Last night, at 0100, a special train left Lillie Bridge depot. Bracketed by L24 and L26, it was a very different configuration from that normally seen by passengers (not least because it included Sarah Siddons, the heritage locomotive), but then many of the Underground’s out-of-hours are. Having reached Earl’s Court at 0135 (via Olympia), this particular configuration then ran via the District line to Edgware Road before proceeding to Baker Street. It was at Baker Street that something genuinely unusual happened.

The train worked up a steam.

No. 30587 Steaming at Baker Street

No. 30587 Steaming at Baker Street, copyright/credit Leon Daniels

Steaming in Baker Street

Steaming in Baker Street

Preparing to Shunt

Preparing to Shunt

Last year, we revealed that plans were afoot to try and bring steam back to the Underground to help celebrate the Metropolitan Line’s 150th Birthday. Such a plan isn’t as unlikely as it might at first sound – the District Line was graced briefly by steam during its own 125th birthday celebrations.

The first indication that such a plan was being considered for the Met’s 150th came back in May when the London Transport Museum placed a tender in the OJEU to return a Metropolitan Railway steam locomotive to full operating condition. The locomotive in question was the E Class 0-4-4T No.1 then residing at Quainton.

Given the proximity of the 150th celebrations and the fact that the Museum had already confirmed they were intending to restore Metropolitan Railway ‘Jubilee’ First class carriage No. 353, the reasons for this restoration seemed rather obvious. Indeed No. 1 seemed a rather apt choice. Seven E-Class locomotives had been built for the Metropolitan between 1896 and 1901, remaining in service in some fashion on the Underground until 1965, but No. 1 was the locomotive that worked the very last steam-hauled LT passenger train in 1961. It had also run various special services on the Underground until its boiler certificate ran out in October 2010.

Metropolitan No. 1

Metropolitan No. 1

Nonetheless, many potential barriers to some kind of limited steam running on the Underground remained (and indeed still do – not least funding) and thus the Museum were unwilling to confirm to LR at the time that this was definitely the intention. Since then, however, work has continued behind the scenes at both the Museum and London Underground to try and bring this about and last night – with an understandable degree of secrecy – an important milestone was reached.

The locomotive that can be seen under steam at the head of this article, and in the video below, is Beattie Well Tank No. 30587 , an old L&SWR unit that was withdrawn from service in 1962 and has carried out various heritage runs since being restored. Now owned by the National Railway Museum, it worked up a protracted steam last night at Baker Street so that heat and steam levels at the station could be tested and monitored – not least to make sure they didn’t trigger any fire warnings at the station. It then shunted briefly, before the train ran back to Earls Court (and from there to the depot). Units of both S-Stock and C77 were then run through the station to help establish what impact the presence of steam (and a steam locomotive) in advance of them might have on their operation.

Overall the test appears to have been largely successful and no doubt more information on, and photos of, the night’s work will emerge over the coming days (indeed if any LR spotters have photos we’d be grateful for them).

The steam birthday running is still far from guaranteed, but if nothing else last night it provided us with an interesting image of old-meeting-new that will endure for some time to come.

Many thanks to Leon Daniels, whose own excellent account of the event can be found here.

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There are 21 comments on this article
  1. Anonymous says:

    A great story, but the use of the word “unit” seems very odd for a 2-4-0 tank. So, isd at all possible, loco or, best of all Engine (a la Rev. Awdry) , please!

  2. John Bull says:

    Well spotted Anonymous – thanks. Have corrected.

    Personally, I’ve always preferred “locomotive” as “loco” feels a bit informal and “Engine” (as you point out!) always feels a bit Thomas-y.

    We should probably put together an official LR glossary/style guide for rolling stock really so we’re always consistent!

  3. timbeau says:

    “Locomotive” (or loco) means self-propelled – (originally the term was “locomotive engine”). Generally used nowadays only for vehicles which are separate from the payload-carrying vehicles – in road parlance a “tractor”.

