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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

District Line
S7 Train Arrives At Notting Hill Gate station. . Inside S7 S Stock Train.
The District line uses S Stock ‘subsurface’ trains which have 3 sets of opening doors per car, air-conditioning and internally are of a walk-through design.
The photograph (above left) shows a District line S7 Stock train travelling to Wimbledon arriving at Notting Hill Gate station.

S Stock Variations: Although they all look the same there are two different types of S Stock trains.
The S7 variant have 7 cars with only longitudinal seating. These are used on the Circle, District and Hammersmith & City lines.
The S7+1 variant have 8 cars with only longitudinal seating. There are very few of these trains - which are used on the Metropolitan line.
The S8 variant have 8 cars, a mix of longitudinal and facing seats and are used on the Metropolitan line.

Route maps inside S7 S Stock train. . Line name on S Stock train side.
S7 Stock trains have two route maps:
District line (left);
Hammersmith & City and Circle lines (right).

Many tourists are becoming confused
- because they look at the wrong map!
. S Stock trains show the line name and destination on their sides.
District Line Map; click image to see a larger version in a new window.
Map modified by me, original source & license: Ed g2s / Wikipedia encyclopædia CC BY-SA 3.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:District_Line.png

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

Below / Above Ground

Almost entirely below ground in central London. On the main east-west section in open air at Whitechapel, Blackfriars (a little), Sloane Square, South Kensington and Earls Court stations. Because the line was built for steam trains there are many small ventilation portals which allow in daylight and fresh air. Only a few of these are shown on the map.

In east London in open air from Upminster all the way to Bow Road, which is partially open air and partly in tunnel.

In west London in open air from West Kensington to Richmond / Ealing Broadway, West Brompton to Wimbledon (although there is a short tunnel which does not have a station) and on the Olympia branch.

The Edgware Road - Earls Court section is almost entirely below ground from 'near to' Edgware Road to High Street Kensington. The stations on this route - and the sections of tunnel between them - also include many short open air sections; this dates from the days of steam trains when ventilation openings were needed to allow the smoke to clear.


twin tunnel symbol Information for people who are happy to travel on trains which are above ground but experience claustrophobia when in tunnels.

Most of the tunnels used by District line trains are wide enough for two tracks (ie: a train in each direction), however there are a few locations with narrow single track tunnels. Almost all of these are very short...

* Westbound trains from Upney approaching Barking (flyunder - to pass below other tracks),
* Just outside Tower Hill and Mansion House stations,
* Northbound trains West Brompton - Earls Court (flyunder - to pass below other tracks),
* Southbound trains High Street Kensington - Earls Court (flyunder - to pass below other tracks).

There are also two tunnels the whole way between South Kensington and Gloucester Road stations plus a very short distance west of Gloucester Road station (about the length of a train - as seen below). These tunnels were built for two tracks each but when the track layout in the area was changed in the 1950's the tunnels used by eastbound trains were reduced to single track. However the tunnels used by westbound trains still have two tracks - one track is dedicated to Circle line trains whilst the other track is dedicated to District line trains.

Westbound tracks west of Gloucester Road station. . Eastbound tracks west of Gloucester Road station.
District and Circle line tracks as seen from Gloucester Road station looking towards Earls Court and High Street Kensington stations.

Left: This tunnel is only used by westbound trains - seen here is a District line train travelling towards Earls Court,
next to it are the Circle line tracks which lead to High Street Kensington.

Right: This tunnel is only used by eastbound trains and the tracks from Earls Court and High Street Kensington merge into one.
Although built for two tracks, nowadays the eastbound tunnels only have one set of tracks.
Westbound single track tunnel Mansion House station. . Eastbound single track tunnel Mansion House station.
Short sections of single track tunnels at the western end of Mansion House station
Left: Westbound                                                                            Right: Eastbound
General Information

If you have a very old map it might show a branch between Acton Town and South Acton, however this closed on 28th February 1959.

Stations At Different Locations With The Same Names: For historic reasons three stations served by District line trains are ‘duplicates’. At Edgware Road, Paddington and Hammersmith different Underground trains call at identically named stations which are at separate locations a short walk from each other.

At Edgware Road the District line (and Circle line and Hammersmith & City line) trains use an open air station that was originally built by the Metropolitan Railway. The totally separate Bakerloo line station with the same name is a short walk away across busy roads.

At Paddington the District line trains use the Underground station which is also used by Bakerloo line trains and is located near the main concourse of the mainline / National Rail station whilst the Hammersmith & City line trains use the suburban platforms (numbers 15 & 16) which are part of the mainline railway station and totally separate from the other underground lines.

At Hammersmith the District line trains use the modernised former Metropolitan District Railway station which is shared with Piccadilly line trains. The main entrance to this station is inside a shopping centre and close to Hammersmith bus station. Hammersmith & City (and Circle) line trains use the former Metropolitan Railway station which is a short walk away across some busy roads.

