This report of the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in London, appeared in The Times on January 10, 1863.

The Times

The Metropolitan Railway

The Metropolitan Railway has at length become a “great fact,” and, we may confidently add, a great success. Yesterday saw it opened by the directors; to-day it is open for public traffic. More than 10 years have now elapsed since the original scheme was first projected. Mr. Charles Pearson, the late City Solicitor, was among the first to recognize the importance of the project, but it was not until the year 1854 that an Act was obtained for carrying out the Metropolitan Railway. The line as at present constructed extends from Farringdon-street to Bishop’s-road, Paddington, a distance of three miles and three quarters. The intermediate stations are King’s-cross, Gower-street (for Euston-square and Tottenham Court-road), Portland-road, Baker-street, and Edgware-road. At King’s-cross the line joins the Great Northern, and at Paddington connects with the Great Western Railway. The Farringdon-street Station is only temporary, the company having obtained powers to extend the line to Finsbury-circus. This extension, which is to be proceeded with as soon as possible, will pass under the proposed dead meat–market in Smithfield, at which point the great Western Company propose to construct a large station for goods traffic. The London, Chatham, and Dover Company have also obtained Parliamentary powers to join the Metropolitan line near Farringdon-street, and to run over the intended extension to Finsbury–circus. By means, therefore, of the Metropolitan Railway, the Great Western, Great Northern, and London, Chatham, and Dover Companies will be placed in direct communication, and traffic both of passengers and goods will then be conveyed directly from all parts of the North and West of England to the southern ports. The importance of such a connexion cannot be too highly estimated. The facilities thus afforded for the direct conveyance of traffic without break of carriage, and avoiding the cost of cartage through London, must have a beneficial effect upon the trade of the country in general, and especially on that between the northern counties and the Continent. The main importance, however, of the undertaking arises from the fact that it will afford a direct and expeditious means of conveyance for the enormous traffic between the east and west ends of London. If the traffic of our main thoroughfares continued to increase as it has done for the last few years locomotion would, without some such relief, become impracticable, and, although the corporation of London is endeavouring to obtain powers to regulate the traffic of the streets by separating the heavy goods from the lighter traffic, this would but partially remedy the evil. The time has come when some means were absolutely required for removing a great part of the traffic entirely from the streets, and that great object will, we hope, be secured by the opening of the Metropolitan Railway.

The line has been constructed by Mr. Fowler, and the character of the works bears the highest testimony to his great engineering skill. Indeed the line may be regarded as the great engineering triumph of the day. We have from time to time described the works as they progressed. We may only now add that among the many gentlemen who were yesterday present at the formal inauguration of the line but one sentiment was expressed, that, not withstanding the extraordinary difficulties which had to be encountered, Mr. Fowler’s genius and the energy of the contractors, Messrs. Jay, Smith, and Knight, had triumphed over them all.

At 1 o’clock, between 600 and 700 ladies and gentlemen who had been invited by the directors assembled at the Bishop’s-road station, Paddington, and proceeded in two trains, after a short interval spent at each of the intermediate stations, to Farringdon-street. The various stations were much admired, being alike commodious and elegant; the ingenious contrivances for obtaining light and ventilation were also deservedly commended. The two trains were drawn each by two engines, so constructed as to emit neither smoke nor steam. The first was conducted by Mr. Myles Fenton, the general manager of the company; and the second by Mr. Tanner, the Great Western Company’s superintendent of the line. The carriages were lighted with gas. The smoothness of the line and the comfort of the carriages were beyond all praise; while nothing could be more satisfactory than the simple and yet effective operation of the new railway signals, the perfecting of which had somewhat retarded the opening of the line.

At 3 o’clock an elegant déjeúner was given to the large company invited by the directors at the Farringdon Station. For this purpose the arrival and departure platform was enclosed, the sides and roof being tastefully draped with scarlet and white, ornamented with numerous flags and banners. The upper table, at which were seated the more distinguished guests, was placed on a raised platform, and at right angles there stretched three rows of tables, where covers were laid for 630.

The chairman of the company, Mr. W. A. Wikinson, presided, having on his right the Lord Mayor, Sir Rowland Hill, Colonel Sir J. Hamilton, Mr. H. Lewis, M.P., Mr. Gilpin, M.P., Mr. Western Wood, M.P., Mr. Scott Russell, Mr. Ayrton, M.P., and on the left Lord Harris, the Right Hon. Robert Lowe, M.P., Viscount Torrington, Sir M. Peto, Mr. Malins, M.P., Sheriff Jones, Professor Owen, M. Du Chaillu Aldermen Wilson, Sydney, Humphery, Sir G. Moon, Abbis, Dakin, Carter, Besley, Gibbons, &c.;

The entertainment was provided by the Messrs, Staples, of the Albion, and did ample credit to that far-famed establishment.

