20th January 2020 · The Metropolitan Railway

Presenter: Colin Brading

For the first meeting of 2020, we welcomed back Colin Brading, with his talk on the Metropolitan Railway. As is widely known, this was the world’s first underground railway born out of need to relieve (mainly pedestrian) traffic in London by connecting Paddington to the City of London. It used steam trains for many years, causing fumes in the tunnels, despite the use of condensing apparatus fitted to the locomotives. As a result of the fumes, locomotive crews were allowed to do the unusual thing od growing beards and moustaches, instead of the usual practice of being clean-shaven. The reasoning for this is that the railway believed that a luxuriant growth of facial hair acted as an air filter! The railway expanded to Hammersmith, Kensington and Moorgate, acquiring on the way a small branch line to Stanmore. The railway was always ambitious and soon spotted that this small branch could be the start of larger things. This proved to be, with the railway expanding out finally to its most remote at the village of Brill. This was not the end of their ambitions, for they mooted (unsuccessfully) plans to expand this rural backwater even further to Oxford. Apart from the company’s ambition, it was also very good at marketing, selling the idea of Metroland, where the company would not only provide a service to London, but using spare land to sell houses to provide housing for the, hopefully, captive passengers. Its enforced absorption into the London Passenger Transport Board did not go down too well with the company. After that, the railway settled down to what it is today, over 160 years after its opening, an important transport link to and from London. Many thanks are due to Colin for his most entertaining talk on this often-overlooked aspect of railway transport.