Tag Archives: Metropolitan Railway

Not Quite Steam on the Met

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, for a number of years London Underground ran a number of successful Steam on the Met weekends. It all started with a celebration weekend in 1989 to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Metropolitan Railway into Chesham, using Met 1, the last remaining operating Metropolitan Railway steam locomotive. That first weekend was so successful that the railway organised a number of follow up events, mainly running between Watford and Amersham, but including special parallel running of trains on the main lines up from Harrow. The event was all staffed by volunteers – believe me you’ve never seen so many of London Underground’s management as you did on those weekends, and it seemed popular with passengers and staff alike – so popular that they quickly got to the point of having to bring in mainline steam locomotives rather than Met 1. On the summer weekends when it ran you could sit outside in Mum and Dad’s back garden and once again hear steam trains working their way along the steep climb up Chorleywood bank.

The steam trains weren’t the only stars. All the trains needed a non-steam backup loco, and whilst for some trains it was a second hand diesel loco bought from British Rail, others used another Metropolitan Railway original, Sarah Siddons, one of the Metropolitan electric locomotives, which having been built in the nineteen twenties was older than some of the steam locomotives it was acting as backup for, was used for support.

Then in the mid-nineties the event was cancelled. There were a number of rumours as to why. Some cited health and safety concerns, but others talked about the management changes at London Underground in the lead up to the part privatisation, saying that the heritage weekends weren’t compatible with a commuter railway.

Since then, Sarah Siddons has been retained, and has run occasional special trains, however on September 14th, it’s not quite Steam on the Met, but London Underground are running a special heritage day using Sarah Siddons, and also a preserved train of 1938 Underground stock, following the Amersham, Watford and Harrow route that was used for the previous events. Based on some of the pictures coming through on Flickr they seem to be putting some effort into the event as well. Sarah Siddons has had a new paint job, and the set of retained heritage coaches (also picked up from British Rail) have all been refurbished too. Is it a prelude to resuming the steam events? I’m not sure, I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens with this event.

Welcome home originally uploaded by routemaster_fan

Metro-Land on DVD

There are a number of programmes that I remember fondly from growing up, but that I never really expected to see on DVD – and “Metro-Landâ€? is one of them. However at the end of last month, it was finally released to buy on DVD. Up to now the only time I’ve seen the programme is on an ageing video recording from one of the times it has been repeated. (Incidentally, it will also be shown on 28th August as part of the BBC Betjeman retrospective.)

So what’s it all about? My parents house in Rickmansworth is built on land that used to belong to the Metropolitan Railway company. Prior to the formation of London Underground in 1933, when the railway company was absorbed and the line became the Metropolitan Line, the company had grand plans. Unlike the other lines that went to form London Underground the Metropolitan Railway was running express services, and a goods service, far out into the depths of Buckinghamshire to Aylesbury and beyond. Ultimately reaching Verney Junction and the village of Brill near Oxford.

In the 1920’s, the marketing department of the railway coined the term Metroland in an effort to encourage passengers onto the line. The company even went so far as to help along the building of new houses in the suburbs – hence why the land on which my parents house is built belonged to the railway.

The “Metro-Land� DVD is a programme made by John Betjeman in 1973 where he explores some of the history of the railway, but more than that takes a snapshot of life in “Metro-Land� fifty years after the term was coined.

The programme starts at Baker Street, exploring the former hotel that the company built over the top of the station. From there the programme moves along the line through familiar places, eventually reaching the area where I grew up. There are a number of points in the programme that attract local interest – for example there are segments filmed in Croxley Green, and Moor Park – there is even a segment where John Betjeman visits a house just round the corner from my parents that I used to walk past almost every day. Finally the programme ends up out at the far reaches of the railway, where the houses were never built, and the track has long since been lifted, out where in Betjeman’s words the dream died.

On top of the original programme, the DVD includes some extra footage including pictures from the 1930’s of the opening of the branch to Stanmore – now operated as part of the Jubilee Line. It also includes the centenary parade in 1963 to celebrate 100 years since the Metropolitan Railway started, the last steam working on the line in 1971, and the more recent Steam on the Met events.

Not surprisingly I’ve ordered a copy of the DVD already, can’t wait to see it in it’s remastered glory!