Mr. Harker was toastmaster, and after the cloth had been removed, and the usual loyal toasts duly honoured and responded to, Sir M. PETO replied for “The House of Commons.”

The CHAIRMAN then called upon Mr. LOWE, M.P., who, on rising to propose the next toast, was loudly cheered. The right hon. gentleman said,—Mr. Chairman, my Lords and Gentlemen, you have conferred upon me the distinguished honour of being allowed to propose to this company prosperity to an undertaking the commencement of which we are met this day to inaugurate. The traffic of London has long been a reproach to the most civilized nation of the world, and the opprobrium of the age. Dr. Johnson used to say that if you wanted to see the full tide of human life you must go to Charing-cross; but Dr Johnson would have to raise his estimation of the full tide, or rather of the close jam of the full tide of human life, many hundred per cent before he could arrive at the state which the traffic of London has now reached. It has always been felt to be absolutely necessary that some step should be taken to reduce this growing evil. The railway system has been of enormous advantage to the whole country that has received it, but for the interior of London it has been a positive injury in many respects. It has added some more to that which was already too much, and made the traffic of the streets, before extremely difficult, almost entirely impossible. Under these circumstances eight years ago—eight long years since—Parliament gave permission to the present company to construct a railway through one of the most crowded and most difficult districts of London to relieve that traffic. I have said a long time has elapsed since the company received their Parliamentary powers, but we must consider the difficulties with which that company has had to deal. They had to descend into the underground life of London, if I may so speak. A great town is like a forest—that is not the whole of it that you see above ground. The company has had to find its way through obstacles which those only can truly appreciate who have had to contend with them. (Cheers.) They had to make their way through gas-pipes and water-pipes and sewers, and that greatest of all obstacles, that modern dragon, which Mr. Fowler, the modern St. George, has four times vanquished—the Fleet ditch (cheers); indeed, I know not that he should not, therefore, put in his claim for that office recently become vacant—the Admiral of the Fleet. (Cheers and a laugh.) This task was one of no ordinary difficulty, and we who were fortunate enough to pass over the line to-day had the pleasure of seeing how admirably and efficiently all its difficulties have been surmounted. (Cheers.) The task has been a most wonderfully difficult one, because this railway differs from all others I ever saw in this,—that whereas on other railways you accommodate the circumstances around it to the railway, in this case the company have been obliged to accommodate the railway to those circumstances. (Cheers.) They have had to take the level of the street for their guide, and to deal with difficulties having nothing to do with engineering consideration. The line has had to worm its way through a complicated and intricate labyrinth under difficulties almost insuperable, and I do heartily congratulate the company on having brought the enterprise to the present fortunate and, I believe, successful termination. (Cheers.) One great difficulty of such an undertaking consists very much in this, among other things,—that in a tunnel or in a deep cutting it is almost impossible to find space for your stations and for the necessary engineering machinery connected with the railway; but every one who observed carefully to-day must have seen how admirable this difficulty had been dealt with and overcome (cheers)—how, even in this dull and dismal day, darkness was penetrated by the light of heaven (cheers)—how a line carried among drains and sewers and through a soil infected by the use of gas for so many years was yet totally free from all odour, and how through a long tunnel and underground it was so admirably ventilated. (Cheers). All this will, no doubt, in the course of years, seem a matter of course; but those who first devised such a scheme, and carried it out in spite of so many difficulties, are justly entitled to the highest praise. (Cheers.) I speak thus warmly on the subject because I have no possible pecuniary interests in the undertaking (cheers); but I feel that such an enterprise is an honour to the country, and a solid advance worthy of civilization. Nor ought we to under-estimate the advantage of bringing into easy connexion so many lines which, with the timidity which often characterizes great companies, at first led them to plant their stations in the outskirts rather than venture into the sacred precincts of the city. (Laughter.) In a short time, unless I am much mistaken, this line will form the nucleus of what may become a circle by which to connect all the great railways in one continuous chain. (Cheers.) For these and many other reasons, which I will not detain you by mentioning, I call on you to drink a bumper to the success of the Metropolitan Railway. (Loud cheers.)

The toast was drunk with all the honours, and briefly acknowledged by the CHAIRMAN.

The next toast was “The Corporation of the City of London,” which had subscribed 200,000l. to the capital of the company, proposed by the deputy–chairman, which was drunk with much cordiality.

