150 Years of The Underground Steam Train

During two weekends in January, TFL and the London Transport museum ran a Steam Train over some of the original sections of the Metropolitan line (and some of what is now the District & Circle lines) to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of what has today become the London Underground.

The majority of runs of the stream train covered ground between Kensington (Olympia)/Edgware Road – Moorgate, and the event proved to be extremely popular for both spectators and riders. For me, even though I am a huge tube geek, the £150/£180 price point for a ticket to ride was way too expensive, so I settled for camping out on the platforms on it’s route in order to see it. Plus, I see the inside of the tube tunnels every day- it’s the exterior of a steam train coming through the station that’s exciting!

First a little bit of history:

There were two trains involved in the train’s run. The first was ‘Met Locomotive No 1,’ a steam train that was built in 1898 to operate on the Metropolitan line. It remained in service on the underground for 65 years until it was withdrawn in 1963. The other train involved was ‘No 12 Sarah Siddons,’ a 1923 electric locomotive (which formerly operated on the Met line.) The carriages were Victorian Metropolitan stock, including Metropolitan Railway carriage No 353 (built in 1892.)

The stretch of line being commemorated was initially built in 1863 and ran from Paddington (Bishop’s Road) to Farringdon Street. It was extended to Moorgate in 1865, and brought down to South Kensington in 1868. The underground proved instantly very popular, even though there were some criticisms in the early days- particularly that the steam was viewed as a very negative feature of traveling.  It was easy to see why this was when we saw the anniversary train! It is also worth noting that in 1884 that when the Circle Line was completed it was described as ‘a form of torture which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it’ (Long, p. 10) Obviously things have progressed…somewhat.

Earl’s Court just prior to the steam train’s (very punctual) arrival. Look at all those trainspotters!


As the train approached the station it let off a burst of steam to announce it’s arrival.


The train pulling into Platform 1 at Earl’s Court (photo from Enjoytheview.eu)


The train coming through Earl’s Court- surprisingly quickly!


The trainspotters who had been at Earl’s Court the longest were situated on top of the ‘bridge’ at the exit (front) end of platform 1- as the train pulled past it let out a burst of steam and presumably ruined all the pictures and views they had waited hours for.


The rear locomotive on the train- No 12 Sarah Siddons (photo from Enjoytheview.eu)


After watching the train pass through Earl’s Court, we headed to Baker Street. Where better to watch a Victorian train pass through than a station that looks straight out of a Conan Doyle novel? Baker Street still has almost all of it’s original features including wrought iron platform destinations.



The train passed through twice while we were there. It was incredible to see the steam in the inside of a station- it completely consumed the crowd and it was gorgeous to see it dance and wisp around as the wind of the train pulled it out of the station. A very nostalgic, romantic vision.




And some great photos of the event from Paul at Enjoytheview.eu:

Sarah Siddons pulling out of the station:


The carriages including No. 353:


No 1 Met Locomotive:






For further reading, check out:

‘The London Underground’ by Andrew Emmerson

‘The Little Book of the London Underground’ by David Long

‘The Spread of London’s Underground’ by Captial Transport

And please make your way over the excellent photography website Enjoytheview.eu

You can find out more about Vehicles on the Move from the London Transport Museum


4 thoughts on “150 Years of The Underground Steam Train

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