Inner Circle


Of course it’s all over the news; the Metropolitan Railway opened the first underground railway to the public 150 years ago today!

Splashed across newspapers and news websites are old photographs of the Directors’ first journey (on the 9th) and photos showing the golden streets of Old London Town covered with mud, ripped open by navvies to insert brick-lined tunnels like veins and arteries under the great city.  Ghosts of the past, every one of them.

Being a contrary sort of fellow I thought I’d do something different.  Here then is an illustration from August 1893 that appeared in The English Illustrated Magazine as part of a series of articles entitled The Romance of Modern London. In this article  ‘RW’ describes vividly a footplate trip on the Inner Circle.  The artist is Fred T. Jane, and is one of 13 published with the original text.  If there’s much interest I may occasionally reproduce the rest, or even the original text.

Praed Street, 1893 by Fred T Jane.

Praed Street, 1893 by Fred T Jane.

I love the stylised,  futuristic idealism in the representation of the buildings towering over the cutting – it’s almost Fritz Lang meets Flash Gordon.  The location is one of the air lungs near Praed Street.

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Twelve examples of the Great Western’s 13 ton AA7 brake vans were built between 1897 and 1898 to Lot 206 for working the company’s trains from Acton over the Metropolitan and (for a short stretch between Farringdon Street and Aldersgate Street) the Widened Lines to Smithfield – they were numbered in the series 56985-96.  Essentially they were a short version of the AA3 vans with a 9ft wheelbase, measuring 16ft over headstocks with a proportionally smaller verandah than the larger vans.

© Adrian Marks

It has been suggested by various authors that the AA7s must have been the among the first fitted brake vans on the GW because of the Smithfield meat trains, which included fitted Micas, but in reality, the perceived volume of meat traffic to Smithfield has been blown out of all proportion, and careful study of the relevant WTTs show that in fact the meat trains made up only a very small percentage of the traffic over the route as Smithfield was also the main general merchandise goods depot for central London and the City. To put things in perspective; in 1912, out of sixteen daily goods trains only four were scheduled for meat traffic, and of these, three were mixed trains of meat and general merchandise. Quite surprisingly, only one single trip each day was solely reserved for the conveyance of meat. It’s worth remembering that Mica’s were vacuum braked to convey chilled and frozen meat between Birkenhead and London at passenger-rated speeds, and it would have been the brake vans on those trains which were first vacuum fitted. It wasn’t until later, maybe much later (post-Grouping?) that vacuum braked stock was required on the Smithfiled trips.

The model is from Big Jim’s wonderful Connoisseur range, and the only major deviation I made was the addition of WEP compensation units rather than a solid chassis. GW paint from Precision, weathering from Humbrol and transfers from the HMRS. Glazing is 0.13mm glass, instanter couplings from CPL and sprung buffers from Slater’s.

This example was built to commission, and is in 0 Finescale, but I have a pair to build for Basilica Fields where meat traffic not only shuttles between Acton and Smithfield, but east from Smithfield to St. Katherine Dock via Basilica Fields on the (Middle) Circle Extension.

© Adrian Marks

No photoshoppery…well, just a little to get rid of a couple of specks of dust, but the colours and lighting is au natural care of the fat old sun.

Bit of a lull in proceedings I’m afraid, due entirely to the uncertainties of selling a house and buying another, and the inordinate amount of time taken up with all that entails.

© Jack Hill

So, as a bit of an intermission (grab your ice creams)… I’ve had this print for a little while and thought I’d better get a frame to protect it during the intended move. I doubt there are many artists who’d find inspiration enough to produce a painting of the Inner Circle (although another was the catalyst for this whole project) which I think is fantastic and captures the spirit of the prototype.

The District train on the left is on the Inner Circle and the Great Northern 126 class No.119 is coming up from Ludgate Hill with a goods train. Although exact numbers varied during the 1880s and 1890s, the GNR was in charge of approximately fifty goods trains which daily crossed the Thames via the Widened Lines, half of which were mandatory, the rest running as required.

Continuing on from my earlier post , I thought it might be an idea to show how the Extended Circle & Widened Lines, and the East London Railway Extension with the new Thames Tunnel all fits into the geography of East London.

If you’ve read the earlier post you will know how the Extended Lines branch off from the Inner Circle just after Bishopsgate (Liverpool Street), and here you can see the Extended Circle and Widened Lines pushing east as far as Bow before heading south towards the river where there was a junction for the New Thames Tunnel at Limehouse. The Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines finally headed west, past the docks to Mark Lane, while the new tunnel took the line under the Thames and the Surrey Commercial Docks to Deptford Road, where the line rejoined the ELR to New Cross. For clarity I’ve only marked the Basilica Fields stations on the map (both the GER and Metropolitan ones), but there are other stations on the Metropolitan line which I’ll describe later. For the same reason I’ve omitted the goods depots which will be covered in subsequent posts.

As an aside, welcome to new readers. Unique hits almost doubled yesterday, with almost 100 different visitors which I find staggering.

So far I’ve discussed the Basilica Fields project running c1890-1898, and I’ve already admitted that this is quite a big timeframe to deal with, especially as it is one in which a great many changes took place. However, dealing with so many railway companies and a very incomplete historical record when taken as a whole, I’m left with little choice, and it has proven impossible to narrow things down further. Even with this very large window in time of almost a decade, there are still gaping holes where I’m simply going to have to make a best guestimate based upon the information and advice given to me by those who are well respected in their areas of historical railway knowledge.

