Crowds gather to watch the first steam train on the Underground for 118 years



London’s hottest attraction! Crowds gather to watch the first steam train on the Underground for 118 years as locomotive pulls passengers through the capital

  • Passengers paid £150 to £180 for the steam powered trip one way down the District Line tracks 
  • One of seven original Metropolitan Railway E Class locomotives returned to mark 150 years of the district line 
  • The 90-minute return journey took riders from Ealing Broadway to High Street Kensington and back 
  • An electric locomotive named No.12 Sarah Siddons, built in the 1920’s, was used for the return journey
  • New tube signalling upgrades will mean such heritage journeys have been put to an end after today

By Milly Vincent For Mailonline

Published: 21:25 EDT, 23 June 2019 | Updated: 21:31 EDT, 23 June 2019

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It was as if the London Underground district line had been transported back to its founding years this weekend as steam graced its tracks for the first time since 1901 – and what is set to be the last time as tube signalling is upgraded.

One of the seven original Metropolitan Railway E Class locomotives, built between 1996 and 1901, returned to the line today to mark 150 years of the district line which first opened on Christmas Eve 1868.

The heritage event offered enthusiasts the change to ride the steam train one way down the track from Ealing Broadway and High Street Kensington for the price of £180 a ticket.   

Riders enjoyed a 90-minute return journey and are now able to say they travelled on the last ever steam journey in central London.

An electric locomotive named No.12 Sarah Siddons, built in the 1920’s, was used for the return journey. 

New tube signalling upgrades will mean such heritage journeys will be put to an end as locomotives will struggle to be compatible with the technology. 

At the platform in Ealing Broadway performers reenacted the scene, with women in bonnets carrying baskets nattered to the driver. 

A brass band were also present on the platform playing tunes from the period including Rule, Britannia and Country Gardens to further immerse passengers into the 19th century transport experience.

Six restored carriages pulled the eager punters behind the Metropolitan 1. Locomotive, including the only surviving first class carriage from the original Metropolitan railway, built in 1892 and withdrawn in 1905.  

A Metropolitan Locomotive No 1 steam engine pulls a set of vintage coaches approaches Barons Court Undergound station to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the district line

London Transport Museum ran steam services, with vintage coaches, between Ealing Broadway and High Street Kensington over this weekend

Two women dressed as they would have been in the early years of the District line circa 1868, wearing bonnets and shawls

Two performers gossip in front of the Metropolitan No.1 at Ealing Broadway Station as crowds gather on the opposite platform

A woman talks to a police officer in front of a Vintage Ealing Broadway sign, most likely asking for directions in the absence of online route planners

A conductor can be seen on board the vintage wooden carriage, marked three. The only surviving first class ‘jubilee’ carriage built in 1892 

Re-enactors gesture as the restored steam locomotive Metropolitan No.1 leaves Ealing Broadway underground station in London

People watch from the platform as the restored steam locomotive Metropolitan No.1 leaves Ealing Broadway underground station in London, on the final momentous journey

A woman holds a fan for the journey in the carriages built in a time long before air conditioning and sufficient sanitation

A modern day S7 stock train lines up with one of the first trains to grace the tracks. While the S Stock trains are arguably less romantic they no doubt offer a more comfortable journey with fewer air pollutants

Look out! With no ticker boards to notify platform-waiters of the next train and its destination a keen eye and attention to timetables was necessary  

A cheerful driver wears a bowler hat and a red tie and white shirt, a far cry from the modern TFL uniform

Tickets for the exclusive journey sold out despite the steep price. Many whom weren’t riding turned up to catch a glimpse

A performance ‘train driver’ leans out of the window for the punters while the real one concentrates wearing the modern day florescent jacket

This will be the last time steam trains are expected to travel into central London on the Underground network, due to signalling modernisation

Crowds gather to board the train carriages which they have paid from £150 to £180 to ride for a few stops as part of a historic experience

The rear of the train as it makes a steam powered journey expected to be the last on the Underground network into central London

The history of the Metropolitan Railway 

Opened in 1862, six years prior to the District Line, the Metropolitan Railway began by offering the world’s first underground train rides from Paddington to Farringdon in Central London. 

Prime Minister at the time Lord Palmerston, then aged 79, famously refused to ride the train during the opening stating he was trying to ‘remain above ground as long as possible’.

Its grand opening did not go as planned, with a railway porter falling ill due to the air pollution caused by the steam powered trains and many suffering the effects of the soot filled carriages.

Engineers soon after installed a ventilation system to improve the air quality however not so much could be done for the drivers – who were told to grow beards to help stop the polluted air from reaching their airways.  

High levels of Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur were found to be present on the trains.

Two of the seven Metropolitan Railway trains remain in preserved condition today, built from 1896 to 1901 – the one seen and another which is static in London Transport Museum. 

Only one original ‘Jubilee’ first class carriage remains in existence – having being withdrawn in 1905 and having a second and third life as a Club house and outbuilding at a farm. 

The District Line then began running on Christmas Eve 1868, with the original Metropolitan steam trains running between Westminster and South Kensington until 1903 when electric locomotives began to be introduced. 

Despite this steam remained in operation on the London Underground until 1971. 

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