The next station we will visit at as part of our series on London’s major mainline stations will be Farringdon. Farringdon is a deceptively complex station, one with both a long history and a bright future. It’s surrounds contain an enormous amount of railway infrastructure, both with regards to passengers and goods, both past, present and future.

If the extensive goods yards beneath the likes of Smithfields market are the past, and the new Thameslink station is the present, then the future is most definitely Crossrail – for which Farringdon will prove a key station. As with the Connaught Tunnel (photos of which you can find here), Crossrail’s presence at Farringdon meant a potential opportunity to get a closer look at some railway infrastructure that is normally inaccessible to the public. In this case that infrastructure was the City Widened Lines, east of Farringdon where they pass beneath Smithfield Market, which were closed in 2009 to allow the platforms at Farringdon to be extended. These will eventually be reworked into much-needed city sidings for London Underground’s S7 and S8 stock on the subsurface lines, for which current stabling in the area is too short. There are currently occupied by Crossrail, however, who will shortly begin subsurface ground stabilisation work there ahead of their TBMs passing beneath on their way to Liverpool Street.

As with the Connaught Tunnel, Crossrail were kind enough to grant us the opportunity to take a look at the Widened Lines before work begins there in earnest, and so ahead of our more detailed look at Farringdon itself, you can find some photos of the Widened Lines below.

The image below shows the view back from above the Widened Lines looking back east towards Barbican. Barbican itself, and the path the lines previously took, is clearly visible through the arch.

Looking back at Barbican

Looking back at Barbican

Beginning our journey (on which we will be heading east to west) we start on the down line. Blocked up on the left is the down access to the extensive Smithfield Market goods depot, which has now been largely reworked into multi-level car park space for the market. For context, this photo was taken in the left hand tunnel of this earlier photo by fridgemonkey.

The down line

The Down line

Looking back towards Barbican after entering, the ramp on the the left wall of the arch is a short extension from Barbican Up platform. Two sidings between the current Metropolitan Line and the Widened Lines are out of shot to the left (the entrance to which is visible in fridgemonkey’s photo above).

Looking east

Looking east

Heading below ground proper, the remains of a small office can be found to the north away from the Crossrail works. It seems possible this is the remains of the sidings staff office, although the level of debris present unfortunately prevented much in the way of exploration.

This photo highlights the lack of light available

This photo highlights the lack of light available

Debris in the office, with flash

Debris in the office, with flash

Looking through into a narrow work space

Looking through into a narrow work space

Beyond the workspace the sidings appear to be accessible

Beyond the workspace the sidings appear to be accessible

One thing that the set of photos below should hopefully convey is the sheer amount of space present within these tunnels. A DLR extension to Farringdon is something not infrequently mentioned within London railway circles, and it is easy to see why the Widened Lines often feature prominently in such discussions. Indeed the space would have originally been even more open – the wall visible in the distance in the first photo is a relatively new addition, behind which lies the old Smithfield Depot.

The Market in the distance

The Market in the distance

Looking back towards Barbican

Looking back towards Barbican

Looking south west, the pillars have been reinforced and fireproofed

Looking south west, the pillars have been reinforced and fireproofed

Looking west, possibly in part of the siding

Looking west, possibly in part of the siding

Looking north west from the Up line

Looking north from the Up line

Heading onwards, we follow the curve of the Up line. The ironwork is a temporary addition. Gradient posts mark the route.

Looking west along the Up line

Looking west along the Up line

A gradient post

A gradient post

Looking back east, having moved to the Down line

Looking back east, having moved to the Down line

Further in, we reach the junction with Junction with the East Curve to Snow Hill (the wall on right shows the alignment widening). No track (or lighting) remains on the curve, and the surface is in a far worse condition. Additional support pillars also dot the area that would previously have held track. Following the course of the curve as far as possible, we reach a bricked in arch. This is either the blocked up portal to the East Curve down to Snow Hill, or possibly a view south onto the portal of the westbound road from GW Smithfield goods depot.

