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
Shared Service Routes
London has many railway routes where services are shared between two or more different train operators / underground lines.
This takes two forms - either track sharing, which is where the different trains use the same tracks or route sharing, which is where the different services travel together side-by-side, but stay on their own tracks.
|A Euston - Watford Junction London Overground train passes a Bakerloo Line train at Willesden Junction. These trains share tracks between Queens Park and Harrow & Wealdstone. Above them is another Overground train on either the North London Line Stratford - Richmond or West London Line Clapham Junction - Willesden Junction (- Stratford, some trains only) service. This photograph was taken on one of the (several) passageways between the platforms.||Piccadilly Line 1973 Tube Stock and Metropolitan Line (subsurface)
S stock trains pass at Ruislip station, as seen from the A4180 West End Road bridge over the railway.
These trains share tracks between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge stations. This route is entirely within zone 6. Ruislip is a Grade ll listed Victorian-era heritage station. Beyond the lattice iron footbridge there are traditional railway style platform canopies.
*Although Piccadilly and District Line trains can use each other's tracks on the 4 track section between Barons Court and Acton Town they rarely do so - a pertinent point here being that some stations only have platforms which serve the District Line's tracks. Whilst both lines also follow the same route between Barons Court and South Kensington, they are grade separated with Piccadilly Line trains being deep underground and District Line trains being at subsurface level.
§Hammersmith & City Line trains do not normally travel between Barking and Upminster.
‡South of Harrow-On-The-Hill all Metropolitan Line trains 'route share' with Chiltern Railways trains. Between Harrow-On-The-Hill and Moor Park all Metropolitan Line trains to Watford plus the semi-fast and 'all stations' trains to Amersham and Chesham 'route share' with Chiltern Railways trains whilst the 'fast' Amersham and Chesham trains track share with Chiltern trains. North of Moor Park there are only two tracks and all Metropolitan Line trains track share with the Chiltern Railways trains.
A to B via C or D!
Sometimes it is possible to make the same journey - starting and ending at stations with the same name and without changing trains - yet travelling via different routes with different intermediate stations and different journey times. Note that sometimes services on one of the route 'pairs' detailed below are infrequent or only possible on weekdays (ie: NOT Saturdays, Sundays or Bank Holidays).On the Northern Line 'CX Branch' refers to trains via Charing Cross.
Additional Shared Service Route Information
This section looks at some of the shared service routes in greater detail.
District and Hammersmith & City Lines
In east London the route from Algate East to Barking is used by both District Line trains to Upminster and Hammersmith & City Line trains to Barking.
The two routes merge / diverge just to the east of Aldgate East station but whilst the junction can be seen from the station platform it is in tunnel and not easy to photograph.
|An eastbound S Stock Hammersmith & City train calls at Mile End where there is cross platform interchange with the Central Line.||An eastbound S7 train arrives at Bow Road station which is
partly underground and partly in open air (in a deep cutting).
Between Bow Road and Bromley-By-Bow stations the UndergrounD trains meet the route from Fenchurch Street station, as seen in the next section.
Fenchurch Street - Upminster
In East London the route from Fenchurch Street to Upminster mostly comprises of four (4) tracks with C2C trains using one pair and Underground or DLR trains using the other pair.
Between Fenchurch Street / Tower Gateway and Limehouse the C2C trains travel alongside the DLR. They operate in this formation...
North C2C >>> C2C <<< DLR >>> DLR <<< South
Between Bromley-By-Bow and Upminster the C2C trains travel alongside Underground trains, mostly operating in this formation.
North UND >>> UND <<< C2C >>> C2C <<< South
This section of four track route-shared railway merges / splits partway between Bromley-By-Bow and Bow Road stations, with Bow Road station being partially in open air / in a shallow cutting.
Between East Ham and Barking the route passes a C2C depot. Underground and eastbound C2C trains pass to the north of the depot whilst westbound C2C trains pass to the south of the depot.
Between Barking and Upney the route passes some District Line sidings. C2C and westbound District Line trains pass to the south of the sidings whilst eastbound District Line trains pass to the north of the sidings.
Until the line into Fenchurch Street was electrified the steam (and diesel) trains sometimes travelled on the same tracks as the Underground trains. Nowadays all trains keep to their own tracks and trains from Fenchurch Street miss out all intermediate stations - except West Ham, Barking and Upminster.
