Extended Circle


For those who wish to understand how the Great Western Railway company specified, designed and constructed its Permanent Way then the task is much easier than for many other pre-grouping and pre-nationalisation companies. Devotees of Swindon have an easy “road” to enlightenment for they are blessed with not one..  not two..  not even three primary sources..  there are at least four sources of official documentation about GWR Permanent Way and associated Switch and Crossing practices from circa 1880 to the end of the Bullhead era.  As if that is not enough there is a decent book on the subject by one “who was there”… in the PW offices of BR (WR) and who had sufficient interest to put the experiences of his work into print.

The primary sources for information on the Permanent Way of the Great Western Railway company:-

  • Some Notes on Permanent Way, a paper read by Henry Harvie to the GWR Junior Engineering Society on 18th March 1898, (society pamphlet no. 17);
  • GWR Standard Permanent Way Practice, a paper read by F.T.Bowler to the Permanent Way Institute (South Wales Section) on 23rd June and 27th October 1923;
  • Permanent Way Fittings and their manufacture, a paper read by G.E.Hobbs to the GWR Swindon Engineering Society on 5th February 1929, (society pamphlet no. 169);
  • Permanent Way Notes: various, Chief Engineer’s Office, Paddington, 1930s through to 1950s.

Secondary sources include:-

  • GWR Permanent Way, 1838-1938, Len Tavender and M.C.James, HMRS Journal Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1965;
  • GWR Sleeper Spacings, David Smith, Great Western Study Group Newsletter no.77 June 2002.

And the book?  (which I recommend without reservation and  which needs to be on the bookshelf of anyone who wishes to building track in the GWR style)

  • GWR Switch and Crossing Practice, David J Smith, published by the Great Western Study Group.

Now in case you are thinking…  how do I  find a copy of the Chief Engineer’s tables for PW and S&C fittings?…  there is a fairy Godmother for GWR modellers in the form of Keith Norgrove.  Keith has been able to copy a large number of the Permanent Way Notes and those copies are to be found on Keith’s website, here .   There are no excuses, these tables define how the GWR and BR(WR) designed the permanent way and constructed the track.  In addition, the PW Notes illustrate the various chairs, fittings, levers, stretchers and blocks which went into the track.

The Great Western Railway permanent way for Artillery Lane just about gets into the picture down on the right hand corner of the Artillery Lane plan … where there is a connection from the up line of the Metropolitan Inner Circle Extension into the GW Gun Street depot.   An almost insignificant piece of railway property, with one or two sidings, a catch point and a capacity of around 15 wagons per siding.  As the depot belongs to the GWR then the sidings and catch point follow the contemporary practice of the GWR whereas the connection into the depot, placed in a passenger running line, was installed by the Metropolitan Railway and reflects the practice of that company.  Gun Street depot has just one connection to the Inner Circle Extension and that is a trailing turnout in the up line of the ICE…  which means that goods wagons for Gun Street are dropped from / attached to “up” GWR goods services (the Metropolitan Railway defined “up” as being in the direction from Baker Street towards Kings Cross).  The connection from the depot to the up line presents an operational problem in that goods trains which have wagons for the depot have to cross the down ICE line, by means of a diamond crossing, and that requires some smart working on the part of the train crew, the guard and the signalman.

The opening date of the Gun Street depot, lost in the depths of dry and dusty minute books (which are yet to be moved to Porchester Road), remains to be determined… early photographs of the depot appear to show bullhead rail of 86 lbs. per yard and that is consistent with a date of 1881.  Co-incidentally, 1881 is the date which is to be found on the keystone of the entrance gate to the depot yard.  Those early photographs provide a view of GWR track which is rather spindly in appearance for the 86 lbs section was neither as tall nor as thick (in the foot) as later sections.  Thankfully, there is one photograph of a siding which has a more robust appearance and that may be of either 92 lbs or 95 lbs rail section.