The curve begins

The curve begins

looking back east, the rough surface is clearer

looking back east, the rough surface is clearer

Additional pillar works

Additional pillar works

The bricked up arch

The bricked up arch

As we near the Farringdon end of the line, the conical nature of the tunnel at this point is because this is the western junction with the GW Smithfield Goods depot, the track to which disappears off the the left and crossed the East Curve to Snow Hill on the level. The photographer is standing on the site of the Down from Moorgate. The presence of the Farringdon ramp in the final picture should hopefully help anyone unfamiliar with the location of this section of line get their bearings.

The Down line
Connecting passage between Down and Up lines - complete with spooky disembodied deer head

Connecting passage between Down and Up lines – complete with spooky disembodied deer head

Looking back east along the Up line
Looking west along the Up

Looking west along the Up

North lies the Met siding

North lies the Met siding

Looking out from the Widened Lines, with Farringdon ramp on the left

Looking out from the Widened Lines, with Farringdon ramp on the left

We will look at Farringdon proper in more detail shortly.

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There are 68 comments on this article
  1. Long Branch Mike says:

    Wow amazing article & pix. Is all the track space shown going to be taken up by the stabling of the Underground S7 and S8 stock? Or will there still be some track space available, as you may be implying, for DLR trackage or other imaginative reuse?

  2. Anon. says:

    Is there any remains in the Snow Hill tunnel of its junction to the East Curve? I’ve tried to find it a few times when travelling through on Thameslink but can’t see it.

  3. DW54 down under says:

    Would it be possible to append a diagram showing the tunnels in the photos and as described in the article? Including the sidings and the long-closed south-to-east chord under Smithfield. I guess many of us would like to know how do-able a restoration of this latter link is. That probably means some sub-terranean lurking in a car park which is some 16,000 miles from me.

    I was surprised to see bullhead rail/chairs on the remaining trackage. I thought it had been concreted for the 25kV OHLE.

    Thanks for many a great article. While I only worked in London (Holborn Circus) for 6 years, it has left an indelible impression on me.

    DW down under, in Tasmania.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The southern end of the east curve branched where there used to be a shaft of light between City Thameslink and Farringdon, most easily seen northbound. You still needed some imagination as it was mainly floor shapes that give it away rather than structures. The open area has now been closed up with a new building project (Thornfields?) so that makes it a little more difficult – the best way to describe it is to listen for the turnout to Smithfield sidings (again, heading northbound) then immediately look right – there are some grey cases that sit on the old track bed.

    As an aside, the size of the structures to the west of the City TL to Farringdon link is incredible – there must have been lots of track down there once! Now we’re down to two sidings that are next to no use now that Thameslink is 12-car other than as an access point really.

    Lemmo/JB, would it be possible to update a map showing where each photo was taken as I’m a little lost? I know the area as I had a wander around it a while ago but I must admit to getting disorientated while I was down there and nearly ending up on the westbound Met line! Thanks

  5. Lemmo says:

    Hopefully we’ll get back underground to look at the other tunnels in the Farringdon/Smithfield area, including around Snow Hill. My understanding is that the East Curve portal at Snow Hill is bricked up and the East Curve itself disappeared completely when they rebuilt the Smithfield Poultry Market in 1958. We’ll have more detail in our follow-up post early next week.

    In the meantime, I believe the area above the Snow Hill junction is being redeveloped as part of Sixty London, which means the planning permission drawings will have info on what lies beneath. Consider: if the City Thameslink box had been 4-track, and this redevelopment fixed the 2-track bottleneck beneath at the Snow Hill junction, then you could have extended Blackfriars bay services through to terminate at Farringdon around the existing Smithfield Sidings are.

    Back to the pics above, anyone have more info on the underground offices by the old tunnel sidings between the Met and Widened Lines?

  6. Lemmo says:

    @ Anonymous 07:35, there is a useful map on Nick Catfords fabulous Disused Stations site.

    JB walked the Widened Lines from Barbican to Farringdon, so the pics are all in that short section. The two sidings you refer to are called the Smithfield Sidings, accessed from the south at City Thameslink and lying on the west side of the Thameslink tracks into Farringdon. These are not in the pics… again more info in the next post. But yes the extent of the railway lands down there is (was) incredible. It should have been, and should still be, better used.

