Steam returns to London’s Underground to celebrate 150 years of the Metropolitan Line

Published 16th January 2013

London - Victorian locomotive and rolling stock turn back the years

Transport for London has overcome stringent safety requirements and brought steam hauled trains back to the original Metropolitan line.

The train, running as ‘Train 150’, operated a wide variety of special trips on sections of the original Metropolitan line (dating back to 1863) from Baker Street to Moorgate.

The train was formed of a number of highly special items of rolling stock, such as the Metropolitan Railway milk van, the Jubilee carriage No. 353 (recently restored at Boston Lodge on the Ffestiniog Railway), and a set of four coaches which formerly operated the ‘Met’s’ Chesham shuttles (which now reside at the Bluebell Railway).

The locomotives in use are the 1898 built 0-4-4T ex-Metropolitan Railway No. 1 (steam), which has recently been restored by Flour Mill in the Forest of Dean (under the directorship of Bill Parker) and the 1926 built Metropolitan Railway No. 12 (electric) ‘Sarah Siddons’ which operates frequent trips across the Underground network.

Starting the day at around 09:50 from Kensington Olympia, on the former District Railway, the train ran via Earls Court and High Street Kensington to Edgware Road and Baker Street, where it joined the Metropolitan Railway ‘proper’ through to Moorgate via Euston Square and Farringdon. From Moorgate, ‘Siddons’ operated a train back to Kensington Olympia via the same route. The train then returned for servicing to the Lillie Bridge depot for around five hours.

Emerging once more, the train then ran three return trips from Edgware Road to Moorgate, with the same formation.

At Moorgate, a re-liveried train of new “S7” stock for the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines was presented, displaying a combination of colours, former and current posters and more. To pick up dignitaries, a train of new “S8” stock from the Metropolitan line emerged, advertising CBS Outdoor, the company who manage advertising on the Underground.

Platforms, bridges and stations were exceptionally crowded, staff made regular announcements, and a number of people who were ‘just travelling’ forewent one or two trains to allow them to see such a marvellous spectacle.

None for 50 years then two in a week!

The train will run once more on Sunday, January 20th. Further events include the locomotive visiting the Bluebell Railway (where it will run with their four ‘Cheshams’), the locomotive heading to the Epping Ongar Railway, and further ‘Steam on the Met’ style trips in May. These were always very popular when run up to 2000, and these could run for years to come.

Metropolitan Railway Celebrity Harry Robinson and Phil Marsh

Phil Marsh recalls a fascinating shift driving Met. 1 with a man who joined The Met Railway in 1938.’s Phil Marsh was a regular driver and fireman on Met 1 up to a decade ago, and had the pleasure of entertaining Harry Robinson on the engine on 14th April 2002. Harry, just shy of 83 then, joined the Metropolitan Railway in 1938 as a cleaner at Neasden and managed 48 years on the footplate ending his career as shed foreman…………at Neasden!

He was sent to Lillie Bridge as a passed cleaner and became a fireman there in World War 2. Notably, he was the driver of the 50th anniversary train on the Uxbridge branch in June 1954 and also drove the last steam service on the Chesham branch in December 1962.

He also crewed trains between such places as Upminster, New Cross and Aylesbury working diverse services as ballast trains and deputising for failed LNER locos manning the standby Met loco in the bay at Rickmansworth. “Always an enjoyable experience” recalled Harry when we used a Met loco on an LNER express!

Colliding with the tunnel wall and a derailment

Harry rode on the engine for over an hour while being gently quizzed about highlights of his career. What was the most interesting moment he had experienced he was asked? “Hitting the tunnel wall at St Mary’s Junction at Aldgate was a bit tricky” was the reply. Harry claimed it was not his fault as he was booked fireman that day, and the driver took the signal wrongly set. He declined to say what Driver Phil Newman said at the time! His only experience of being derailed was on a Peckett 0-6-0ST in Neasden yard due to the condition of track.

Pub Exams

Harry also recalled his old Inspector George Rogers who took the crews’ Rules exams – in The Victoria pub in Rickmansworth. George apparently waited for the driver or fireman to paid for a week which included a lot of overtime, and then took the Rules exam along with a couple of pints that he insisted were bought for him on the grounds that they could afford it after a good week!

Victorian Link

Harry worked with some men who started in Victorian times reciting the names of 3 colleagues, Charlie Simmons, Godfrey Rodgers and Charlie Foster who all started in the 1800s. Harry said, “ The old Met crews were a bit touchy and full of tricks for junior staff and remembers being shut in a firebox at an early stage in his career! Promotion was rapid when he joined as the age profile of crews was high and many were at the end of their careers then.

Anniversary and Last trains

The 50th anniversary train in June 1954 was hauled by Met 1 as an empty service from Neasden to Wembley Park and then carried passengers from there to Uxbridge, South Harrow, Acton Town, Earls Court, High Street Kensington and Baker Street. Met 1 returned to Neasden light engine while the train was electrically hauled back to Wembley.

The last steam service on the Chesham branch in Dec 1962 travelled from Wembley Park to Chalfont, Chesham, Chalfont and back to Wembley. Harry’s fireman was Jim Skerritt and the Mayor of Chesham was also present.

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