London. How The Metropolitan Line was Built in the 1860s

Published on 14th January 2013

London: is pleased to share some historic pictures of the Metropolitan Line construction.

The UK news is all about the Metropolitan Railway’s 150th anniversary this January. Perhaps prompted by this event, we are delighted to be able to share some truly historic pictures taken during the construction period in the mid-1860s.

They depict scenes from the line’s construction revealing types of machinery used and construction methods used. First of all, the decision was made to run the railway line just below major roads to save costs and to use a cut and cover type construction.

This avoids the cost and much of the safety risk to the workforce but meant that properties had to be demolished to make way for the railway. It has to be assumed that these pictures were taken officially probably as publicity shots and would welcome any information about who took them and what their job may have been.

Circle Line Approval

The, what is now known as the Circle line, received Parliamentary Assent in July 1864 and opened in January 1868. The cost was stated as being about £186,000 a mile and totalling just under £675,000 between Paddington and Farringdon Street. The Line’s Engineer was Sir John Fowler with the original contracts tendered in 1860.

The line was originally operated using locomotives provided by the Great Western Railway soon superceded by locomotives from the Great Northern Railway following a dispute.

Dummy House created

To avoid disrupting street level sightlines, a dummy house frontage was created in Bayswater which still exists today. This was because this section of track went under houses and did not follow a road. The neighbours did not want to see a gap in the row of houses and insisted a dummy frontage was built!


The accompanying pictures show how the line was built from site clearance to fitting out stations. Plenty of wood was used for shuttering and scaffolding for supporting structures under construction. The stations were made to grand designs also as a nod towards the affluent area the Met line served and many features can still be seen today. Again, would appreciate any information on who the architect may have been, as it is not apparently known who they were.

Many stations had large airy roofs which were for improving the steamy and smoky atmosphere created by the steam trains but also created an illusion of grandeur. The soaring roofs were supported by cast iron arched ribs which were bolted together – an economic way of doing things.


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