On a humid summer night on the platforms of Northfields station, with the last Piccadilly and District line services faithfully plying the tracks, we waited with excitement.
We were waiting for the reassuring ‘chuffing’ sound of a steam train in the distance. As it came closer the sound grew louder until, at 23.38, we witnessed the arrival of Met 1 accompanied by her familiar whistle and plume of steam for the first time since the 150th anniversary celebrations of the London Underground in 2013.
The train, comprising the now familiar line up of Met 1, the Milkvan, Carriage 353, the Chesham set of coaches and Sarah Siddons, was being tested during engineering hours ahead of the Museum’s summer programme of heritage train outings taking place throughout August.
Following its prompt departure from Northfields the train, hauled by Met 1, made its way along the District and Circle lines up to Moorgate, surprising unsuspecting late night travellers as it slowly progressed along the line and through near empty stations.
Without a glitch the train soon reached Edgware Road, quickly filling the tunnels of the oldest part of the London Underground with steam, while the unmistakable smell of the coals delighted the senses of everyone who had the opportunity to travel on the train on this warm July morning.
After refilling at Moorgate, it was the turn of Sarah Siddons to haul the train, now with a free reign following the shutdown of the system all the way to Hammersmith. The journey was repeated for a second time before the arrival of the dawn chorus and the start of another working day.
We hope you’ll join us on these historic and memorable journeys with Met 1 on Saturday 2 and 9 August. For more information go to: Heritage Vehicle Outings
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.
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!
On a balmy August day, our restored Carriage 353 again took to the tracks behind Met Loco No.1 to take expectant visitors back in time at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.
Introduced in 1887, No.353 is the only surviving example from a class of 59 carriages specially designed to work on the steam routes which comprised London’s transport network. These carriages were known as ‘Jubilee Stock’ in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Those who took their luxuriously upholstered seats on this beautifully restored example of a late Victorian Metropolitan Railway carriage were suitably impressed.
Asked for their favourite aspect of the ‘Jubilee’ carriage, travellers simply replied that it was the fact one of these carriages, the only surviving example, actually existed. They said it was a truly exciting privilege to have the opportunity to create times gone by and ride on something that people over one hundred years ago were using in the age of steam.
Sitting in one of the carriage’s elegantly dressed compartments, the most surprising thing about 353 for nearly everybody asked was the sheer quality of the restoration. They noted the wonderful detail that had been included, like the elaborate MR emblems. One passenger even celebrated the slightly hard ride as an authentic example of the conditions our predecessors would have experienced! The expert paintwork, gleaming in the summer sun, and rich velvet seating, along with the shiny bronze door handles, were all pointed out by riders as evidence of a really high quality restoration.
For some, the restored Carriage 353 is so fascinating because they have held a life-long interest in railways, or specifically the Metropolitan Railway upon which it used to run. The consensus seemed to be that it provides a tangible link to our heritage, showing us, with great authenticity, how our railways used to look, and how our ancestors used to travel. Nostalgia certainly plays a large part in 353’s attraction, taking us back to the days when the Metropolitan was run entirely by steam.
Whether it was nostalgia, admiration or astonishment, everyone was in complete agreement about one thing: that they had thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to have a ride on Carriage 353 as part of a great day out at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.
Written by William Cooper, LTM Marketing and Development Intern
‘Metroland/Beckoned us out to lanes in beechy Bucks’ – Sir John Betjeman
On the 3,4 and 7 August, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre was transported back in time as visitors flocked to a little corner of ‘Metro-land’ to rediscover the delights of a time when steam ruled the railways.
Based at picturesque Quainton Road station, a former outpost of the Metropolitan Railway, the event was a fun-filled extravaganza with a wide variety of family friendly activities to keep people of all ages fully entertained.
The highlight was undoubtedly the appearance of Met Loco No.1 and Jubilee Carriage 353 in full working order, both beautifully restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum friends in celebration of the Underground’s 150th anniversary. Enthusiasts and families alike savoured the opportunity to see what rail travel was like more than a hundred years ago as regular steam trips took place along a length of track at the Centre.
Not only did Met Loco No. 1 make an appearance, but so did a recreation of a 1900 Brill branch line engine, resplendent in Metropolitan livery. Visitors were given the opportunity to ride in open carts, reliving the experience of the first Underground travellers. A number of other vintage carriages were also attached to both Brill and Met No. 1.
The train rides didn’t stop there. The Centre’s miniature railway was in full operation, taking its passengers on an extensive tour of the top end of the site through leafy trails and dark tunnels.
As well as the steam train rides, London Transport Museum brought their Safety and Citizenship team, complete with show vehicle, to teach younger visitors how to stay safe while on the transport network. Also present was a bus and Tube bouncy castle which provided entertainment for energetic youngsters, and respite for their tired parents!
Craft workshops, an array of locomotives and rolling stock, a model railway, a fascinating museum, and film screenings of Sir John Betjeman’s Metro-land, amongst countless other activities, truly ensured this was an event to remember. The café provided tasty snacks and refreshments for those needing a bit of an energy boost in the warm August sun.
It was a fantastic few days which brought to life a forgotten Metro-land, with Buckinghamshire Railway Centre providing a fitting backdrop for another opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.
