LogoClive's UndergrounD Line Guides

"I've travelled out to Ongar
On the dear old Central Line.
I even went to Ruislip
In Nineteen Forty Nine."

- Neasden
W. Rushton

LogoCentral Line

An Independent Tube

[last modified 2014-08-01]

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History
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Dates
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Features
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Services
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Topology
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Layout
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Depots
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Connections
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Rolling stock

History

The Central London Railway was formed in 1891 to build a tube railway along the east-west axis of London, connecting the western suburbs to the City. The line, which opened in 1900, ran straight along Oxford Street and its extensions to each end - Bayswater Road and High Holborn. The original western terminus was Shepherd's Bush, from which a single line ran to a surface depot at Wood Lane.

The line used electric locomotives for a short time, but problems with excessive vibration caused them to be replaced by multiple-unit stock, the last loco-hauled train running on 1903-06-07. There were also two steam locos, used mostly in the depots to allow stock to be moved without using power rails. Later some of the electric locos were fitted with trolley poles to draw power from overhead wires in the depots.

Though there were initial plans to provide two classes of seating, these were abandoned before opening (the resulting variety of seats remained for many years). Instead the company went to the other extreme: not only was there only one class of seat, but the fare was 2d irrespective of distance, leading to the nickname "The Twopenny Tube" (the flat fare was abandoned on 1907-07-01 with the introduction of a 3d fare for long journeys).

The company used the telegraphic address RHEOMOTOR.

When the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition made it desirable to open a station at Wood Lane, it was built on a new loop track with platforms on both sides and the depot inside the loop. The existing depot entrance line was retained as the westbound track (to stay under the streets this line makes what is still the sharpest curve - the Caxton Curve - on the entire Underground system). This meant that, to fit into the available space, the new eastbound track had to pass underneath the westbound and trains ran anticlockwise around the loop. When trains became longer, the platform inside the loop could not be lengthened without fouling the depot access track, and the solution was to extend it with a movable section 11 m (36') long which could swivel back about 0.9 m (3') to clear the access track when necessary.

From 1911 to some time during World War 1 the CLR ran parcels trains or, more precisely, some trains had one car converted to carry parcels instead of passengers. Parcels were loaded at St.Paul's (which was next to the main Post Office), sorted on board, and distributed to stations along the line.

The company was sold to the Yerkes group on 1913-01-01.

Back in 1905, the GWR had sponsored a separate company, the Ealing & Shepherd's Bush, to build a goods line branching off the GWR east of Ealing Broadway and joining with the West London Railway near Uxbridge Road. In 1911 the Central agreed to build an extension from Wood Lane to meet this line (at Wood Lane Junction) and to provide passenger service over it. Because of the intervention of World War I, the work was not completed until 1917, and passenger service did not start until 1920.

At Wood Lane, a new pair of platforms was added for through trains on the new track north of the existing station, but terminating trains continued to use the platforms on the loop track. The through lines joined on to the east and west sides of the loop, with the loop platform in between; since the loop ran anticlockwise, right-hand running was in use from there to a flyover at Wood Lane Junction where the link met the E&SB. This arrangement of tracks is still in use, though White City station has replaced the awkwardly arranged Wood Lane.

Although the two lines had been under common ownership since 1913, there was no station on the Central Line where it crossed the Piccadilly Line at Holborn. This was rectified in 1933 when a new interchange replaced the nearby British Museum station; unlike most of the original stations, this one had the platforms on the outside to simplify the work needed.

For a while the line was known as the Central London Line, but by 1937 this had been abbreviated to its present form.

The Central Line was significantly affected by the 1935-40 New Works Programme, where government guarantees were made available for various improvements. In the case of the Central, these came in three parts: the eastern and western extensions, and the central reconstruction.

In the west, the E&SB was crossed on the level at North Acton by the GWR line from Old Oak Common to South Ruislip and (as the GWR/GCR joint line) High Wycombe. The extension work involved adding new tracks for the Central parallel to the GWR from North Acton as far as West Ruislip; further extension to Denham was cancelled when the area was designated as Green Belt. Much of the work was done to main-line standards, as it was originally planned to run District Line trains on it as well (via Castle Bar and Greenford).