    Calling a locomotive an “Engine” can lead to confusion as some locomotives (e.g. Deltics, Westerns, Garrets, Fairlies) have two engines (sets of cylinders, valve gear etc) . Striclty speaking an electric loco has no engine, as the power is generated remotely.

  4. Ratty says:

    Wouldn’t this make the stations filthy? Sorry to be a killjoy but I’d rather they kept these old things away from critical transport infrastructure.

  5. Chris says:

    Ratty, a handful of steam specials during quiet periods isnt going to make the slightest difference to the stations or, if done properly, the ‘critical transport infrastructure’. Steam on the Met operated succesfully for many years while steam continues to operate on the countries busiest mainlines and out of our busiest mainline termini on a regular basis. Besides, i think we can be pretty sure that any runs will be operated off-peak.


  6. Littlejohn says:

    JB – in the first line, I don’t think you need the ‘an’ before L24 and L26. Are these not the individual identities of the battery locomotioves? My nit-picking apart, a great post. Can’t wait to see Metropolitan No 1 and 353 in action.

  7. John Bull says:

    You’re absolutely right – removed.

  8. Pete In The US says:

    Very Cool… or hot, smokey and steamy!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great stuff!

    But one picky comment: “Well Tank No. 30587 (“Beattie”)” implies to me that Beattie is the name of the locomotive, but it’s actually a description of the class – Beattie well tank.

    And the video shows that it was in much more than light steam, which you don’t “run up” – it must have been in steam when it set off for Baker St, wherever that was from.

  10. LU Mole says:

    The romantic in me would live to see this, considering the grief we (quiet rightly) get for introducing any thing that could be considered a fire risk to the network without VERY good reason, I’m surprised that LU will allow it. LU Fire engineers are a glass half empty lot!

  11. John Bull says:

    @Anonymous – will change. Thanks.

    @LU Mole – had to get the Central Line to work today rather than the H&C, which was annoying as I’m reliably informed that the loco left its mark on the roof above platform 5.

    Got some more photos as well, including some shots from Edgware Road, which will be up shortly.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “ran up a protracted steam”

    What on Earth does that mean?

  13. timbeau says:

    You’ve removed the “an” before L24 but not the one before L26! Adding tio Anonymous’ comment – Beattie is the name of the designer of the locomotive. (as we talk about “Gresley Pacifics”) so a Beattie Well Tank would be the usual way of describing it.

    (A well tank, for those who are not aware, is one in which the water tanks are carried below the frames, rather than in the conventional side tank position on the frames (e.g Thomas the Tank Engine) or, continuing the Awdry theme, a pannier tank, (above, and clear of, the frames e.g. “Duck”) or a saddle tank (on top of the boiler e.g Percy)

    As anonymous also points ourt, it is unlikely the loco was only steamed when it got to Baker Street (thatb would be a long job) – from the video it looks like it was already in light steam, and was actually worked (i.e steam admitted to the pistons to power the train) in the Baker Street area.

  14. timbeau says:

    Adding further to my own comment – bad form, I know –

    “Beattie” is James Beattie (1808-71) (or his son William, who briefly succeeded him as locomotive superindent of the LSWR)

    86 of these well tanks were built by Beyer Peacock between 1863 and 1875, for use on LSWR suburban duties . Most were withdrawn by 1899, but three of them were transferred for use on the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway when that line was finally connected to the rest of the railway network in 1895, fifty years after the LSWR had bought it, (and over sixty since it had first introduced steam traction to Cornwall).

    The well tanks were chosen for this job as they were the only LSWR locomotives that would fit the line’s tight curves, and they remained in service until 1962, – just missing the design’s centenary. They were replaced briefly by GWR pannier tanks, and then by diesels.

    The line closed to passengers in 1967, and to freight in two stages, in 1978 and 1983. Two of the well tanks have been preserved: both were from the penultimate batch to be built, in 1874: 30585 (originally 298) is preserved at the Buckingham Railway Centre, (coincidentally on the former Metropolitan Line route to Verney Junction), but the one used in the tests, 30587 (originally 314) , is part of the National Railway Museum collection and is normally kept on its old stamping ground at Bodmin.

