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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

Metropolitan Line

Metropolitan Line S stock train. . Inside Metropolitan Line S stock train.
The Metropolitan Line uses S stock trains, the first of which to enter passenger service is seen here (above left) at Watford station.
These trains have 3 sets of opening doors per car, air-conditioning and internally are of a walk-through design.

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.

Metropolitan 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:Metropolitan_Line.svg

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

Below / Above Ground

In tunnel from Aldgate to Baker Street, except for Aldgate, Liverpool Street (part only), Farringdon and Barbican stations. The tunnels between Kings Cross and Barbican stations include some short open air sections which date from the days of steam trains when ventilation openings were needed to allow the smoke to clear.

At Baker Street Metropolitan Line trains use platforms 1-4 which are partly in the open. Baker Street - Finchley Road is mostly in tunnel but with some short open air sections. Finchley Road station is above ground and the rest of the line all the way to Amersham, Watford and Uxbridge is above ground - except for a short tunnel on what is known as the North Curve, which is the direct route between Croxley and Rickmansworth. However this section of track is not normally used by passenger trains.


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

The Metropolitan Line has a mix of single track and twin track tunnels:

* Between Baker Street and Aldgate stations most of the tunnels are wide enough for two tracks - one train in each direction.
However, at Kings Cross St Pancras station and for short distances either side of the station the tunnels are single track.

*Between Baker Street and Finchley Road stations the route mostly comprises single track tunnels although there are a few places which have either twin track tunnels or are in open air.

Kings Cross St Pancras station passenger information on tunnel wall. . S Stock train at station with one set of doors not open.
Metropolitan line S Stock trains are longer than the S Stock trains used on the rest of the subsurface network - the two smaller signs seen here (opposite the platform entrance) encourage passengers to spread out along the platform and also to be aware that the part of the platform on the left is only served by Metropolitan line trains. . At some stations the trains are too long for the platforms
so sometimes the doors at the end of the train do not open and passengers wishing to alight here must walk through the train
to a pair of doors which do open.
General Information

Outside the rush hours many trains terminate at Baker Street - despite being part of the 'Underground' the Metropolitan Line is more like an outer-suburban railway than an inner-city urban railway.

Do look at the 'next train' describers before boarding a train, as some journeys can take you a long way without stopping! After Baker Street all trains stop at Finchley Road and Wembley Park (the latter northbound only), but after that some trains may stop next at Harrow-on-the-Hill, which is in zone 5 and then Moor Park, which is a zones 6 & 7 boundary station.

The route has either 4 or 6 tracks all the way from Central London to north of Moor Park, where the line to Watford diverges.

Between Baker Street and Finchley Road you may spot the remains of several stations which stopped being used in 1939 when a new deep level tube line along the same route was opened. These stations were intended to be retained for 'special occasions' (such as cricket at Lords) but in the event because of wartime economies they ended up being permanently closed.

Metropolitan Line trains also used to call at stations between Finchley Road and Wembley Park, this too stopped (on a full-time daily basis) in 1939 when the tube trains took over the Stanmore service. However early morning / late evening Metropolitan Line trains continued to call at all these intermediate stations until the Jubilee Line was resignalled with new computerised signalling system in circa 2010. Nowadays when Jubilee Line services are disrupted Metropolitan Line trains sometimes also call at Neasden and Willesden Green, this is possible because these two stations also have dedicated Metropolitan Line platforms.

Until summer 2012 the Metropolitan Main Line had trains which dated from the early 1960's. Known as the A stock they were the largest trains on the Underground and the widest trains anywhere in Britain. When first introduced they replaced trains with hand operated 'slam' doors, and on the Amersham / Chesham route also replaced locomotive-hauled trains which changed between electric and steam traction at Rickmansworth. At one time A stock trains travelled at speeds of up to 70 mph (about 120 km/h) but because of their age they were later restricted to just 50 mph (80 km/h).

This page looks at some surviving historic Metropolitan Railway trains, including the preserved Vintage (1898 and 1900) passenger carriages which were used on the Chesham shuttle service until replaced by A stock trains in the early 1960's.
http://citytransport.info/Vintage.htm .

The S stock trains are of a walk-through design and have significantly fewer seats than A stock trains - the plan is to operate trains more frequently but sceptics question whether this will work as planned and point to a similar attempt on the mainline railway (Virgin CrossCountry) which failed catastrophically, leaving some stations with less frequent and overcrowded trains. S stock trains have faster acceleration than A stock trains but a lower top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h)

If travelling to stations beyond Harrow-On-The-Hill you can also travel on the diesel Chiltern Railways trains from London Marylebone station, changing en route if required. Make sure to catch a train travelling to Aylesbury via Amersham! Travelcard and PAYG tickets can be used on these trains - but only as far as Amersham.