  7. John Bull says:

    @ Anonymous 07:35 I’ve got a diagram of photo locations to upload (which is why they all carry a reference in the top corner) but rather stupidly forgot to upload it before I left for work this morning.

    Will put it up as soon as I get home tonight. Sorry about that.

  8. Dave H says:

    I’ve done all 3 parts of Snow Hill Junction – on a train. Back in 1971 a pair of Hastings DEMU’s ran a great meandering around the obscure parts of London’s railways including a dive under at Holborn Viaduct, round in to Moorgate and back out via Kentish Town. We also did both sides at Dalston and ran via Broad Street. I recall also managing to ride the route in via York Way station, and the inspiration for Harry Potter of Platform 14(?) at King’s Cross.

    Funny how we had Crossrail back in 1900 and dumped it. Ealing Broadway to Southend and the option of trains from Paddington, Marylebone (diverging to the Met to go via Baker Street) St Pancras and Kings Cross to Liverpool Street, the LTS (Fenchurch Street) via Whitechapel, and New Cross (for London Bridge lines) with Blackfriars of course for the middle part.

    One use for the sidings that would be created at Barbican would save the capitals roads from the pounding and damage of massive construction traffic. The Henry Crick site at St Pancras was putting around 140 x 32 Ton trucks per day through the City to Pitsea, and needed at least 40 trucks to operate the service, because they were locked in every 200 m or so on a congested City Road, and that is just one project. So a central bulk haul railhead – possibly 2 or 3 with capacity to park a 1000-1500Ton train for loading could cut the road haul costs, carbon footprint etc for major city construction projects, and massively enhance road safety and environmental conditions on city streets.

    The big weakness for the current Thameslink is the lack of a ‘clean’ contingency diversion for trains or passengers. The solution is fairly clear – the new ELR connections offer the option to run New Cross – West Hampstead by passenger transfer, or trains (there is a ‘spare’ tunnel on MML and NLR crosses it twice with options to make a connection, at Maiden Lane and W Hampstead)

  9. Anonymous says:

    To ask a very elementary question: why are the “widened” lines so called? I’d be grateful if someone could explain the route of the original railway and say when and why it was widened. Great article – really atmospheric pictures

  10. timbeau says:

    The Widened lines are so called because they were built to widen the Metropolitan Railway between Kings Cross and Farringdon from two tracks to four very early in its history (1868), concurrently with the extension to Moorgate which was four track from the outset. The Snow Hill connection pre-dated this, although the east curve was added three years later. Originally owned by the Metropolitan Railway – I do not know the date when they were transferred to BR/NR ownership but it may have been in connection with the BedPan electrification in the 1980s.

  11. Dominic Sayers says:

    I don’t know how accurate it is, but I found the following diagram helpful to orient myself for your pictures

  12. Geoff Smith says:

    @Dave H 0852 wrote :
    “I’ve done all 3 parts of Snow Hill Junction – on a train. Back in 1971 … including a dive under at Holborn Viaduct, round in to Moorgate and back out via Kentish Town”

    That would have been rather difficult!
    The Smithfield Curve (the East Curve referred to above) was taken out of use on 3rd April 1916. Even if it had survived, no modern stock would have been able to use it because of the sharpness of the curve.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There are diagrams that may be helpful here

  14. timbeau says:

    @Dave H 0852

    The “Hotel Curve” platform at KIngs Cross leading up from the Widened Lines was still no 16 in 1971 – it was renumbered as 14 in May 1972 (as part of a general renumbering to take account of the long-gone bay platforms 3 and 8) and closed in 1977 when Moorgate services were diverted via Essex Road.

    Not sure why you think that platform in particular was the inspiration for Harry Potter’s 9.75.

  15. mr_jrt says:

    > As an aside, the size of the structures to the west of the City TL to Farringdon link is incredible – there must have been lots of track down there once! Now we’re down to two sidings that are next to no use now that Thameslink is 12-car other than as an access point really.

    Here you go:

  16. Pete In The US says:

    I find it fascinating the way old railway infrastructure is recycled/re-purposed in London. And you folks have been at it for 150+ years, so you all have a lot of infrastructure.

