Met 1 and the Golden Age of Steam

This weekend you can once again experience the golden age of steam with the return of the newly restored Metropolitan Steam Locomotive No. 1 to the Metropolitan line. A number of journeys will be taking place between Amersham and Harrow-on-the Hill as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations.

In this post we revisit the significance of that first journey in 1863.

London was the largest city in the world by the 1840s, but this rapid growth brought with it serious congestion problems.  The inner city streets were narrow and crowded and the railways could only bring people and goods in to the outer edge of the Capital. A range of proposals to improve matters were rejected until Charles Pearson, City Solicitor, came up with a politically acceptable and commercially viable solution in 1854 – the Metropolitan Railway. The lithograph below shows just one of the rejected proposals – an elevated railway in which carriages would run along the tops of extended verandas attached to buildings at first floor level. Pedestrians and horse-drawn traffic can been seen in the street below.


The world’s first underground railway opened to the public on 10 January 1863.  The short 3½ mile line connected the mainline stations at Paddington, Euston and King’s Cross to Farringdon, at the edge of the City.  The ‘Met’ was a great success and extensions to both ends of the line soon followed.


A second underground railway company, the Metropolitan District Railway, opened in 1868.  The intention was that the two companies would work together to form an ‘Inner Circle’, linking all London’s mainline termini.  They soon fell out however, and the Circle was only completed in 1884, after government intervention.

The two companies did co-operate in planning for electrification, but the plans changed when a powerful American businessman, Charles Tyson Yerkes, took over the District.  Under Yerkes, the Inner Circle and District were electrified along American lines by 1905, powered by a new generating station at Lots Road, Chelsea.  Independent as ever, the ‘Met’ built its own power house at Neasden.  Metropolitan electric services reached Harrow in 1908, and extended t Rickmansworth in 1924.  Electrification to Aylesbury was planned as part of the 1935-40 New Works Programme, but the work was interrupted by the Second World War and steam passenger services continued beyond Rickmansworth until 1961.


Metropolitan Railway Locomotive No.1

Met No. 1 is an E-class engine, designed by T F Clark for use on the Metropolitan Railway’s extension lines’ north of Baker Street.  It was the last Metropolitan loco to be built at Neasden Works in 1898.


The engine was re-numbered London Transport L.44 after 1933, sharing duties on the Chesham branch. It worked the last steam service on this line in July 1960, and the last steam-hauled passenger train in regular service between Rickmansworth and Amersham in September 1961.  After the Metropolitan Centenary celebrations at Neasden in 1963, L.44 was sold to the Quainton Railway Society as a working engine and repainted No.1 once more.

In 2011 London Transport Museum and Buckinghamshire Railway Centre formed a partnership to have Met No.1 overhauled at the Flour Mill Workshops, Gloucestershire ready for the 150th anniversary of the Underground.

IMG 204 -Finished interior - Carriage 353
Finished interior – Carriage 353

Metropolitan Railway Carriage No.353

Met carriage No.353 was built in the 1892 by Craven’s of Sheffield.  It is the only surviving example of a Metropolitan Railway first class four-wheeled ‘Jubilee’ carriage.  Withdrawn from service in 1905, it was sold to the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway in Somerset.  After the Second World War the carriage was used as a clubhouse for American servicemen.  It continued to have an eventful life, being used as a low cost home, an antiques shop and finally a farm outbuilding.  Thankfully the carriage survived long enough to be acquired for the London Transport collection I 1974.


With financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Friends of the London Transport Museum, Met carriage No.353 has been fully restored to operational condition at the Ffestiniog Railway workshops.

Don’t forget to join in the fun this weekend at Amersham where you can once again experience the golden age of steam!

2 thoughts on “Met 1 and the Golden Age of Steam”

  1. Oops!photo if L150 is a gwr prairie , not Met 1.

    Looking forward to caring for 353 at Severn Valley later.

    Steve Blyton
    Train crew Inspector.


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