LogoClive's UndergrounD Line Guides

"Broad-bosomed, bold, becalmed, benign
Stands Bal-Ham, four-square on the Northern Line"

- Balham, Gateway to the South
D. Norden and F. Muir

LogoNorthern Line

Two Independent Tubes
combined with
A Yerkes Tube

[last modified 2014-07-10]

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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

As befits one of the most complex of the LU lines, the Northern Line has a complex history, which is best treated in several parts.

1 - The City & South London Railway

The first tube railway in London (and the world) was the Tower Subway, which operated for a few months in 1870. This consisted of a 410m (1350') long, 2.03m (6'8") diameter, tunnel running under the Thames not far west of the future site of Tower Bridge (from "Vine Street" at 333801 to "Great Tower Hill" at 334805). It used a single cable-hauled 12-seat car on a 0.76m (2'6") gauge track about 375m (1235') long, with hydraulic lifts to the surface at each station. It opened formally on 2nd August (though it had been operating since 12th April), but was not a financial success and closed on 7th December. The tunnel reopened as a foot tunnel on 24th December and remained open until March 1896 - the opening of Tower Bridge in 1894 had removed most of its patronage - since when it has been used as a conduit for various utilities.

The same promoters (Barlow and Greathead) had gained Parliamentary powers for a second tube further west - 2.44m (8'0") in diameter - known as the Southwark & City Subway, but following the failure of the Tower Subway they did nothing further. In 1884 Greathead revived the powers and extended the planned line, now called the City of London & Southwark Subway, from the City to Elephant & Castle (and in larger, twin, tubes), and in 1887 gained powers to extend to Stockwell, thus tapping the busy traffic of south London residents working in the City.

This tube was finally opened in 1890, under the name of the City & South London Railway. It ran from King William Street across the river and south to Stockwell. It was originally planned to use cable haulage, but this was changed to electric locomotives. The tube was 3.1m (10'2") in diameter in the northern section, and 3.2m (10'6") in the straighter southern section, to allow for the extra sway of the faster trains (using a faster cable). The extension to Angel was 3.51m (11'6") in diameter to provide better air flow, but the later extensions (to Clapham and to Euston) both reverted to the 3.2m (10'6") size. The power rail, at 500 V, was between the running rails but not in the obvious raised and central position. Instead, to stay clear of the central buffers and couplings it was placed about 0.3m (1') from the eastern running rail. Similarly, because the locomotive frames reached almost down to the running rails, it was about 25mm (1") below them, requiring ramps to lift the shoes at points and crossings. At Stockwell the signalman had to work extra levers to slide connecting power rails across the scissors crossover.

The City & South London used the telegraphic address TUNNELLING.

The power system was improved in about 1900, bringing a unique feature to the line: one track had a positive power rail and the other a negative one, with a dead section of about 9m (30') on the arrival line shortly before the pointwork at each terminus. This arrangement appears to have been abolished in 1915 when the line was connected to the Yerkes group's Lots Road power station.

The King William Street terminus and its approaches proved inadequate in several ways. In order to keep the amount of construction not under public roads to an absolute minimum while at the same time avoiding running under London Bridge, trains actually started out heading westward, turning sharply to the south as they dived at 1 in 14 to get under the northbound tube which was itself rising at 1 in 40 from the under-river section. The station itself had been laid out for cable haulage and hence had only one track, though platforms were provided on both sides. Thus the number of trains that could be worked was unduly limited; improved motors and signalling in 1891 and 1892 helped only a little.

The station was too far south for the convenience of most of its intended passengers and yet it could not handle all the ones that it had, but the C&SLR could not afford to replace it. In 1895, an attempt was made to increase capacity by constructing an experimental train that could be one car longer because it did not have a locomotive but motored cars (probably like the original Waterloo & City trains, rather than actual multiple-units). This was not a success because the drivers could not easily get from one end to the other along the crowded platforms, and so King William Street was rebuilt the same year, within the existing station tube, to have two tracks and a (necessarily shorter) island platform between them.

