Metropolitan Railway


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.

Now this is a conundrum…  how to ask a small and simple question about a subject which is so little considered and yet was of such importance to the carriage of goods in the late 19th century…  and a subject which was relevant to all railway companies since wagons from most (any?) of those companies could have been seen on the Extended Widened Lines.  OK, possibly wagons of the North London Railway might not have penetrated the gloom of those hallowed tracks..   maybe a reader can offer a plausible scenario for NLR wagons working over the EWL?

So to the subject of this post…  sheets ands ropes, required in their thousands for covering and protecting goods in transit when carried in open wagons.

Much has been written about how the railway companies managed the movement of loaded and empty wagons….  and about how the Railway Clearing House kept records of  foreign* wagon movements between railway companies….  little has been written about the management and return of the sheets and ropes which would have made similar journeys across railway boundaries.  A good explaination of how the Midland Railway (and its successors) managed wagon sheets and associated ropes is provided by Midland Record No.3 (Wild Swan)…  good enough to prompt investigation into how things were done on other railways.  Such a task seems necessary to the working of goods services through Basicilia Fields and yet such a task is onerous in the extreme.

How can readers of this journal assist?  Initially, by contributing to what is known and where such information is recorded relating to wagon sheets / ropes for those railway companies whose wagons are likely to form the bulk of the goods stock working over the Extended Widened Lines.  Please feel free to provide such details by comments to the Quirky Answers post for this subject.  Our initial thoughts are that such wagons are likely to come from the following companies:-

* Great Central Railway;
* Great Eastern Railway;
* Great Northern Railway;
* Great Western Railway;
* London and North Western Railway;
* Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway;
* Metropolitan Railway;
* Midland Railway (recorded in Midland Record No.3).

thank you, Graham

[BTW – information received on this subject is available in “Querky Answers – Sheets and Ropes“]

* foreign in this context means a wagon owned by railway company “A” working over the tracks of railway company “B”.

The only surviving Metropolitan Jubilee Carriage, number 353, which is currently stored at Acton in ‘as found’ condition, is to be restored to full working order in 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

This is excellent news, but look out for reports about it being built for Circle services when in fact it was one of a batch of 32 carriages built for the Extension services to Chesham and Aylesbury, and therefore exhibited a number of detail differences from those carriages built for running on the Inner Circle. Therefore anticipate the usual media hyperbole when it is once again released to traffic!

More info about the £422,000 grant from the heritage Lottery Fund here

This post is by way of a place holder for a subject which is proving difficult to crack…  that is:- how did the Metropolitan Railway arrange the switch and crossing work for their permanent way.  If the short and snappy title of the post leaves you a tad puzzled then the subject of this post is the way in which the Met. Rly. arranged the rails, chairs and timbers for the turnouts.  At this point, after more than six months of research into the topic, we have to say that we know very little about Met. Rly. turnouts in the period 1885-1905  and much of what we understand about the subject has been provided in anecdotal form – primary source material is noticable by its absence.

The recent comment by Kit Williams prompted me to look for a copy of the book which was mentioned in the first paragraph, “A History of the Metropolitan Railway – vol. 1”, (Bill Simpson, Lamplight Publications, 2003, isbn 1 899246 07 X).  First port of call when searching for railway titles is the “Railway Collection” of Hampshire County Council – a collection of circa 10,000 volumes which has its origins in the library of the Eastleigh Railway Institute.  The collection is housed in Winchester Library and the majority of the items are available for loan; Hampshire Libraries provides an on-line search facility which includes the railway collection, a couple of minutes work with the keyboard informed me that the required book was available “on-the-shelf”.

The photograph on page 28 is known to Adrian and I, we have a copy of the image from an unknown source.  Whilst the photograph is out of copyright we are not sure as to the situation regarding reproduction of this image and hence its absence from this journal.  Suffice to say that the photograph is one of only a handful of images of Met. Rly. turnouts in the pre-electrification era and hence is key to our modelling of that aspect of Met. Rly. permanent way.  For those who are interested in the subject, the London Transport Museum has an on-line photograph collection and one of those images shows the same junction from a different position.

So thank you to Kit for prompting a start on this subject….

 

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.

Nine months ago I waffled on about the Metropolitan Jubilee 4-wheel coaching stock needed for Basilica Fields, and revealed that I had my mitts on a test etch, drawn on TurboCad by John Birch. Unfortunately circumstances have meant that I have had little time for modelling since then – a situation soon to be resolved – nevertheless, things have been chuntering on in the background, and progress has been made, while I’ve only had time to write electronic reams of a history which “didn’t quite happen like that…”

Discussion between John and Ken de Groome resulted in the artwork being redrawn and added to by John, and once etched they were married to castings from Ken’s range so that now the full series of Metropolitan Jubilee carriages – a first, a second, a third, a brake second and a brake third carriage, along with alternative parts for those sold the the Mid Suffolk Light Railway in 1905 (seven were also sold the Weston Clevedon & Portishead in 1907), are now a part his range of Metropolitan Railway kits. Ken’s first test build, a brake third which he built and painted, is illustrated above.

The first two of nine carriages (the brake second and a third on one fret, and two underframes on another, plus a bag of castings) arrived here yesterday, but will have to get packed away in one of the bulging stock cupboards for a couple of months while I catch up on commissions. And jolly nice they look too!

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.

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