Part five of a five part series.

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There was some suggestion that the abandoned cut/cover tunnel by Whitehall would be reused by the proposed Charing Cross and Waterloo Electric Railway of 1883[27] . However, that plan never came to fruition, and frankly, I am personally dubious as to whether the tunnel would have been large enough for their purposes.

Another interesting after-effect of the pneumatic railway was to be felt some 50 years later, during the construction of the Bakerloo Line tube tunnels under the Thames.

The tunnelling for that tube tunnel had expected to run through clay all the way across the river, but ran into a line of gravels, which caused a considerable amount of problems. They had to pressurize the cutting head for the new tunnel to stop the gravel and water flooding into the new tunnel, and the air pressure had to be maintained at such a level that the air escaped forwards and up through the river bed.

A small fountain was thus seen in the Thames at the head of the Bakerloo Line tunnels as they progressed through this gravel bed[28].

Although not proven, it was suggested that the gravels had filled in the trench dredged out by the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway in the 1860s[29] and then later silted up, and certainly my study of the maps suggests this would be highly likely.

Side drawing of the River Thames showing V shaped dip in the river bed

A couple of comments I have read in the past that mention the railway in passing claimed that at least one of the iron tubes had been lain in the Thames, and was still down there. If true this would be incredibly exciting. However, there was no mention of that in the abandonment notice, nor in later correspondence about the Bakerloo Line tunnel which cut through the dredged river bed[30]. The Port of London Authority carry out regular surveys of the area, and while their surveys haven’t looked soil changes caused by the silt infill into the dredged channel, their other surveys haven’t found any evidence of an iron tube in the river bed either.

So does anything remain at all of the railway?

Whatever happened to the iron tubes is a mystery. Presumably melted down and the iron reused, but there are not enough surviving written records of the Samuda Brothers works on the Isle of Dogs to offer even the slightest hint.

The site of the Whitehall railway station became the police headquarters, later Scotland Yard — and is now the site of a classical building which is being converted into a hotel. A Museum of London Archaeology report into the site[31] makes no mention of the railway at all. Whatever might have been underground there was probably swept away by the construction of the current building.

It has been claimed[32] that when the Shell Centre was constructed on the South Bank in 1961, the remains of the cut and cover tunnel were unearthed when they dug down for the basement. Certainly it is in the right location and depth, but numerous enquiries to prove the claim have proved fruitless, and no academic documents about the tower’s construction mention it.

As of 1955, it was claimed[33] that the cut/cover tunnel in Whitehall was still in place, and buried underground untouched – or more likely, filled in with rubble to prevent collapse.

Excitingly though, what could be a remnant of the cut and cover tunnel in Whitehall is accessible to visit.

Deep underneath what was the National Liberal Club building, and is now the Royal Horseguards Hotel lies an oddly isolated little room even deeper than the main basement, and that is used today as a wine cellar away from the rest of the hotel basement facilities. This is said to be remains of the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway[34].

I can’t prove it is the tunnel, although it is in the right place and depth, and although it is a cleaned up underground room, it felt right when I paid it a visit. Apart from being a wine cellar, it can now be hired for corporate events[35].

I wonder how many people realise they are sipping posh wine in an old railway tunnel?

The End.

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  1. The Morning Chronicle, October 16th 1861
  2. Atmospheric Railways, Charles Hadfield
  3. The Times, 29th August 1864
  4. The London Standard, June 8th 1865
  5. The Morning Post, June 30th, 1865
  6. The Morning Post, June 15th 1865
  7. The Aberdeen Journal, Jun 28th 1865
  8. The Pall Mall Gazette, October 26th 1865
  9. The Leeds Mercury, October 27th 1865
  10. The London Standard, October 26th 1865
  11. English Heritage, Fenian bombing BL05153
  12. Scientific American, November 1866
  13. The Pall Mall Gazette, December 15th 1866
  14. The Pall Mall Gazette, January 5th 1867
  15. The Times, September 4th 1867
  16. The Morning Post, May 1st 1868
  17. The Times, February 26th 1869
  18. The Daily News, February 27th 1869
  19. Hansard, April 16th 1869
  20. English Heritage NMR CC97/01434
  21. London Gazette, September 13th 1870
  22. The Railway News, July 24th 1869
  23. London Gazette, December 8th, 1871
  24. Liverpool Mercury, April 25th 1866
  25. The Story of the Submarine, Farnham Bishop, 1916
  26. Law Commission (32/195/160) LAW/005/016/06
  27. The New York Times, May 6th 1883
  28. Minutes of the Proceedings of The Institution of Civil Engineers. Vol CL Session 1901-1902, Part IV
  29. Minutes of the Proceedings of The Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 150: Issue 1902
  30. Minutes of the Proceedings of The Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 150: Issue 1902
  31. MOLA, 3-5 Great Scotland Yard, March 2012
  32. Wikipedia – Shell Centre
  33. The Railway Magazine September 1955
  • Also used extensively, are records from the National Archives.


