Outer Circle

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:


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:


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.

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…