Tag Archives: Metropolitan Railway Carriage 353

Riding Shotgun on Met 353

The more observant amongst you will have noticed that the restoration of Metropolitan Railway carriage no. 353 by the Museum has been one of the highlights of the Underground 150 celebrations. Dating from 1892, 353 has been the centrepiece of the show, and has appeared a number of times on the recent steam runs on the Underground.

Late in May came the ‘Steam on the Met’ event (if you missed it there’s another similar run in September!), giving the opportunity for members of the public to ride behind a steam loco on the main line in a variety of old rolling stock, hauled by a steam engine. A British Rail 0-6-0 pannier tank built in the early 1950s, 9466, did the honours. No. 353 formed part of the train, and museum volunteers were fully involved with Underground staff in stewarding the event and making sure that all passed off well for the customers.

May_2013_LTM_stuff_084resized

Electric loco ‘Sarah Siddons’ and diesel 20 189 in its London Transport red livery were also in the train – no way were we going to be allowed to breakdown and block the line! Your humble scribe was pressed into action as a steward, and very enjoyable it was too. A freezing cold day found me joining the team at Harrow-on-the-Hill station for a full briefing prior to doing two round trips to Amersham. After joining the train our customers got on as well, and we were treated to a surprisingly fast run out to Amersham.

May_2013_LTM_stuff_073resized

The atmosphere in the carriage was wonderful, with steam pouring past the windows, the Victorian ambience and the shared enjoyment of travelling first class in deep red plush seats on the Metropolitan Line.

Everything passed off smoothly, other than the cold, wet weather: time was kept, and all passengers thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They also had the opportunity to chat about the history of 353 with the volunteers, who had received background notes from Dave Taylor (volunteer). Between the two trips we had a chance to retire to a pub in Harrow for a very late lunch, which was very welcome; strictly no alcohol though.

May_2013_LTM_stuff_075resized

353 will be out and about quite a bit in 2013, and not just on London Underground lines, so there will be a chance to sample its delights at a number of different heritage railway events. Keep a lookout on the Museum’s Vehicles on the Move page!

Dave Olney, Volunteer

London Underground Testing of Met 1 and Coach 353: The Director’s Perspective

Test train at Moorgate, 16th December 2012

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.

Project 353 restoration update – October 2012

Excellent progress has been made on the carriage restoration over the summer months. As with most projects of this type there is huge pressure between planned cost, available time and the resulting quality. Whilst the approaching LU150 anniversary has constrained the timetable for completion, the quality of craftsmanship going into rebuilding the carriage has remained at the highest standard and is a credit to Festiniog Railway staff.

The interior compartments are currently being fitted out with red plush seating and leather door panels, which together with the completed ceiling panels give a good impression of how the carriage will eventually look. Where practically possible the few original interior fixtures surviving from when the carriage was first built have been grouped together and fitted inside one compartment.

Externally, work on the roof apparatus is starting to take shape with the fitting of wooden blocks to support the replica gas light copper piping. Unfortunately after researching railway heritage organisations and museums up and down the country, no original ‘Pintsch’ gas lamps of the type used on Met353 have been found. However, through studying a combination of historical photographs and archival drawings, eight replica gas lamps has been fabricated by Festinog Railways contracted specialist lamp company. Following the original design they are made from tin plated steel and of traditional soldered construction. Whilst we want the restoration to be as accurate and faithful as possible, we don’t want passengers to have Victorian accidents. Hence the lighting will be powered by low voltage LEDs, whilst the ‘Wethered Patent’ style door locks will be modified so they cannot be accidently opened from inside the carriage when carrying passengers on the London Underground.

After a considerable amount of time inverted (to aid the fitting of braking components) within the workshop, the underframe is now the right way up and almost complete. As I write the only parts remaining to be fitted are the step boards and ‘Swan neck’ section of vacuum piping. Once the carriage body is complete it will be mounted onto the underframe and the heating pipes and emergency stop system connected together.

If all goes to plan static testing will be undertaken at Boston Lodge in the first week of November, followed by dynamic testing on a standard gauge heritage railway line soon after. This will be the first time the carriage has operated on a railway line in over 70 years and a sight eagerly anticipated. Needless to say the completion of the carriage forms just one element of a much larger event currently being developed, to bring the return of a passenger steam train under the streets of London as part of LU150 in January 2013.