It was once possible to catch a London Underground train out as far as Windsor, in Berkshire.

Launched by the District Railway on 3rd March 1883, the extension of the line wasn’t a success and it closed just 18 months later, with the last train on 30th September 1884.

It also arrived earlier than planned, but in the wrong way.

In 1880/81, the District Railway put forward a bill that would let it extend the railway from near Ealing up towards Uxbridge, with an implication that it wanted to loop around to Slough, and then Windsor.

The bill was blocked in 1881, and it was announced that the District Railway and the Great Western Railway had come to an agreement to run District line trains over the mainline railway out of Paddington to Windsor.

Not much was heard until February 1883 when it was announced that the company had agreed to launch the service, offering 10 trains per day each way extending the line from Ealing out to Windsor.

Just a month later, on Thursday 1st March 1883, District line trains ran a service from Mansion House to Windsor – using a connection at Ealing to switch from the Underground tracks onto the GWR mainline tracks out to Slough and then down the spur line to Windsor.

The normal service took an hour and a half, with an express doing it in an hour and a quarter.

To provide some context, today, even with changes needed at Paddington and Slough, the same journey would take just an hour and forty minutes.

There is a photograph of one of the Windsor trains here.

It was however not a huge success, and both the District line and the Great Western Railway jointly announced that the service would be discontinued from 30th September 1885, and there would instead be a “greatly improved” interchange at Ealing station instead.

Although the direct service was now discontinued, the District Railway continued to advertise a joint service with the GWR and the ability to buy through tickets from any Underground station to Windsor — with a change at Ealing — for several years afterwards.

As 2023 will mark the 140th anniversary of the District line starting the Windsor service, maybe there’s time to set up a heritage run with some old tube train carriages and a steam train – the London Underground can reach Windsor once more.

Although it may seem odd to run tube trains over mainline railways – it still happens to this day.

Network Rail owns the railway between Richmond and Gunnersbury which is then shared with the District line, and they own the tracks north of Queen’s Park used by the Bakerloo line.

And although, since 1994 it’s been owned by the London Underground, there are still the occasional national rail trains running along the District line between East Putney and Wimbledon, although that’s not a passenger service, just getting empty trains to the depot.

Sources:

Berkshire Chronicle – Saturday 04 June 1881

Globe – Thursday 01 February 1883

Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette – Saturday 03 March 1883

Windsor and Eton Express – Saturday 03 October 1885

Addendum:

Before anyone says it, there was also an occasional holiday service the other way, from London out to Southend between 1920 and 1939. That’s for another article.

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12 comments on “The time the London Underground reached Windsor
  1. Alex Mckenna says:

    At least TEN different typefaces in that first leaflet. The Victorians certainly liked variety in their printing. SO different to the current book of “Style Rules” that LT insists upon.

  2. There’s a webpage somewhere that shows unusual train routings – I can’t find it right now but I’m pretty sure it shows two passenger services going down the Wimbledon line, in the early hours of the morning. They don’t stop – just pass through.

    At one point South West Trains would use it when the mainline was closed for engineering work. I once sat on a train that was sent that way. It was quite weird.

  3. djb.thirteen says:

    Passenger services run (or at least, used to before Corona) between East Putney and Wimbledon. They run to/from Waterloo, via the Reading to Waterloo-side platforms at Vauxhall & Clapham Junction, turn onto the District branch at Point Pleasant Junction, then onto Wimbledon and the South Western Mainline.

    In ordinary times they are the 0042 Waterloo to Strawberry Hill, 2312 and 0105 Waterloo to Basingstoke, and 0454 and 2254 Basingstoke to Waterloo.

    • Peter Williams says:

      I think I remember being told that these trains ran via East Putney to ensure that drivers remain familiar with it, in case they need to use it as a diversionary route.

      Until Covid, I commuted from Woking to Waterloo daily for 30 years, and I was diverted via Putney on at least half a dozen occasions.

  4. Ken Wheatley says:

    Underground services also run on NR metals between Queens Park and Harrow and Wealdstone, and NR trains run on Underground tracks between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham.

  5. barbicanman says:

    I suspect ‘one hour and forty minutes’ today should read ‘one hour and four minutes’, which matches the wording of the sentence and is correct.

  6. Peter Wright says:

    V interesting. Anyone able to expand my knowledge of LNER B17s at Windsor. 61665 13/8/56 Leicester-Oxford-Windsor excursion. 61661 5/6/59 Purfleet-Windsor excursion & unidentified B17 at Acton 23/4/50. Photographs?

    Historian The B17 Steam Locomotive Trust.

  7. Rob Skinner says:

    This brought back memories. Not of the Windsor service itself – I’m not that old – but of a detailed Railway Magazine article on the topic in, I think, 1980. Thank you.

  8. Peter Wright says:

    Further to my previous comment. There is a reference in ‘Trains Illustrated May, 1954 pg 203 that the North London Railway tried a through service to Windsor in the summer of 1854. It was abandoned after just 5 months.

    Historian, The B17 Steam Locomotive Trust.

  9. David Thomas says:

    The GWR later also considered, at Board level, having its own third rail service as a (very long) extension of what we now call the Hammersmith & City, running from Paddington (Bishops Road)to Windsor or Maidenhead.
    Its non-electric passenger trains did run through, with a change from steam to electric at Bishops Rd.

  10. Ben says:

    The shabby MyLondon seem to have ‘borrowed’ this content – I’m sure it happens all the time but it appeared promoted in my Facebook feed and seemed so obvious a half-arses copy of your content I thought I’d share

    https://www.mylondon.news/news/west-london-news/lost-london-underground-line-once-18407811

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