Vintage Ventures – 1938 Tube Train Ride

The London Transport Museum, in conjunction with TFL, occasionally does  ‘Vehicles on the Move’ days where they take old stock out of the depot and run it on the lines. On September 9th 2012, I went along to one of these days.

They ran the historic Sarah Siddons engine with original (although very refurbished) Metropolitan line carriages, and also a 1938 Northern Line tube train from Harrow-on-the-Hill to Amersham. This was a ticketed event, and a very popular one at that, with a good variety of people (an interesting mix of tripods and SLRS but also people dressed up very elegantly in vintage garb.)

First, a little history:

The Metropolitan line is of course the oldest line on the London Underground. It was opened in 1863, but the section we traveled on was only opened in 1892 when the extension was completed from Chalfront & Latimer. It was used by the Great Central Railway for the early years of its life and in 1933 it became part of the London Passenger Transport Board, and was then assimilated into the Metropolitan line. Electrification was not installed on the section of track between Rickmansworth and Amersham until 1960, making it one of the last areas of underground to still be using steam trains!

Of the two trains, Sarah Siddons is the more well known. She is a 1923 electric locomotive who was in operation until 1961- although she may still have been used after that for moving trains around in depots! The carriages I believe are a few of the original Metropolitan line carriages which have somehow survived, but they have fallen victim to refurbishment over the years. The original wood paneling on the outside has been stripped, and the inside looks far more modern than the 1860s! At a guess, I would suggest the ones we saw were still used in the 1950s-1960s, but I don’t have any information to back up that theory!

The 1938 Tube Train was originally run on the Northern Line (although some identical stock was also put on the Bakerloo line during the same time period.) These trains were used regularly until the late 60s/early 70s, when they began to be withdrawn in favour of newer trains and old Picadilly line stock. The last 1938 train ran in 1978, but in 1986 current stock issues led 5 1938 trains to be renovated and brought back into use. They were used until 1988.

It is confusing, though, as to how renovated they were. The train we took specifically said it was in service until 1988, but the carriages had maps for the underground which still listed Charing Cross  with District and Circle interchange on it and no Bakerloo or Jubilee lines, and did not list it as Charing Cross (Embankment). Charing Cross was “taken off” the District and Circle Lines and became the Northern line Strand station in the early 70s (and later, also the Bakerloo line Trafalgar Square station, and terminus of the Jubilee line.) By 1976, Charing Cross and Embankment were two separate stations, so it seems odd that the train would run in 86-88 with inaccurate maps. Or was that just vintage TFL at it’s finest?

1970 Map:

Strand Station still exists, Charing Cross has District and Circle lines, No Embankment


1973 Map:

Strand Station crossed off to show it’s been closed, Charing Cross listed, no Embankment


1974 Map:

No mention of Strand Station, First mention of Charing Cross (Embankment)


1986 Map:

Two clearly separate stations of Charing Cross and Embankment

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 13.26.28

Map on the 1938 train:

Station layout of Strand and Charing Cross most clearly identifies with the 1970 map

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 13.22.44

Given that the map in the train cannot have been later than 1972, and there were adds for Intercity Trains, which existed from 1966-96, I would wager a guess that this carriage was brought out of service between 1966- 1972, or else it wasn’t updated at all when it was brought back into service in 1986-88!

So it makes sense to bring Sarah Siddons for a jaunt along her old line, but why bring a Northern Line train out there? Glad you’ve asked. The Metropolitan line along this stretch is ideal for special train days as it has an express (4) track system for fast trains. This means you can run a special service straight through the stations without disrupting regular tube services. Plus the view of the rolling countryside is gorgeous.

Here’s What it Looked Like:

The Vintage Metropolitan line Carriages :

(I don’t have any pictures of the Sarah Siddons engine, and am not sure of the history of the engine pictured- although I do know it’s Class 20 No 20189!)






As we waited, a new S-stock Metropolitan line train pulled up on the left, next to the original carriages. 149 years of tube history on the same platform.


1938 tube train:

IMG_5995  IMG_6003




Train on arrival to Amersham:












IMG_6040 IMG_6043

IMG_6046  IMG_6051


Other views of Amersham Station:



Vintage buses were available to take us from Amersham station into the town (it’s quite a walk!)



And a few shots of Amersham:



After arriving at Amersham we were given quite a lot of time to explore the full train and even step into the cab. My highlight was creeping into the ‘front’ cab which was only accessible from inside the train, and I don’t think it should have been! Someone left their official drivers vest lying around, which made for a great photo shoot, but my photographer kept panicking that I would accidentally move the train. On reflection, this wasn’t really an unreasonable fear.

Driving a Train Tryptich

Emily Driving Tube

For Further Reading, Check Out:

Vehicles on the Move Information

London Transport Maps

“The Spread of London’s Underground,” Capital Transport

“The Northern Line An Illustrated History,” Mike Horne and Bob Bayman


3 thoughts on “Vintage Ventures – 1938 Tube Train Ride

  1. Pingback: A Day Out at The Depot | makingthemarrow

  2. Great blog, and your kinda half-right when it comes to the coaches being hauled by Sarah Siddons – they date from the 1950’s and were adapted in the 60’s for use between between London and Weymouth.

    When they became surplus London Underground acquired some for the old ‘Steam on the Met’ events in the 90’s. Now they’re back in use, and to make them look older have recently been given dodgy looking wood-effect vinyl wraps…

  3. Seeing you in a TTO’s hi-vi is quite funny, but poignant… seeing as there is only *one* female TTO in a very small team of 26 people. 🙂

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