Therefore many (but not all) stations on this route have four platforms, but with two of them not being used anymore. Because the Underground trains are shorter than the mainline trains so many station platforms which they serve on this route have also been shortened.
Barking is a large station with a reputation for railway staff who do not welcome railfans and who often go out of their way to stop them taking photographs. But it is still possible - just watch who is around you!
Usually Eastbound District Line trains travelling towards Dagenham East or Upminster open their doors on both sides (platforms 1a and 2) for cross platform interchange with trains to Shoeburyness or Southend-on-Sea via Upminster on one side (platform 4) and London Overground trains for Gospel Oak on the other side (platform 1).
Looking east at Upton Park:
A westbound S Stock train calls at one side of an island platform,
the other side is the former eastbound C2C platform.
On the far right is the disused former westbound C2C platform towards Fenchurch Street station - even the steps
between the ticket hall and the platform have been removed.
Hammersmith & City and District line trains which end their journey at this station only open their doors alongside platform 2 (which is shared with C2C / platform 4) or use the dedicated bay platform 3, which is also shared with C2C platform 4.
Most westbound Underground trains use platform 6, which has cross-platform interchange with westbound C2C trains from Upminster going towards London Fenchurch Street (platform 5). The exception is the trains which use bay platform 3.
Platform 7 is used by eastbound C2C trains going to Dagenham Dock, Tilbury etc whilst platform 8 is used by westbound trains from these destinations going to Fenhcurch Street. Sometimes London Overground trains also use these platforms - instead of platform 1.
This page in the National Rail website includes much information about Barking station and a map showing the platforms:
Between 1910 and WW2 in 1939 the through Southend Corridor Express trains from Ealing Broadway to the seaside resort of Southend-On-Sea would change between steam and electric locomotives at either Barking or East Ham stations.
|The station building at Barking dates from the early 1960s.||A station layout guide which includes tactile braille information.|
|Looking through an eastbound District line S Stock train at
platform 2 with its doors open on both sides, behind it is a
London Doverground Class 710 train at platform 1.
|Looking out across the platforms at Barking station from a London Overground train at platform 1 - a westbound S stock train towards Aldgate East (and beyond) can be seen arriving at platform 6, behind it is an eastbound C2C train on a service via Dagenham Dock and Tilbury stations at platform 7.|
|Passing the disused portion of the platform on an eastbound
District line train as it arrives at Dagenham Heathway station.
This is one of several stations between Barking and Upminster
which was only built with a single island platform.
|Upminster station - C2C trains call at platforms 1 & 2,
District line trains call at platforms 3, 4 & 5 plus
London Overground trains call at platform 6 (not visible here).
Stratford - Canning Town [Jubilee Line / Docklands Light Railway]
This section of route sharing in east London is relatively new, as the DLR service along here only started in 2011. Prior to that the route was shared between North London Line and Jubilee Line trains, and even earlier than that this section of railway was a busy route used by passenger and freight trains serving London's Docklands.
Along the shared section of railway the Jubilee Line serves just three stations (Canning Town, West Ham, Stratford) whilst the DLR trains serve six stations. One of these is called Abbey Road, if you are a music fan and want to see the zebra crossing made famous by the Beatles pop group then you must go to St Johns Wood station on the Jubilee Line, and NOT this station.
An excellent photo location is the Stephenson Road bridge over the railway near to Star Lane DLR station. The link below leads to a Google map showing this location.
West Jubilee >>> Jubilee <<< DLR >>> DLR <<< East
|Jubilee Line and DLR (Stratford International branch)
trains pass between West Ham and Star Lane stations.
|From the same viewpoint but looking in a slightly different direction it is possible to see West Ham station.
This composite view shows a Hammersmith & City Line C stock train (above) and a C2C Class 357 Electrostar (below).
At Canning Town station DLR trains on east-west services to / from Bank or Tower Gateway stations use the platform above
the Jubilee Line trains whilst north-south DLR trains travelling to / from Stratford International station use a separate island
platform located at ground level between the westbound Jubilee Line tracks and the bus station.
The view on the right shows a southbound DLR train using the Stratford International platforms as seen from the inside of a westbound Jubilee Line train.