This was still inadequate, and the station was abandoned as soon as funds were available. The new route branched off the original line just north of Borough, and ran immediately below it as far as London Bridge station; the old line had omitted a station for interchange with the main lines there, but one was now provided. The line then took a new route across the river to Moorgate; eventually it would run from Clapham Common to Euston.

There were later plans to reopen King William Street as an alternate terminus for some services, but they were never put into effect, though the northbound tunnel was reconnected in August 1922 and used as a stabling siding. According to usually reliable sources, the tunnels were cut through at London Bridge (where they ran directly above the "new" route) during work on the Jubilee Line extension and are thus separated into two parts; a passenger tunnel also intersects one of them.

2 - The Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway

The success of the C&SLR led to a number of new tubes being proposed; six of these were built and opened between 1898 and 1907. Two are discussed on this page; see the Bakerloo, Central, Piccadilly, and Waterloo & City Lines for the others. The Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway was authorized in 1893 (initially under the name Hampstead, St. Pancras, & Charing Cross Railway), but problems in raising capital meant that it was not built until the company was bought out by Yerkes. Originally the line was to consist of a route from Charing Cross to Hampstead with a branch from Camden Town to Archway, all in tube, but Yerkes insisted on further extending the western arm under Hampstead Heath to the empty land of Golders Green, where it would surface. This line includes the only tube station to be built and never opened: North End, also called Bull & Bush. This would have been in a new housing estate on Hampstead Heath, but late opposition to the development destroyed the financial case for finishing and opening the station.

As a separate railway, the CXE&HR was only extended once, from Charing Cross to Embankment. The southbound track curved southeast, turned round under the river, and lined up with the northbound underwater; a single platform was built on the northbound at Embankment. The existence of the loop caused operational problems because of cars facing the wrong way - later a turntable was installed at Golders Green in an attempt to solve them.

3 - Amalgamation

The C&SLR was purchased by the Yerkes Group on 1913-01-01, and in 1921, following financial guarantees from the government, it was decided to link the two lines in two places and reconstruct the C&SLR to the Yerkes standards. There were three parts to this work.

At the northern end, the C&SLR route was extended in a large curve to meet the existing junction at Camden Town, which was expanded into a complex layout with maximum flexibility (this is described below). From then on trains from both lines could run to both northern termini.

At the southern end, the CXE&HR was extended south, via Waterloo, to meet the other line at Kennington. At Embankment, the loop track was sealed off and one part filled with rubble (Highgate branch trains terminated at Charing Cross, while Edgware branch trains used the remaining single line to Embankment); the new southbound tunnel was then driven parallel to the existing northbound and under the river.

The two lines were of different sizes, and there is some evidence that it was initially planned to run two different fleets of trains. However, this was quickly dropped in favour of rebuilding the C&SLR. Mostly the work involved expanding the tunnel rings by removing one ring, excavating the space behind, and then replacing it while inserting several small packing pieces between the existing sections; the part of the line from Borough to Moorgate had larger tunnels and instead of using packing pieces the topmost section was simply replaced by a larger one. The northernmost section of the line, from Moorgate to Euston, was completely closed - with a replacement bus service being provided - while the remainder was left open with the tunnels being expanded at night, allowing trains to run normally during the daytime (or nearly so: there was some single-line operation, and no Sunday trains after 1923-10-07). This service was ended by an accident on 1923-11-27, after 19000 of the 22000 tunnel rings had been enlarged. A slight misjudgement at the end of work that morning left the tunnel unstable near Borough, and some 10 hours later a train hit a board in the works that somehow become dislodged. Some 400 m³ (14,000 cubic feet) of wet gravel spilled into the tunnel over the next 15 minutes and - though there were no injuries - a gas main exploded, in turn breaking a water main and leaving a water-filled crater in the middle of the street. Service ran in two parts for the rest of that day and all the following day, but the latter was the last time the C&SLR's electric locomotives ran; the line was then shut down until the enlargement was done.

