Inner Circle


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.

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