Despite the occasional gripe about missing a train and having to wait a dreaded three minutes for the next, or being packed in on a sweaty carriage during rush hour, London’s public transport system is pretty great all in all. Some Londoners even boast that it’s the best in the world.
But did you know that once upon a time the Metropolitan Line ran from Central London all the way to Buckinghamshire, stretching over 80km of track to take passengers to and from Metro-land?
160 years ago the Metropolitan Line opened on January 10 1863 and was the world’s first-ever underground railway, taking passengers between Paddington and Farringdon with gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives.
The line was soon extended on both sides with the northern branch extending via Baker Street. It reached Hammersmith in 1864, Richmond in 1877, Harrow in 1880, completed the Circle line in 1884 and reached as far as Verney Junction in Buckinghamshire in 1868 which is 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Baker Street.
What’s more, is that the Metropolitan line had the privilege of being able to retain surplus land adjacent to its line in the rural North-West of London. It was an attempt to sell the dream to families of living in a modern home in the suburbs with a handy well-connected rail service taking them straight to Central London.
The ‘Metropolitan Surplus Land Committee’ was formed in 1887 which managed the properties intended for development. Estates were developed in areas including Pinner, Kingsbury, Wembley Park, Cecil Park, and Rickmansworth whilst the name ‘Metro-land’ was coined in a 1915 publicity booklet.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, thousands of homes were built for Metro-land including luxury blocks of flats for the upper end of the market one of which included Chiltern Court right above Baker Street station.
Eventually, in 1933 the Metropolitan line was amalgamated with other underground railways, tram companies and bus operators to form the London Passenger Transport Board. The board had decided that the stations north of Aylesbury were to be closed and since 1961, the line only runs as far as Amersham. Despite cutting back the line, it was still a pretty impressive feat to be the first underground railway and to reach the great distances the Metropolitan line did that even Paris’ very own transit system was named Métropolitain to emulate London’s own line.