Even before the two lines were linked, extensions were being built both to north and to south - from Clapham to Morden and from Golders Green to Edgware.

One of the biggest problems facing the resulting line was its name! Initially the two names "City Railway" and "Hampstead & Highgate Line" continued in use, but on 1933-11-12 they were replaced by the mouthful "Edgware, Highgate & Morden Line". After several rather dubious ideas based on the "Bakerloo" contraction were rejected, it became the "Morden-Edgware Line" on 1934-03-10 before finally gaining its present name on 1937-08-28. Oddly enough, the line has never included the northernmost point of the Underground, but does include the southernmost - Morden Depot. (It can be argued that the original CXE&HR did include the northernmost point, but only because the Metropolitan was not viewed as part of the system at the time.)

4 - The Great Northern & City Railway

The Great Northern & City Railway was first envisaged in 1891. The initial plan was to connect the GNR - just south of Finsbury Park - with Moorgate, in the City of London. Since the whole area was built up, the line was to be in deep tube but, unlike the other tubes, it was to be large enough to accommodate main-line coaches hauled by electric locomotives. As a result the tunnels were built 4.88m (16') in diameter.

The GNR took an obvious interest in the project from the start, but as the GN&CR had more and more problems raising money, as disputes over the details of the agreement became worse, and as the GNR became involved with one of the predecessors of the Piccadilly Line, the situation changed from support to opposition. The GNR put onerous conditions on the use of Finsbury Park, gained Parliamentary powers to forbid extension north of the station, and eventually managed to get the line bottled up in a tube station underneath the main-line one (they ended up doing much the same with the Piccadilly Line).

The line was eventually opened in 1904 - after the C&SLR but before the CXE&HR. It was electrified from the outset, but with a power rail outside each running rail, 25cm (10") outside and 5cm (2") above, supplied at 575 V. Powers existed to extend the route south about 450m to the Bank of England, but only a few metres were ever dug. While the line carried a reasonable traffic, it never made a profit, and was bought out by the Metropolitan Railway on 1913-07-01. It was the only deep tube to have 1st class seating (last available on 1934-03-24).

The GN&CR used the telegraphic addresses RESUMPTION and RAPIDNESS.

When they first acquired it the Metropolitan considered extending the line to meet both the Waterloo & City at Bank and the Circle south of Moorgate. Later they simply planned the extension to run through Bank station to meet the Circle around Aldgate, but neither of these plans came to fruition.

A few years after the formation of London Transport, the line was transferred to the Northern Line for operational purposes, then being called the "Northern City Line". It was involved in the abortive Northern Heights Extensions project described in the next section (the only result of which was that standard electrification was installed on 1939-05-14), but otherwise remained unaffected for many years. When the Victoria Line was built, the GN&CR services were cut back to Drayton Park, and the tube station at Finsbury Park was rebuilt to allow cross-platform interchange between the Victoria and Piccadilly. At the same time, a new northbound platform at Highbury & Islington allowed cross-platform transfers to the Victoria Line in both directions, the latter using the old northbound platform tunnel.

In March 1970 it was renamed again, to the "Northern Line - Highbury Branch".

Eventually LU closed the branch in 1975 and transferred ownership to BR, who installed new connections to the main line south of Finsbury Park and fitted overhead catenary as far as Drayton Park (there are overhead wires all the way to Moorgate, but south of Drayton Park they are there purely to catch an accidentally raised pantograph and are unpowered). Thus the route eventually took on its originally intended purpose of providing a City terminus for the (now ex-) GNR suburban services: First Capital Connect EMUs now run from Moorgate to Hertford, Welwyn, and Letchworth, changing from 3rd rail to overhead power at Drayton Park.