The LORD MAYOR returned thanks. He considered himself very fortunate in being chief magistrate of the city of London on that auspicious occasion, because he had always taken a deep interest in the enterprise and had supported the proposition that the corporation should embark a portion of their funds in the construction of this railway. They had done so, contrary to their usual custom of not embarking in any speculation; but they were deeply impressed with the necessity at the present day of doing something which should relieve the constantly growing difficulty they felt in regard to the street traffic of London. (Cheers.) And, certainly, he believed this line would largely contribute to its relief. The growing commerce and intercommunication which was brought about by our railway system had resulted in making the city of London and London generally almost impassable; and this was one of the great undertakings which had for its object the remedying of that state of things. He therefore believed the corporation had done wisely when they embarked part of their property in the undertaking. He quite agreed that the engineer had great difficulties to contend against—he had performed a work such as no other engineer had ever attempted; but, unless the means had been supplied, even the gigantic resources of their engine and the contractors would have failed. He therefore for the honour done to the corporation of the city of London on the present occasion was a becoming tribute to their merits (cheers), and he trusted the scheme, which was a great engineering success, would be commercially successful, so that the corporation might participate in the results. (Cheers.) He felt no doubt upon this point, for one great argument of their friend the late Mr. Pearson was that the great element of railway success was not the cheapness of its construction, but the population that was to use it. (Hear). He did not care what the railway cost, or what difficulties had to be encountered in its construction, if they had only a sufficient population to employ it; and in that respect it could certainly not be denied that they had all the elements of success for the Metropolitan Railway. (Cheers.)

Lord HARRIS proposed the next toast. If there was one body of men to whom England was indebted more than another, they were the civil engineers (cheers); and he felt it a high honour to be allowed to propose the health of one who had shown such eminent talent, genius, and energy as his friend Mr. Fowler (loud cheers), which had placed him in the front rank of the civil engineers of his country. (Cheers.) He hoped he would live to carry out as successfully the other part of the scheme—the extension of the line to Finsbury-circus. (Loud cheers.)

The toast was drunk with all the honours.