Like much of the Metropolitan Railway Main Line the sidings of Gun Street depot are in a dark and dreary location where the sun never shines – the depot suffers from damp and smoky conditions for most of the time.   Corrosion of the rails is rapid in the moist, acidic, atmosphere and – with the heavy wear from continual shunting and engines slipping on damp rails – the GWR has had to renew the sidings at least once since the depot was opened.  In an attempt to increase the life of the track in the depot the GWR used heavier rails in the renewals and that heavier rail section meant replacement chairs (and that required new sleepers).  So the permanent way for Gun Street depot is to be based upon the PW practices which were contemporary with the 1890-1899 period.

Updated 4th July:- to include information  from Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers – relating to a paper on the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways, 17th February 1885.

22nd February 2010 is an important date in the evolving story of Basilica Fields, this is the day when the world of Artillery Lane was laid before all as an integral part of life in the (amended) history of the East End of London.  Some sort of celebration seems to be in order and Adrian has decreed that the occasion be marked in an honourable fashion.  So here we present a part of the railway infrastructure for the first section of the Basilica Fields development ‑ a brief outline of Metropolitan Railway track in the period 1895 to 1905 as shall constitute the permanent way of the Inner Circle Extension and the Extended Widened lines in the vicinity of Artillery Lane.

This post is unusual by comparison with many of the entries of the Basilica Fields journal in that the content here is either fact or an hypothetical statement for which we continue to seek evidence.  There are other categories of the Basilica Fields journal where the reader has to either recognise and separate fact from the writer’s distortion of history (to present a more enjoyable picture of nineteenth century life in the east end of London) ‑ or accept the diary entries as written.

 The Research Sources

Thanks and acknowledgement are due to Leslie Bevis-Smith, HMRS steward for the Metropolitan Railway, for providing information without which the task of building the track would be much more difficult.  Where this post provides information as historical fact in regard to “Met” track then the source of that information is Leslie (unless otherwise stated).  Unwittingly and without intent, Leslie caused us to take an unexpected diversion in our research into “Met” PW practices, a diversion which has proved to be of inestimable value and yet has caused us to rethink some of the preparatory work for the permanent way of Artillery Lane.  A message from Leslie contained an extract from a Board of Trade Accident Report and upon realising that such reports are a source of contemporary information we have been reading similar reports (see the Railways Archive web site).  Apart from contributing to our understanding of the permanent way practices of the Metropolitan Railway, several reports have given an insight into the identities of locomotives to be found working the tunnels in the Basilica Fields time period and provided, for some services, details of passenger train formations and the identities of the coaching stock (see posts in the Passenger Services category).

Other research sources, which provide “visual” information on “Met” track, are the photographic collections of the London Transport Museum (LTM) and the Railway Archive (RA) which is a small part of the Transport Archive (TA). The RA/TA collection features the work of SWA Newton which one might think of as being biased towards the Great Central (MS&LR as was) – however, the London Extension of the Great Central Railway formed a junction with the Metropolitan Railway at Quainton Road and at West Hampstead.    As a consequence of those junctions, there are a number of Newton photographs which feature Metropolitan scenes of circa 1900.  These collections are searchable, on-line, resources; however, choose search parameters with care… for example: – using “Metropolitan Railway” on the LTM web site produced almost 600 thumbnails for viewing.  Those images which are from the Victorian and Edwardian eras provide much material for late-night sessions of sleeper counting.

A pleasant consequence of writing posts for the Basilica Fields journal is that reader’s comments on the content of a post often provide either additional material related to the original content or suggestions for other avenues of research.  Such has happened in relation to the infrastructure of the Metropolitan Railway in that a comment from Kit Williams has given pointers to a new research resource in the form of the on-line archive of the Institute of Civil Engineers.  The Minutes of Proceedings of the “Civils” has revealed a discussion between the George Owen (engineer for Hounslow and Metropolitan Railway) and Joseph Tomlinson (Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent – Metropolitan Railway) in which those gentlemen review contemporary practices in regard to permanent way.

