Metropolitan Railway (Met Rly)

Date Established:
Jan 1853
Date Trading Ceased:
July 1933
Metropolitan Railway (Met Rly)

By the mid-19th century the railway termini on the edges of central London were causing significant congestion. Hundreds of horse-drawn carts and buses competed to bring passengers and goods into the City. The practical solution was to build shallow underground railway lines to connect the termini with the City.

The Metropolitan Railway (Met) was originally incorporated as the Bayswater, Paddington & Holborn Bridge Railway in January 1853. By August it was renamed the North Metropolitan Railway. The 'North' was later dropped. A lack of capital meant construction on the line between Paddington (Bishops Road) and Farringdon Street did not begin until 1860.

Tunnelling work used the 'cut and cover' method. A wide trench was dug, with brick sidewalls to support the soil. Once the track was laid, the cutting was roofed over and the ground surface restored. Passenger services began on 10 January 1863, with stops at Edgware Road, Baker Street, Portland Road (now Great Portland Street), Gower Street (now Euston Square), and King's Cross. It was the world's first underground railway.

Because of the initial involvement of the Great Western Railway (G.W.R) in the project, the line built was mixed gauge: partly the standard gauge used by most railways and partly the broad (7 foot inch) gauge used by the G.W.R. The maximum permitted speed was 25 miles an hour and trains took 18 minutes to complete the 3-mile journey.

The line quickly became popular: 29,000 passengers used it each day in the first three weeks of operation. Business was increased when, in May 1864, the Met became the first railway in London to introduce cheaper workmen's fares.

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