By Phil Marsh

Steam on the Underground cancelled for a second time in 2016 but plenty of railway history on show at ‘Open House London 2016’

Published: 9th Spetember 2016

Edgware Road’s 90 year old signalbox designated for preservation

The popular Steam on the Underground has been cancelled for a second time this year. The first event in July failed because the Bluebell Railway based ‘Chesham set’ vintage carriages were unavailable and the second time for this weekend, because of industrial action.

Ticket holders have been written to by the London Transport Museum saying that the trains had been cancelled due to the threat of industrial action. This was the Amersham steam event and would have used the Met No.1, a GWR ‘Small Prairie’ No. 5521 running in LT livery numbered L150. See http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2016/vintage-steam-trains-and-tearooms-return-london-metropolitan-line/ for details of what was planned.

Open House London is on 17/18 September – but what is it?

This annual event is London’s largest annual festival of architecture and design and allows the public to visit areas normally out of bounds to them.

Kings Cross has been regenerated over the last decade and has made clever use of the former railway lands and buildings dating back over 150 years.

Over the weekend of 17/18 September there are many one-off guided tours by architects, historians and other experts in their areas. All these tours are free but places are limited and its best to book in advance. Information can be obtained by calling the Kings Cross Visitor Centre on 0203 479 1795.

Coal Drops Yard Tour

This tour which takes place on both days will be of considerable interest to anyone interested in railways or industrial archeology as the coal drops were built in the 1850s and have not changed much since then. This was where bulk deliveries of coal arrived by rail from the north for onward delivery to homes and factories. These were derelict for years but have now been restored and being brought back to life and will be fully open in 2018 housing a new shopping and tourist destination in London.

NOTE: This tour is not fully accessible due to stairs. Personal protective equipment is required – this will be supplied. Sensible footwear and clothing should be worn. The tour is not suitable for under 16s. No prams or buggies. Not suitable for anyone suffering from vertigo.

The Archaeology & Industrial Heritage Tour

The Archaeology & Industrial Heritage Tour takes place on 18 September only hosted by Rebecca Haslam from Pre Construct Archaeology. She will be detailing the history and evolution of the Goods Yard, from its construction by the Great Northern Railway to its closure 50 years ago.

Visitors will learn how the Goods Yard was built, and how it worked as a rail, road and canal interchange to meet London’s appetite for goods in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will also include the implications of World War two bombing followed by its decline after the war and eventual closure and dereliction. The whole area became close to demolition after vandalism and decay, before being sensitively restored and given a new lease of life as part of the current redevelopment.

Roof top gardens/vistas tour

It’s not just about seeing a rooftop garden in an inner city area but the chance to see the railway from a different angle, not normally available. And the experts will tell you about why rooftop gardens are so important to the city.

The Energy Centre Tour takes place on Saturday only and you can go behind the scenes to see how one of the most energy-efficient developments in the UK works and drives sustainability and carbon efficiency. Visitors will see the two huge, gas powered Jenbacher engines which generate electricity for the area and the excess heat is captured and used to provide heating and hot water.

Heritage 1926 London Underground signalling cabin designated as item of national historic interest

London Underground’s (LU) Circle and Hammersmith & City line signalling cabin at Edgware Road has been designated as an item of national historic interest. This was built in 1926 by the Metropolitan Railway which was the world’s first underground railway.

The signalbox will remain in use for another five years or so until the London Underground modernisation project supercedes it. It is a ‘mechanical’ operation using a “K-style” lever frame which ensures safety by interlocking signals and points at the complex junction used by the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines.

The modernisation of the Underground requires computer based interlocking which will enable a denser train operation to provide the high-frequency services planned giving reduced journey times and a 33 per cent boost in capacity on the four lines by the early 2020s.

They said:

Mark Wild, London Underground’s Managing Director, said: “Upgrading the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines will enable us to increase capacity for millions of our customers. At the same time, it’s important to us that we recognise the significance of earlier technological advances made by London Underground.

“When the Edgware Road signalling cabin is honourably retired as part of our modernisation programme, it will have been in use for nearly a century. We aim to provide safe public access to the cabin in the future so that Londoners can share in this unique part of the Capital’s transport history.”

Mike Ashworth, London Underground’s Design and Heritage Manager, said: “This unique signalling cabin harks back to the earliest days of London’s transport network, being originally built and used by the Metropolitan Railway in 1926. It is a testament to its pioneering design and robustness that it is still in use today. “Ensuring we understand and preserve the heritage of the world’s first underground railway – with all its surprising historic quirks – is key.

The Edgware Road signalling cabin has been designated as an item of national historic importance by the Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board, hence the preservation project.

There is also a Met line signalbox at Liverpool Street -if you know where to look!

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