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Digital Subscriptions >  Blog > Steam on the Circle Line is a triumph!

Steam on the Circle Line is a triumph!
Railways Illustrated

Steam on the Circle Line is a triumph!

Posted Saturday, 2 May 2015   |   1316 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (0) After years of planning and months of preparation, including a number of test runs, public steam-hauled trains successfully returned to the Circle Line on 13th January 2013, to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

Although the actual anniversary was a few days earlier, quieter periods on the Sunday were chosen, with a VIP special running in the morning from Kensington Olympia to Moorgate, behind steam. It returned electrically hauled behind preserved Metropolitan Railway loco 12 Sarah Siddons.

At Moorgate the guests were greeted by a brass band, while a train of new air-conditioned S7 stock, in a special 150th anniversary vinyl 'wrap', demonstrated the progress of the intervening century and a half. After a six-hour layover at Lillie Bridge depot, the train made another run to Moorgate, before undertaking four shuttles to Edgware Road and back, with the final train carrying passengers to Earls Court.

The train was formed of newly-overhauled Met No. 1, the LT Museum's Metropolitan Railway milk van, four-wheel Met 'Jubilee' carriage 353 (making its debut after rebuilding by the Ffestiniog Railway with Lottery funding) and the Bluebell Railway's four 'Chesham' coaches. It was tailed by Sarah Siddons, which also provided power, 'banking' the train.

The ?150 public tickets were allocated by a ballot, with a further, shorter, series of trips scheduled for the following Sunday. Although 'Steam on the Met' in the open sections north of Harrow on the Hill is scheduled for May and September, it will not use the heritage coaches.
The careful preparations paid off, and all the trains ran without problems, while ordinary passengers were bemused at stations such as King's Cross by the sight of a steam train. Enthusiasts on the platforms and trains followed the sensible safety instructions, and mingled happily with passengers and a plethora of station staff who were also enjoying the spectacle. Photographers were good humoured too, despite the ever present challenge of being 'blocked' by one of the frequent service trains, especially on the busy 'northern' section.

While the original section of line, from Paddington to Farringdon, opened with steam traction, as did the extensions that rapidly followed, by 1905 electrification was complete, meaning that these were the first passenger steam trains over the line for more than a century. Regular passenger steam work survived north of Rickmansworth until replaced by the A60 stock in 1961. Steam-hauled engineers trains remained until 1971.

For the Bluebell Railway, the return of its Chesham coaches was particularly welcome, as it is 20 years since the railway first mooted the possibility. The coaches were inspected, and critical components (such as axles) ultrasonically tested, by LT staff at Horsted Keynes. Following the replacement of a couple of mechanical components, they were passed for passenger work at up to 25mph on the LT network. In return, Met No. 1 and carriage 353 will visit the Bluebell Railway "at some point".

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About Railways Illustrated

Railways Illustrated is the monthly magazine devoted to British railway enthusiasts covering the modern scene. Each issue contains news, features and views in addition to reviews, events diary, charter trains, preservation, main line steam, steam galas, event reviews, nostalgia and rolling stock changes. Unlike other magazines on the market, Railways Illustrated reviews events, tackles the issues affecting today’s enthusiasts, heritage and modern day railway industries.

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