Note that the high level platforms at Canning Town station are very exposed - they are windswept and despite the platform canopy when it rains passengers need to stand well back to avoid becoming soaked. Being so exposed means that in the winter these platforms are also very cold!
London Overground and Bakerloo Line
Located between Queens Park and Harrow & Wealdstone in north London this is part of route that is mostly located alongside the London - Glasgow West Coast Main Line (WCML). The entire route has six  tracks - or more!
Travelling on a Bakerloo Line train north of Queens Park is very much recommended. Immediately to the north of this station through trains travel inside the depot trainshed (IMPORTANT: you *must* be on a Bakerloo line train, and not an Overground train) then the tracks merge and the Underground and Overground trains provide a shared service.
Since the Bakerloo Line uses small profile ‘tube’ trains and the Overground uses ‘mainline railway’ trains and the two types of train have very different internal floor heights relative to the tracks so there are also large height differences between the train floors and the station platforms - you must step up to board an Overground train, and down to board a Bakerloo line train.
At many stations you can also see many types of train passing by, including Avanti West Coast Pendolino tilting trains going to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, ‘outer suburban’ London Northwestern Railway trains going to Northampton and Birmingham, Southern trains which travel to south London (Clapham Junction, Croydon) - and of course freight trains.
The location which I've used to see the passing trains that is closest to Central London is near to Kensal Green station. On leaving the station turn left. The view looking down is more 'reasonable' than 'perfect'.
Harlesden is not a nice part of London and the few times I’ve used that station for trainspotting I have stood at the end of the platform that is away from the exit to the street.
Close to Willesden Junction there are some sidings and depots where a constantly changing selection of mainline rolling stock can often be seen. Also here is a London Overground depot.
There is a Bakerloo Line depot just to the north of Stonebridge Park station, part of it can be seen at the northern (Harrow) end of the northbound platform but it is better to travel on a train and look at it whilst passing by, as then you also pass some mainline railway sidings and depots where all sorts of InterCity and other rolling stock can sometimes be seen.
Sometimes I have been able to film Overground and Underground trains ‘side by side’ as they pass each other at Stonebridge Park and North Wembley stations. I can not guarantee that you will see this. At North Wembley I normally stand at the southern (London) end of the northbound platform, as it is away from the exit to the street and offers better views of the WCML tracks. If the trains pass in the station platform then photographers will find that the direction of the sun is not a problem.
A film which I took in 2010 and have placed on YouTube includes footage from North Wembley station showing an Underground and an Overground train passing each other.
Also seen is a 'race' between an Underground train and a container (freight) train, plus a passing Class 390 Virgin Pendolino tilting train.
|London Overground Class 710 and Bakerloo Line 1972 Mk2 Tube Stock trains pass just south of Willesden Junction station.||London Overground Class 378 and Bakerloo Line 1972 Mk2 Tube Stock trains pass at North Wembley station.|
Many people like to watch trains at South Kenton station, as you are right next to the WCML. The best views are at the London (south) end of the platform, but in sunny weather this is also the direction of the sun. Therefore I normally go there before 11am (11:00) or after 2pm (14:00).
Metropolitan / Jubilee / Chiltern
Located between Finchley Road and Amersham stations this route through north London variously features either two, four or six tracks and therefore is looked at in several sections.
Finchley Road - Wembley Park
All Metropolitan and Jubilee Line trains stop at Finchley Road.
All Jubilee Line trains stop at Wembley Park.
|Cross platform between Jubilee and Metropolitan line trains at Finchley Road station - with trains (on both lines) serving a range of destinations it is quite normal for passengers to wait on the platform for a train going to their required station.||Metropolitan Line trains only normally call at Willesden Green station at times of travel disruption or a special service - normally the platforms are closed and passengers are not allowed to be on them.|
Between Finchley Road and Wembley Park Jubilee Line trains call at all stations whilst Metropolitan Line trains usually travel non-stop.
Chiltern trains have exclusive use of a dedicated pair of tracks which extend all the way from London Marylebone to Harrow-On-The-Hill and do not call at any intermediate stations.
West Chiltern >>> Chiltern <<< Metropolitan >>> Jubilee >>> Jubilee <<< Metropolitan <<< East
I often stand at the southern end of West Hampstead station, as there is a frequent procession of Jubilee and Metropolitan Line trains to see, plus Chiltern trains travelling to and from Marylebone. This includes the Chiltern trains which at Neasden diverge and head towards Birmingham via West Ruislip and High Wycombe.
