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A Brief History of the Bakerloo Line

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Like a lightning bolt running through the city, the Bakerloo line gets passengers where they’re going nearly as fast and has been doing so for over 100 years.  Its name is a portmanteau of two parts of London through which it ran when it first opened in 1906.  You might be interested to learn, however, that its history goes back well before this and into the 19th Century when it was very nearly the first major rival to the Metropolitan Railway.  Join us as we explore the history of one of the London Underground’s Bakerloo Line from its earliest history to the present.

As mentioned, the roots of the Bakerloo line go back well before its opening in 1906.  Two years after the Metropolitan Railway (now the Metropolitan Line) opened, a pneumatic railway was proposed called the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway.  Trains would have used air pressure to provide power for the trains’ propulsion.  However, the line was hit by a financial crisis during 1866 while it was under construction, and the proposal was ultimately abandoned in 1870.  Parliament incorporated the partly-constructed line in 1882.  Another attempt was made at establishing a line in this same year, this one an electric railway called the Charing Cross and Waterloo Electric Railway.  However, the Metropolitan Board of Works opposed the plan, and after the corporation’s owner died in 1883, the plan fell apart.

After the success of the City and South London Railway electric line in 1890, a private bill was put forward to Parliament in 1891 proposing the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway.  Three other similar bills were proposed in the next year, and a select committee was formed to decide which should be approved.  The committee approved a plan that ran from Baker Street to Waterloo with stops at Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Embankment.  In 1896, an extension to Marylebone was added to the plans.  Raising funds proved to be one of the line’s earliest challenges, especially after one of the financers, Whitaker Wright, was convicted of fraud in 1904 and committed suicide after the verdict was read. 

A Brief History of the Bakerloo Line

Construction began in 1898, and when the line first opened in 1906, a pamphlet published by the Underground Electric Railways Company of London suggested that it had been started by a group of businessmen who wanted to get from the city to the Lords Cricket Grounds.  Nearly from the beginning, most Londoners shortened the railway’s name to “Bakerloo.”  Stations were designed by Leslie Green with similar features, including steel frames, flat roofs, and oxblood-colored tiles.  One prominent example still in use is the Oxford Circus station.  By 1907, the line expanded to Edgeware Road in the North and Elephant & Castle in the South.  The line expanded several more times before it was consolidated with other underground railways by the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933. 

To alleviate congestion on the Metropolitan Line in the 1930s, the LPTB transferred services for Stanmore to Bakerloo in 1939.  The tunnels for the new Bakerloo services were built underneath the Metropolitan tunnels.  Stanmore would stay with the Bakerloo line until it was transferred to the Jubilee Line about forty years later.  No other major changes were made for years, and proposed extensions of Bakerloo further south didn’t materialize until 2019, with an extension to Lewisham via Old Kent Road due to open in 2030.  For now, however, the Bakerloo line runs from Elephant & Castle to Harrow & Wealdstone and will still get you to the Lords Crick Grounds in a hurry if you really want to catch the match. 

John Rabon
Author: John Rabon

John is a regular writer for Anglotopia and its sister websites. He is currently engaged in finding a way to move books slightly to the left without the embarrassment of being walked in on by Eddie Izzard. For any comments, questions, or complaints, please contact the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson's haircut.

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