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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Return of steam on the Underground

30587 in steam at Baker Street Station
It isn't every night you get the chance to do this!

Last night we carried out a test designed to demonstrate the feasibility of running a steam locomotive on the London Underground for its 150th anniversary in 2013.

Locomotive Met no 1 and the Metropolitan first class 'Jubilee' coach 353 are currently being restored and fundraising is underway. Restoration of both vehicles is progressing and the London Transport Museum is overseeing both the fundraising and the restoration projects.

To have a working steam locomotive on the Underground presents significant challenges and last night after end of traffic a special train undertook some proving runs. Beattie 30587 was the steam locomotive used. It is owned by the National Railway Museum and was built in 1874. It was coupled to 1923 Metropolitan Electric loco 'Sarah Siddons' which provided a viewing platform, and between two battery locomotives and wagons carrying water and coal.

It left Lillie Bridge depot after 0100 and ran from Earl's Court at 0135 via the District line to Edgware Road. After a stop it then proceeded to Baker Street. At Baker Street the loco was run with protracted steam venting whilst heat and smoke levels in the station were tested. Later it shunted east to west and ran back to Edgware Road. Other trains - composed of S stock and C77 stock - ran around the steam loco train testing the effect on passing trains. With the tests complete the train ran back to Lillie Bridge via Earl's Court.

All went very well. But the sight and sound of a steam locomotive on the Underground was pure magic. It is, of course some 40 years since there was any steam propulsion on the Underground and then of course for engineering/permanent way reasons. The last passenger train hauled by steam here was in 1905.

A truly historic night out!


  1. And I thought the only exciting thing in Lillie Bridge today was the S7 stock! It must be quite hidden away from view from the WLL line.
    Shame, I only live on the other side of the wall.

  2. If that video doesn't start to get people excited for next year's anniversary trips, I don't know what will.

  3. Aye, the video really highlights just how unique an act it is.

    I'm looking forward to next year. Think sometimes people forget just how old the Underground is (and just what a landmark it was in railway terms).

  4. This takes me back to my time at Baker Street when I used to cadge footplate rides on the pannier tanks hauling engineers trains during track replacement on the City Widened Lines (1970). I know LUL and LTM staff are working flat out to make 2013 special. Good luck to you all.

  5. Do you know how one might donate towards the restoration funds?

  6. Were you on that SGS Railway Club trip to see the Engineering Dept works where we had a go on the panniers?

    I may still have some B/W photos of that somewhere.

  7. ...if only I had thought of making the journey into London that day...!

    Still, really glad you had the pleasure to witness the occasion. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is amazing, I can't wait to see this working, my partner is a truly amazing modeller that makes fully functioning steam loco models and this is incredibly exciting for us to see this revival of steam!

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. It may be 40 years since the ex-BR Pannier Tanks finished (41?) with a railtour that took in a run over the Widened Lines certainly to Faringdon, but in 1995 I was privileged to be the only passenger from St James Park when L44/Met No 1 was moved from Neasden to Upminster for an open day. Haulage by BR was deemed too expensive and someone at 55 Broadway pointed out that after all LT had its own railway running between the two points and a photo opportunity was arranged at St James Park. Much mirth was caused by the platform indicators flagging up their 'No Smoking' instructions periodically as the ensemble paused before the tripods. Everyone else present was a car driver and had driven to St James Park after normal services had ceased and Neil Howard of LT Public Affairs suggested that rather than wait for the first train home (it was 01.30), I might as well travel on the train. No second bidding was required, and with L44 doing all the work (pushing one battery locomotive, pulling two BR Mk 2 coaches and another battery locomotive, we stormed our way eastwards. I shall never forget the astonishment of the LT staff at Bromley by Bow sweeping up the platform as we blasted past! Arrival at Upminster Depot was at 03.27; the Depot Manager was not keen on my suggesstion that I get a nap on the cushions of the set diagrammed for the first working out in the morning and so after a long walk round Upminster in the early hours (the only activity was at a bakers near the station), I got to the station not long before 6am for the first train westwards. it was a glorious summers morning (late July?) and I remember the very strange look I got from the first (lady) passenger who got in my carriage in the minutes before the train was due to leave. 'I came here tonight behind a steam locomotive!' I said, at which she got up and moved to another car. The events of that night made an article in Railway World magazine, which I have somewhere....Happy Days!
    Hugh Madgin

    1. Actually, I think it might have been 1993 on reflection because (was photographing Class 50s at Paddington before getting over to St James Park (still can't find that copy of Railway World). Sorry my post appears to be under the name of letsgetreal here; it is me not not he!
      Hugh Madgin

  10. I recall standing on Euston Sq platform in December 1946 watching a GWR Pannier with a train of box wagons heading for Faringdon from Paddington. Now that's a memory?

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