Location, location, location…

In the original post for Artillery Lane the plan of the area shows the lines and facilities in that part of the Ward of Basilica Without, and is reproduced below:

The tracks which enter top-left and exit bottom-right are the property of the Metropolitan Railway; those tracks are used by Extended Circle services of the Metropolitan Railway and passenger / goods services of the Great Western Railway.  The tracks which enter bottom-left, pass under the Metropolitan lines, and exit top-right are also the property of the Metropolitan Railway although not used by that company; those tracks are used by Extended Widened Lines services of the Midland Railway, the Great Northern Railway, and railways from south of the River Thames.  Although financial contributions were made by the main line companies, the Metropolitan Railway was responsible for the building and maintenance of both these lines and the track work reflects contemporary Metropolitan Railway practice.  Bottom right of the map, between Union Street and Fort Street, can be seen the connection from the Extended Circle into the small GWR Depot (known as Gun Street depot and lies adjacent to Gun Street and Union Street).  Research into the Minute Books of meetings of the General Managers (held under the auspices of the Metropolitan and Great Western Joint Committee) has revealed that the property and land of Gun Street depot belonged to the GWR, hence that company was responsible for the installation and maintenance of the permanent way within that depot.  Much to the chagrin of the GWR, the connection into the depot was made from the up line of the Inner Circle Extension and so the GWR had to pay the Metropolitan Railway to install and to maintain the required PW and S&C fittings together with the necessary signalling (and hence a contribution to the wages of the signalman in the nearby Metropolitan signalbox).

The Information

The historical record for details of Metropolitan Railway permanent way is poor for the period from the early days of the “Met” to beyond the timescale of Basilica Fields.  What is presented here is courtesy of the HMRS company steward.

  • From the early days the track was built with iron rails weighing 62lbs per linear yard, of a “Vignoles” section, and laid on longitudinal sleepers.  By 1866 the rails were made of Bessemer steel and weighing 86lbs per linear yard, still “Vignoles” section, and now laid upon transverse sleepers.  Bullhead rail supported by chairs was introduced after 1872.
  • Circa 1876, the track at Aldgate was bullhead rail of 86lbs per yard, in 24ft. lengths.  The rail was supported in cast iron chairs, weighing 39lbs, and retained with outside keys.  The sleepers were of red fir and laid on a 12inch ballast bed.
  • The extension to Willesden Green (1879) had plain track as per Aldgate (1876).
  • The extension to Aylesbury (1892) was as per Willesden and Aldgate with sleepers specified as 9ftx10inx5in, 9 per length.  Steel sleepers were used for 5 miles of the extension.
  • The extension line widening of 1901 used 30ft rails (presumably with more than 9 sleepers per rail length).  Finchley Road was provided with Manganese steel rail of 95lbs per yard for switch and crossing work.
  • [Out of the time period for Basilica Fields, the Stanmore line was laid with rails of 45ft length and weighing 95lbs per yard (circa 1931)]

Official reports into railway accidents can be an useful information source if a report describes the construction of the permanent way.  Alan Blackburn (of the Model Railway Club), has provided some relevant details:-

  • July 1892 ‑ Accident at Farringdon, 87lbs Bullhead rail 24ft, 40lbs cast-iron hairs.  Sleepers 8’11”x10”x5” and 12”x6′,’ 9 sleepers to the rail length.  (Chairs) fixed with 2 bolts, nut on top as GWR, well ballasted.

Of real interest in this report is the reference to sleepers of 8’ 11” length ‑ not 9’ 0”, as most modellers think and most historians believe, for track which was laid before circa 1914.  The tax on imported timber appears to have been related to the length of the timber and that there was a breakpoint at 9’ 0”, that is, timber at 8’ 11” incurred a lower import duty than timber at 9’ 0”.  The reference to sleepers of 12” x 6” section suggests that the Metropolitan Railway used wider sleepers each side of a rail joint or that the rail joint was supported in a “joint” chair.  There is at least one photograph which shows a pre-WW1 Metropolitan passenger train on track which includes a joint chair.  Finding a joint chair in photographs of “Met” track work is marginally easier than spotting 12” wide sleepers with ballast up to the top of the sleeper; however, a Topical Press photographer was on hand to photograph some repair work at Aldgate during WW1 and this photograph appears to show the use of 12” wide sleepers on either side of a rail joint.