    So Crossrail won’t actually “surface” within these tunnels and so the “space”, less the new tube sidings, will still be available for other purposes, eg DLR?

    Looking forward to the next article. Thanks to the other commentors for the additional links.


  17. Alan Griffiths says:

    John Bull
    took a camera
    the Widened Lines

    Thought he was
    a day

    And the Broad Gauge girls
    choo choo
    choo choo
    choo choo

    (With suitable apologies to all dedicated fans of Lou Reed as well as John Bull!)
    I think I’ll call it “walk on the track side”, especially if Mitch Benn wants to sing it.

  18. swirlythingy says:

    What does the “GW” in “GW Smithfield goods depot” stand for?

  19. D. Ception says:

    Small pedantic point, but “deceptively complex” means that it is, in spite of a complex appearance, actually simple. Estate agents do this when they describe houses as “deceptively large” (which actually means small). You really mean to say that the station seems deceptively simple (it is in fact complex).

  20. Lemmo says:

    GW = Great Western (Railway)
    GN = Great Northern (Railway)

    The area around Farringdon was border territory, a melting pot where trains and wagons from a variety of companies would be seen, a number of which also had goods depots in the area. The Railway Clearing House map shows this well. The lines up through Blackfriars were originally LCDR (London Chatham & Dover) before this merged with the South Eastern to become the South Eastern & Chatham shown on the map.

  21. Greg Tingey says:

    For more clarity (?) on the lay-out …..Look here:,_Hampstead_Road,_Kentish_Town,_King%27s_Cross,_Maiden_Lane_%26_St_Pancras_Blackfriars,_Snow_Hill_%26_West_Street_RJD_84.jpg
    Ah, someone else has put it up as well.
    Have another copy for luck!

    “Barbican” Probably one of the two greates complete (excuse me) total fuck-ups EVER in transport planning in the UK (the other being the new non-ralway bridge on the Far North line.
    When the Barbican centre was built, they MOVED THE WHOILE RAILWAY
    And provided NO ACCESS AT ALL to the largest Atrs and performance centre in Europe.
    The stupidity, it burns!

    Lemmo – correct … and after the ghastly Smithfield fire, IIRC.

    Dave H – was that the “Ouzlem Bird” tour?
    If so, I was on that, as well ….

    And, of course, the original “Met” was Paddington to Farringdon & was mixed gauge – hence the huge tunnel-widths. Interesting bit of history, at the last moment before openeing, the GW had a snit & refused to lend/hire locomotives, and the GN stepped into the breach, until the Met could get some of their own.

  22. Not an English expert says:

    D. Ception: As far as I can tell, both usages are incorrect. If something is “frightening large” then it’s so large that it’s frightening; any larger and it would be more frightening, but if it were smaller it would be less frightening. In other words it is the size that has *caused* it to be frightening. So something is only “deceptively large” if it is the size of the room that *causes* the deception. The estate agent means that the [apparent] size of the room is *affected* by the deception, so to be correct they should say “small but deceptively laid out” or “small but deceptively arranged”.

    Since “deceptively complex” and “deceptively simple” are both technically wrong (again, it’s not the simplicity or complexity that causes the deception, it’s how they’re arranged), I think JB should just go for whatever sounds right 🙂 I think most people would consider “deceptively complex” to mean “complex, and also deceptive”, so I agree with that.

  23. timbeau says:

    I understand “deceptively large” to mean “bigger than it looks” – but I take it with a pinch of salt and assume estate agents are more easily deceived than I am, and the house is really only the size it seems to be.

    In the same way I understand “deceptively complex” to mean “complex, but not appearing to be”. That seems appropriate for Farringdon, where most of its historic complexity was hidden away in tunnels. The future, as an interchange between three plian track railway routes meeting but no physical connection between them, is no more complex than Oxford Circus,Embankment, or Green Park.

  24. London Insomniac says:

    My lame idea for former NR tracks around Barbican area is to use them to enable fast Met trains to bypass Barbican. Give outside tracks to the Met, and island entirely to Circle/H&C – and there you go 🙂

  25. Els says:

    This might be of interest.