Upminster Bridge station. . District line and C2C trains at East Ham station.
District line and C2C trains at Upminster Bridge station as seen from the Hacton Lane bridge over the railway - which is about 10 minutes walk from this station. . C2C and District line trains at East Ham station.
C2C trains pass through this station without stopping
and their platforms are closed to passengers.

The route to Upminster: The surface section of this route has four tracks with two used by Underground trains and two used by C2C trains from Fenchurch Street station. The section between Aldgate East and Barking is also used by Hammersmith & City line trains - see the Shared Service Routes page.

What nowadays are known as C2C trains stopped calling at all stations along the joint route (except Barking and Upminster) in 1962 when services between London Fenchurch Street station and Grays / Shoeburyness were converted to overhead wire electric traction and some of the platforms at Barking station were reconfigured for cross-platform interchange.

Bow Road station. . Bow Road station.
Bow Road station was opened in 1902 by the Whitechapel and Bow Railway. The station booking hall is a Grade II listed building.
Also seen here is the view looking down to the platforms as seen from the station ticket hall (filmed through glass).

Central London: Mansion House is best avoided as the station staff especially dislike people using cameras. Although below ground Embankment is well lit and the station platforms are partially staggered, making it easier to see the whole of the trains on the opposite platform (albeit from the back). Westminster station was rebuilt in the 1990's and has won many awards for its modern architecture. The metal flooring and grey concrete walls gives the interchange to the Jubilee line a distinctive 'space station' ambiance. However this is another station where passengers using their cameras are unwelcome. Victoria is an extremely busy station where the platforms are frequently very crowded.

Between Blackfriars and Westminster stations the line runs below the Victoria Embankment. This was built by the Metropolitan Board Of Works and forms the northern bank of the River Thames. The original impetus was the need to provide London with a modern sewerage system. Another major consideration was the relief of traffic congestion on The Strand and Fleet Street.

Historic wall of London at Tower Hill station. . Vitreous enamel platform wall cladding Embankment.
A small section of the historic wall of London.
This is at the back of the westbound platform at Tower Hill station
NB: remember that for safety reasons flash photography is prohibited on the London Underground.
. At Embankment all the station platforms plus some passageways are clad in white vitreous enamel.
Whilst the decorative stripes are repeated on all three sets of platforms (Northern, Bakerloo, District & Circle lines) there are subtle differences in the pattern designs and colours.
Temple station London . Sloane Square station London
The platforms at Temple station. Above the tracks daylight can be seen entering from a small ventilation portal. . Above the platforms at Sloane Square is an iron conduit carrying the former River Westbourne, which is now the Ranelagh Sewer.
This station's arched glass roof was destroyed in an air raid in 1940.

projector icon Temple station in 1990 and 2014/5 features in one of my ‘YouTube’ videos. Also seen (in 2015) is the local area, including a nearby park with a ventilation portal.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94dKoxjl300 .

Olympia service: When the service is operating District line trains to Kensington Olympia (from High Street Kensington station (usually bay platform No. 3) via Earls Court) only normally operates at the weekends and for special events - and with long waits between trains (typically 20 or 30 minutes). Instead passengers are expected to either travel by bus (which might cost an extra fare) or travel a much longer route changing to London Overground (West London Line - route C) or Southern trains at West Brompton. Many freight trains also pass through Kensington Olympia station, as the West London Line links railways to the north and the south of London.

Until 1946 this station was known as Addison Road.

projector icon Kensington Olympia station features in one of my ‘YouTube’ videos. Most footage comes from 2011 but there are additional scenes from 1968 and the 1980's.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOnovv49zaE .

S7 Class 378 Kensington Olympia Station. . Train describer Kensington Olympia Station.
District line S7 and London Overground Class 378 trains at Kensington Olympia station, as seen looking north from a road bridge. . District line and northbound mainline (National Rail)
next train describers at Kensington Olympia station.
Historic train describer Gloucester Road. . two trains at Gloucester Road subsurface.
Historic (non-working) and modern train describers on
the westbound District line platform at Gloucester Road.

The blank position could have included destinations no longer
served by District line trains - such as Hounslow and Uxbridge.
Or maybe been used for semi-fast trains that missed out some stations en route.
. Two District line S7 trains at Gloucester Road.

There are three subsurface platforms here:
(far left:) Westbound District line; for trains via Earls Court,
(left:) Westbound Circle line; for trains via Bayswater,
(right:) Eastbound District & Circle lines; for trains via Temple.

The route to Ealing Broadway: This is mostly shared with Piccadilly line trains and is looked at on the Shared Service Routes page.

