A mystery prompted by Ian Visits…. a sort of who dunnit…. 🙂
Ian discusses an article written in the early 1860’s on the soon to be opened Metropolitan Railway.
He quotes from the Ilustrated London News: “the railway starts from opposite the Great Western Railway Hotel at Paddington, with a fork up the South Wharf-road to join the Great Western Railway on the level.”
As is well known the station at Paddington (Praed Street) was not begun until 1866 and did not open until 1868. What gives? Did the Metropolitan Railway build the Praed Street section as originally intended?
The ‘branch’ was planned as a single track route to a terminus by the Great Western Hotel in Conduit Street.
Barely any maps show the Met as planned with these two branches at Paddington. The only source I can find depicting the correct split of the two routes at Paddington is Cross’s New Plan Of London 1861:
In the original palns the present Hammersmith & City/Circle lines were planned as a freight only line to the canal wharves, and known as the Old Wharf road branch, with indirect connections onto the Great Western Railway.
The underground route itself between Conduit Street and Farringdon was envisaged tas a totally self-contained passenger line. Over time the connections with other railways were changed to permit passenger use by way of several acts made between 1853 – 60.
This is how the Metropolitan Railway’s two passenger branches at Paddington originated.
As for the junction at Praed Street itself, a number of sources claim the Kell Brothers painting (shown below) dates from 1868 but in fact was painted in the later part of 1862.
The Kell picture shows a GWR broad gauge train on test heading along the Bishops Road (aka Hammersmith) route. What of the mixed-gauge tracks shown in the foreground leading down Praed Street? Did these prove the other branch had been built?
Like many others I originally thought this and pondered upon the junction’s mysteries years ago when I regularly used a printer’s in Praed Street. One could not ignore the fact a railway existed beneath as trains regularly generated what seemed like mini earthquakes!
There is some opinion a short section was actually built as far as Bouverie Place, and I had thought that too. Alas, no plans have ever surfaced to prove this.
What was built from 1866 onwards was a twin track route along the south side of Praed Street – the cheaper option – which is why the tunnels curve to the south immediately beyond the junction.
The Kell painting is a pretty accurate representation of the junction, yet artistic licence was applied to impress one the tracks lead to Praed Street. In reality the Praed Street section of tunnel ended in a brick wall immediately behind where the painter stood!
A tiny paragraph in the llustrated London News dated 17th January 1863 reveals the Metropolitan Railway had yet to build it’s branch and announces new powers to permit construction towards Conduit Street. The following year this became an extension to Notting Hill/Kensington, and that began construction in 1866.
The final proof lies for the Praed Street mystery lies in the junction itself. A change of construction can be seen where the original Praed Street stump meets the new 1866-68 tunnels. The larger broad gauge trains had been considered passe by that time and so the tunnels were built to a smaller dimension 🙂