If going all the way to Amersham, Watford and Chesham note that these places are outside zone 6 so you need Travelcards valid for zones 7, 8, 9. Because the cost of paper Travelcards for these zones is ‘very expensive’ so it is much cheaper to use ‘Oyster or contactless PAYG’, although journey time limits mean that you should not spend too long at stations watching trains. Alternatively, use PAYG in one direction and buy a 'paper' single ticket in the other direction. Paper tickets do not have journey time limits so as long as you only travel in the correct direction (ie: no backtracking) and do not leave the station you should be OK. Alternatively, if you have a BritRail pass, Eurail pass or an All Line Rover then these can be used at any station that is served by Chiltern Railways trains. With these tickets it is best to only travel on Chiltern Railways diesel trains, as they may not be valid on Underground trains.

Also, be aware that these stations are a long way - even with 'fast' trains Amersham and Chesham are about an hour (60 minutes) from Central London (Aldgate). Getting to Chesham used to require a change of train at Chalfont & Latimer, but since 2010 almost all trains travel through to Baker Street (although it is usually faster to catch a Chiltern Railways train from Marylebone and change at Chalfont & Latimer). Chesham is a nice small town with a pedestrianised shopping street a few minutes walk from the station and the scenery out the window of the countryside is very pleasant.

Between Harrow-On-The-Hill and Amersham the Chiltern and (some) Metropolitan trains use the same tracks and operate a joint service. Chiltern Railway trains typically include toilets, seats with tables and even laptop power sockets.

Baker Street station frontage. . Baker Street station commemorative plaques.
Baker Street is the spiritual home of the Metropolitan Line.
These views show the main station frontage as seen from the Marylebone Road and a closer view of the plaques.
Clicking this link . will open (in a new window) a very large version of the image on the right so that the writing can be read.
Metropolitan Railway 1914 - 1918 war memorial. . Metropolitan Railway 1914 - 1918 war memorial.
Metropolitan Railway 1914 - 1918 war memorial which is next to platform 5 at Baker Street station.
Clicking this link . will open (in a new window) a very large version of the image on the right so that the names of the deceased can be read.
Baker Street station stairway down to ticket hall. . Baker Street station ticket hall.
A grandiose station entrance stairway which
leads to the Metropolitan Line ticket hall.
. Inside the Metropolitan Line ticket hall.
The standing passengers are waiting to see from which
platform their trains will depart - trains to Amersham, Chesham, Watford and Uxbridge usually depart from platform Nos. 1, 2, 4.
Typical Metropolitan Railway station exterior. . Typical grandiose Metropolitan Railway styled station building.

This is Edgware Road (subsurface) station which nowadays is
served by Hammersmith & City, Circle and District Line trains.

Other stations with similar frontages include:
Aldgate, Farringdon, Great Portland Street, Paddington (Praed Street - nowadays served by Bakerloo, District & Circle Lines) and
Willesden Green (now normally only served by the Jubilee Line).

Places where I sometimes go to watch trains on this route include the car park next to the northbound platform at Chorleywood and the road bridges near this station. If using Oyster PAYG as a ticketing solution then remember to 'touch-out' on the card reader before leaving the station - the exit to the car park has a card reader for this very purpose. If it does not register your exit then visit the ticket office and seek help.

I also like to go to Rickmansworth, the shopping street is near the station (turn right out of the station and walk though the road / pedestrian underpass below the railway) and I sometimes watch trains from the top floor of the car park at the Waitrose food store (keep walking past the underpass). The photograph (below) was taken from a footbridge to the south of the station - although there are railings I found a small gap which made this view possible.

Metropolitan Line Bridge Over Grand Union Canal. Chiltern 165 and S stock at Rickmansworth station.
Metropolitan Line S stock train crosses the bridge over
the Grand Union canal near to Watford (Met) station.
A Chiltern Railways Class 165 diesel train heading for
Marylebone and Metropolitan Line S stock train heading
for Amersham pass at Rickmansworth station.

The route to Uxbridge has a mix of stations, Ruislip is an older Victorian-era station whilst Hillingdon is modern with lots of glass - and peeling paint. Rayners Lane and Uxbridge are 1930’s ‘Art Deco’. Services are shared with the Piccadilly Line.

subsurface train passes tube train. . feet on train seat
Subsurface Metropolitan Line S stock 7+1 train passes a Piccadilly line tube train - the 7+1 S stock trains were ordered as extras for a service to Watford Junction that was cancelled due to lack of finance. These only have inwards-facing longitudinal seats. . Many passengers prefer this style of seating as it is easier to watch the passing scenery during the journey, alas however the disadvantage of facing seats is the disrespect shown to other passengers by using the seat opposite as a footrest.
Metropolitan Railway 1st class Jubilee Coach 353. . View through a (scratched) Metropolitan Line train window between Chesham and Chalfont & Latimer.
This montage shows a former 1st Class Metropolitan Railway Jubilee carriage which was built in 1887 for services to Amersham and beyond. It was withdrawn from service in 1905. More information can be found on the Nostalgia page of the citytransport.info website .. . Countryside as seen through a (scratched) Metropolitan Line train window between Chesham and Chalfont & Latimer.

Most of the Metropolitan line north of Baker Street is jointly operated with other services and this is looked at on the Shared Service Routes page.

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This page last updated 8th March 2020
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