FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam on the Hammersmith & City Line

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on August 9, 2014

After a gap of fifty years steam locomotives returned to the tunnels in 2013 beneath London to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. It was a remarkable undertaking that involved a substantial amount of preparation (for example, arranging for the smoke alarms to be overriden along the route) to ensure that a run could take place and to satisfy the tough safety requirements of today’s system.

The event in 2013 was a tremendous success, prompting plans for a repeat this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Hammersmith and City line. The new plan was to see steam return to the underground on two saturdays in August (2nd and 9th), with runs between Northfields and Moorgate at the start and end of the day sandwiching three runs between Hammersmith and Moorgate in the middle of the day.

Met No. 1 passes through Westbourne Park

Met No. 1 passes through Westbourne Park

The special steam runs between Hammersmith and Moorgate were to be hauled by Metropolitan No 1 steam locomotive, a veteran from 1898 and the last survivor of its small class. The stock was made up of the Chesham set (four wooden bodied carriages from 1898-1900), Jubilee Coach 353 (a wooden bodied coach from 1892) and a wooden bodied Metropolitan Milk Van from 1896.

Sarah Siddons passes through Latimer Road, with Trellick Tower in the background, in mid-afternoon

Sarah Siddons passes through Latimer Road, with Trellick Tower as a backdrop, in mid-afternoon

At the rear of the train was a relatively modern interloper, the Metropolitan Vickers elective locomotive no. 12 ‘Sarah Siddons’, which was built in 1922-23 at at Barrow-in-Furness. I must admit that I was delighted to see this rather beautiful locomotive running on the return trips back to Hammersmith, catching sight of her at Hammersmith and Latimer Road stations.

Met 1 at Great Portland Street

Met No. 1 at Great Portland Street

I hadn’t particularly planned to go and see this, but circumstances conspired to place me in the area for the second of two saturdays of steam running and I was rather pleased that they had! The sight of a steam locomotive working its way through the tunnels at Great Portland Street was quite astonishing enough, but when combined with the echoing sound and that ever distinctive smell was quite out of this world. It was a remarkable, if brief, glimpse into a world that has long since passed.

There has been some talk of the possibility of repeating this sight on parts of the London Overground network and through the Thames Tunnel, which really would be something. It would be lovely if this comes to pass!

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