1861-10-20: Test tunnel installed in Battersea Park

1864-02-29: Pneumatic railway proposed to run from Victoria Station to Blackfriars along the Embankment. In order to secure permission – Mr Rammell proposed building a test in Crystal Palace.

1864-08-30: Test pneumatic railway constructed at Crystal Palace.

1865-05-15: The prospectus is published in the national press.

1865-06-26: The bill passed approved by the Commons and sent to the Lords.

1865-07-05: The Waterloo and Whitehall Railway Act 1865 is passed.

1865-10-25: Construction starts

1865-11-17: An application was made for a pneumatic railway in Manchester running under Victoria Street to London Road.

1865-12-09: Plans were outlined by Sir Charles Fox for a pneumatic railway to run under the river Mersey linking Liverpool with Birkenhead.

1866-02-01: A bill was requested to extend the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway from Waterloo southwards under Waterloo mainline station to Cross Street, Newington Butts.

1866-02-09: A bill for a pneumatic railway was proposed running in a tube under the Thames from London Bridge station to a point near Leadenhall Market.

1866-02-22: At the first half-yearly board meeting, the minutes recorded that the details for the construction of the railway had been settled and the contractors were to proceed.

1866-03-16: The Thames Embankment Committee agreed with the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway plans to enable its tunnel works under the planned Embankment by Whitehall.

1866-05-10: Overend, Gurney and Co., Britain’s leading discount bank collapses.

1866-08-01: A meeting of shareholders revealed that the company was seeking additional funding.

1866-11-20: Notice was given that the company was seeking an extension on the deadline permitted in the 1865 Act so that the company could raise more money, and also to enter into talks with the London and South Western Railway for cooperation on running the W&W railway.

1866-11-23: Notice was given that the W&W was seeking permission to work with the Metropolitan Railway and extend the railway to terminate near the modern day Embankment tube station.

1866-12-07: A board meeting announced to the shareholders that a further £40,000 would be needed to complete the construction works.

1866-12-15: Construction halted due to a lack of cash.

1867-02-01: A shareholder in the company, Mr Rothwell Ponnsett was appointed to the board of directors. He would later sue the company.

1867-05-22: A meeting of the London and South-Western Railway company was held to consider proposals to lend £33,000 to the W&W Railway but the Board rejected the plans.

1867-06-14: A board meeting was held to seek approval for a new bill being presented to Parliament to enlarge the powers of the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway.

1867-10-30: An inquest was held into the death of a young woman whose body was found near the W&W railway works, having apparently floated between two chains of the worksite. The verdict was “found drowned” – a common verdict in likely suicides.

1867-12-03: It was reported that although the W&W Railway had made only “some progress” in its construction and was seeking an extension on their permit – a new railway tunnel was being proposed for Tower Hill – later to be known as the Tower Subway.

1868-11-24: The Metropolitan (Southern District) Railway made an application to Parliament for permission to build a railway that would link up with the W&W, and for powers to compel them to sell or enter into an agreement with the Met Line.

1869-07-08: An Extraordinary Meeting was called for this date to discuss the abandonment of the railway.

1870-09-02: The Board of Trade issued a warrant ordering that the railway be abandoned by the company.

1871-05-12: The company was formally wound up by court order after the Board of Trade made the request the previous September.

1871-08-09: John Parson was appointed to be the official liquidator of the failed railway company.

1871-12-08: Notice was given that any outstanding creditors had until the 12th January 1872 to submit their claims.

1877-07-05: A pneumatic railway has been proposed to link the Albert Hall to South Kensinton station.

1882-02-04: Plans for a pneumatic railway running between Aldgate and Shepherd’s Bush were announced and were due to be presented to Parliament shortly. The tunnel would be 50 feet below ground to avoid sewers and would have 15 stations. It mirrors the later Central Line in concepts.

1883-05-06: A proposal was made for the “Charing Cross and Waterloo Electric Railway Act 1882” to construct a twin bore tunnel very much along the same alignments as the earlier pneumatic railway but using electric lomotives. The company secured permission, but was unable to raise the necessary funds and was abandoned in 1885.

1899-05-02: Tunneling for the Bakerloo Line was affected by a 45ft deep depression in the river bed left over from the W&W dredging works.

2009-09-04: The government finally repealed the Waterloo and Whitehall Railway Acts of 1867, 1867 and 1868.


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