Ironically, with the plans already in place for LU to give up the line, it then became the site of their worst-ever train accident (and fourth worst disaster). On 1975-02-28, a tube train failed to brake approaching Moorgate and slammed into the blind tunnel at the south end of platform 9. The front half of the train crumpled up into the small space, killing 42 passengers and the driver. Investigation showed no mechanical failure, and the full reason for the crash has never been determined. However, as a direct result, new signalling was installed throughout the Underground (known as "Moorgate control") to ensure that a train is stopped at dead ends such as Moorgate, whether or not the driver co-operates.

5 - The Northern Heights Extensions

The LNER had inherited a line from the GNR, extending from Finsbury Park (on the main line to Scotland) to Edgware via Highgate and Mill Hill; this line also had two branches on its northeastern side, from Finchley Central to High Barnet, and from Park Junction (just northwest of Highgate) to Alexandra Palace (not the present station with that name on the main line at the bottom of the hill but one within the palace grounds at the top of the hill; throughout this page the name is used to refer to this latter station). Even before that line opened, a separate Watford & Edgware Railway had been proposed to link it to the LNWR at Watford; the original plans had the line meeting the Rickmansworth branch (see the Bakerloo Line) in a triangular junction just north of Watford High Street, but a 1903 proposal had a separate station at Watford Market. In 1922 the Yerkes group bought out the W&ER and two years later published proposals to build the line - this time from the CXE&HR Edgware station - as far as Bushey, though nothing was done. In 1934 there were further discussions, with Bushey council reserving land for a station.

The 1935-40 New Works Programme (see the Central Line) introduced radical proposals for the Northern Line based on taking over this line and electrifying it. The Archway branch would be extended to meet it at East Finchley, while at Edgware it would be diverted into the CXE&HR station. Furthermore it would be linked to the GN&CR at a point between Drayton Park and Finsbury Park. These extensions would require extra trains which, in turn, would need more depot facilities. After examining a number of options, LU decided that the best location was a "greenfield" site at Aldenham, reached by extending the line over the route of the W&ER. This new section would have three passenger stations - hopefully stimulating new housing - and while the original route dead-ended at a road junction, this was changed so as to allow later extension in the direction of Bushey and Watford.

Ignoring the possibilities of trains terminating at intermediate stations, there would have been no less than ten different routes for trains to take:
- Morden to Bushey Heath (4 ways)
- Morden to High Barnet (2 ways)
- Moorgate to the 3 northern termini
- Moorgate to Finsbury Park (GN&CR tube station)

The planned service patterns were complex in a different way:
- Kennington to Bushey Heath via Finchley and Charing Cross
- Kennington to High Barnet via Charing Cross
- Morden to Finchley Central via Bank (peak only)
- Morden to Archway via Bank (off-peak only)
- Moorgate to East Finchley, extended to High Barnet in the peaks
- Moorgate to Alexandra Palace (these two would couple/uncouple at Highgate)
- Moorgate to Finsbury Park tube (peak only)
plus assorted services to Edgware via Golders Green; Bushey Heath trains would not normally operate this way.

With the work far advanced, World War II intervened. At this point, the only completed work was the connection at East Finchley, where the Highgate tubes emerged on either side of the LNER route. However, the electrification to High Barnet was advanced enough that it was completed and services extended over it in 1940. The line from Finchley to Edgware had been closed to ease the work of doubling and electrification; power rails were laid to Mill Hill East to allow the barracks to be served, but no more work on the extensions was done.

After the war, the available funds were concentrated on the Central Line, and at the same time demand for the Finchley to Bushey route had dropped as the areas were designated part of the Green Belt. The line from Mill Hill East to Edgware remained for goods traffic only (though for a long time it was possible to use Underground tickets on the replacement bus), eventually closing in 1964. Though the formation had been constructed as far as Bushey Heath, the line was never built, and the depot at Aldenham was used for bus maintenance instead. Further south, power rails had been laid most of the way between Finsbury Park and East Finchley, with some work on the Alexandra Palace branch. The work to connect to the GN&CR was incomplete, and so the branch remained in LNER (later BR) hands; after being run down, it was finally closed in 1954.