    The remains of the 1871 tunnel linking Aldergate to snow Hill.

    The salt store, befoer the X-rail project was started.

  26. Anonymous says:

    @London Incomniac – Indeed lame, ‘coz the plan for Farringdon Crossrail is that interchange with Met/Circle should be via Barbican, not Farringdon. Hence this huge hole to the east of Smithfield Market where the eastern entrance to Farringdon Crossrail is being built – right up against the western end of the Barbican platorms. See LR passim.

  27. Roy says:

    Lemmo: The area around Farringdon was border territory

    There is still (assuming it’s survived the recent works) a boundary marker for the GNR on the trackside wall between City and Farringdon.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Surely the optimum thing to do is to restore (and presumably ease) the ‘East Curve’ i.e. East to South via City Thameslink) ) to allow services from south of London etc to terminate at Moorgate. Seen overall, those services in rush hours desperately need more terminating platforms, and the Moorgate ones are wonderfully located. I’m sure the City Corporation would strongly support this.
    And yes I do understand the proposed Thameslink intense timetable, and the difficulty that would arise..

  29. Anonymous says:

    And another thing, I recall that there was a break through from the Fleet River when the widened lines were under construction, miles were flooded, somewhere in the Ray Street area I believe, Those fellers now digging away had better take care, its only a very few feet away. Quite apart from the ghost river moving through the gravels below. (And back then it wasn’t very nice water) …

  30. "Looking back at Barbican" says:

    Ooooh, you can see my office from there (the last red brick one on the North side)

  31. Whiff says:

    Thanks for posting these photos; it’s re-assuring to know that I am not the only one who founds slightly spooky pictures of disused tunnels strangely fascinating. I also had no idea how much unused space was down there.
    The more I read about this, and also the article on Blackfriars, the more amazing I find it that
    a valuable resource like the Snow Hill Tunnel was left unused for so long.

  32. Oliver says:

    Surely any thought of the East Curve would fall foul of having to cross the S-bound lines when heading into Moorgate, and I can’t see that working unless you can wait clear of the N-bound lines. I.e. with the service frequency we are going to have you can’t reliably get across the other line to get into Moorgate.

    So best to get a terminating point further north where you can keep the terminating service clear of the through service.

  33. Greg Tingey says:

    Err. some of the more recent posters are missing something important.
    The S-E curve is now built over, by the extended southern Thameslink platforms.
    So no go at all. Completely, utterly impractical.

  34. mr_jrt says:

    ^Greg. Wrong. The curve being discussed was from the old Snow Hill station to Barbican – it went nowhere near the extended platforms at Farringdon.

    Had City Thameslink been built as a 4-track box then the redevelopment of the building above the old Snow Hill station would have permitted the eastern pair of lines through Blackfriars to terminate at Moorgate without any conflicts to the western pair which could head to Farringdon.

  35. Geoff Smith says:

    Reinstating the LCDR’s Smithfield Curve (East Curve) cannot happen, some of the reasons being :
    Most of the route has been built on, and much of it is unlikely to be in NR ownership.
    The SECR March 1910 Appendix, the last before the curve closed in 1916, prohibited the use of all bogie stock (it is unlikely that bogie stock had ever been permitted). So, even the relatively short bogie carriages of the day couldn’t be used to Moorgate.
    To reinstate and ease the curve for modern stock would require the erstwhile Snow Hill Junction to be sited further South – impossible.

  36. mr_jrt says:

    I’m well aware of the fate of the curve – I was just pointing out the Farringdon platform extensions are irrelevant.

    That said, given you’d essentially be rebuilding the whole curve anyway, what’s to stop you moving the other end of the curve to ease it? (I guess another point being that if you were rebuilding the former Snow Hill station as a 4-track box you could easily move the junction south – it was north of Snow Hill’s platforms, and City Thameslink is immediately south of Snow Hill’s platforms.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I have been looking at my LMS Suburban timetable for 1938. Amongst many interesting things this refers to ‘Farringdon & High Holborn’ station, not a description with which I am familiar. When was the name applied, or was it just something LMS did?

