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
353 goes far East? Well certainly about as far East as it could and still claim London Underground legitimacy. The restoration of Metropolitan carriage no.353 to its former glory was a significant investment, and the Museum was helped out by a generous grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund. In recognition of this help, the carriage has been used at a number of events in 2013 at which the public can both see it and take a ride in its stunning first class interior.
Hence on an early Saturday morning in July I found myself stood next to 353 on the platform of North Weald station of the heritage Epping and Ongar Railway, which was until 1994 part of London Transport’s Central Line. The Epping and Ongar Railway had organised an Underground 150 event as its contribution to this year’s celebrations.
Truth be told, in my concern not to be late, I actually arrived a bit too early, just as the station was opening. Consequently I was treated to a happy hour or so watching while the trains for the day were formed up; it was a highly nostalgic image of what I would imagine a sleepy early morning in the summer on a steam secondary line must have been like.
The nostalgia quotient was piled on as a brace of Country Area RTs and a couple of RFs arrived on the apron outside the station, ready to run the shuttles bringing passengers from Epping station.
However, I wasn’t in deepest Essex to wallow in the past. For a change I was actually making myself useful and I spent the day acting as the steward on 353. This meant looking after the carriage, to make sure that nothing untoward happened to it. Just as importantly, I was also on hand to ensure that the public safely enjoyed their day and were able to understand a little bit about the history and restoration of 353. At this point I also have to mention the Epping and Ongar’s volunteers, who I found to be immensely friendly and helpful.
So I spent a very happy day trundling to and fro through the summer countryside, in a train consisting of Metropolitan loco no. 1, carriage 353 and a “Dreadnought” carriage. I think it would be a fair reflection to say that a good time was had by all! (But especially me……)
A good proportion of the vehicles in the Museum are maintained as working exhibits, and as such are, from time to time, allowed back on the road or rails, giving the public the opportunity to sample travel from earlier eras.
The Rickmansworth Canal Festival in mid-May provided an ideal opportunity for just such an outing. The festival has grown over the last 20 years or so into a major waterways event, drawing large crowds. Many of these visitors have a more general transport interest, so it’s an ideal opportunity to dust down a train or two and let them loose on the Metropolitan Line. This year two trains were running: a train of A62 stock and a train of 1938 tube stock.
Being valuable historic items the Museum has to make sure that the trains are well-stewarded, and a mix of LTM staff and volunteers fulfil this requirement. Safety is also important, as is ticket inspection. The trains run mixed in with the normal service, and I saw a number of people try to board the A62 assuming that it was a normal service train. In fairness I suppose it is only a year or so since they were withdrawn.
Also out and about was the prototype Routemaster RM1 from the Museum’s collection, assisting with the bus connection from Rickmansworth station to the festival site, again with crews and stewards drawn from Museum volunteers.
I was lucky enough to ride on both trains and RM1. The A62 was in ‘as withdrawn’ condition, and truth be told it was as if it had never been away. On the other hand the 1938 stock train is restored in immaculate condition, and regular readers will have seen it being prepared for service by Chris Daniels in an earlier post on the Volunteers’ blog.
Both trains drew a good number of passengers, but inevitably it was 1938 stock that was the star of the show. I can confirm that it gave a very lively ride, and drew many an admiring look from passengers on the new S8 trains. The interior was a delight, including the period adverts. Oh to be a guard on £25 14/6 a week.