The above history is probably complex enough that a diagram is necessary. Here is a simple diagram of the Northern Line as planned:

                           A
                            \
                    H--3-\   2
                          \   \       P\
   B---+---+---D---+---L---F-Y-*-I--2-P-*-3--O--M
                \             \--I\         /O--M----4-\
                 \                 3       2            \
                  \                 \ /R\ /              K-+-S---8---N
                   \                 C   E              /
                    \-4---G----3----/ \-/ \---4---X--2-/

and modified to show the present Northern Line and NR line:

                           A
                            .
                    H--3-\   .
                          \   .
   B . . . . . D . . . L---F-Y . . . . P==3==O==M
                \             \--I\         /O--M----4-\
                 \                 3       2            \
                  \                 \ /R\ /              K-+-S---8---N
                   \                 C   E              /
                    \-4---G----3----/ \-/ \---4---X--2-/

[North is to the left]

A = Alexandra Palace      L = Mill Hill East
B = Bushey Heath          M = Moorgate
C = Camden Town           N = Morden
D = Edgware               O = Old Street
E = Euston                P = Finsbury Park
F = Finchley Central      R = Mornington Crescent (I win !)
G = Golders Green         S = Stockwell
H = High Barnet           X = Charing Cross
I = Highgate              Y = East Finchley
K = Kennington            + = other station

===  NR route
...  closed or never-built route
-3-  3 other stations

6 - World War II

In 1938, when war appeared to be imminent, the cross-Thames tunnels of the Charing Cross branch were briefly plugged with concrete (the deeper Bank branch was viewed as being less threatened). With the outbreak of war in 1939 the under-river tunnels on both branches were closed to fit floodgates at the river ends of Bank, Charing Cross, London Bridge, and Waterloo stations - see the Bakerloo Line for further details of these - and at the passenger exits from the platforms at Embankment (it was done this way because it turned out to be impractical to construct tunnel floodgates at this station). The danger was shown to be real in September 1940 when bomb hits flooded the old CXE&HR Embankment loop line; operations were not affected since the loop tunnel had been plugged when it was abandoned. The Tower Subway also suffered bomb damage, though not as bad.

During the war the tube lines were seen as a convenient shelter from air raids. After initial abortive attempts to persuade the public not to use them in this way (people just bought low-value tickets and stayed in the system until the All Clear), tube sheltering was organized officially from late 1940 onwards. The existing tube stations were used as shelters, with shelterers being allowed to sleep on station platforms after trains ended for the day. Special refreshment trains were operated to stock up the buffets maintained at shelter stations.

In the specific case of the Northern Line, the closed stations at South Kentish Town and City Road were used for this purpose, as was Highgate even before it opened (until the surface access was ready, some trains stopped there to serve shelterers). The original King William Street route was also used. Furthermore, as a way of providing the space needed without affecting day-to-day operations, additional pairs of tubes (the "Deep Shelters") were constructed at 8 stations on the line, mostly underneath. It was intended that, if the post-war demand for service was sufficient, these would be linked up to form an express tube running underneath the Northern; in the end, this was never done. The tunnels were 5.03m (16'6") in diameter and 425m (1400') long, and were clearly intended to contain plain line on the express route (station tunnels would have been larger). Construction began on 1940-11-27, with sites at Clapham South to Oval inclusive, Goodge Street, Camden Town, and Belsize Park. The Oval one was abandoned during construction and the Clapham Common and Goodge Street ones were never opened to the public, but the rest were completed in 1942 and brought into use (after a lull in bombing came to an end and the V1 attacks started) in July 1944.

Even though the tube lines were deep, and the Northern Line is generally the deepest, they did suffer from bomb damage. In particular, 68 people were killed by a bomb at Balham, and 56 by another at Bank. A hit just north of Euston was the deepest penetration by an enemy bomb in London.

