Another look back at the construction of the world’s oldest underground passenger railway as seen by the Illustrated London News – this time from February 1862.

Apart from its description about the divertion works for the Fleet river, not that at the beginning of 1862, they still expected the railway to open in just a few months time. It took nearly a year longer to complete.



In a few months Paddington will probably be joined to the City by a new thoroughfare, the Metropolitan Railway. This line has a width of nearly thirty feet, and its tunnelled arch along the line of what is known as the New-road forms a graceful curve, the majestic sweep of which can be seen at any point, as the whole is well lighted with gas.

In the half of the contract which is being carried out by Messrs. Smith and Knight, extending from the Great Western Railway terminus to Euston-square, there remain only three pieces to be got through. In the Euston-road, 107 lineal yards have to be bored; in the Marylebone-road, 303 yards; and at the junction of the Portland-road, 197 yards.

That portion of the tunnel situated in the Euston-road, from Euston-square to King’s-cross, of which Mr. Jay is the contractor, is completed, and the open cutting in being rapidly proceeded with.

Fleet ditch is tuned and its bed laid bare, a tunnel having been made under it for the rapid removal of the rubbish which comes from the destruction of the houses cityward.

Out View, illustrative of a portion of the works in progress for this vast undertaking was sketched at the foot of Frederick-street, Gray’s-inn-road, at its junction with Bagnigge-wells-road, formerly celebrated, among other things, for its spa and for containing the summer residence of Nell Gwynee. Looking towards King’s-cross, the streets seen in our Engraving through which the Metropolitan Railroad has breached its way are – first, in the distance, Britannia-street, next Swinton-street, then Acton-street and finally Frederic-street.

It is at this point that the Fleet Ditch is temporarily diverted from its course, previously to its being boxed up, as it is at King’s-cross, in an iron tube; and hence we catch what may possibly be a last glimpse of the Fleet, now a sewer, but once a crystal stream running its short but pleasant career from smiling uplands through orchards, gardens and meadows, to slide at last, “babbling o’ green fields,” into what was then the “silver Thames.”


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