop trains will terminate at Blackfriars.
In early 2008, the London Group of the Campaign for Better Transport published a proposal for an off-road, mainly orbital North and West London Light railway (NWLLR), sharing the orbital Dudding Hill Line freight corridor, and taking over at least one of the two Midland Railway freight lines which run through Cricklewood station. If the scheme were to go ahead, it would provide one or maybe two extra light-rail platforms at the station.
London Buses routes 189, 226, 245, 260, 460 and C11 serve the station.
The original Cricklewood railway engine servicing depot was built by the Midland Railway just to the north west of curve of the junction with the Dudding Hill Line. It was built as and remains as the first major servicing depot for trains terminating in London, and for servicing the local regional commuter trains on the Midland Main Line. Part rebuilt by British Railways, it was closed to steam in December 1964.
To the eastern side of the mainline, the Midland Railway had originally built a goods yard, which developed into a sizeable freight facility under British Railways, for collating and distributing goods around London. Resultantly, as the confines of the original depot with the introduction of electrification meant it could no longer be used, a new depot was built to the north east of the mainline, located directly north of the sidings and above the northern junction with the Dudding Hill Line.
Today, the depot serves as the London base for East Midland Trains, providing stabling and operational servicing for both its InterCity 125 8-coach sets and 5-coach Class 222. It also formerly served as a regional depot for First Capital Connect, until they were replaced by Thameslink and Great Northern in September 2014, who use other newly-built facilities in other locations. The sidings located to its south still provide freight services, including being the starting point for one of the daily BinLiner domestic waste trains that terminate at the Calvert Landfill site, operated by the Waste Recycling Group for the Department of the Environment.