Every day people take a London Underground train to get from point A to point B without considering the history of the lines they take. Underground Tube lines actually have some pretty fascinating histories, including the Hammersmith & City Line. This line actually started as an extension of the Metropolitan Line, which had opened in 1863 as the first underground railway in the world. At the time it opened the Meto ended at Paddington. Even before it opened, Parliament approved an extension that ran all the way to Hammersmith and was built off of the Great Western Railway’s mainline. The Hammersmith & City Railway then opened on June 13, 1864.
In the early days of the railway, the line had two intermediate stations at Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush. Train carriages would attach or detach at Notting Hill to switch over from the Met’s gauge rail (4’ 8.5”) to the Great Western Railway’s gauge (7’, 0.25”) to take the branch line down to Kensington. Starting in 1867, the Metropolitan Railway and Great Western Railway ran the line together, operating three running rails that utilized the gauges for both the Met and the GWR. Over the ensuing years, several other lines were connected to Hammersmith & City and the line was extended out to Aldgate in 1876 and Whitechapel in 1884. Electrification for the line occurred in 1906, with services shortened to Whitechapel and the line to Richmond being withdrawn that year. Services to New Cross and New Cross Gate were then withdrawn in 1914 when the East London Railway was electrified.
The next big change for Hammersmith & City came in 1933 when it was amalgamated into the London passenger Transport Board with every other Underground railway in 1933, designated the Hammersmith & City Line but still part of the Metropolitan Line. They relieve congestion from Whitechapel, in 1936 the London Passenger Transport Board diverted trains from the East London Line to Barking, which remains the line’s eastern terminus today. Service for the line during WWII was mostly uninterrupted except in 1940 when service to Kensington Olympia was temporarily suspended due to bomb damage. Between 1959 and 1960, the H&C and Circle Line railway vehicles were converted to the same formation, and their depot was located in Hammersmith. As part of the Metropolitan Line, Hammersmith & City ran goods as well as people up until the 1960s and 1970s. One-person operation was then introduced to the line in 1984.
A new chapter for Hammersmith & City began in 1990 when it was split off from the Metropolitan Line and officially designated the Hammersmith & City Line in its own right. The line’s official color on the London Underground map is “Underground Pink Pantone 197”. In 2003, the Hammersmith & City Line, much like the Metropolitan Line, was partially privatized and run by Metronet in a public-private partnership. This lasted until 2007 when Metronet went into administration and Transport for London resumed full management. From 2012 to 2014, the line’s C69 and C77 trains were upgraded to S7 stock trains to increase their capacity. Today, the line is nearly 16 miles long with a total of 29 stations running from Hammersmith to Barking. The entirety of the Hammersmith & City line is shared by numerous other Underground lines and it is one of the few that doesn’t have any portion of track or stations to itself.
And this brings us to the end of the history of the Hammersmith & City Line. While not as notable as other members of the London Underground, it shares a great deal of its history with the Metropolitan before striking out on its own be one of the most-used Tube lines with 114 million passengers a year. Think about that the next time you set foot on a Hammersmith & City train.