The route to Richmond: This is shared (at different locations) with Piccadilly line and London Overground [North London Line] services and is looked at on the Shared Service Routes page.

Kew Railway Bridge. . Acton Town station District line train closed platform.
An S7 District line train halted at a red signal whilst crossing the River Thames on Kew Railway Bridge. . An eastbound S7 train calls at Acton Town. To its left is a short disused station platform - this was for the former shuttle service to South Action which usually used a single carriage train.

The route to Wimbledon: This is the only District line branch which is served by trains which use both the east-west route via Victoria and the north-south route via High Street Kensington. It is looked at below the next photographs.

The stations at Ealing Broadway, Wimbledon & Richmond are busy suburban stations in zones 3 or 4 where there is a wide variety of trains to see.
More information about them can be found on the Busier Suburban Stations page.

Paddington subsurface station arched roof tunnel ventilation gaps. . High Street Kensington station.
Paddington station (District & Circle line platforms) is one of several which retains its distinctive arched roof. This section of line was built during the days of steam trains and it includes many open air sections which ventilated the tunnels and allowed the smoke to dissipate.

The bridge forms one of the walking routes between the Bakerloo line and platform 1.

In the far distance can be seen the back of a stationary train that is queueing to enter Edgware Road station. This photograph was taken at 14:30 (2.30pm).
. High Street Kensington station has four platforms.
The two platforms on the right with S Stock trains are used by District and Circle line trains travelling to / from Edgware Road.

Platform 3 is used on days when District line trains are travelling to Olympia whilst platform 4 is rarely used by trains carrying passengers.

Platforms 3 and 4 are terminals (bay platforms), the tracks end at the far end of the station - the buffer stop red lights at the end of the track for platform 3 can be seen in the larger image.

Edgware Road - Wimbledon: In addition to the main east - west service through central London there is also a north - south District line service which travels Edgware Road - High Street Kensington - Earls Court - Putney Bridge - Wimbledon. Between Edgware Road and High Street Kensington stations this route is also served by Circle line trains.

Nowadays both District and Circle lines trains end their journeys at Edgware Road station, Circle line trains normally use platform No.2 and District line trains platform No. 3.

Northbound trains approaching Edgware Road often have to queue to enter the station and sometimes the resulting tailback even delays trains before they reach Paddington station.

Originally the Edgware Road - Wimbledon service only ran between High Street Kensington and Putney Bridge. These trains were extended to Edgware Road in 1926 and for a while in the 1950's - 1970's sometimes travelled as far as Aldgate via Kings Cross.

The Edgware Road - High Street Kensington (- South Kensington) route was originally built by the Metropolitan Railway for the Inner Circle service and most of the stations are partially or wholly in open air. Paddington, Bayswater and Notting Hill Gate stations still retain their distinctive arched trainshed roofs. Of the three Notting Hill Gate is the best for seeing the roof (as seen in the photograph at the top of this page). High Street Kensington station has been rebuilt and the station entrance is now at the end of a shopping arcade.

Inside West Brompton station District line trainshed. . Southfields station frontage.
Inside West Brompton station District line trainshed.
Both elevated walkways have steps which lead down to the platforms.
. Station frontage detail at Southfields - although built by the London & South Western Railway this station has always been served by Metropolitan District Railway / District line trains.
More information in the text below.

The route to Wimbledon: Inside the trainshed at the Victorian-era West Brompton station is an unusual series of walkways which cross the Underground tracks at different levels. This station is also served by trains which use the West London Line (WLL) - namely the London Overground Clapham Junction - Willesden Junction (- Stratford) service and the Southern Milton Keynes - South Croydon service. Interchanging between the southbound WLL and northbound District line platforms is at grade, however in the opposite direction requires using the steps and elevated walkways. This station has Pink Oyster card readers which passengers interchanging between Underground and Overground / Southern trains who are paying fares via Oyster PAYG should use for cheaper fares if their journey does not include Zone 1.

Fulham Broadway station has been modernised and the new station entrance is through a shopping mall. The old station entrance is no longer used by railway passengers and has been converted into a retail shop, which is now closed. The historic trainshed has a glass roof which lets in daylight, however the newer parts of the station are fully enclosed.

Putney Bridge station used to have three platforms, one of which was dedicated to trains which terminated here. However because the S Stock trains were too long to fit this platform it was rebuilt as a through track (for trains travelling towards Wimbledon) and the former Wimbledon platform was closed. The railway crosses the River Thames just south of Putney Bridge station and a pedestrian path on the western side of the bridge makes it possible to walk alongside the trains as they cross the river. (See photograph below). Note that the Putney Bridge is for road traffic - the bridge used by the trains is called Fulham Railway Bridge.

Parsons Green - East Putney is elevated, offering interesting views of mostly traditional British terraced housing in a very expensive part of London.