Mr FOWLER, who was loudly cheered, said,—Mr. Chairman, my Lords, ladies, and gentlemen, I am much obliged to Lord Harris for the kind and flattering terms in which he has proposed my health as the engineer of the Metropolitan Railway, and to you, ladies and gentlemen, for the cordial manner in which you have responded to it. I confess I cannot but feel proud of the result of this day’s proceedings. Your journey over the Metropolitan Railway from Paddington to the present city station, in which we are now assembled, has brought to a successful completion a great public work of a novel character, in which a large measure of the responsibility has necessarily devolved upon me. The line over which our journey to-day has extended may be said to form the first section of the Metropolitan Railway in its course eastward, and the station in which we are now assembled must be considered only a provisional city station. The next step will be to carry out the authorized extension to Smithfield and Finsbury–circus, or Moorgate-street, where a large permanent station will be constructed. (Cheers.) The Metropolitan Railway was originally designed as a line from Edgware-road to King’s-cross, where it was proposed to join a project for a railway and large terminus in the Fleet valley, promoted by our late distinguished friend, Mr. Charles Pearson, the city solicitor. (Cheers.) Mr. Pearson took great pains for several years in drawing public attention to his own vast and comprehensive scheme, which comprised a large central railway station extending down the valley of the Fleet to Farringdon-street with a wide roadway on the top of it. The pains taken by Mr. Pearson at this time, combined with his great energy and perseverance, prepared the public mind for the Metropolitan Railway as a public necessity, although he did not succeed in obtaining the requisite amount of support for his own particular scheme. The Act for the first Metropolitan Railway, or the instalment from Edgware-road to King’s-cross, was passed in 1853. In the following year, however, (1854), a complete scheme for the Metropolitan Railway was sanctioned by Parliament, for commencing at Paddington, opposite the Great Western hotel, with a junction along the Old Wharf-road for goods, and extending to the General Post-office, with a branch for post-office purposes only to the London and North–Western Railway. Up to this time the idea of the promoters was to make the Metropolitan Railway an isolated line without junctions with any other line for passenger traffic. In consequence of this anticipated isolation, one of the modes of working the line which was then considered was the atmospheric; and it appeared to be a favourable opportunity of successfully applying this principle of locomotion; but after fully investigating the question in all its bearings, with the assistance of my late able friend, Mr. Brunel, I advised the directors to adopt locomotive engines. After the passing of the Act in 1854 difficulties of various kinds arose, but chiefly of a financial nature, for which the Russian war was held to be chiefly responsible; and, except an Act for a trifling deviation, and for a junction with the Great Northern Railway, no steps were taken to carry out the undertaking until 1859. During this interval, however, it became evident that the original expectation of an isolated metropolitan railway would not be realized, but that, in addition to its original object of carrying vast numbers of passengers circulating within the metropolis it was destined to become of the highest importance to the northern and western railways of England as a means of affording an approach to the centre of the City of London, unattainable by any other means. Nay, further, it became evident by the operations and proposals of a vigorous young railway company, the London, Chatham, and Dover, that the Metropolitan was also destined to become a link in a great chain of communication from the railways on the north of the River Thames to those on the south. This change in this position of the Metropolitan Railway, brought about chiefly by railway development generally in the country, added greatly to its value as a property, and, at the same time, made it necessary that I should reconsider the system of traction to be employed upon it. It was clear that the atmospheric system was now no longer possible in a link line, and if the judgment which condemned it originally was sound, its rejection required no consideration now. It was also clear that the peculiar locomotive I had proposed for the isolated line, viz., without any fire box, or the means of carrying any fuel whatever, but dependent upon a sufficient supply of hot water and steam being taken in at one end of the journey to supply it to the other, was no longer the machine to employ. But, at he same time, it was manifest that, from the necessarily low tunnel and numerous trains, the ordinary locomotive engine could not be employed. It became necessary then to contrive an engine that should work as an ordinary locomotive when on the ordinary railways joining the Metropolitan railway, puffing out its smoke and steam, and when in the Metropolitan Railway tunnel it should condense its steam and bottle up its smoke, so as to create no nuisance whatever to passengers. (Cheers.) By the liberality of my directors I was authorized to construct an engine as a model or trial engine, partly for information and partly to satisfy unbelievers. This engine was constructed by Messrs. Stephenson and Co., of Newcastle, and tried early last year on the Metropolitan Railway, and made frequent trips to illustrate its double functions. A great many gentlemen now in the room witnessed those trials, and I may say that they were so successful that all doubts as to the working of the line with comfort to passengers were at once removed. (Cheers.) The present engines on the Metropolitan Railway, or those which will be employed by the Great Western Railway Company to work the traffic, have been modified in minor details, for greater simplicity by the able locomotive superintendent of that Company, Mr. Gooch, and I hope they will work as satisfactorily as the model engine I constructed for his information and guidance. (Cheers). I am afraid this description will have been tedious to you, and especially to the ladies (cheers), and therefore I will not further occupy your time by any description of the line itself, or its stations, or the length of its tunnels, because you have made a careful personal inspection for yourselves; nor will I enumerate our difficulties with carrying the railway under and over sewers, gas pipes, water pipes, &c.; nor our troubles with public bodies and private individuals, but you may safely take my word for it; they have not been few or trifling, but I feel it right to state that nearly without exception we have met with every reasonable indulgence and intelligent forbearance from all public bodies, from the corporation of London downwards. (Cheers.) These difficulties, however, have been all happily overcome; and as we have overcome them to Farringdon-street I am sure we can overcome them to Moorgate-street. (Cheers.) And when we remember the objects which will be accomplished by this great undertaking we cannot but feel that they are worthy of the trouble and cost of overcoming every difficulty. Besides the original design of carrying local passengers from the west to the east of London and intermediate places, the Metropolitan Railway is calculated to continue passengers, goods, and minerals from Paddington, King’s-cross, and, as my friend Mr. Beale would suggest, the Midland Company also, to the very heart of the city of London. (Cheers.) I could also with great propriety allude to the carrying of meat, &c., to and from Smithfield-market and the avoidance of driving cattle through the streets; the providing a cheap and rapid access to and from the country to every class of person employed in the city of London, including even labourers themselves, and some mitigation of the Great Western Company will do everything in their power to develop its resources, and deserve the good opinion of the public using it. (Cheers.) And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, before I conclude, permit me to perform an agreeable duty by publicly thanking those who have been engaged with me in carrying out this great work. Of the Directors it would not be proper for me to say more than that they have always given me a most generous and unbounded confidence, without which I feel the task would have been beyond my powers. (Cheers.) I wish especially to thank my old assistant and friend Mr. Johnson, who has acted as resident engineer of theline throughout, and of whose assiduity and intelligence I cannot express myself too highly. (Cheers.) I have also to thank the contractors, Messrs. Smith and Knight and Mr. Jay for the admirable manner in which they have done their work, and their prompt attention to my instructions. (Cheers.)

Mr. GILPIN proposed the “Health of the Solicitor to the Company.”

Mr. BURCHELL returned thanks.

The “Health of the Contracts,” Messrs. Jay, Smith, and Knight, was next given, Mr. JAY acknowledging the compliment.

The LORD MAYOR proposed the “Health of the Chairman,” who having briefly responded, the proceedings terminated.

The Metropolitan Police band performed at intervals during the evening a favourite selection of music.

Source: The Times []