When the underground line was being built Nos. 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens were dismantled leaving just their 5ft-deep façades, the space left behind allowed the trains to empty their smoke boxes before entering the next tunnel. Today the fake houses can still be seen while behind them the District Line rattles along its way.
At Crystal Palace Park in 1864 a novel way of transporting the public through a tube was opened which obviated the need to let off steam. A large tube enough to accommodate entire carriages was assembled, and air was forced through the tube, in the manner of a bicycle pump, to propel the train and its hapless passengers along the tube’s entire length, at the other end of its quarter mile length giant fans would suck the train to its destination.
It cannot have come as a surprise to any passengers of this mode of transport to learn that it closed after a few months. Rumours later persisted that the tunnel was haunted with skeletons dressed in Victorian clothes still sitting in an old railway carriage. We shall never know as the site was demolished in 1911 to make way for the Festival of Empire celebrations.
Travel along the southern section of the Bakerloo Line and you enter the tube that the Waterloo & Whitehall Railway laid down in 1865. Running parallel with Hungerford Bridge this underwater cast-iron pipe was expected to take passengers in trains propelled along its length by fans sucking or blowing the carriages along. Fifteen trains an hour and costing 2d for a first class ticket, second class for a ha’penny less and third class at a bargain 1d. Unfortunately for its operators the company went bust before they could experience this ‘commodious, and well lighted’ form of transport.
A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 12th October 2012