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.
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
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.