Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,173 pages of information and 245,641 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Central London Railway

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1903. Coach.
1911. Motor Coach.

of Oxford Circus Station, Argyll Street, London.


1891 The Central London Railway was incorporated[1] for a line between Shepherd's Bush and Bank

1892 An extension to Liverpool Street was authorised.

1894 The time for completion had to be extended twice (1894, 1899)

1900 On 27 June the line was formally opened, a month before public traffic began to use the railway on 30 July, to Bank station. [2]

1901 Article published by W. N. Twelvetrees [3]

The railway was initially operated by electric locomotives hauling trains of trailer cars. The distinctive station buildings, few of which survive, were designed by the architect Harry Bell Measures.

For several years from the outset a uniform fare of two pence was adopted: the railway was popularly known as the "Twopenny Tube". In July 1907 graduated fares of two pence and three pence were introduced: a one penny fare was added in 1909.

1908 Extended in the west by means of a loop to Wood Lane Exhibition Station in 1908 for the Franco-British Exhibition.

1912 Extended eastwards to Liverpool Street.

1913 Acquired by the Underground Electric Railways Co[4]

1919 A tunnelled link to disused London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) tracks south of the L&SWR's Shepherd's Bush station was proposed. Although authorisation was granted in 1920, the connection was never realised, and the L&SWR tracks were eventually used by the Piccadilly Line when it was extended west of Hammersmith in 1932.

1920 In the west, a short connecting link was made from Wood Lane station to join the Great Western Railway (GWR)-operated Ealing and Shepherd's Bush Railway, allowing trains to run to Ealing.

1933 As with other London Underground lines, the Central Line was incorporated in the London Passenger Transport Board.

1935 As part of the New Works Programme, London Transport proposed works to extend the Central Line

1949 Extended to Epping, when London Transport took over the line from British Railways.

1957 Extended from Epping to Ongar, taking over from British Railways.

Now administered by Transport for London

Practical Problems

The railway has had a chequered history. Although the tunnels were bored with the unusual diameter of 3.56 metres (11 feet 8¼ inches), they were not well aligned and it was discovered that the rolling stock, which was already smaller than would be expected for this size of tunnel, would not fit. It is rumoured that the engineers forgot to take into account the height of the rails above the tunnel floor. The problem was remedied by a combination of replacing the bullhead running rails with lower profile bridge rails, and shortening the springs on the rolling stock. The locomotives caused considerable problems with vibration as they weighed 48 long tons most of which was unsprung.

Late 1930s: the tunnels were expanded and realigned and the stations lengthened.

1940 the line was converted to the standard four rail electrification used elsewhere on London Underground. Because of the manner in which tunnel had been enlarged, it was no longer round and for clearance reasons the positive rail within the original tunnels had to be of an unusual shape with the top contact surface 40 mm (1½ inches) higher than normal. This is still the situation today, and the extra height can be observed at most deep-level stations, where the insulating 'pots' stand on small cement mounds. Trains between Liverpool Street and White City must have special positive collectors that can lift higher than normal. In turn the current Central Line stock cannot run on any other line, partly because they are operated by Automatic Train operation, have no trip-cocks, and would interfere with other signalling equipment. There are also clearance problems with the gearboxes.

One legacy of the line's building is that the sections under the City were built to follow the geography of the streets above, rather than underneath buildings, to take advantage of the free wayleave offered by the government. As a result there are many sharp bends and curves between St Paul's, Bank and Liverpool Street. At Bank station, the Central line platforms are so tightly curved it is not possible to see one end of the platform from the other and the traditional "Mind The Gap" message is particularly stressed here.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. [1] Wikipedia
  3. Fielden’s Magazine Vol 4
  4. The Times, Nov 20, 1912