Published 25th April 2013
The Ffestiniog Railway's (FR) 0-4-0ST+T steam locomotive Prince steamed over a specially laid length of track during the April 13-14 Open Days at London Transport’s Acton Depot.
Prince, an iconic resident of the 2ft (nominal) gauge Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales, was built in 1863 at George England’s Hatcham Iron Works in New Cross Gate, London. Construction of Prince along with ‘sister’ locos Princess (which visited Paddington station as a static exhibit in March, see http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2013/princess-of-paddington-celebrates-150th-birthday) and Mountaineer (scrapped long ago), heralded the introduction of steam traction on the Ffestiniog. This replacing horse and gravity working and bringing about a transformation of this narrow gauge line.
The year these narrow gauge steam locomotives were constructed was also the year when the first section of what was to become London’s underground railway system opened between Paddington and Farringdon Street. How better some would argue, to mark both 150th anniversaries than for Prince to return to London for the first time in 150 years and run at the London Transport Depot.
In preparation for its 150th birthday, Prince has been undergoing overhaul at the Ffestiniog’s Boston Lodge works. In fact, aside from brief testing in Boston Lodge yard, the Acton weekend was the first time Prince had appeared in steam following completion of its overhaul. Sporting a revised livery, a rather more deep red than the bright shade previously carried, Prince now matches his Princess. The loco not only ran up and down the specially laid track in the depot’s car park, but visitors were able to ride (four at a time) in the tender with a constant queue of people eager to take up the opportunity – especially since access to the tender is via the cab of the locomotive.
Also at the April 13-14 weekend was the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre’s standard gauge Metropolitan Railway 0-4-4T E class No. 1, restored to steam last year with finance provided by the London Transport Museum. Open weekend visitors were able to visit the footplate of the loco, which was in (very) light steam – sufficient to ensure the whistle was regularly sounded!
Behind Met No. 1 was the museum’s 1898-built MR ‘Jubilee’ carriage No. 353. Dating from steam days it is one of the oldest surviving working underground carriages, beautifully restored from a sorry-looking hulk last year (by the Ffestiniog Railway) for the LU150 celebrations. Behind the carriage was the museum’s similarly restored (at Wolverton Works), LT Metropolitan Railway milk van No. 4.
The Museum Depot at Acton is a veritable treasure trove of London Transport history. While the main LT museum is located at Covent Garden, the Acton site with some 6,000 square metres of storage space acts as a working museum store housing in the region of 400,000 items not displayed in the main museum. The objects range from complete underground trains, trams, buses and trolley buses through signs, posters, uniforms and equipment – in fact, you name it and it is probably stored or displayed somewhere in the building.
The Depot is periodically opened to the public for special events, including themed open weekends, check the LT Museum website for further dates this year.
The much loved and long-lamented ‘Steam on the Met’ operations which have not run for many years will return at the end of May as LT’s 150th anniversary celebrations continue.
Steam-hauled trains, which will include the use of MR 0-4-4T E class No. 1, will run between Wembley Park and Amersham and Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham over lines normally worked by LT electric trains on May 25, 26 and 27. Ordinary travel will be in ex-BR Mk 1 coaches, but for an additional fare it will be possible to ride first class in the restored Jubilee coach No. 353. Also in use will be a Class 20 diesel – check LT Museum website for details.