Two excellent photo locations which are on road bridges over the railway are at Mapesbury Road and Lydford Road between Willesden Green and Kilburn stations. The link below leads to a Google map showing their locations.
|Looking towards the historic Willesden Green station building from Lydford Road railway bridge.||Looking towards Kilburn station from Mapesbury Road railway bridge.|
At Wembley Park the Jubilee Line turns towards Stanmore and the Metropolitan Line splits into four tracks.
Wembley Park - Harrow-On-The-Hill
Between Wembley Park and Harrow-On-The-Hill the Metropolitan Line consists of four tracks (fast and slow / all stations) with the tracks used by Chiltern's trains located alongside.
At Harrow-On-The-Hill Chiltern Railways trains to Aylesbury use platform 1 whilst trains to Marylebone use platform 2. Fast Metropolitan Line trains to Amersham and Chesham usually use either platforms 1 or 3 whilst slow (all stations) trains can only use platform 3. Watford trains usually use platform 3 and Uxbridge trains usually use platform 4. Platforms 5 & 6 are used by Metropolitan Line trains going to Baker Street / Moorgate / Aldgate, typically platform 5 is for slow (all stations) trains and platform 6 for fast (ie: next station Finchley Road) trains. Worth noting is that although the tracks through platform 2 are electrified the power supply rails end just to the south of the station; therefore it is normally only used by the diesel Chiltern Railways services.
This page in the National Rail website includes much information about Harrow-On-The-Hill station and a map showing the platforms:
West Chiltern >>> Chiltern <<< Met Fast + Semi-Fast >>> Metropolitan Slow >>> Metropolitan Slow <<< Met Fast + Semi-Fast <<< East
Harrow-On-The-Hill - Moor Park - Amersham
Between Harrow-On-The-Hill and Moor Park there are four tracks - two are used by Chiltern Railways and fast / semi-fast Metropolitan Line services and two are used by all stations Metropolitan Line services. Trains travelling to Watford can only travel on the 'all stations' tracks.
North of Moor Park the fast tracks lead to Rickmansworth whilst the all stations / slow tracks split into two pair, one of which merges with the fast tracks and the other diverges towards Watford.
Between Rickmansworth and Amersham there are just two tracks which are used by both Metropolitan Line and Chiltern Railways trains.
West Met Fast + Chiltern >>> Met Fast + Chiltern <<< Met All Stations >>> Met All Stations <<< East
The direct route between Croxley and Rickmansworth is not normally used by trains carrying passengers.
|A Chiltern Railways Class 165 diesel train calls at
Harrow On The Hill station's platform No.2.
|Cupholders on a Chiltern Railways train which travels for part of its route on Metropolitan Line tracks.
These trains also have toilets and depending on the type of rolling stock they may have tables as well.
Note that going to Moor Park and further north requires a Travelcard which is valid in zones 7, 8, 9. These are very expensive!
One alternative solution would be to use PAYG and be careful to not spend too long inside the fares paid area. Some ticket machines also sell platform tickets, which cost £1. If buying a platform ticket remember to touch in/out with your Oyster or contactless card.
Passengers with BritRail / Eurail Passes or an All Line Rover can use these at Harrow-On-The-Hill and all stations Moor Park - Amersham. To avoid possible complications it is best to travel on Chiltern Railways trains from Marylebone station, and NOT Metropolitan Line trains.
Most of the photographs seen on this website were taken when I had one-day Travelcards for zones 2-9 which did not include zone 1, however these tickets are no longer sold - which is a shame, as the 1-9 version costs more than 3x the price of the former 2-9 one-day ticket.
These videos (filmed around 1992-4) on youtube will be of related interest...
Trains at Willesden Green - filmed in the 1990's shows Metropolitan Line, Jubilee Line and British Railways trains.
South of Wembley Park
District / Piccadilly Lines
Located in west London this route variously features either two or four tracks.
|Gloucester Road station.||South Kensington station.|
Between South Kensington and Barons Court the small profile Piccadilly Line tube trains are deep underground, whilst the large profile District Line subsurface trains are either on the surface or just below it.
On the four track section between Barons Court and Acton Town most Piccadilly Line trains travel between Hammersmith and Acton Town without stopping (usually using the middle tracks), whilst District Line trains call at all stations.