  38. timbeau says:

    According to Douglas Rose’s “diagrammatic history of the London Underground”, and, it had that name from 1922 to 1936 (having originally been “Farringdon Street”) so it appears the LMS were a bit slow in catching up.

    Presumably the “& High Holborn” moniker was an attempt by the Met to attract traffic from the competing Piccadilly Line station (also served by the Central from 1933). Confusingly, this station is much nearer plain “Holborn” than is “Holborn” station, which is on High Holborn (and should, in my view, be called Kingsway!) . The only station actually on Holborn is Chancery Lane – whose entrance was moved when escalators replaced lifts and is now some distance from the street from which it takes its name.

    All in all, the naming of tube stations in that area is a mess – there are three stations on Tottenham Court Road: for most addresses, the station of that name is not the closest. Why not rename it St Giles or Centre Point as part of the Crossrail project – it would fit more easily on the tube maps too!

  39. Kit Green says:

    Rename it as Soho Square, as TCR (Crossrail) will provide an entrance near the NW of the square and the revamped old station is NE of the square.

  40. Edward Sloley says:

    When are you doing an article on Farringdon?

  41. Lemmo says:

    Soon, Edward, soon… just finishing off the maps so people can see where they are underground!

  42. Anonymous says:

    Is there any information on the Hydraulic System that powered the lifts under Smithfield Market?

  43. Slugabed says:

    Anon 4:45pm 01/03
    Not sure if it was LHPco but this may be relevant:

  44. APB says:

    Victorian Crossrail : The link from the Met through the Victoria Tunnel to Liverpool Street and beyond on the GE fascinates me. It seems to allow for through running from the GWR and GN , Midland and even LC&DR via the Met to the GE and beyond, must have cost a fortune to build but only seems to have been used for a few years before being removed, although there are stories that it was used now and then for Royal Trains after it was no longer in public use. The royal use seems unlikely ( would the good Queen want to be carted along the steam – era Met under the gaze of the great unwashed to get to Sandringham ? ) but can anyone tell me :

    1. Is it true that the enormous engineering required to have the GE descending from above ground at the Bishopsgate terminus to below ground at Liverpool Street was mainly to facilitate this link, and that this ( and other Liverpool Street extension ) costs were so expensive they nearly sank the company ?

    2. When was the link finally taken out of service?

    3. Why didn’t it pay? Was congestion on the Met, even then, too great ?

  45. Nathanael says:

    “3. Why didn’t it pay? Was congestion on the Met, even then, too great ?”

    I can’t answer your other questions, but the answer to this one is “yes”.

    The urban travel demand on the Met was extremely high (unexpectedly high?) from day one and congested the lines almost immediately. This caused planned long-distance services to be removed from the Met, and caused freight service to be severely restricted. Another result of this was the construction of the “Widened Lines” themselves, used to alleviate the restrictions on freight service. Later on, another result of this congestion was the construction of Marylebone, as the Met stations could not possibly handle the terminating trains from the Great Central.

  46. Greg Tingey says:

    1] Not entirely. It was cheaper, even then, to tunnel in to LST (What we now call West Side, of course – East side came later …1894. ) rather than continue on viaduct & demolish even more property. Of course the GER was unlucky with it’s timing.
    They got Parliamentary approval in 1864/5 IIRC & the great banking crash of 1866 ( Which was the model for our present problems, incidentally) put a lot of railway companies up against the wall. Of the London companies, those which were in the process of building large extensions were, naturally, the hardest-hit: The GER & the LCDR.
    2] Regular through passenger trains ceased in 1875, on the opening of Liverpool St (Met), but occsional excursions & goods working continued.
    Freight ceased in 1904, & the line/junction lifted in 1907. Track then used by GER for storage.
    Taken completly out of service in 1916 & lifted. A foot-connection @ ground level was put in for the Jazz services during 1920.

  47. Mark Townend says:

    The curved tunnel of the former circle line connection at Liverpool Street remained intact after closure and was later used as a staff canteen. I remember eating there when visiting my dad who was working in offices at the station in the early 1980s.