The original tubes had a nominal diameter of 3.56m (11'8¼"). However, the tubes were not well aligned, and in practice trains had to be significantly smaller than would be expected for this size (the very first CLR locomotive didn't fit into the tube until the rails had been replaced by shallower ones). This meant that stock from other lines could not be used on the Central. So in the late 1930s the tubes were expanded and realigned and the stations lengthened from 99m (325') to 130m (427'). Furthermore, the line had been built with a central positive rail 4cm (1½") above the running rails and energized at 550 V, with return through the running rails. On 1940-05-05 this was replaced with the standard LU 4-rail power system. Because of the way the tunnel was enlarged, it is no longer quite round, and for clearance reasons the outside positive rail is of a special shape and placed 4cm (1½") higher than usual.

Deep shelter tunnels (see the Northern Line for details) were built at Chancery Lane, though not opened to the public, and started but abandoned at St. Paul's.

The eastern extension was designed to allow the Central to take over several of the LNER steam branches in northeast London, reducing the congestion into Liverpool Street (some other branches were electrified at the same time). The work was delayed by World War II, but was eventually done to plan. A new tube was extended eastward, surfacing at Stratford, where the main line is on an embankment (including a bridge over the North London Line). The Central tracks come up on to the embankment, cross the bridge, and immediately dive down again; the station is on this surface section, and cross-platform interchange with the main-line services is provided. The lines then tunnel to the edge of Temple Mills Yard, where they emerge and connect to the LNER line. The latter consisted of a route to Ongar, with a loop from Woodford back to the main line at Ilford. A new shallow tube ran from Leytonstone to this loop at Newbury Park, with the section south of there abandoned.

When construction was interrupted for World War II, the eastern extension tunnels were largely complete, and were used for other purposes. One purpose was as air raid shelters, but the only access was by dimly lit stairs not intended for full-time use, and a crowd-crush disaster at Bethnal Green station killed 111 adults and 62 children (this total of 173 can be compared with the number killed in the worst bomb strike - 68 at Balham - or peacetime incident - 43 at Moorgate). Apart from a short section at the west end (bricked off from the rest), the tube tunnels between Leytonstone and Newbury Park had a different use: they became a factory for aircraft parts. Extensive work was done on them for this purpose, including fitting air conditioning throughout, digging two pairs of lift shafts (one west of Wanstead and one between Redbridge and Gants Hill) for additional access, and installing a 46cm (18") narrow gauge goods-only railway along each tunnel to provide transport within the factory. (The Germans set up similar operations in Berlin and occupied Paris, except that existing lines were used).

Floodgates are fitted in the tunnels each side of where it crosses under the River Roding.

LNER/BR passenger services were withdrawn as Central Line trains took over, though local freight services lasted much longer and a couple of early morning trains to and from Epping and Loughton continued to run from Stratford (Liverpool Street on Sundays) until 1970-10-05. Once taken over, the section from Hainault to Woodford was operated as a self-contained shuttle, with only the occasional peak-hour trains running on to the rest of the line (and no trains ever running right round the loop). This changed to the present arrangement in the early 1990s. The north side of the loop was used as a testbed for the Automatic Train Operation later adopted on the Victoria Line.

The section from Epping to Ongar provided a refuge for steam for 8 years while a shuttle was worked by BR on behalf of LU. When electrification was completed in 1957, there still wasn't enough power to start a full-length train at Ongar, and the shuttle service remained, but now worked by one or two half-length trains. The section was eventually closed in 1994, and in 1998 it was sold to Pilot Developments, a private operator. Although the track under the M11 bridge was lowered enough to allow main-line stock to fit, no services were ever run. At the start of 2001 Pilot was released from the obligation to run the line and their operating licence was withdrawn. In 2004 the Epping-Ongar Railway Volunteer Society started a Sunday service along most of the route; this continued until 2007 when the line was transferred to Roger Wright. A new service was started in 2012.

The closed station at British Museum was apparently used for the Army's London Flood Control Centre, but the access shafts have since all been filled with concrete as part of the foundations of a new building. The lift shafts at St. Paul's, disused since escalators came into use at the start of 1939, were used from 1940 to 1945 for an emergency control centre for the Central Electricity Generating Board.