(See the Central and Piccadilly Lines for more notes on war-time use of the tubes).

7 - Other happenings

During the war many LU records were kept on shelves on the southbound platform at Bull & Bush station. They were transferred back to 55 Broadway (above St. James's Park station) by a special train on the night of 1946-08-24.

For a period after the war the Goodge Street Deep Shelter was used as a hostel for visitors to the Festival of Britain in 1951, and as transit barracks for immigrants, but this ended after a (non-fatal) fire on 1956-05-21. Since then some of these tunnels have been used as government and private archives; the Clapham North Deep Shelter now contains a farm.

In the early 1950s "special floodgates" were installed in the tube tunnels. These gates are about 2 metres thick and are mounted in the tunnel roofs, typically about 50 metres from the nearest station. There are some 19 gates at nine locations:

Central Line: west of Bethnal Green
Central Line: east of Liverpool Street
Central Line: east of Tottenham Court Road
Northern Line: north of Kennington (4 gates, 2 on each branch)
Northern Line: south of Moorgate (a single gate across both tubes)
Northern Line: south of Tottenham Court Road
Piccadilly Line: south of Russell Square
Piccadilly Line: east of Green Park
Victoria Line: south of Green Park

Duncan Campbell claims - in "War Plan UK" - that the never-opened station at Bull & Bush is the site of a control centre for these gates, with the ability to raise and lower them individually by remote control. While floodgates on the Underground are no longer normally maintained, new ones were provided on the 1990s extension of the Jubilee Line.

In 1978 asbestos had to be removed from the southbound tunnel at Bull & Bush. For about a month the northbound track was operated bidirectionally between Hampstead and Golders Green.

Mornington Crescent station was closed in 1992 for a lift replacement that should have taken only a year or so. However, a financial crisis meant that it actually took over 5 years to reopen; when it did it had been completely refurbished.

On 2003-10-19 a train from Morden to High Barnet via Bank derailed on the points approaching Camden Town and sustained serious damage. The central section of the line was closed, with trains terminating at Hampstead (Golders Green in the peaks), East Finchley, Charing Cross, and Euston (City branch), the last of these via the Euston Loop, plus a shuttle service between Finchley Central and Mill Hill East. It took a little over a week to restore service through Camden Town, but, because of concerns over preventing a repetition, trains coming from the Bank branch could only be sent towards Edgware. Therefore, for some months the line was effectively divided into two branches north of Kennington, with trains running either via Bank towards Edgware, or via Charing Cross towards High Barnet and Mill Hill East (until the end of 2003, Charing Cross branch trains ran south of Kennington only during the peak hours). Normal service was restored on 2004-03-07.

Dates

The routes that would have been taken by the Northern Heights extensions are included. [MHR] is the Muswell Hill Railway, absorbed by the GNR in 1911.

