Metropolitan Railway


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.

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.

The Metropolitan Railway’s earliest carriages dated from 1863, and were similar to the GWR rigid eight-wheelers which the company had borrowed from the opening of the line. The carriages were 39′ 6″ long and 8’3″ wide, and of the eight wheels, the outer wheel sets were free to move laterally in their axleboxes, therefore brakes were only fitted to the inner pairs of wheels. A series of derailments caused by wheels lifting clear of the track, compounded by the tightening of the curvature of the rails at Mansion House in 1884 in relation to the completion of the Inner Circle, meant that subsequent batches were fitted with radial axleboxes on the outer wheel sets, but problems with binding saw these being replaced in 1868 and a pony truck fitted instead. This latest modification were successful, and further batches were ordered in 1870 and again between 1879-84.

Of course there were detail changes over the years; the famous round-topped doors with semi-circular ventilator bonnets appeared from 1868, and these enabled the doors to open in the tunnels if deemed necessary (or indeed, if by accident) without fouling the tunnel lining. Like the Midland carriages described previously, large bags for the lighting gas were originally carried in long boxes on the roof in the style of a clerestory. Early lighting gas on the Metropolitan was was town gas, and recharged from standpipes located at certain stations. This was a frequent operation because the gas was uncompressed and ran out after about three hours use. In 1876, Julius Pintsch’s high pressure gas lamp was employed on all Metropolitan stock, and the compressed gas was stored in cylinders mounted on the underframe, replenished from gas tank wagons placed at strategic points on the system.

The photo is of a Bk3rd class carriage, number 251, built as one of a Lot of 16 by Cravens in 1884, and there were no partitions between compartments.

The final class of loco for Stage 1 of Artillery Lane is the Metropolitan Railway’s Beyer, Peacock 4-4-0T. Various design changes over the years resulted in two almost identical types, classes A and B. Forty-four of the former and twenty two of the latter were constructed between June 1864 and October 1885, a further fifty four were built for the Metropolitan & District, and another twenty eight for several main line companies serving the capital. The design was not new, as Beyer, Peacock had supplied similar engines for export prior to the Metropolitan taking delivery. For now, only the sixty six Metropolitan locomotives concern us; they were painted olive green until 1885 when the deep crimson, similar in shade to the Midland was applied, and by the opening period of my timeline, it is assumed all Metropolitan locomotives had been repainted.

This is going to be the most awkward class of the four to deal with, and yet arguably the most important to set the scene. At the time of writing there are no kits on the market for the class, though I am aware one was in development not long ago, but was stymied by the fact that clearances were a problem (in 32mm) which meant it could only travel in a straight line. Back to the drawing board! Perhaps it’s time to measure and photograph No.23 and buy some new piercing saw blades.

The photo shows a Class B loco, number 55 of 1880, emerging from the tunnel at Aldgate on the line from Aldgate East and Whitechapel which ran parallel and south of the line to Basilica Fields. The train is bound for Hammersmith, probebly in the late 1890s/early 1900s as evidenced by the new boiler/central position of the dome, and the decorative style. The loco was withdrawn in 1906.

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