Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways

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The Metropolitan Railway (MetR) and the Metropolitan District Railway (District) were the first two of the series of underground railways to be constructed in London starting in the 1860s and, consequently, the first of the world's metro systems. Although separate and independent companies and often fierce rivals, the histories of the MetR and District are inextricably linked through their joint construction of the Inner Circle route (now the Circle Line). This article charts the history of the two companies until they become part of the London Underground.

The rapid expansion of road traffic into London in the first four decades of the 19th century had stimulated many proposals for railways into the central area including a number of schemes for underground routes. Charles Pearson, Solicitor to the City of London was a leading promoter of several of these schemes and in the early 1850s did much to win government approval for the construction of the first of these lines the MetR.

Coat of arms of the Metropolitan Railway


[edit] Metropolitan Railway

Image:Metropoltian Railway steam locomotive number 23.jpg
Metropolitan Railway steam locomotive number 23, the only surviving locomotive from the world's first underground railway, is preserved at London's Transport Museum

The MetR was incorporated in 1853 as the North Metropolitan Railway and was re-incorporated on 7 August 1854 as a mixed-gauge line: it opened on 10 January 1863 from a junction with the Great Western Railway (GWR) main line at Bishops Road, Paddington to Victoria Street (later Farringdon Street) in the City of London. A plaque commemorating the opening is at street level outside Baker Street station on the north side of Marylebone Road.

Construction began in February 1860. This caused massive traffic disruption in north London: during the work the Fleet Sewer burst into the diggings and flooded the partly-built tunnel. From opening the line was worked for six months by the GWR with broad-gauge rolling stock, but in August 1863, after massive disagreement between the two companies, the MetR found itself having to work the line, and provide standard gauge rolling stock, at six months’ notice. With assistance from the Great Northern Railway this was achieved: the broad gauge was removed in 1869.

By the turn of the century the MetR had its foot in both the main-line and in the underground system for London.

[edit] Line openings

The MetR began extending into West London and further into the City:

The section between Westbourne Park and Edgware Road, giving access to the MetR, was the property of the GWR. It was constructed without Parliamentary sanction.

[edit] "Metro-land"

[edit] Aylesbury-Verney Junction

The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway (A&BR) between Aylesbury and Verney Junction was incorporated on 6 August 1860, opened on 23 September 1868, and amalgamated with the MetR on 1 July 1891. In April 1906 the section from Harrow to Verney Junction was leased to a Joint Committee of the MetR and GCR: it was worked on a five-yearly basis alternately by the joint lessees. Passenger services on the line were withdrawn between Quainton Road and Verney Junction from 6 July 1936, and the intermediate stations of Granborough Road and Winslow Road closed. The last through service, a parcels train from Verney Junction, was on 6 September 1947.

[edit] Brill Tramway

North of Aylesbury, at Quainton Road, was a 6½-mile (10 km) branch railway. It started life as the Wotton Tramway built and run under the auspices of the Duke of Buckingham. It was constructed between 1870 and 1872 and served as a means of transport around the estate as well as public railway. For a while, a branch line connected to a brick and tile works.

In 1894 the line was taken over by the Oxford and Aylesbury Tramroad Co, which rebuilt the tramway and extended it to Brill, leading to the name Brill Tramway. It was always the intention that the tramway would in due course run to Oxford; in spite of the scheme being again proposed in 1899, it never came to anything. From April 1899 the tramway, sometimes known as the Brill Branch, was operated as a branch of the MetR main line.

There were stations at 'Waddesdon' (originally 'Waddesdon Road'); 'Westcott'; 'Church Siding'; 'Wotton'; 'Wood Siding'; and 'Brill'.

When it was an independent railway a variety of small steam locomotives was used on trains, but once part of the MetR A and B Class MetR locomotives were used. Two carriages built for the O&A remained in use after the take-over: these were eight-wheeled carriages with the wheels mounted directly onto the chassis, and did not have bogies.

The Brill Tramway closed to all traffic on 1 December 1935.

[edit] Metropolitan District Railway

The District was incorporated ten years later than the MetR, on 29 July 1864. As noted above, it was set up to complete the "Inner Circle".

[edit] Line openings

The core section of the District commenced at the MetR's South Kensington station and extended in stages to Mansion House. Sections were opened as follows with the District also running westwards over the MetR's tracks to Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington:

From this core, the District began extending branches to reach new population centres, mainly in the west:

This completed the Metropolitan District Railway system.

[edit] Electrification

Electrification had been considered by the MetR as early as the 1880s, but such a method of traction was still in its infancy, and agreement would need to be reached with the District because of the shared ownership of the Inner Circle. Experiments were later carried out on the Earl's Court-High Street Kensington section, and a jointly-owned train of six coaches began a passenger service in 1900. As a result of those tests a MetR/District committee in 1901 recommended overhead AC traction for the system. This was accepted by both parties but when an American lead group, the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited (UER), took control of the District there was disagreement. The group was led by Charles Yerkes, whose experience in the United States led him to favour DC, with third-rail pickup similar to that in use on the City & South London Railway and Central London Railway. After arbritration by the Board of Trade the latter system was taken up and the railways began electrifying the routes, using multiple-unit stock.

  • In 1902 the District commenced building the Lots Road Power Station to supply power to their network, which opened in 1905. The MetR built its own power station at Neasden.
  • 1 January 1905: Baker Street - Uxbridge. The line opened in July 1904, and was worked by steam for the first six months
  • 1 July 1905: Aldgate-Whitechapel, initially for the District service
  • 13-24 September 1905: gradual electrification of the Inner Circle
  • 5 November 1906: Edgware Road-Hammersmith and the Addison Road (now Olympia) branch
  • 1 March 1910: Rayners Lane - South Harrow. This enabled the District to extend its services to Uxbridge
  • 31 March 1913: East London Railway. MetR provided the service.

Services on the "Extension line" in the open remained steam-hauled for some years, necessitating change of locomotive:

Two branches were built with electric traction from the outset:

[edit] Later history

Although much of the line was electrified, steam-hauled passenger trains ran beyond Amersham until 1961 and maintenance trains as late as 1971. In addition, an annual "Steam on the Met" event ran until 2000, when it was suspended prior to the reorganisation of London Underground in readiness for the introduction of the new "Public-Private Partnership" (PPP) maintenance contracts for the network, though the London Underground Railway Safety Case does permit running future specials.

The MetR and District were taken over by the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933, becoming the Metropolitan and District Lines of the London Underground.

The section north of Aylesbury closed in 1936, though services did get to Quainton Road again between 1943 and 1948. In the same year a service extension from Whitechapel to Barking was implemented along the District Line tracks.

[edit] Preserved Metropolitan Railway carriages

See Vintage Carriages Trust for details of preserved Metropolitan Railway železnica sv:Metropolitan Railway

Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways

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