key to symbols

1867-07-01 % Finsbury Park [GNR]
1867-08-22 [5] Edgware to Finsbury Park (main line) opened [GNR]
X Mill Hill (The Hale), Stroud Green
1872-04-01 [2] High Barnet to Finchley Central opened [GNR]
X West Finchley
1873-05-24 [1] Alexandra Palace to Highgate opened [MHR]
+ Muswell Hill
1873-08-01 Alexandra Palace to Highgate closed
1875-05-01 [1] Alexandra Palace to Highgate reopened [MHR]
+ Muswell Hill
1881-04-11 + Stroud Green
1890-12-18 0 King William Street to Borough opened
4 Borough to Stockwell opened
1900-02-24 King William Street to Borough closed
1900-02-25 2 Moorgate to Borough opened
1900-06-03 1 Stockwell to Clapham Common opened
1901-11-17 2 Angel to Moorgate opened
1902-08-02 + Cranley Gardens
1904-02-14 [3] Finsbury Park (tube) to Moorgate opened
1904-06-28 + Highbury & Islington
1906-06-11 + Mill Hill (The Hale)
1907-05-12 1 Euston to Angel opened
1907-06-22 [10] Golders Green to Charing Cross opened
X Bull & Bush
3 Archway to Camden Town opened
1914-04-06 0 Charing Cross to Embankment opened
1919-09-26 Golders Green to Embankment closed (strike)
Archway to Camden Town closed (strike)
1919-09-30 11 Golders Green to Embankment reopened
1919-10-04 3 Archway to Camden Town reopened
1922-07-16 - Borough (modernisation and lift renewal)
1922-08-08 Euston to Moorgate closed (enlargement of tubes)
1923-04-24 Oval to Clapham Common closed (tunnel collapse)
1923-05-17 2 Oval to Clapham Common reopened
1923-05-31 - Kennington (interchange works)
1923-11-19 1 Hendon Central to Golders Green opened
1923-11-27 London Bridge to Elephant & Castle closed (tunnel collapse)
1923-11-28 Moorgate to London Bridge closed (enlargement of tubes)
Elephant & Castle to Clapham Common closed (enlargement of tubes)
1924-04-20 0 Camden Town to Euston (Bank branch) opened
[3] Euston to Moorgate reopened
X City Road
1924-06-05 - South Kentish Town, Mornington Crescent (strike)[1]
1924-07-02 + Mornington Crescent
1924-08-18 [1] Edgware to Hendon Central opened
1924-10-27 + Burnt Oak
1924-12-01 [6] Moorgate to Clapham Common reopened
= Stockwell
1925-02-23 + Borough
1925-07-06 + Kennington
1926-09-13 1 Embankment to Kennington opened
[5] Clapham Common to Morden opened
1926-12-06 + Balham
1933-03-01 + West Finchley
1938-09-27 Charing Cross to Kennington closed (tunnels plugged)
1938-10-08 2 Charing Cross to Kennington reopened
1939-07-03 [0] East Finchley to Archway opened
1939-08-31 Charing Cross to Kennington closed (tunnels plugged)
- Tottenham Court Road[2], King's Cross St. Pancras, Old Street (Bank branch), Oval, Clapham Common, Balham, Tooting Bec
1939-09-06 Moorgate to London Bridge closed (tunnels plugged)
1939-09-10 Edgware to Finchley Central closed [LNER]
1939-11-15 + Tottenham Court Road
1939-11-17 + King's Cross St. Pancras
1939-11-24 + Oval, Clapham Common
1939-12-08 + Old Street (Bank branch)
1939-12-15 + Balham
1939-12-17 2 Charing Cross to Kennington reopened with floodgates
1939-12-22 + Tooting Bec
1940-04-14 High Barnet to East Finchley started [LU]
1940-05-19 1 Moorgate to London Bridge reopened with floodgates
1940-09- Hendon Central to Brent Cross closed (unexploded bomb)
1940- 0 Hendon Central to Brent Cross reopened (2 weeks later)
1940-10-14 Clapham South to Tooting Bec closed (flooding from bomb at Balham)
1940-10-15 + Angel (unexploded bomb)
1940-11-08 + Angel
1941-01-08 [0] Clapham South to Tooting Bec reopened
1941-01-19 + Balham
1941-01-19 + Highgate (tube)
1941-03-02 East Finchley to Highgate closed [LNER]
1941-05-18 0 Mill Hill East to Finchley Central reopened [LU]
1951-10-28 Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park closed [NR]
1952-01-07 5 Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park reopened [NR]
1954-07-03 Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park closed [NR]
1964-10-03 Finsbury Park (tube) to Drayton Park closed