Nevertheless, despite the pitfalls, 1898 isn’t the end of the Basilica Fields story, and I also intend to run a 1899-c1906 period. Again, this is very feather-edged with no delineated start or cut-off point, and like in the earlier period there will be times when there will be anachronistic pieces of stock running…but not in the same train.

‘Why?’ is a very legitimate question, and is one which I’ve been asked more than once. The answer is simple; the last decade of the 19th century saw the pinnacle in artistic locomotive and stock design, and one which contrasts with the early years of the 20th century when there was a move towards more powerful looking designs. It’s a fascinating change, and one of the big advantages of modelling such a wide timeframe – indeed, one of my earliest ideas, and something that I kept coming back to when planning all of this – is the opportunity to show not what the railway looked like at a certain date, but to show the changes that took place over a period of time. Few modellers have attempted anything quite so daft, and to be honest, I now know why!

Head in the sand or not, this is what I plan to do, so without further ado…

For many years after opening, the Metropolitan Railway did not run its own goods services, though there was much goods traffic on the Metropolitan – so much so that the Widened Lines were proposed due to the frequent and intense nature of the goods traffic operated by the Great Northern, Great Western, London Chatham & Dover and Midland railway companies. By 1890 – the beginning of the Basilica Fields project’s time frame – the company only had fifty 6-ton open ballast wagons, six bolster wagons for carrying rails, three 10-ton goods brake vans, and two or three road van types for permanent way and maintenance duties.

The company appears to have been content to act as a distribution and collection agency, utilising the exchange yard at Finchley Road it shared with the Midland, and during the 1880s made use of the Midland Railway’s rolling stock for outward traffic, though the economics proved to be very unsatisfactory. Therefore, in 1891 the Met. began to build up its own fleet of goods rolling stock, and by 1900 had amassed 255 10-ton open wagons – the majority of which were low-sided 3-plank wagons with drop-sides – and the rest of the 5-plank variety, some of which may have been designated as coal wagons (though not loco or steam coal, as the met used outside contractors for these…Stephenson Clarke?), along with six covered vans, six cattle wagons and twenty three brake vans. 268 new wagons were added to the stock list by 1905, mostly opens, but included eighteen new covered vans and three new 10-ton machine wagons, and by 1910 the company’s wagon register had swollen to include 600 opens.

The increase in goods working by the company led to the opening of its own depôt at Vine Street, located between Farringdon Street and the Ray Street gridiron. It was to be the smallest of the City goods stations, and the shortest lived, lasting only twenty six years. Traffic was general in nature, dealing with all types of goods except minerals and livestock. It consisted of a short double-sided covered goods platform at rail level, each of the two sidings capable of holding seven wagons, a manually operated traverser and three van docks. The warehouse directly above was initially connected to the rail level by a single 20cwt electric hoist and a spiral staircase, and a second hoist was installed a year later. At the time of writing the building survives, albeit partially rebuilt, though the back and front walls at road level appear to be original.

Trade support for suitable goods stock is limited to post-1900 rub-down transfers from Powsides for the 3-plank wagons, so all stock will need to be scratchbuilt. I foresee a single goods brake and no more than a dozen opens being made, the latter probably resin cast from a master as I have suitable drawings here.

At the enquiry into a series of minor derailments of the rigid-8s in 1884 (discussed in my previous post), it was discovered that some of the wheelsets were actually lifting clear of the rails. The immediate solution was to alter the wheelsets concerned, but the opportunity was taken in 1887 to order three complete rakes of nine 27′ 6″ 4-wheeled carriages from Craven Bros., and these were formed into rakes as Bk2/2/1/1/3/3/3/3/Bk3. Their delivery coincided with Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee from which the carriages gained their soubriquet.

The design of the 4-wheelers was a departure for the Metropolitan in that the sides and ends had a turnunder (often incorrectly described by railway modellers as a tumblehome), a high waist line, and therefore shorter windows, though they retained toplights to maintain as much light as possible within the compartments. Their wheelbase was 14′, very short for the length of the carriage, though later mainline sets of these carriages had their wheelbases lengthened to 17′ 4″ to promote greater stability at the speeds those particular sets travelled at. These carriages were fitted with a combined centralised pivoting buffer/coupling as used on the New York EL trains, though the outer brake ends had standard buffers and drawgear.

Like their predecessors, they had round-topped doors and ventilator hoods, Pintsch’s pressurised gas lighting, and the simple vacuum brake was fitted until replaced by the automatic vacuum brake in 1891-3. The Inner Circle sets continued the Metropolitan’s tradition of keeping its passengers cold – the only form of heating being footwarmers.

The photo shows one of the main line Jubilees, 1st class carriage no.346 in original (pre-1908), though rather work-stained, condition. This carriage has the longer 17′ 4″ wheelbase, and short side buffers with standard close-coupling drawgear. The confusion experienced with the Metropolitan livery (see my comments in the previous post) can be seen here – it’s a first class carriage but there is no sign of cream paint above the waist, nor does it appear lined. Replicating that finish will be great fun, speaking of which, a rake or two of the Inner Circle Jubilees will be built from etches drawn by John Birch after several brainstorming sessions between us. At the time of writing I have a test etch, but that fount of all Metropolitan Railway knowledge, Ken de Groome, has decreed it needs some adjustment. Watch this space.