On 2003-01-25 a motor fell off a train approaching Chancery Lane station after the bolts holding it in place failed, derailing the train despite the safety bracket intended to prevent this. There was a fear that the same problem might affect other trains, possibly with much more serious consequences, and the decision was taken to close the entire line (and the Waterloo & City Line, which uses the same rolling stock) until the cause was determined and rectified. The final solution required a new type of bolt and a new safety bracket. The extensiveness of the work meant it was only possible to modify a few trains a day and therefore service could only be restored gradually and in stages; the exact schedule was chosen to match the availability of stock and of alternative routes.

Dates

[EOR] is the Epping-Ongar Railway Volunteer Society.

key to symbols

1856-08-22 5 Leyton to Loughton opened [ECR, became GER]
1865-04-24 5 Loughton to Ongar opened [GER]
/ Loughton
1883- = South Woodford
1892- = Buckhurst Hill
1900-07-30 [10] Shepherd's Bush (3) to Bank opened
X Bond Street, Holborn
1900-09-24 + Bond Street (delayed by lift problems)
1903-05-01 [5] Newbury Park to Woodford opened [GER]
X Roding Valley
1903-06-15 [1] [Greenford East Junction] to {North Acton} opened [GWR temporary service]
+ Park Royal
1903-07-04 [Greenford East Junction] to {North Acton} closed
1904-05-01 [4] [Greenford East Junction] to {North Acton} opened [GWR]
X Brentham, Hanger Lane, Park Royal West
1904-10-01 0 Greenford to [Greenford East Junction] opened [GWR]
1906-04-02 [0] West Ruislip to {South Ruislip} opened [GCR/GWR joint]
[0] {South Ruislip} to Greenford opened [GWR]
1907-05-01 + Northolt
1908-05-01 + South Ruislip
1908-05-14 0 Wood Lane (1) to Shepherd's Bush (3) opened
1908-09-30 - Hainault
1911-04-30 - Twyford Abbey
1911-05-01 + Brentham
1912-07-28 0 Bank to Liverpool Street opened
1915-01-31 - Perivale Halt, Brentham, Park Royal, North Acton Halt
1916-05-21 - Barkingside
1916-05-22 - Debden
1919-02-03 + Debden
1919-07-01 + Barkingside
1920-03-29 + Perivale Halt, Brentham, Park Royal
1920-08-03 [1] Ealing Broadway to Wood Lane (1) opened
+ East Acton
1923-11-05 + West Acton, North Acton
1930-03-03 + Hainault
1932-06-20 + Park Royal West
1933-09-24 - British Museum
1933-09-25 + Holborn
1934-07-09 + Ruislip Gardens
1936-02-03 + Roding Valley
1937-09-25 - Park Royal
1939-08-31 - Marble Arch, Bond Street, Oxford Circus[1], Tottenham Court Road[1], Chancery Lane, Bank (flood protection)
1939-11-15 + Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road
1939-11-20 + Oxford Circus
1939-12-06 + Bond Street
1939-12-15 + Chancery Lane
1939-12-22 + Bank
1946-12-04 2 Liverpool Street to Stratford opened
1947-05-05 0 Stratford to Leyton opened
Leyton to Leytonstone started
1947-06-14 - Perivale Halt, Park Royal West
1947-06-29 - Brentham
1947-06-30 Greenford to [North Acton Junction] started
+ Perivale, Hanger Lane
1947-11-22 - Wood Lane (1)
1947-11-23 + White City (2)
1947-11-29 Newbury Park to Woodford closed [LNER]
1947-12-14 Leytonstone to Woodford started
3 Leytonstone to Newbury Park opened
1948-05-31 2 Newbury Park to Hainault reopened
1948-11-21 West Ruislip to Greenford started
Woodford to Loughton started
3 Hainault to Woodford reopened
1949-09-25 Loughton to Epping started
Epping to Ongar started [LU steam service provided by BR]
1957-11-18 * Epping to Ongar
1981-10-31 - Blake Hall
1989-03- - Wanstead (escalator replacement)
1989-05- + Wanstead
1991-08-23 West Ruislip to Ruislip Gardens closed
1991-09-24 0 West Ruislip to Ruislip Gardens reopened
1994-09-30 Epping to Ongar closed
1996-01-03 - Queensway (lift works)
1996-01-16 + Queensway
1999-09-28 - Shepherd's Bush (3) (escalator problems)
1999-09-30 + Shepherd's Bush (3)
2002-11-22 - Holland Park, Queensway, Lancaster Gate (firefighters' strike)
2002-11-30 + Holland Park, Queensway, Lancaster Gate
2003-01-25 Entire line closed (train problems)
2003-03-14 3 Bethnal Green to Leytonstone reopened
2003-03-16 2 Leytonstone to Woodford reopened
2003-03-24 [7] Ealing Broadway to Marble Arch reopened
X North Acton Halt, Wood Lane (1)
2003-03-25 + West Acton
2003-03-28 + Queensway
2003-04-03 [8] Marble Arch to Bethnal Green reopened
X British Museum
1 Woodford to Loughton reopened
2003-04-12 [6] West Ruislip to North Acton reopened
+ Ruislip Gardens, South Ruislip, Northolt, Greenford, Perivale, Hanger Lane
10 Leytonstone to Woodford via Hainault reopened
2 Loughton to Epping reopened
2003-10-10 - Queensway (lift repairs)
2003-10-29 + Queensway
2004-10-03 [0] North Weald to Ongar reopened [EOR diesel service, Sundays only]
2004-11-28 0 [Coopersale] to North Weald reopened [EOR diesel service, Sundays only]
2005-05-07 - Queensway (lift replacement)
2006-06-14 + Queensway
2006-07-02 - Lancaster Gate
2006-11-13 + Lancaster Gate
2007-- ? [Coopersale] to Ongar closed
2008-02-01 - Shepherd's Bush (3) (reconstruction)
2008-10-05 + Shepherd's Bush (3)
2009-06-21 - Wanstead (reconstruction)
2009-08-31 + Wanstead
2012-05-25 1 [Coopersale] to Ongar reopened [EOR diesel service]
2012-10-24 Newbury Park to Grange Hill closed (drainage and track work)
2012-11-02 3 Newbury Park to Grange Hill reopened
2014-04-22 - Bond Street (reconstruction)
2014-06-18 + Bond Street