  48. APB says:

    Many thanks for the kind responses on the Victoria Tunnel / Met to GER connection at Liverpool Street. I learned a lot from these.

    I suppose the link itself could never have worked given the congestion almost from the beginning , and the flat junctions , two tracking , etc on the Met but then the designers of the Met had no precedent to guide them : they built a normal main line, two road railway complete with goods depots, parcels handling etc but did it all cut and cover through Victorian London , and at some cost. Four tracking all the way would never had occurred to them, nor could they probably have afforded it. Systems that were started over forty years later, like New York, had the benefit of all this experience to draw on and none of them attempted a similar link through a main line terminus, as far as I know.

  49. Taz says:

    I have no doubt that this was a double-track connection between the MR & GER. It connected with two platforms and was the only MR terminus there when opened. My memory of the canteen was in a double-track tunnel. However, JC Gillham track diagram No.155 of May 1954 shows a single-track connection abandoned 1904. So presumably the MR connection was singled when only used by occasional trains.

  50. Nathanael says:

    “but then the designers of the Met had no precedent to guide them : they built a normal main line, two road railway complete with goods depots, parcels handling etc but did it all cut and cover through Victorian London , and at some cost.”

    Yes. The Metropolitan Railway seems to have been thought of, originally, almost like a junction line — several of these had been built (rather expensively) in urban areas to connect lines coming in from different directions. The massive urban passenger traffic was, as far as I can tell, larger than anyone expected, and caused changes in plan quite quickly after the line open.

    Subsequent metro railway builders knew better, but you can’t blame the designers of the Met, as they had literally no precedent anywhere in the world to predict the high short-trip passenger demand.

    “Systems that were started over forty years later, like New York, had the benefit of all this experience to draw on and none of them attempted a similar link through a main line terminus, as far as I know.”

    Wellllll…. the evolution was a bit different, but there are some similar oddities. The New York & Harlem Railroad started out running horsecars, and when they switched to steam, they put their steam terminal several miles north of the old terminus, with the horsecars continuing to the south out the front of the original Grand Central Station! That ended relatively quickly. By the time the elevateds were being built, there was a much better understanding of the urban travel vs. intercity travel markets.

  51. steven rowe says:

    What happened to the tunnels that ame up to Kingscross ie Yorkway on the east side of Kings cross and the hotel curve or platform 16.

  52. timbeau says:

    I understand the new Northern ticket hall has encroached on the (northbound) Hotel Curve. I don’t know whether the (southbound) York Way curve is intact.

  53. Paul says:

    The southbound curve under York Way does remain intact and now contains electrification plant for Thameslink. I did hear a while ago that it is even accessible by vehicles from the north end, no idea if that means reversing out afterwards. With an original connection westwards to the Met that made a flat crossing with the Hotel curve there may well be some quite large spaces underground in the relevant area.

  54. Malcolm says:

    There are some recent pictures here (scroll down to the bottom for the recent pictures).

  55. Michael says:

    As a onetime secondman at Kings Cross between April 1974-Sept 1975 i would occasionally be rostered with a driver on either Welwyn Garden City or Hertford North diagrams over the Widened lines to Moorgate either during the ‘morning peak’ or the ‘evening peak’ and always on a Brush type 2 (class 31) hauling non-corridor ‘block ender’ stock. On arriving at Kings Cross York Road station it was the duty of the secondman to leave the cab and climb down to track level to ‘put the banjo down’ (trip cock) to work over the Widened lines to Moorgate. My question is does anyone have any information about the onetime Granville signal box (or any rare photographs of this box?) that apparently was located inbetween an 11 yards gap between two tunnels about midway between Kings Cross L.T. station and Farringdon station and stood on the south side of the running lines and was in operation sometime between about 1890 & possibly the early 1920s?. Granville signal box is also mentioned in a small number of official railway accident reports that took place in 1891, 1900, 1907 & 1913.

  56. Briantist (post-operative...) says:

    Michael: have you tried ?

    [This does not seem to me to have any reference to signal boxes, but I have left the comment in place in case it is helpful in some way. Malcolm]

  57. Briantist (post-operative...) says:

    Michael: (and Malcolm) there is a reference to it here [1] from 1913 that puts the Granville Signal box 980m west of Farringdon on the City Widened Lines and 420m from “Kings Cross C Signal”.

