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Monday, 17 December 2012

More steam on the Underground

Met loco No 1 leads the train at Edgware Road Station
With the Underground's 150 anniversary now only a month away there was one more full-scale rehearsal needed to prove that we can indeed haul passengers along that original 1863 route from Paddington to Farringdon.

Early on Sunday morning (at 0152 in fact), we are standing on platform 1 at Earls Court watching restored Met loco No 1, lead the equally expertly-restored Metropolitan Coach 353, together with a flat wagon (with emergency water) and at the rear electric loco Sarah Siddons. Those charged with checking this operation, together with a few others and a couple of members of the press boarded and we set off.

Riding in 353 we again experienced the sensation of being hauled by steam: the smoke, the smell, the sounds. Yes we chuffed around the Outer Circle at 2am in 2012 as if it was an every day occurrence. The coach itself had several lives. It was built in 1892 and retired from London in 1905, whereupon it saw service on the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Light Railway.

A glimpse into one of the
compartments of 353

After the line closed in 1940, it went on to be used as a shop, a clubhouse for US servicemen, a home and a farm outbuilding. The restoration has been expertly done by the Ffestiniog Railway. 

Periodically, from the anonymous darkness of the tunnels we would pass through familiar Underground stations - High Street Kensington, Edgware Road, Baker Street (where we get vented huge quantities of steam to test the station's atmospheric reaction), and perhaps most amazingly of all Kings Cross which is the most modern on this section of line. Bright lights, illuminated signs, modern fittings, all glimpsed through the varnished wooden window frames and gold fittings.

At 0302 we pulled into the bay road at Moorgate, where No 1's water tanks were replenished.

Dating from 1898 she pulled her load through the tunnels - back in 1963 she played a major part in the Underground's centenary but subsequently changed hands and deteriorated until this recent expert restoration which brings her back into action again on London metals exactly 50 years later.

The youngest member of the train is of course the most famous - Sarah Siddons - the 1923 electric locomotive which was on hand in case of assistance being needed and to lead the entourage back from Moorgate later.

We mustn't forget the stalwart Sarah Siddons which was
ready to assist and indeed led the ensemble back
from Moorgate
The train paused at Edgware Road on the return before returning through Earl's Court as London was again waking.

With all the tests for this year completed the scene is now set for the rehearsal and formal events in January 2013 which will mark the 150th anniversary. It will see fare-paying passengers - as well as dignitaries and VIPs - re-enact the experiences of a century and a half ago.




  1. That carriage looks wonderful-lovely Victorian feel to it.

  2. video clip is marked as private :(

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. I still can't quite believe you've managed to pull this off. A detailed account of the various hoops jumped through would be interesting - proving the stock would all fit the planned route; making a safety and practical case for operating a steam locomotive (presumably without modern safety devices, and with limited visibility) through underground stations and tunnels, carrying passengers in individual compartments with slam doors and no end access, with normal passenger trains running past and behind; servicing and maintenance; contingency arrangements in the event of a failure either before the event (was another steam loco on standby?) or during it; and so on. Probably something for the railway press rather than here