[1] Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road street access was closed, but trains still stopped and interchange to the Bakerloo and Northern Lines was still possible.

Features

The line runs in tube from west of Leyton to east of White City; at Stratford the lines use the main-line station on viaduct and at Mile End it rises to the level of the District Line cut-and-cover station to offer cross-platform interchange. The Hainault loop is in tube from Leytonstone to just south of Newbury Park. The individual tracks around the loop are known as the Inner Rail (Leytonstone to Woodford) and Outer Rail (Woodford to Leytonstone); an eastbound train becomes an Inner Rail train, and then runs via Hainault to Woodford, becoming a westbound train. At Leytonstone the Inner Rail tube dives under the route via Snaresbrook.

Between Shepherd's Bush and White City, the westbound tube climbs over the eastbound; it used to emerge on the east side of the old depot, but now runs in tunnel all the way to White City. Trains run right-handed through White City, with the westbound flying back over the eastbound west of the station. At North Acton Junction the westbound Ruislip track dives under the Ealing tracks.

From Epping to Ongar is single track (a passing loop at North Weald was removed many years before the section closed but then reinstated in 2011). Despite being owned separately, it remains connected to the rest of the line.

From Woodford to Hainault was equipped for Automatic Train Operation of the Victoria Line type from 1964 to 1986. The whole line was equipped with its own ATO in 1996, though it was only brought into service - in stages - a few years later.

From Liverpool Street to White City, the positive rail is 4 cm (1½") above the standard position, due to the subsize tubes, and so only trains fitted with "high lift" shoegear can run.

Shepherd's Bush (3) is called Shepherd's Bush Green on some signs elsewhere on the system, following a proposal (now abandoned) to rename it.

