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MET 1895 Metropolitan Railway History


    Probably few persons among the many hundreds of thousands annually using the Metropolitan Railway are aware that when it was first opened for traffic, in January, 1863, from Bishop's-road to Farringdon-street, it was a broad-gauge line, worked by broad-gauge engines and carriages. As a matter of fact, it was a "mixed gauge" line, being laid with both the 7ft. and the ordinary 4ft. 8¼  in.  gauges, although only broad-gauge rolling stock ran over it during the first year of its working.

    The cause of its being laid with the mixed gauge was that the Great Western Railway Company had entered into an agreement with the Metropolitan Railway Company to provide the requisite rolling stock for the working of the line on its completion; and as the London end of the Great Western system was at that time laid with both the broad and the ordinary gauges, to adapt it to rolling stock of either width as then need by them, the Metropolitan was likewise laid with the two gauges.

    The working arrangement between the companies bad not, however, been long in operation before the Metropolitan Railway Company came to realise that the traffic on which it would have to depend for the success of the undertaking was passenger traffic of a local and "omnibus" character, rather than that of ordinary "through" passengers from the Great Western system, supplemented by goods traffic to Smithfield Market and the City, which had hitherto formed the chief basis of calculation in estimating the revenue.

    As this " omnibus " passenger traffic was essentially different in character from the long distance traffic of the Great Western Railway of that day, and therefore quite out of the range of experience of the Great Western Railway Company, it is not to be wondered at that it did not receive at the company's hands the consideration and festering care which it required, and that the Metropolitan Railway Company soon perceived that it was essential to its interests to take the working of the line into its own bands, and provide its own rolling stock and stall for the purpose.

    It accordingly took early steps to this end, and terminated the working agreement with the Great Western Railway Company at the close of the year 1863. Although time permitted of its providing itself with the requisite carriages for their assumption of the working in January, 1864, it was impossible for it to furnish itself with the necessary locomotives within the time. In the circumstances, the Great Northern Company, between whose line and the Metropolitan Railway a junction already existed on the 4ft. 8¼ in. gauge, undertook to provide temporarily the engine power required.


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