Finally, the HMRS company steward has provided a drawing of a Metropolitan cast-iron chair, dated 1883, which shows that the chair was fixed to the sleeper with two, square-headed, bolts into threaded plates under the sleeper.  The bolts were arranged diagonally, bottom left corner and top right corner when viewing the chair from above (with the rail running top to bottom).   After almost 130 years we rather felt that seeing an example of this chair was very unlikely….  however, whilst looking for something else (is not that always the way?), an interesting and relevant photo presented itself.   The provenance is correct, the date is reasonable…  and there is a good probability that this photograph from the TA shows a chair of the “Met” 1883 pattern.

The details above, as far as we know, are the sum of the written record; from here we need to peer into the dark corners of photographs (which were taken, mostly, to show some other railway feature).  There are several books on Metropolitan Railway services and branches, published in the last decade, which feature photographs similar to this of the “Met” in Victorian and Edwardian times.  Often those books provide us with detailed captions which include the date (or decade) of the photograph along with a location for the photograph –  such photos and captions can offer support for and interpretation of the written word, for example:-

Memories of the Met & GC Joint Line, Clive Foxell, published 2002, ISBN 0 9529184 3 9.  Pg. 25 shows “Met Tank” No.34 on a down Harrow service, the location is given as “past Willesden” and the date as pre‑1905.  The track under the engine has nine sleepers per rail length and whilst the angle of the photo does not help to estimate the rail length the photograph is probably representative of Metropolitan Railway practice in the period 1890-1900.

Metropolitan Railway Rolling Stock, James Snowdon, Wild Swan, published 2001, ISBN 1 874103 66 6.  Pg. 18 shows “Met Tank” No.59 on a down Rickmansworth service, the location is thought to be Northwood and the date as circa 1890s.  This picture gives a very clear impression of “Met” track with 9 sleepers per rail length (although the angle of the train does not enable confirmation of the expected 24’ rail length).

The Application to Artillery Lane

 

 

In case you think that all is “tickety‑boo” with the arrangement of plain track panels, let us review the “accepted” wisdom and then step back a bit.  From the written record and photographic evidence a picture emerges of the “Met” employing 24’ rails with nine sleepers per length from circa 1876 and 30’ rails with eleven(?) sleepers per length being available from 1901 (at the latest).  There is photographic evidence to support the idea of “24’ rails and 9 sleepers per length” as being the standard for Metropolitan Railway plain track on new lines in the period to be represented by Basilica Fields.  Given the potential for corrosion from the atmospheric conditions in the tunnels and the wear resulting from the passage of trains then replacement of rails every few years, with replacement of sleepers at a slower rate, is likely to have ensured that the permanent way of the Extended Widened Lines was maintained to contemporary specification.  For now, “contemporary specification” means that the track work for the Extended Circle Lines on Artillery Lane shall be a representation of bull-head rail, in two-bolt chairs on 8’ 11” sleepers (10” wide generally and 12” wide on each side of a rail joint), using 9 sleepers per 24’ rail length, with clipped fishplates fastened by four bolts/nuts.  As to the ballast, therein lies a problem for although we know that the “Met” included late night paths in the working timetable for “Ballast trains” to/from Aldgate the trains seem to have run at times when photography was not possible, hence the material and riddle size is a mystery at the moment.