At East Putney the District line merges with the mainline railway. The route from here to Wimbledon was built by the London & South Western Railway and the architecture of the two intermediate stations (Southfields, Wimbledon Park) reflects this. At first all trains were hauled by steam locomotives, but in 1905 they were converted to electric traction using a hybrid 3rd and 4th rail power supply system which was compatible with the trains operated by both railway companies..Since 1941 only District line trains have provided the local 'all stations' passenger services along this line, but even today some South Western Railway (SWR) passenger trains pass through here (non-stop) - typically they travel late at night / very early in the morning. In addition SWR passenger trains sometimes also use this route when other lines are closed for track maintenance. This route is also used by empty trains (ie: not carrying passengers) when travelling to / from Wimbledon depot.

This section of railway only became part of London Underground in 1994, when the former British Railways was being privatised and split-up into many smaller businesses. Even now much of the signalling on this route is controlled by Network Rail, as part of the national railway network. Between Wimbledon Park and Wimbledon the trains pass a SWR depot. At Wimbledon the District line has four platforms, these are located on the opposite side of the station to the Croydon trams and even seeing the two at the same time is 'a challenge'. Photographs showing trams and Underground trains can be seen on the Busier Suburban Stations page.

Fulham Railway Bridge. . Fulham Railway Bridge.
A train crossing Fulham Railway Bridge (left) and a plaque at the southern end of the bridge which was erected after its refurbishment (right).
This is the only bridge across the River Thames which is used by UndergrounD trains that has a footpath for pedestrians. It is very near the confusingly named Putney Bridge station - the confusion is because Putney Bridge is a road bridge and it is 10 minutes walk from this station!
These photographs were taken in the morning, in the afternoons the sun shines on the other side of the bridge.

Exploring On Foot

Photographic viewpoints in south-west London which I've used include:
* The walkway alongside the trains on Fulham Railway Bridge,
* The Thames Path on the bank of the River Thames near to Fulham Railway Bridge,
* A footbridge over the railway from Keswick Road,
* Looking both ways (north and south) from where Cromer Villas Road crosses over the railway,
* Passing trains on the railway bridge over Granville Road,
* Looking both ways from the road bridge outside Wimbledon Park station.

Below are some links to Google maps showing some of these locations:

Putney Bridge station, Putney Bridge, Fulham Railway Bridge, East Putney station.

Between East Putney and Southfields stations.

Putney Bridge Station pillbox gun turrets.
WW2 pillbox with gun turrets at the
south end of Putney Bridge station.
The S Stock train is calling at the
platform which has now been closed.

A closer view of Kewsick Road showing the location of the footbridge over the railway.

The junction of Cromer Villas Road / Sutherland Grove and the East Putney Tunnel exit (a satellite photograph).

Wimbledon Park station and an entrance to the park.

The entrance to the Fulham Railway Bridge is very near to Putney Bridge station and crossing this bridge on foot offers a very different way to experience the District line. There are also excellent views of the trains crossing the bridge from the river bank (Thames Path) and from Putney Bridge - although from here the noise of the road traffic will prevent you from hearing the passing trains. If filming from the Thames Path or Putney Bridge the sun is in the best direction in the afternoon.

projector icon District line trains crossing the River Thames on Fulham Railway Bridge, a river bus and the WW2 pillbox next to Putney Bridge station feature in one of my ‘YouTube’ videos:-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5XEYBTap7s .

On the south side of the river Thames there is a choice of walking routes towards the next photo-spots; either along Putney High Street (the Exchange shopping centre has places to buy food and free toilets) or along Oxford Road which is a quiet residential street. Just to the east of East Putney station is Keswick Road, walking along this road will lead to a foot bridge over the railway where it is possible to look down on the passing trains and (if looking to the south) an entrance to the East Putney Tunnel.

Keswick Road ends at a road named East Hill. On the other side of this road (slightly offset) is Sutherland Grove. This leads to Southfields station and passes the Cromer Villas Road and Granville Road photo-spots.

projector icon
More ‘YouTube’ video - most of these also show some older types of train which have now been replaced.

Lineside and bridge views (look up or look down) at Keswick Road, Cromer Villas Road and Granville Road in 1990, 2014 and 2015,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-V-1Bz2gTA .

District line and SWR trains at Southfields station, filmed in 2014,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp9J-F0thYY .

Trains at (and nearby) Wimbledon Park station in 1990, 2011, 2014 and 2015,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmPNb3mUCTA .

Lineside views of trains passing Wimbledon Park (not the station) in 1990, 2014 and 2015,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vmh6R8e2GQ ..

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General Information .
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See caption for picture information.
Some stations served by District Line trains have short platforms where part of the train stops outside the station and the doors remain closed. Passengers wanting these stations should walk through the inside of the train to a section which is within the station platform.

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This page last updated 20th August 2021
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