Thursday, 10 January 2013

London Underground 150- A celebration with Steam!

It feels like barely a year goes by without some sort of 'Big' anniversary. Many of the older diesel locomotives have recently celebrated their 50th birthdays, and their was of course the GWR 175 celebrations not so long ago in 2010. Some of these celebrations are marked with big events, others less so. It is pleasing therefore that a very worth landmark this year is being celebrated in style- 2013 marks 150 years since the opening of the Metropolitan Railway. 150 years ago on 9th January 1863 the first underground journey in the world was made between Paddington and Farringdon. The London Underground was ultimately born, and things have never quite been the same since. Today the system carries millions of passengers every day and the idea of an underground railway has been duplicated the world over.
To celebrate the occasion London Underground in partnership with the London Transport Museum have organised a number of events across the year. Surely the most spectacular will be the first- Steam is to return to the original underground tunnels of the Met on a passenger train with a locomotive and coaches which would have worked the service 100 years ago!
The event has been some time in the planning- the locomotive 'Met No.1', built in 1898 has been overhauled for the event and an original 4 wheel 1st class coach has also been extensively restored. Four further original Metropolitan coaches- the 'Chesham' set have been moved from the Bluebell Railway to London and work has also been carried out on original electric locomotive No.12 'Sarah Siddons' which will assist the train. Behind the scenes there have been tests and mountains of paperwork to enable this ancient train of wooden-bodied coaches to once again steam under London's streets.
The final test run took place in the early hours of 10th January with the full train consisting of Met No.1, a milk van (in use as a support coach), 5 coaches and 'Sahra Siddons' running from Lillie Bridge depot to Kensington Olympia, from where a full trip was undertaken to Moorgate.
The train departed from Lillie bridge shortly after 1am and continued to Olympia for an 1:30am departure, picking up invited guests at Earls Court en route.
Eager to avoid the expected crowds gathering for photographs on the advertised runs I made a trip out to Kensington Olympia to record the events. The train looks absolutely stunning and it is a credit to all parties that this incredible event is running. All now appears to be on course for the public to witness the return of steam to the London Underground.

Special heritage steam trains will on London's sub surface lines on 13th and 20th January 2013.

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