However, the well known saying “Spanner, works, throw”, attributed to Mr. Murphy (or Mr. Sod, your choice), now comes into play.  As well as Victorian and Edwardian photographs showing the “24’ rails and 9 per length” standard for plain track there are a number of photographs from circa 1895-1900, reproduced in Jim Snowdon’s book, which show that the “Met” was particular to plain track of a “24’ rails and 8 per length” arrangement. At this time the balance of evidence falls in favour of 9 sleepers per panel for tunnel lines – and hence for Basilica Fields – with the 8 sleepers per panel probably used on the surface lines.

In passing, the Metropolitan Railway acquired, circa 1900, a number of single bolster wagons which, coupled in pairs, were able to carry rails of 45ft. length ‑ a sure indication that the Metropolitan Railway was using, or intended to use, rails of that length (as was, for example, the Great Western Railway).

As to the arrangement of sleepers, the details from an accident report (above) give us:-

  • 1 of 12” wide sleeper adjacent to the rail joint;
  • 7 of 10” wide sleepers;
  • 1 of 12” wide sleeper adjacent to the rail joint.

The spacing of the nine sleepers along a 24’ rail length would appear to be anything but consistent. Met A-Class No. 18 and Met A-Class No. 27 are probably the best photographs which we have located so far for the purpose of estimating the spacing of the sleepers along the rail length.  If we look at the PW practices of a main‑line railway company, the Great Western for example, then the central sleepers of a typical 44’ 6” track panel circa 1900 would be spaced at X’ Y” centres and the whole panel arranged as:-

  • first sleeper from rail end so that chair against end of inner fishplate;
  • next sleeper at less than X’ Y” centres;
  • (say) fourteen sleepers at X’ Y” centres;
  • next sleeper at less than X’ Y” centres;
  • last sleeper from rail end so that chair against end of inner fishplate.

What is clear from those photographs of Metropolitan track where the full length of a rail and all of the chairs are visible is that the prototype spacing of sleepers was not maintained to a standard.  The best which can be said about sleeper spacing on the “Met” circa 1890-1900 is:-

  • Chairs are not tight to fishplates, rather the spacing between the chairs at each side of a joint is similar to the spacing between chairs in the middle of the panel.
  • Sleepers are spread “uniformly” along the rail length although the spacing is “approximate” rather than “accurate”!

 

 


In conclusion – for now

Now those of you who have got this far may well be thinking “What about the Switch and Crossing practices for the turnouts?” and that is a very good question…  a question which has not escaped us.  At this time we have not been able to find details of the Metropolitan Railway specifications for turnouts; so, for example:- we do not know the preferred crossing angles; we do not know the preferred switch blade lengths; we do not know how the turnout was “timbered” – so any contributions on this subject shall be welcome. Unfortunately a request for any information by Adrian from the London Underground Railway Society was received with ‘panic’ by the secretary (he had never received an enquiry of that nature in over twenty years), and laughter by the Society’s ‘leading historian’.

Until we have sufficient to say on the subject of “Met” turnouts, the next step is to build plain track panels as representations of the Metropolitan Railway standard circa 1895-1905 for Artillery Lane – and that is to be part 2 of this topic.

And finally…

 

 

The details of track at Farringdon, circa 1892, quoted above are as provided by the HMRS Company Steward – these details are in conflict with an accident report, here, for an accident at Farringdon Street in January 1892 where C. S. Hutchinson, the inspector on behalf of the Board of Trade, took evidence from William H Gates, responsible for the permanent way of the Metropolitan Railway, that sleepers in that location on the Widened Lines were of 10 feet in length.  Accepted wisdom is that sleepers were 9 feet in length until circa WW1 when a change was made to 8 feet and 6 inches.  Until further information is forthcoming about this subject then the track for Artillery Lane on both the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines is to be with sleepers which are 9 feet in length.

Brown Trains. Nothing to do with the standard of service!

In 1890 – 1891 the London & North Western Railway built ten new trains of eight 4-wheel carriages in two batches of five for its Broad Street to Mansion House services. These eighty 28′ coaches were built as renewals of much older stock which had been used on the line since 1872, and in 1897 ten new Thirds with a 1′ shorter wheelbase were built on the capital account to strengthen the trains.

