Just outside Epping tube station, commuters might have noticed an old tube train rusting away, and thought little of it, but this locomotive is the remains of a very odd development in tube history.

Locomotive L11

Locomotive L11

This is Locomotive L11, and it’s a hybrid of two engines glued together from a time when tube trains needed large engines at each end to pull them along.

The earliest underground trains were naturally, steam-powered, but when electric locomotives were developed, they were electrically similar to steam engines, a separate unit pulling the train.

Today all the engines and electrics are hidden underneath the carriage — but in the 1920s, there was an intermediate stage. London Underground developed the “standard stock”, where only the front half of the front carriage was the engine, which allowed for the back half to be used for passenger seating.

Although the first of the modern style tube trains were developed in the 1930s, these standard stock trains (where nothing was made to standard), lasted right up to the mid-1960s.

This brings us to Epping, and the Locomotive L11.

Faded London Transport lettering

Faded London Transport lettering

In 1964, two locomotives were cut in half, and the two engines stuck back together to form a rather unique shunting locomotive to use in the depots. With two engines in use, it was more than powerful enough for its job shifting tube trains around.

There is a bit of space between the two engine units, which is the remains of the old passenger compartment. If you were to look closely, the bogies for the wheels came from two different railway companies, so this weird hybrid machine could well be made up of more than three different machines.

If it were a car, it’s one of those dodgy garage insurance jobs. But it’s a train engine, and specially designed to be like this.

The old passenger area

The old passenger area

The old door in the front of the train also had a new window cut in at the bottom so that the driver could see the couplers and make sure they had connected correctly to whatever was about to be shunted.

Otherwise, the interior was left untouched. The same wooden flooring, the same olde-world driver controls, the padded seat fraying away, grease and oil everywhere.

A hole cut in the drivers cab door

A hole cut in the drivers cab door

Today, it’s a seemingly abandoned locomotive rusting away on the sidings by Epping station. Actually, it’s not rusting, that’s a red anti-rust paint that’s been put on to conserve the metalwork while the wider restoration is carried out.

It’s looked after by Cravens Heritage Trains, who are also restoring the Epping Signal Cabin next door, so two separate pieces of railway heritage will eventually form a single visitor attraction.

It arrived just over a decade ago, in April 2004, and although not much was done for some years, it is now under active restoration. It’ll never return to the railways, but the aim is to renovate it to the point where people can go into the driver’s cab, walk through the old passenger section and out the other end.

A chance to see a very odd bit of tube history.

In the meantime, the restoration team are always on the look out for volunteers to help, or cash to be donated, and you can read more here.

There’s also a limited edition number of models being made, which you can read about here.

The engine room

The engine room

Addendum, I think this was one of the days when I must have flicked the wrong switch on my camera, the photos all came out dark and slightly blurry. Sorry. A range of better photos is here.


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  1. Kit Green says:

    From the mid sixties some of the standard stock lived on. They moved to the Isle of Wight when the last of the islands railways was electrified. They remained there for about 25 years.

  2. Marlene -White-Cuppy says:

    Sure is good news that it is going to be restored. I grew up a railroad brat as the New York Central Railroad ran through the center of my Grandfather`s farm where I grew up. I would like to know exactly where this is, and when it is finished being restored. Thank you for posting this, I had never heard of anything like this. I live in Shiloh, Ohio.

  3. Stephen Middleton says:

    Similar job is the North Eastern Railway petrol electric auto car, built 1903 in York, being resorted in Yorkshire. Engine in one half, passengers in the other. Acquired as a home in two halves, now back together. See http://www.electricautocar.co.uk for details.

  4. drhhmb says:

    Apart from the stock on the Isle of Wight, some lingered on the Underground into the seventies. A number of 1938 stock trains on the Bakerloo Line included a standard stock trailer, presumably as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

  5. Mike Jordan says:

    There is also a special (London Transport infrastucture) or similar train parked at Northfields depot with the front painted blue with a yellow stripe. It looks like a standard 1960s (?) stock with one set of doors in each carriage blocked off. I will try and get aphoto tomorrow although it is abit hidden behind adjacent hedges.

  6. Peter Harris says:

    Quite a few conversions of this type were produced by Acton Works for various purposes. Another oddity is the electric sleet locomotive preserved in the LT Museum’s Depot. This consisted of two tube driving cars dating from the early 1900s cut and spliced back to back in the same manner as L11 with two additional non powered bogies. The space between the two switch compartments contained tanks of de-icing fluid which was sprayed onto the power rails during frosty weather.

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