Written by William Cooper, LTM Marketing and Development Intern
Back in December, we tested Met 1 and coach 353 from Earls Court to Moorgate to prepare for the celebration. For me, it was a remarkable experience to see both our restored vehicles arrive under steam at Earls Court early in the morning of 16 December. The unlined maroon Met 1 pulled quietly into the platform, the varnished coach glinting in the lights behind, cameras were deployed and then followed the cry of ‘All aboard’. We climbed into the plush red seats of one of the four compartments, lit by the Pintsch patent gas lights (LEDs actually), and the doors were slammed shut. With journalists, and our donors and trustees, I sat expectantly on the plush bench seat and noted the gilded mirrors, buttoned leather door panels, string net luggage racks and rich lettering. Richard Jones opined that this was one of the best restorations he had ever seen. The guard blew his whistle, was answered by the engine whistle and we lurched forwards as the coupling slack was snatched up. The loud beat of the engine quickened and echoed off the tunnel roof as we pulled away, the view on both sides being obscured by smoke and steam. We let one window down on its notched leather strap to get the full effect of steam coal into the compartment. The engine worked quite hard as it tackled the gradient up to Kensington Church Street. For the first time, we began to get just a hint of what travelling on the Victorian Underground might have felt like, the noise of the engine, the movement of the carriage and the swirl of the steam outside the window. We passed through modern stations such as King’s Cross/St Pancras, a rather surreal experience looking out from a varnished teak upholstered interior onto a modern functional platform with its bright roundels. Orange-clad station staff and contractors smiled and took pictures as we rattled through brightly lit but empty platforms. An unexpected red signal at Baker Street led to the engine blowing off and bringing down the accumulated dust, soot and dead pigeons of the past 150 years onto the pristine carriage and loco. We nosed into the bay platform at Moorgate to take on water before making the return journey to Edgware Road.
This is the experience I hope many of you have been able to taste on the January commemorative runs. Tickets have inevitably been limited and expensive but this is a one-off event, expensive to mount and unlikely to be repeated. To run a steam hauled service of original carriages within the normal Met timetable has been a huge privilege and a great event to lead off the celebration of the Underground’s profound influence on the capital over the past 150 years. There will be further opportunities throughout the year to ride behind Met 1; from Harrow to Amersham in May and September, at Quainton Road in August and at Epping-Ongar in June and even a Santa Special in December. Negotiations are in hand to hire the loco and coach to heritage railways in the coming years and spread the Museum’s message through a volunteer supporters group to explain them and illustrate the restoration process to a wider public.
Our two projects for 2013 have been the most significant we have undertaken since the 38-stock restoration nearly ten years ago. It’s the first time we have ventured into steam overhaul and operation and we have the eight to ten year life of the boiler certificate to carry the story of the Met and the world’s first underground railway to locations and audiences within and beyond London. We hope to pair it as much as possible with Met 353, our first Met carriage and seen on the test night as one of the highest quality restorations of its type. Great tribute is owed to the Friends for backing this work from the offset two years ago, to our contractors at the Ffestiniog and for the excellent and thoughtful direction of the project by Tim Shields. If you are one of over two hundred individual donors, many thanks from the board and myself.
It is our ambition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the first section of the world’s first underground railway with a steam-hauled commemorative train. The last time a steam engine hauled a Metropolitan Railway service from Paddington to Farringdon is thought to be 1905, before the conversion to electric traction on the sub-surface railway. Steam hauled engineers’ trains were a feature of the Underground however up to 1971.
A proving run was held early in the morning on 26 January 2012 to test the feasibility of a steam special, with the NRM’s Beattie well tank 30587 (built in 1874) marshalled with ‘Sarah Siddons’ and a coal and water waggon, nurse-maided by two battery locos. If the restored Met No.1 , the Met coach 353 (both under restoration) and the Asbury set of teak coaches were tore-enact the first run to Farringdon in 1863, what effect might a steam engine have on the modern underground? Formed up at Lillie Bridge, the train picked up a stakeholders and potential major donors at Earl’s Court at 1.30am and then ran round the extension of 1868 to Edgware Road where we joined the original section of the Metropolitan Railway to Baker Street, opened to traffic on 10 January 1863.
At Baker Street we paused for 30 minutes to test the effects of the loco blowing off steam which billowed around the brick arched roof, before our train continued eastwards and then pulled back on the westbound road. We were joined at Baker Street by the latest ‘S’ stock train to test for any effects from the steam, which provided a neat contrast between the old and the new. Later we pulled back to Edgware Rd and then back to Earls Court and Lillie Bridge. The run went off without a hitch thanks to meticulous preparations and the programme for 2013 itself is now being planned.
The run did give a sense of the atmosphere of the steam-hauled era from 1863 to 1905. The smell of steam and coal smoke underground and the deafening noise of the safety valves blowing off demonstrated just why coke rather than coal was used to reduce the smoke and condensing apparatus fitted to absorb the spent steam in the Victorian Underground. The cab view of the twists and curves as we ran up from Earl’s Court, as well as seeing the sharp uphill gradient was a revelation to me. The double track tunnel brickwork is craggy and irregular, punctuated by open sections where we could see the dawn creeping up over west London.
Many thanks to our Underground colleagues, to the NRM for the loan of the loco and to Bill Parker and his crew from the Flour Mill for contributing to a highly successful and atmospheric event. The success of this test run gives us added incentive to raise the money for the restoration of Met No.1 to head a unique commemorative event in January 2013.