As built, the Mansion House sets were formed from Diagram 120 Firsts, Diagram 300 Seconds, Diagram 300 Thirds, Diagram 395 Brake Seconds and Diagram 395 Brake Thirds, and I intend to build Set No.7 in the pre-1897 eight carriage format. The photograph above shows Set No.7 c1904 with the additional Third.

The formation and running numbers of Set No.7 are all known:

Brake Second #96, Second #187, Second #165, First #266, First #118, Third #439, Third #825, Brake Third #272. These carriages were all gas lit and built on 18′ 0″ wheelbase steel channel underframes. In 1897, Third #2236 was added to the set and marshalled next to Brake Third #272.

Both the Brake Thirds and Brake Seconds had three compartments, and throughout the train there were only two compartment sizes; 6′ 10″ wide for Firsts, and 5′ 5″ for inferior classes. this explains the duplicate Diagram numbers for the Brake Seconds & Brake Thirds and the duplicate Diagram numbers for the Second & Third class carriages – to all intents and purposes they were identical, with the exception that in the all-Thirds, the compartment partitions were only to shoulder height.

These carriages were not painted in the famous L&NWR plum & spilt milk livery, but instead finished in varnished Burma teak which was considered by the company a better finish than paint to resist the continuous sulphurous atmosphere of the sub-surface lines. The stock was unlined and class designations were in the form of a large gilt numeral on the lower panel of the doors. The appearance of these sets soon earned them the soubriquet ‘The Brown Trains’.

16′ long roof boards were carried by the carriages, a little narrower than the 8″ wide roof boards carried by main line stock, and these carried the legend:

BROAD STREET, WILLESDEN, KENSINGTON & MANSION HOUSE. CHANGE AT WILLESDEN FOR MAIN LINE.

Trains destined for Bishospgate carried these boards on the 1st, 3rd, 5th & 7th carriages in the sets whereas the 2nd, 4th, 6th & 8th carriages carried boards lettered:

MANSION HOUSE, WAPPING, BASILICA FIELDS & BISHOPSGATE for BROAD STREET.

All the carriages had small 3′ boards on the sides above the windows lettered LONDON & NORTH WESTERN TRAIN in black on white.

The sets were gas lit as built, but in 1902 were converted to Stone’s electric lighting, each carriage was then fitted with dynamos and twin cell boxes. The lower footboards under the guard’s doors were removed at the same time as the conversions, but steam heating was never fitted.

With the electrification of the District Line in 1905, the majority of trains were hauled by the District Railway’s electric locomotives, with the exception of those few continuing on to the Extended Circle and Bishopsgate via Basilica Fields, until cessation of service in 1908.

At this time there are no kits for the Brown trains available commercially in 7mm. London Road Models have brass kits in 4mm, but I’m seriously considering producing artwork for etching as an aid to building them.

Francis Webb’s 4′ 6″ 2-4-2T radial tanks were a natural development of his famous 2-4-0T ‘Chopper’ tanks with an additional trailing radial axle supporting a larger capacity bunker. Indeed in the final order for 2-4-0Ts, a single 2-4-2T was built, and eventually 40 out of the 50 Chopper tanks were ‘renewed’ by being given an extended bunker with a trailing radial axle, and absorbed into the 2-4-2T class.

As with the Chopper Tanks, some batches of the 2-4-2Ts were fitted with condensing gear for work in the suburban districts of both Birmingham and London. Batch numbers E110, E33 and E36 of 1882, 1889 and 1890 respectively were chosen, and thus the locos working in the London area on the Outer Circle from Broad Street to Mansion House were quickly bestowed with their soubriquet.

