Welcome to london-railfan.info
Railfanning London‘s Railways

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Visitors to London who are also transport enthusiasts (‘railfans’) sometimes ask for advice as to the ‘best’ things to see on London’s railway network. This page is part of a guide which aims to answer that question.

If this is the first time you have reached these pages then it is best to go to the Opening Page which sets the scene, explains the difference between the small and the large profile trains, offers advice on the best type of ticket to buy and photography tips.

Alternatively, it is possible to view everything on one page


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Northern City Line
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Class 313 train at Moorgate station. . Tunnel Mouth Drayton Park station.
Class 313 train heading for Welwyn Garden City
at Moorgate‘s platform No.10.
. Entering the tunnel at Drayton Park.
Below / Above Ground

Below ground just south of Drayton Park - Moorgate.
Above ground the rest of the route.

Click map to see larger version in a new window! .

. Northern City Line Map; click image to see a larger version in a new window.
General Information

This is London‘s only deep level ‘tube’ line which was built for large profile trains. The southern terminus is at Moorgate (platforms 9 & 10) from where trains travel deep underground as far as Drayton Park, which is in an open air cutting and where the remains of a former depôt can be seen next to the northbound track.

Between Moorgate and Drayton Park the trains are powered via an electrified third rail; at Drayton Park they switch between third rail and overhead wire power supply systems and north of here they operate as ordinary surface suburban trains providing ‘all stations’ services along the East Coast Main Line - which is the route used by trains from London‘s Kings Cross station heading to faraway cities such as York, Leeds, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Between 1939 and 1975 this route used London Transport's small profile tube trains. Present-day services are provided by British Railways designed Class 313 trains as part of the ‘Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern’ (TSGN) mainline railway franchise. Nowadays this line is not usually shown on UndergrounD maps but being an underground railway in London it simply had to be included in this guide.

subterranen passageway Essex Road station. . Great Northern route map.
Part of the passageway between the lifts and the steps to the platform at Essex Road station. . The route map on a tunnel wall at Essex Road station.

New Trains

In February 2019 some new trains started carrying passengers on this line.

Called Class 717 these are six carriage variants of the fully walk-through air-conditioned Seimens Desiro City Class 700 trains which were recently introduced on the Thameslink service.

However there are a few small differences; these include the 717's having power sockets under the seats and the train ends also including some folding steps. This is to make it is possible for an emergency evacuation of the train via the train ends when travelling through the single track tube tunnels. Also the 717's do not have toilets.

717 006 - one of the new Class 717 trains at Alexandra Palace station.
717 006 Alexandra Palace station
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Fully walk-through inside Class 717 train . Great Northern logo on Class 717 train
Class 717 trains have a fully walk-through interior design. . The Great Northern logo on a Class 717 train at Gordon Hill station.
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seats inside Class 717 train . inside class 717
Class 717 seats: two ordinary seats on the left and three priority seats (with a different colour seat fabric) on the right and behind / next to the sliding passenger doors. A mains power socket is just about visible below the front centre of the two priority seats. . . These trains have a space for wheelchairs in the middle of the train (not shown) and some multi-user spaces with folding seats next to the train driver's cabs at the train ends.
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What these images do not show is that these trains have several CCTV surveillance cameras in each carriage

Extra Information

The reason why the Northern City line has larger tunnels than London's other tube lines is because when it was built (in 1904 by The Great Northern & City Railway [GN&CR]) the aim was to allow trains from the Great Northern Railway (GNR) to reach the City area of London (ie: the Financial District). However the GNR did not favour this so the GN&CR remained physically isolated.

Over the years there were many proposals to extend this line, both to the north and the south, however whilst this was achieved in 1941 for trains which did not carry passengers it was the 1970's before this was achieved for passenger trains. Known as the Great Northern Electrics this is the present-day service.

Whilst an extension south (perhaps to create a north-south cross London service via London Bridge or another major south London station) would seem logical this is not possible. The reason is that to the south of Moorgate station the route is blocked by a Crossrail line 1 (Elizabeth line) station tunnel and foundations from buildings in the Bank area.




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Small Profile ‘Tube’ Trains .
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Large Profile
‘Subsurface’ Trains
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Local Light Railways .
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This page last updated 19th February 2019
E & OE.
© Copyright 2001-2019 Simon P Smiler and named image sources.
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