Services

The core service now consists of two independent components, one running between the West Ruislip and Epping branches and the other between the Ealing Broadway branch and the Hainault loop.

Trains per hour
betweenPeakOff-peakSunday
West Ruislipand Epping796
West Ruislipand Debden51
West Ruislipand Loughton2
Northoltand Loughton33
Ealing Broadwayand Woodford333
Ealing Broadwayand Hainault966
White Cityand Newbury Park333

During the peaks there used to be a few trains to/from Hainault via Woodford in the peak direction only, plus one train to Grange Hill via Woodford (allowing it to run straight into Hainault Depot) at the end of the morning peak, though these have now all disappeared from the timetable. A few trains start at Ruislip Gardens or Grange Hill, having left the depot at the "wrong" end.

Minimum running times are as follows:

West Ruislip to Epping 89 minutes
West Ruislip to Woodford via Hainault 94 minutes
West Ruislip to Woodford via Snaresbrook 72 minutes
West Ruislip to Hainault via Newbury Park 83 minutes
Hainault to Woodford 11 minutes

Times from Ealing Broadway are 14 minutes less than from West Ruislip.

Topology

Diagram CBD

Layout

key to notation

Locations are listed down the page in the eastbound direction. The section between Leytonstone and Woodford via Hainault (the Hainault Loop) does not have official directions; the track for trains towards Woodford is the "Inner Rail" while that for trains towards Leytonstone is the "Outer Rail".

180810 54.61 [=we=we= T=T t=tt=] [Z3] Ealing Broadway
194814 53.03 [OP] [Z3] West Acton
203821 51.73 [-] [North Acton Junction]

64.69 [-] [NR connection to depot]
64.66 [-] [NR/LU boundary on connection line]
085868 64.53 [T=T =nss=] [Z6] West Ruislip
103859 62.49 [W=E ns] [Z5] Ruislip Gardens
110855 61.62 [W=E =nns=] [Z5] South Ruislip
61.50 [-] [Northolt Junction]
131845 59.31 [W=E b] [Z5] Northolt
148839 57.54 [W=t=E ns] %[Z4] Greenford
157836 56.65 [-] [Greenford East Junction]
56.05 [WE =ns=] (Perivale Halt)
164833 55.85 [W=E ns] [Z4] Perivale
181827 53.96 [WE =ns=] (Brentham)
184827 53.75 [W=E ns] [Z3] Hanger Lane
184827 53.69 [WE =ns=] (Twyford Abbey)
188825 53.19 [WE =ns=] (Park Royal West)
196823 52.45 [WE = b=] (Park Royal)
203821 51.73 [-] [North Acton Junction]
203821 51.68 [WE = b=] (North Acton Halt)
208820 51.24 [=WB=E b] [Z2/3] North Acton
212818 50.90 [-] [convergence with main line]
217813 50.14 [OP] [Z2] East Acton
222810 49.41 [-] [Wood Lane Junction][2]
225811 49.14 [-] [flyover on westbound]
227811 48.89 [-] [Wood Lane Siding]
232811 48.45 [-] [E&SB convergence][2]
233808 48.08 [E4=3B2=1W] [Z2] White City (2)
234803 47.79 [E4= =3w W W] (Wood Lane (1))
234801 47.43 [-] [White City Depot]
236798 46.91 [CP] %[Z2] Shepherd's Bush (3)
246802 46.06 [CP] ![Z2] Holland Park
252804 45.41 [W4=/E3=] %[Z1/2] Notting Hill Gate
259806 44.73 [CP] ![Z1] Queensway
267808 43.82 [CP] ![Z1] Lancaster Gate
278810 42.63 [CP] %[Z1] Marble Arch
285811 42.08 [CP] %[Z1] Bond Street
290812 41.43 [CP] %[Z1] Oxford Circus
298814 40.86 [CP] %[Z1] Tottenham Court Road
40.2 [CP#] (British Museum)
305815 39.95 [OP] %[Z1] Holborn
311816 39.53 [E2=/W1=] %[Z1] Chancery Lane
321812 38.52 [W1=/E2=] %[Z1] St. Paul's
327811 37.77 [CP4] !%[Z1] Bank
332816 37.04 [CP3X] %[Z1] Liverpool Street
349827 34.77 [CP] %[Z2] Bethnal Green
365825 33.07 [W=we=E] [Z2] Mile End
385844 30.53
30.51
30.30
30.10
30.04
[v'4a'='4b'v '3a'=W3=5wE6=8ew=10eb'10a'=11we= v2=1v] [Z3] Stratford
28.84 [-] [tube mouth]
384861 28.21 [OP] [Z3] Leyton
392874 26.59 [W=WE=] [Z3/4] Leytonstone
401887 25.02 [OP] [Z4] Snaresbrook
405900 23.73 [OP] [Z4] South Woodford
409917 21.95 [V=WE=] [Z4] Woodford
413928 20.84 [-] [Woodford Junction]
417938 19.61 [OP] [Z5] Buckhurst Hill
422955 17.77 [W=2B3=E] [Z6] Loughton
441960 15.74 [OP] [Z6] Debden
TQ455990 12.39 [OP] [Z6] Theydon Bois
TL461015 9.85 [=BB=] [Z6] Epping
9.82 [-] [official end of LU property]
TL496036 5.71 [=#BB2=] {North Weald}
TL522037 2.97 [B=] (Blake Hall)
TL550035 0!00 [=V] {Ongar}