Locos from batch E110 were fitted with full condensing equipment, but batches E33 and E36 were given a modified form of gear in what can be loosely described as semi-condensing, whereby exhaust steam was diverted from the blast pipe by a valve in the usual manner through a pipe on the side of the smokebox (although in this case pipes either side of the smokebox) into tops of the side tanks above the water level. Any steam remaining, rather than being fed to the opposite tank and then back to the smokebox as usual, passed through pipes inside the cab front weatherboard, along the eaves of the roof, down the outside of the rear weatherboard and into the U shaped water tank in the bunker, where what little remained was exhausted via a tall, thin breather pipe at the rear.

I’ll be using the recently introduced Mercian kit as the basis of the model, but have not yet decided which member of the class to build. I’ve only been able to locate three photos of the condensing tanks in the London area, numbers 781 and 785 of batch E33, and number 663 of batch E36, all of which are very atmospheric, but not particularly useful when attempting to create an accurate model.

Above, No.785 calls at Addison Road c1905. I’ve been told on several occasions that the LNWR took great pride and care over the condition of all its locos, and how white cotton-gloved shed foremen regularly checked their cleanliness, even between the frames – a view I’ve long held as deluded or erroneous at best, the product of rose-tinted hand-me down stories. No small degree of satisfaction on my part then to find No.785 looking not a little work-stained around the gills…

The origins of the London & North Western Railway’s involvement on the Circle are somewhat complex, extremely fascinating but ultimately beyond the scope of the history of Basilica Fields. However, a précis is desirable in order to explain the presence of Webb’s tanks in the East End!

The general public were slow to embrace train travel across town, largely preferring to walk, until the introduction of cheap workmen’s fares in the mid-1860s on the Metropolitan and Chatham lines popularised suburban rail journeys among the working classes. By the time of the Cheap Trains Act of 1883 it had become well established, with the horse-drawn tram demoted to second best except in the west and north-west tram-less districts where the horse drawn omnibus still held sway on the roads. Although the tram companies also offered cheap workmen’s return tickets, the ‘bus companies made little, and often no attempt to provide services before half past eight in the morning, and it was in this scenario, in the decades before direct electrified underground services across town, that steam-hauled ‘long way round’ suburban services flourished in a network of meandering connecting links and radial routes, some of which had lain dormant since the 1830s.

One such route was the West London Railway (WLR); initially promoted as the Birmingham, Bristol & Thames Junction Railway, it was authorised to run between Willisden Junction and Kensington Canal in 1836, but floundered as construction was beset by engineering problems. In 1840 it took up the title of the WLR, and for three years half a mile of the line was leased to the promoters of the atmospheric railway, and trials were undertaken to demonstrate the potential of that system.

In May 1844 the WLR was finally opened utilising conventional steam power, but suffered from a lack of patronage, and six months later services were withdrawn and the line closed. The following year the line was jointly leased by the Great Western and London & Birmingham Railways (the latter would become the dominant constituent of the London & North Western in 1846) and for eighteen years passenger services remained dormant while the line used for mineral traffic only.

Iin 1859 an Act granted the Great Western, London & North Western, London Brighton & South Coast and the London & South Western Railways power to double the line and construct an extension to cross the Thames to connect with the LB&SC and LSWR south of the river at a point close to Clapham Junction. The International Exhibition at Kensington in 1862 proved to be a good reason to introduce services from Harrow, and the following March full services over the line and the extension began in earnest.

In 1869 the Met & District (MDR) began construction of a spur off its line through Earls Court to join with the West London Railway at Kensington, and passenger services running from Broad Street (North London Railway) to Mansion House (MDR) and promoted by the LNWR as the Outer Circle, commenced in February 1872. With the opening of the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines in the late 1880s, the LNWR introduced a limited service of one train an hour beyond Mansion House to the Extended Circle via the junction at Mark Lane. This service initially terminated at Basilica Fields, but by 1892 was extended to Bishopsgate (Liverpool Street), the journey effectively, if not physically, completing a full circle. When the Outer Circle trains were electrified in December 1905, the LNWR negotiated to maintain the steam hauled service to Bishopsgate via Basilica Fields for three years, until the end of December 1908.

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