London Underground – 150th anniversary.

When I heard this news item my thoughts were, .No. This can’t be. It was only a few years ago we were celebrating the 100th anniversary.’

But on consideration, I realised it was fifty years ago we did that. I still have the poster from that occasion.


Can I gripe first about news coverage about a steam train on the tube? The line opened from Paddington to Farringdon Road in 1863 was not a tube. It was shallow, only just below street level and it was constructed by opening out a cutting and then putting a roof on it where needed. The whole of the Circle line, the Metropolitan and the District are cut and cover or out in the air normal railways. The first tube line in London, at deep level and formed in tube like fashion was the City and South London. It was opened in 1890 and was electrically operated from the start. Steam trains, to the best of my knowledge, have never operated in London tubes.

But back in the 1960s, London Underground was still acquiring steam engines for maintenance work. Several ex GWR pannier tanks were purchased. The steamer had the advantage that it could work when the power was turned off.

Trains could be said to have a life of about 30 years but in some cases they last much longer. After Minister of Transport Ernest Marples and his stooge, Dr Beeching, closed most of the lines on the Isle of Wight new trains were needed that were smaller in overall size than normal stock. The Island Line between Ryde and Shanklin became the home for some old underground trains. Hang on. Let’s be precise. They were former tube trains.


This was photographed in the early 1980s but the train dates from 1923 so it was 60 years old when I snapped it (and travelled on it). I had travelled on such trains on the Piccadilly line in London during the early 1960s. When made suitable for Isle of Wight work some were in 4 coach sets called 4-Vec and others in 3 coach sets known as 3-Tis. A typical 7 coach train was thus a Vec Tis with Vectis being the Roman name for the Isle of Wight


This image of such a train running in London Transport red comes from . My memory is of trains in tunnels in London and they certainly don’t stick in the mind as having such sparkling bright paintwork.


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