Fairly recently, a chap called Moffat wrote a story about an underground railway in Westminster — to considerable fury of tube geeks who spent an inordinate time chewing over holes in the plot.

However, in 1846, another chap called Moffat was also thinking about railways in Westminster, and produced this grand scheme.

The Proposed Railway Street Through Westminster

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Not quite an underground railway, although I suspect that considering the value of land in the area today, it would have been built over by now.

I have however been unable to find out anything else about this proposed railway. Where did it go, who was planning it, who was paying for it.

I suspect that it might be just one of those drawings put out occasionally by architects to drum up publicity for their practice, or tempt potential investors into a project.

A very close look suggests that it would have run right in front of Westminster Abbey, which is probably why it didn’t get much further than a drawing. There was a railway planed to run into Westminster — the Westminster Terminus Railway — but that terminated a couple of streets away, so this can’t be a drawing for that.

Indeed it would also be odd for W B Moffatt to be engaged in building a railway as from what little is known about him, he had little, if any experience in such matters.

He was in fact a builder’s son who had collaborated for about a decade with the considerably more famous George Gilbert Scott in his early career. During that time they mainly worked on workhouses for the poor and a few churches.

Later Moffatt went on to build a few churches of his own, or refurbished others.

But railways, nope — doesn’t seem likely.

Nonetheless, it’s an interesting picture, so I leave it here as a curiosity.

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3 comments on “Unbuilt London: The Victorian proposal for a railway to Westminster Abbey
  1. Alan Burkitt-Gray says:

    Haven’t seen this one before, but Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde have a whole chapter of mad railway schemes in their London as it Might Have Been (John Murray, 1982).

    This picture looks remarkably like the one on p137 of that book, except that shows a four-track railway in a cutting down the line of Farringdon Street, with St Paul’s (in the wrong place) in the background.

    There was also (pp126-128) a plan for a Westminster Bridge and Deptford Railway, presumably to link up with the London and Greenwich Railway, opened in 1836, with a wonderful palazzo-like arcade underneath the viaduct.

    And, of course, none of these projects were built.

    Amazon’s selling the book secondhand from £16 and new at around £100-£130.

  2. Sykobee says:

    Crayonistas in the 19th century certainly put a lot of detail and effort into their concepts!

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