    That’s just under the link between Granville Square and Gwynne Place, the stairs behind the Travelodge Farringdon.


  58. NickF says:

    Very interesting to read the account posted above by Briantist of the collision between the Great Northern passenger train and the rear of the Midland goods train. Most of the witnesses agree that the visibility was very poor due to steam and smoke hanging in the air. Although I believe that condensing apparatus had to be fitted to any locomotive using the Widened Lines, it may be that crews disliked actually using it thereby making a bad situation even worse.

  59. Malcolm says:

    I too read the report with some fascination. I suspect that Michael has already seen it, as he referred to an accident report in his initial query. What he would like is pictures.
    But if we are going on to discuss the accident (subject to another mod saying we shouldn’t!), I don’t think it was caused by the steam. The Granville signalman got off very lightly, since the rules are quite clear, if you cannot see the red light, act as if it is not there. It also shows the difficulties faced by any signalman in a traditional box, of having to deal with two directions of travel at the same time, on which Sodde’s law often arranges simultaneous events. Also interesting to see a recommendation of track circuiting being made as early as that.

  60. Michael says:

    Hi Malcolm & Brian thanks for your replies and yes i’ve already read that 1913 official accident report Malcolm but thanks again for posting it for other’s to read. I presume to gain entry to Granville signal box the signalman would have to desend from street level via a spiral staircase to the box below?. The conditions at this box must have been quite trying for any signalman on duty with constant loco smoke hanging around in the atmosphere in the tunnels day & night and working in continous oil or gas lighting 24/7 as well all in all not very good for the signalman’s health in the medium or long term i would guess?.

  61. Slugabed says:

    Not Granville,I know,but interesting anyhow,same line and not far away (and perhaps news to some readers?)…

  62. Michael says:

    Yeah thanks Slugabed i nearly mentioned st Pancras Tunnel box but didn’t although i have been aware of this box for many years now that was located underneath st Pancras station but i’ve only just recently become aware of this Granville box mind you i’m not over familiar with the Widened lines even though i did once travel over them quite regular as a secondman (as previously posted) at Kings Cross back around the 1974-75 period on the Welwyn Garden City or Hertford North-Moorgate workings and the Moorgate-Hertford North or Welwyn Garden City workings on Brush type 2s (class 31) diesel locos hauling Inner suburban non-corridor ‘block ender’ stock. Also of a minor interest to some is something that sticks in my mind from the 1974-75 era about a signalman who worked at Kings Cross L.T. box located in a porta type cabin building on the far end of the Westbound dissued Kings Cross Widened lines station platform that one of the signalmen who worked at that box was an american person i can’t remember how i came to know this either i was told it by a driver or i may have spoken to him the signalman himself via a SPT (Signal Post Telephone) and picked up his accent over the phone anyway i can’t remember how i came to know this but it’s in the very back of my mind still 40 years later.

  63. Slugabed says:

    Michael…it’s possible that posting your original question (Granville) on the forum I linked to,may get results?

  64. Geoff Baker says:

    Do any of you fellows have any pictures, or links, of Smithfield Goods in the post war until closure. I do recall seeing WR 97XX condensing panniers working to that location.

  65. Paul says:

    In his post on 12th Sept Michael mentions an 11 yard gap in the City W/L tunnels, I think I’ve found it but unfortunately it isn’t so clear on Google Maps or Google Earth.

    However if anyone has Apple maps, there is a good clear image of a suitable rectangular gap (with an OHLE gantry in the picture) between the very west corner of Granville Square and the back of Wharton St, immediately above where the LU lines are visible.

    If you’ll see there is no building in the exact corner of the square, there’s a space behind it that looks like a small garden, and then another rectangular gap immediately behind that?

    There appear to be a load of location boxes down there on the up side, perhaps there was room on the down side for a small signal box?

    Hope this is of interest.

  66. Edgepedia says:


    This 1896 OS map shows a SB and SP in the position you describe

  67. Pedantic of Purley says:

    More specifically here.

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