Published 4th June 2013
Following the sensational operation of steam-hauled trains through Underground tunnels at the beginning of the year, the focus of Tube 150 anniversary celebrations switched to the above surface tracks of John Betjeman’s Metroland at the end of May.
The series of celebratory events to mark the 150th anniversary of the January 10 1863 opening of the first section of the underground – the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon Street via King's Cross - and with it the first steam-hauled underground train to run in London, continued over the late May Bank Holiday. This time, the trains were not running in smoke filled tunnels but between leafy Middlesex suburbia and the Hertfordshire countryside.
Unlike the Underground operations which kicked off this celebratory year, these tracks have seen steam in the recent past, the old-style ‘Steam on the Met’ (SoTM) being a hugely popular operation which last operated in 2000. Four trains ran on each of the three dates (May 25-27) of this reprise version with the first departing from Wembley Park for Amersham and the remaining three worked between Amersham and Harrow-on-the-Hill.
All trains were top-and-tailed, steam at the Amersham end, diesel at the Harrow end. Steam worked in various combinations drawn from the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre’s Metropolitan Railway 0-4-4T E class No. 1, (which worked the first few SoTMs) Dennis Howells’ Pannier No. 9466 (a loco which performed in all past ‘Steam on the Met’ events) and Bill and Richard Parker’s GWR Small Prairie No. 5521.
The diesel element was drawn from a trio of Class 20 traction comprising Nos. 20 142, 20 189 and 20 227. London Transport’s 1923 Metropolitan Vickers-built electric locomotive No. 12 Sarah Siddons was also included in the train consists. The principal passenger stock was a set of BR 4TC Mk. 1 carriages (Mk 1s converted into un-powered Trailer Control units in the late 1960s/early 1970s) with travel in London Transport Museum’s magnificently restored 1892-built Metropolitan Railway ‘Jubilee’ first class carriage No. 353 available to a fortunate few paying a supplementary fare.
As if the operations by steam locomotives over tracks normally the preserve of electric tube stock were not sufficient, Prairie No. 5521 adopted a wholly new guise, appearing in London Transport red to match E class No. 1 and carrying No. L.150.
Although some 0-6-0PTs were acquired by LT and given such colours, no Prairie ever joined LT stock or ran in such a livery previously, the number obviously deriving from the 150th anniversary being celebrated this year. Bachmann 00 scale models of the 2-6-2T in this striking livery have been produced and were being sold from the London Transport Museum stand at Amersham.
Class 20 No. 20 227 also appeared in an eye-catching, but non-authentic, livery which incorporated a prominent Underground logo on the side panels.
Crowded platforms, full trains and battalions of spectators (and cameras) lining bridges over the route between Amersham and Harrow told their own story, these were massively popular operations. LT staff were visibly enthused as the trains ran through stations (non-stop) and passed lineside workers, mobile phones being quickly produced to record the sensationally unusual trains on ‘their’ lines.
And the sight of passengers aboard service trains gasping open-mouthed as their state of the art electric unit was overtaken by a heritage train hauled by a pair of steam locomotives was priceless!
Metropolitan Railway 0-4-4T E class No. 1 and London Transport Museum’s MR ‘Jubilee’ carriage No. 353 will be appearing at the Epping Ongar Railway’s June 21-24 and June 28-July 1 ‘Tube150’ event, which will also feature a visit by The Gresley Society’s GNR N2 No. 1744. Met. No. 1 will also star at its Buckinghamshire Railway Centre home on August 3-4 and 7.
Further LT celebratory events include 1938 tube stock working a July 21 ‘Art Deco Special’ on the Northern and Piccadilly lines, an August 31 Neasden Depot Open Day and a September 8 Amersham Heritage Day. See the LTM website for more details.
Written by Cliff Thomas