TQ392874 26.59 [W=WE=] [Z3/4] Leytonstone
26.28 [-] [tube mouths]
406882 24.87 [CP] %[Z4] Wanstead
418883 23.65 [IP] [Z4] Redbridge
432884 22.38 [CP] %[Z4] Gants Hill
448881 20.33 [-] [tube mouths]
449884 20.01 [OP] [Z4] Newbury Park
447895 18.91 [OP] [Z4] Barkingside
449906 17.70 [OP] [Z4] Fairlop
450914 16.96 =12=3 ![Z4] Hainault
451919 [-] [Hainault Depot]
450925 15.84 [OPX] [Z4] Grange Hill
437930 14.52 [OPX] [Z4] Chigwell
415929 12.23 [OPX] [Z4] Roding Valley
413928 12.01 [-] [Woodford Junction]
409917 10=90 [=OI=TX] [Z4] Woodford

[2] Until closed, the Ealing & Shepherd's Bush ran alongside the Central Line from the convergence point to Wood Lane Junction, where they joined.

Depots

The major depots are Ruislip Depot, on the west of the line between Ruislip Gardens and West Ruislip, and Hainault Depot, on the Inner Rail side between Grange Hill and Hainault. Both can be entered from either end. White City Depot is a smaller depot completely underground, south of the old Wood Lane station; in 2007 it replaced the old Wood Lane depot, which was on the surface in the same area. It can only be accessed from the White City station end.

Connections

Trains can leave Ruislip Depot at the west end and run along a single unelectrified line around the back of the station to a National Rail siding, and then back on to the northbound line to High Wycombe. There is also a single-track connection from the west end to Ruislip siding on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines.

There used to be a connection between the eastbound Central Line and the District Line platforms at Ealing Broadway, and one to the adjacent National Rail lines at Leyton. Both of these have been lifted.

There are suggestions that the line from Newbury Park to Ilford could be restored (at least as a single-track link) to allow trains to be stored and maintained at Ilford Depot. This would allow Hainault Depot to close.

Rolling Stock

The line is operated by 1992 Tube Stock. This is made up of 2-car units (some with one cab and some with no cabs). Trains are normally 8 cars but may be 4 or 6 provided that there is a cab at both ends; units may run alone only in depots. The stock is not permitted to run on other lines without special approval because it may interfere with signalling equipment, is not normally fitted with tripcocks, and because the small wheels mean that the gearboxes may foul the negative rail.

The 1962 Tube Stock formerly found on the line has all been withdrawn.

No other trains, including the 1992 Tube Stock on the Waterloo & City Line, are normally permitted (because of the special signalling), though they may run within Ruislip Depot under certain conditions. Because of the unusual position of the positive rail, trains can only travel between Liverpool Street and White City if fitted with "high lift" shoegear or with the positive shoegear (and on some stock the shoebeams) removed. Such movements now require an engineering possession.


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