As I passed by the museum on my way home from the horsemeat shop I pondered on the recent festivities on the London Underground. Being 150 years since the first Metropolitan Railway line opened in 1863 they decided to run a steam special pulling carriages of ancient vintage full of
hangers on dignitaries to commemorate the occasion. Sadly my invitation appears to still be somewhere in the post.
The first line was one of those 'cut and cover' jobs along the Euston Road. This road had been built as circular route around the heavily congested centre of London and marked the then edge of the main metropolis. To avoid railways cutting through this congestion, and knocking down MP's homes, all stations were built on the edge, which explains the setting for Paddington, Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras. The idea of an underground railway under this road was clever as little tunneling was required. The road was dug up, tracks laid, walls and stations built, and the road surface returned once more. There was little real disruption, except to those evicted or who's homes may have collapsed. Always some 'Nimby' to complain!
Running from Paddington, where Rolling stock help was obtained from Mr Brunel's Great Western Railway, hence the large tunnels to accommodate Brunel's 'Broad Gauge' tracks and engines, the line spread east to Farringdon. Compare the tunnels on this line with the others. I travelled this line on many occasions, not in the days of steam I hasten to add, and remain awed by the size of the tunnels and the complex arrangements of the various railway lines that run unheeded in the area.
The idea of hastening travellers was a good one and enabled many to cross the city from one station to another with considerable ease. The roadway itself soon lost the position as the rim of the city and as while the Metropolitan Railway pushed east to Aldgate to meet the new 'District' line the rising population pushed outwards. The railways followed soon after. By 1864 the GWR no longer assisted the Met line as they now possessed their own trains, however the GWR aided the line as it expanded west to Hammersmith, and the Met itself went northwards to chase the middle classes desiring a commuter lifestyle in fresh air in England's 'green and pleasant land,' which they proceeded to concrete over.
By 1884 the Metropolitan Railway company had joined with the Metropolitan District Railway to create a circle line under London, this time using a new system of tunneling, suitable in the clay soil. Since then the railway, running on electric traction since the 1890's, has been a world of its own. The experience is never forgotten, especially when the loony always sits next to you! The warm air as the 'tube' approaches, the roar when the station is entered, the stuff that gets up your nose and the happy smiling faces stay in the mind always. Only one of those is incorrect by the way.
How to build an underground railway. Pick and shovel!
The dignitaries at Paddington. (1863 not 2013 by the way)