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The Metropolitan Railway - Part 2: Expansion

Image of Stuart JordanSTUART JORDAN continues his look at the history of the Metropolitan Railway.


In January 1863, the world’s first underground railway opened, running from Paddington to Farringdon Street Station in the City of London. By the year after, 12 million passengers were being carried per annum.

Widened Lines

The success of the Met lead to the obvious need to expand. The first expansion, known as the ‘City Widened Lines’, added two additional tracks on the route from Kings Cross to Farringdon, and then extended east with a new four-track line to Moorgate Street. The line was now four tracks along its full length – the Met used two of the lines and the others were used by other railway companies, with Great Northern Railway (GNR) trains joining the Widened Lines through a tunnel at Kings Cross and the Midland Railway (MR) at St Pancras. Great Western Railway (GWR) returned to running through services via Paddington.

The area around the Snow Hill Tunnel, showing the links to other railways.

The construction of the Snow Hill Tunnel in 1866 linked the GNR to the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway (LC&DR) and joint services were run from Blackfriars Bridge Station through the tunnel, onto the Widened Lines, and onwards to the GNR mainline.

At the same time, the Metropolitan Railway was extending west. The Hammersmith and City Railway (H&CR) opened in 1864 running from King’s Cross to Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith, both up-and-coming suburbs of London. A separate branch took the line to Kensington Addison Road. The H&CR was jointly owned by the Met and GWR; the Met ran standard gauge trains to Hammersmith and GWR ran broad gauge to Kensington.

Inner Circle

The success of the Met lead to a flurry of companies applying to build new railways in London. A House of Lords select committee was set up in 1863 to consider the best proposals. They concluded that the best plan of action would be a circuit of railway around inner London, joining the main termini. The start of this process was a new branch of the Met from Paddington to South Kensington, completed in 1868.

To complete the circuit, a new, separate company, The Metropolitan District Railway, to allow funds to be raised independently to the Met, but both companies shared directors and John Fowler was chief engineer for both lines. South Kensington Station was to also be shared between the two companies and by 1871 the District Railway stretched to Mansion House, with services from Moorgate Street commencing the same year, running every 10 minutes.

The Met by 1873. The Inner Circle would extend from South Kensington round to Moorgate.

The District was hit by very high construction costs, with land prices to build through fashionable Notting Hill and Kensington much higher than other parts of London. The level of debt paused the intended merger of the two companies, even though the Met were running most of the trains on the District Railway. Disputes between the two railways delayed the expansion of the Inner Circle.

Land purchase prices slowed progress from Moorgate Street as well, but in 1875 the Met linked up to the recently opened Liverpool Street station on the Great Eastern Railway (GER), before extending further to Aldgate. The slow progress on the Inner Circle led to financiers in the City to for the Metropolitan Inner Circle Completion Railway Company. Although the group had parliamentary authority and support from the District, funding was lacking, and a time extension was granted.

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The Met and the District held a joint meeting to plan the completion of the circle, which finally received the funding. The Met extended the line from Aldgate to a temporary station at the Tower of London in 1882, where the line was built back round to meet the District at Mansion House, and up to St Mary’s and a connection with the East London Railway (ELR) at Whitechapel. New stations were built at Cannon Street, Monument, and Mark Lane and circular services began in October 1884. The original timing was eight trains an hour, completing the thirteen-mile circuit in around 80 minutes, but this was reduced to six trains an hour with a 70-minute timing in 1885.

To The North

The original Baker Street Station entrances.

Passenger numbers were dropping, so one idea to increase revenue was to expand the line. Although later integrated into the Met, the Metropolitan and St John’s Wood Railway saw the first expansion from Baker Street to north-west London, connecting to Swiss Cottage in 1868. By 1880, the line had reached Harrow, with a connection to the Great Central Railway at Aylesbury completed by the turn of the century.

Metropolitan 'C' Class Locomotive.

The new expansion from Baker Street led to the introduction of a new class of locomotive to run on the Met; the ‘C’ Class, an 0-4-0 tank locomotive. Four ‘C’ locomotives were built in 1891 by Neilson and Company to a design that improved upon the South Eastern Railways’ ‘Q’ Class. These were joined in 1894-95 by the ‘D’ Class, a 2-4-0 tank which was specifically used between Verney Junction and Aylesbury, and Aylesbury and Baker Street. Seven Class ‘E’ locomotives were built between 1896 and 1901 to work main passenger services.

Metropolitan 'E' Class Locomotive. This is 'Metropolitan 1', which was built to replace the original 'A' Class number 1 which was damaged in an accident. The 'E' survived into preservation and is shown here at Moorgate Station in 2014.

Before the end of the century, the Met added to their stable four ‘F’ Class, which was a freight version of the ‘E’, and two Peckett B locomotives for shunting. However, the dawn of the 1900s saw a new chapter of the Metropolitan Railway begin - electrification and Metro land – which we will move onto in the next part of this article.

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