    The third of the Cornish trio, 30586 (originally 329), had been the last of the class to be built. The final batch, including No 329, differed in some respects from the rest of the class.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “The final batch No 329 differed in some respects from the rest of the class”. Indeed all three survivors ended up “differently”. They were sent back to Eastleigh for overhaul and were individually ‘rebuilt’ over the years. And that wasn’t the end of the story. Eg. There was considerably debate during the last restoration of 30585 whether the rear buffer beam should be the original oak one or whether metal reinforcement would be permitted. Of course it was pointed out that nobody knew whether the oak beam was the original anyway! Whichever, ‘version’ appeared at Baker Street, what a magnificent sight.

    30585 was always the ‘Beattie’ whilst 30587 was the ‘Other Beattie’. The former having being active and ‘up front’ since 1970 whilst 30587 was hidden away, until relatively recently, at various places including a seemingly inescapable museum building at Buckfastleigh. But at Bodmin 30587 is now the ‘Beattie’ too. Good when they’re together as there’s no distinction – it’s simply ‘The Beatties’.

  16. Anonymous says:

    A lovely piece of vide – many thanks for sharing this.

    This is the first time I have visited LR (picked up the link via another site), but I’m glad I don’t visit frequently…. … picky do some people get over grammar and punctuation!!!

  17. John Bull says:


    Trust me – we wouldn’t have it any other way. The commentors keep us honest and accurate, and both are important!

  18. peter clark says:

    Who cares about the pedantic (sorry – not you pedantic) grammatics. Just played it through the hifi – it looks and sounds amazing. Safety valve blowing, looks like the engine doing all the work on the start and in Baker St enclosed space.

  19. Anonymous says:

    it would be nice for people to know that they can see this locomotive working on a regular basis at the Bodmin & Wenford railway in Cornwall in daylight . i worked my first turn as a newly passed out guard with her and she is an awesome little loco

  20. Glenn Roofthooft says:

    Nice work, thank you very much for the shots and video. Good to see this rare scene documented for us all. Let’s hope it all takes off as it would be brilliant to see steam on the Underground again. I remember a few years ago when this used to be a feature on the outer edges to Amersham etc. a wonderful day out with all proceeds going to charity, was a fantastic P.R. event for L.T. I remember the GWR Pannier tanks in service for L.T. and I think the livery was the best they ever carried. Although the Beyer Peacock condensing tank in the L.T. museum would be wonderful to have back on its old stomping ground, this would be a bridge too far. Therefore the Beattie Well Tank, althought not authentic, is of the period and would fit in quite nicely. On the point earlier about dirt, the Panniers used Welsh Steam Coal and produced very little smoke, and any steam is just water vapour. I think a few pidgeons will be a bit upset! Best wishes to all invoved in this project.

  21. JIm Stringer says:

    As a point of interest, sadly ignored by the LT Musuem, L44 was saved from being broken up for scrap by the endeavours of a 19 years old London Transport Mechanical Engineering Apprentice (Me !), who started the Met Tank Appeal Fund in 1962. The objective was originally to save the only remaining 0.6.2 ‘F’ Class Locomotive numbered L52 in the London Transport fleet. LT offered this locomotive to me for £500. The Met Tank Appeal Fund raised just over £1,000, but when I went to hand over the cheque I was advised that an inspection had revealed a cracked mainframe, and the locomotive could no longer be ‘steamed’ and was therefore not suitable for preservation. However I was offered L44 in its place for the sum of £450. I was helped by committee members of the London Railway Preservation Society, and a locomotive fitter named Gerald Fitzgerald. The LRPS had storage for the Locomotive at Luton where it was subsequently moved to under its own power, but the Quainton Railway Society offered a secure and permanent base for it at their newly established museum in Buckinghamshire, and L44 (now correctly referred to as Met Loco No.1) moved there in the mid 1960’s.

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