I have a copy of an article published in The New York Times on March 7th 1898 which goes into detail about the construction of the first stage of what we today call the Central Line on the underground. As Shepherd’s Bush station is in the news at the moment thanks to its refurbishment, I thought it might be nice to transcribe it to the web for you to enjoy.

I particularly liked the way the writer tries to paint a picture showing how the Central Line would mirror a proposed railway in New York – although, I rather doubt modern day residents of Shepherd’s Bush would appreciate being linked with the modern day Harlem in New York.

Also worth noting how the railway was aiming to run trains at 2 minute intervals – a task barely achieved even today. Also note the comments about the locomotive engine – as the early electric railways had carriages pulled along by a separate engine – not the integrated carriages we have today.


New Underground Electric Railway Which Has Points of Interest for New Yorkers.


Will Run at Fourteen Miles an Hour Over a Route Much Like That Be-tween Wall Street and Har-lem in This City

The new underground railway now being built in London, to be operated by electricity, has special interest for New York people because its conditions are in many important respects almost precisely the same that would surround an underground railway in this city. The Street Railway Journal for March contains an elaborate description, with many illustrations, of the London railway. it will be six and a quarter miles long, and its route will correspond with curious exactness to that between Wall Street and Harlem. It will start near the Bank of England and go westward by Cheapside and the general Post Office; along Holborn Viaduct and High Holborn, where are the great bicycle and typewriter houses; thence to Oxford Street, Regent Street, and others, a shopping and theatre neighborhood like that between Fourteenth and Forty-second Streetsl on to Hyde Park, London’s Central Park, and to Queen’s Road, Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park, residence sections like the upper west side. The terminus will be at Shepherd’s Bush, which, in most important respects, answers well to represent Harlem.

The competition to be met resembles that which an underground road in New York would encounter. The London railway bisects the area served by the Metropolitan District Railway, (underground,) which runs around the “inner circle” of London in the same general way that the elevated railways do in New York. On the surface along the route of the new London railway there is an omnibus service in some respects like that given by our surface cars. Of course, many of the engineering problems and obstacles in London correspond with those that would be met here, although there are advantages and disadvantages peculiar to each city. One of the most difficult parts of the work in London is said to be the diversion of the sewer, gas, water, and other pipes.

Will Use American Machinery

Another fact that makes the new railway especially interesting to Americans is that practically all the apparatus for it is being built in this country. The locomotives, thirty-two in number; motors, generators, and rotary converters are being built by the General Electric Company of Schenectady, N.Y.; the power-house engines by the E.P. Allis Company of Millwaukee, Wis.; the station coal conveyors by the C.W. Hunt Company of this city, the piping values in the station by the Crane Company of Chicago, the rail bonds by the Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company of Worcester, Mass., and Harold P. Brown of New York; the air brakes by the Westinghouse Company of Pittsburg and the couplers by the W.T. Van Dorn Company of Chicago. The designing engineer is H.F. Parshall, an America.

The railway is expected to cost complete $15,000,000 and to be in operation by Jan. 1 1899. Three-fourths of the main-line tunnel and one-half of the station tunnel have been finished, and nearly all the elevator and staircase shafts have been constructed.

Trains of seven cars each, with total seating capacity of 336 for each train, will be run on two and a half minutes’ headway at first, but the road is constructed and equipped with the purpose of reducing the headway to two minutes as soon as the traffic requires it. Each train will weigh 105 long tons loaded exclusive of the locomotive. The average speed will be fourteen miles an hour, including twenty-second stops at each of eleven intermediate stations, requiring a maximum speed of thirty miles an hour. The tracks will be laid in a series of curved grades, so arranged that in approaching a station a train will go up grade, requiring less braking effort to stop, and in leaving will go down grade, gaining the force of gravity to accelerate speed and reduce the running power required. A saving of 33 per cent. in power, it is calculated, is effected by this device.

Many Mechanical Problems

The locomotives will have eight driving wheels, each 42 inches in diameter; will be 20 feet 8 inches long and 9 feet 8½ inches high, and will weigh 42 tons. They are of special design, having to meet the requirements of an eleven-foot-six-inch tunnel, and many serious mechanical difficulties have been ingeniously overcome.

The generating power station is at Shepard’s Bush, the extreme western end of the line, and there are transformer sub-stations at Nottingham Hill, Davies Street, and the Post Office, receiving current from the feeders at 5,000 volts, and delivering it through the transformers and rotary converters to the third and track rails at 500 volts.

The boiler house at the main generating station will contain sixteen Babcock & Wilcox boilers, grouped in eight batteries, and six Reynolds-Corliss cross-compound condensing engines, 24 and 46 inches by 48 inches.


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Article last updated: 15 June 2021 20:21


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