North District >>> Piccadilly >>> Piccadilly <<< District <<< South
South Kensington and Gloucester Road stations both opened in 1868, albeit a few months apart. This was in the steam train era. The part of the stations which we nowadays know as the Piccadilly line opened in 1906. The present-day South Kensington station which features a small arcade of retail shops and decorative metal scrollwork at each end opened in 1907.
A distinctive feature at South Kensington station is the subterranean footpath which links the railway station with several of the visitor attractions in the area, including the Natural History, Victoria & Albert and Science museums.
Before the building of the Piccadilly line there was a plan by the District Railway to build an express tube line between South Kensington and Mansion House, with just one intermediate station at what nowadays is called Embankment. Whilst this never came to pass an extra deep level platform intended for westbound trains was built - and still exists today, albeit not where passengers can see it - plus with future junctions in mind part of the Piccadilly line tunnels were built to an enlarged diameter - this can be seen, if you know what to look for.
There are two Underground stations at Hammersmith. The District and Piccadilly Lines use the station which has been modernised and included as part of a shopping centre whilst the Hammersmith & City and Circle Line trains use the former Metropolitan Railway station which is a short walk away and remains largely as built in 1868.
The shopping centre now surrounding Hammersmith station (District and Piccadilly) includes a very pleasant all-day pub with plenty of seating for tired railfans and a good choice of beers, with a nice atmosphere.
During the day Piccadilly Line trains normally pass through Turnham Green station without stopping. A few Piccadilly Line trains call here very early in the morning and late in the evening.
Chiswick Park station http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2CuicFD63I
Stamford Brook Station http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMG2O9I5XSs
Between Acton Town and Ealing Common stations the line passes a large District Line depot.
Ealing Common station only has two tracks which are used by both Piccadilly and District line trains. Because of the different floor heights above the tracks passengers boarding trains need to step up into the larger trains, and down into the smaller trains. Sometimes you see ‘one of each’ train in the station at the same time - probably the rush hours are best as the trains are more frequent. I normally stand on the platform used by trains going to Ealing Broadway / Rayners Lane - Uxbridge. I prefer the far end (London) end of this platform as it is away from the station exit and opposite a junction where trains can go into the depot. Because of this junction it is often possible to see a some ‘sparking’ of the electric power collection shoe as trains travelling towards Acton Town leave the station.
Close observation will show that both types of train can be seen in both platform views. Filmed at Ealing Common station.
Trains at Ealing Common station feature in one of my YouTube videos.
District Line / North London Line [London Overground]
|District Line S stock and London Overground Class 378 trains pass at Gunnersbury station, as seen from the road near the station entrance.||District Line D78 stock and London Overground Class 378 trains pass at Kew Gardens station.|
Located in south-west London the line between Gunnerbury and Richmond is used by District Line trains to Upminster and London Overground (North London Line - NLL) trains to Stratford.
Over the years I have sometimes been able to photograph one of each type of train ‘side by side’ at Kew Gardens and Gunnersbury stations, especially after 16:00 (4pm) in the evening rush hour when the District Line trains are more frequent. There is a road bridge at the southern end of Kew Gardens station which offers excellent views of passing trains. Kew Gardens station includes a public house which is popular with the locals. At one time there was an entrance to one of the station platforms, however now that the station has electronic gates the doorway has been closed. Note that the two platforms have separate sets of ticket gates - both the pedestrian underpass and foot bridge are now 'outside' of the fares paid area. Passengers wishing to reach the 'other' platform must effectively leave the station and then re-enter it.
Richmond is a fair-sized station controlled by South Western Railway. The platform circulating area includes a coffee shop with tables where you can watch trains come and go. The glass skylight affords weather protection in inclement weather. Platforms 1 and 2 are through platforms for South Western Railway services - typically nowadays just electric multiple units of various types. Platforms 3 to 7 are terminating platforms, London Overground NLL services can use any of these platforms but the lack of fourth (electric power supply) rail prevents District Line trains from using platform 3 whilst since the introduction of S stock trains District Line services are not allowed to use platform 7.
Richmond station is also included on the Busier Suburban Stations page about suburban stations in zones 3 or 4 where there is a wide variety of trains to see.
citytransportinfo is also here:
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