Meet the Metropolitan Line

When is a tube not a tube? When it's the world's first underground passenger railway!

On Saturday 10th January 1863, the Metropolitan Railway opened between Bishop’s Road, Paddington and Farringdon Street, a distance of 3¾ miles.  It was the world’s first passenger underground railway and it was the idea of Charles Pearson and John Hargreave Stevens.

Construction of Metropolitan Line near Kings Cross, 1861-02-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
,
Construction of Metropolitan Line Tunnels at Kings Cross, 1861-02-01, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Show lessRead more

This pioneer underground railway was constructed by a “cut and cover” system; the massive brick tunnels were built in huge trenches cut out of the ground and then roofed over. This is different to building a tube railway, which involves underground boring (drilling) to create tunnels

First Trial Trip on the Metropolitan Railway (1862-05-24)TfL Corporate Archives

Early Trial Trip on the Metropolitan

William Gladstone (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and his wife, and John Fowler, the engineer, were among the invited party aboard open wagons. This was a special trial trip in a contractor's train on the 1st section of the Metropolitan Railway

Map of Metropolitan and St John's Wood Railway (1865-06-15) by Metropolitan RailwayTfL Corporate Archives

First Extensions

Just 1 year after opening, permission was granted to extend east to Moorgate. This map from 1865 shows the extent of the Metropolitan's early ambition

Just 10 years after opening with 7 stations, the Metropolitan served 26 stations on a combination of its own tracks and through joint running agreements with other railways.

Opening of Chesham Station, 1889-07-08, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
,
Opening of Chesham Branch Line, 1889-07-08, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Show lessRead more

Chesham branch line opened on 8 July 1889 as the Metropolitan's temporary northern terminus whilst the railway was extended from Rickmansworth. The line was intended to extend to Tring railway station. However, before work was begun, an alternative route was chosen across the Chilterns via Aylesbury. The line to Chesham was retained as a branch from the new route

The Metropolitan Baker Street to Amersham Historical Line Diagram (1961-09-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Growth of the Metropolitan

Line diagram giving dates of station openings and key events

The Metropolitan Railway was the first, and arguably most famous, to stimulate growth in the suburbs. Unlike other railways, the Metropolitan had been allowed to buy and keep land it believed would be needed for future railway use. Subsequently it was able to sell this land for housing development.

Map of Extension Lines into Metroland and Diagram of Lines in and near London (1925-01-15) by Metropolitan RailwayTfL Corporate Archives

Metro-Land was Born

The 123 acre Chalkhill was one of the first developments

Local Information on Metroland, 1922-06-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Show lessRead more
Artists Impression of Trout Farm at Chorley Wood, 1922-06-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
,
Artists Impression of Hartwell Park near Aylesbury, 1922-06-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Show lessRead more

Promotional material for Metro-land (a term coined in 1915) focused on the idea of living in beautiful countryside within 40mins of Baker Street. Poems, songs and films have all been written taking Metroland as their basis

Metropolitan Line Steam Train near Rickmansworth (1922-11-01)TfL Corporate Archives

All early Metropolitan trains were steam powered

L44 Train, 1963-05-25, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
,
L23 Train, 1963-05-25, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
,
Farewell to Steam Programme, 1961-09-09, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Show lessRead more

L23 was Britain's oldest working steam locomotive before it was taken out of service in 1948. L44 was the last steam train on the Chesham Branch in July 1960 and the last steam-hauled passenger train anywhere on the network in 1961

Metropolitan Diagram of Lines (1933-04-06)TfL Corporate Archives

Independence

Between 1902 and 1913, the District, Bakerloo, Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines (or precursors of) all became part of the Underground Group

The Metropolitan Railway remained independent

Metropolitan Railways and Connections Map (1931-10-01) by Metropolitan RailwayTfL Corporate Archives

Finally, in 1933, an Act of Parliament decreed the Metropolitan had to relinquish its independence and combine with the rest of the network to form the London Passenger Transport Board

The rural Brill branch was closed in 1935 and services north of Aylesbury were withdrawn in 1936. The Stanmore branch transferred to the Bakerloo line in 1939.

Since then, the Metropolitan's route has remained unchanged.

Metropolitan Car Line Diagram (2012-09-01) by Transport for LondonTfL Corporate Archives

Did you know?

The longest distance between adjacent stations on the Underground is the 6.2km between Chesham and Chalfont & Latimer, which is also the most westerly point on the network

Credits: Story

Story compiled by TfL using information in records at the Transport for London Corporate Archives. The Corporate Archives seeks to preserve and make accessible records, not to interpret them. A wider range of material is available for physical consultation.

Permission is granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
A Journey Through Time
Embark on a quirky commute through TfL's history
View theme
Google apps