1973-06-16 - Charing Cross (Jubilee Line works)
1975-02-28 Old Street to Moorgate (GN&CR) closed (collision)
1975-03-10 0 Old Street to Moorgate (GN&CR) reopened
1975-09-06 Old Street to Moorgate (GN&CR) closed
1975-10-03 - Essex Road
1975-10-04 Drayton Park to Old Street closed
1976-08-16 2 Drayton Park to Old Street reopened [NR]
1976-11-08 0 Old Street to Moorgate (GN&CR) reopened [NR]
0 Finsbury Park (main line) to Drayton Park [NR] opened
1979-05-01 + Charing Cross
1987-11-18 - King's Cross St. Pancras (fire)
1989-03-05 + King's Cross St. Pancras Photograph
Photo [202kb] and info
1992-08-09 - Angel, southbound only
1992-10-19 + Angel, southbound only
1992-10-23 - Mornington Crescent (lift replacement)
1994-01-04 Edgware to Colindale closed (collapsed embankment)
1994-01-18 1 Edgware to Colindale reopened
1995-10-14 - King's Cross St. Pancras (escalator refurbishing)
1996-06-17 + King's Cross St. Pancras
1996-07-01 Moorgate to Kennington (southbound only) closed
1996-10-21 4 Moorgate to Kennington (southbound only) reopened
1998-04-27 + Mornington Crescent
1999-07-02 Moorgate to Kennington closed (tunnel maintenance)
1999-09-05 4 Moorgate to Kennington reopened
2000-01-30 - South Wimbledon (escalator repairs)
2000-03-13 + South Wimbledon
2000-03-18 - Archway (escalator repairs)
2000-03-21 - Highbury & Islington (escalator repairs)
2000-04-03 + Highbury & Islington
2000-04-08 + Archway
2000-10-11 - Angel (escalator problems)
2000-10-14 + Angel
2000-10-21 - Clapham South (escalator problems)
2000-10-30 + Clapham South
2001-08-30 - Angel (escalator problems)
2001-09-17 + Angel
2002-11-22 - Hampstead, Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Tufnell Park, Mornington Crescent, Goodge Street, Borough, Elephant & Castle, Kennington, Essex Road (firefighters' strike)
2002-11-30 + Hampstead, Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Tufnell Park, Mornington Crescent, Goodge Street, Borough, Elephant & Castle, Kennington, Essex Road
2003-10-19 Hampstead to Charing Cross closed (derailment at Camden Town)
East Finchley to Euston (Bank branch) closed
2003-10-29 9 Hampstead to Charing Cross reopened
2003-10-30 [4] East Finchley to Euston (Bank branch) reopened
X South Kentish Town
2005-07-07 - King's Cross St. Pancras (bomb explosion on Piccadilly Line)
2005-07-18 + King's Cross St. Pancras
2006-01-20 - Kentish Town (escalator problems)
2006-01-26 + Kentish Town
2008-05-18 ?- Kennington
2009-01-12 ?+ Kennington
2011-04-01 - Tottenham Court Road (Crossrail works)
2011-11-28 + Tottenham Court Road
2014-01-07 - Embankment (escalator replacement)
2014-11-01 ? + Embankment
2020-06 ? Moorgate to Kennington closed (Bank station rebuilding)
2020-07 ? 4 Moorgate to Kennington northbound reopened
2020-09 ? 4 Moorgate to Kennington southbound restored

[1] South Kentish Town never reopened after this closure.

[2] Tottenham Court Road street access was closed, but trains still stopped and interchange to the Central Line was still possible.

Various stations were closed on 1999-09-25 and 1999-09-29 because of escalator problems.

Features

The line runs mostly in tube, emerging only just before the southern terminus of Morden and well to the north. The Edgware branch surfaces just before the original terminus of Golders Green, and then runs on a mix of surface and viaduct to Edgware, with a short tube section. The Barnet branch runs underneath the former LNER branch at Highgate (a short section of which survives to provide access to Highgate Depot), then climbs underneath it, emerging on each side of the surface line just before East Finchley. From there it is surface to the termini at Mill Hill East and High Barnet. The Mill Hill East branch is single track once clear of the sidings at Finchley Central.

At Kennington, the Charing Cross branch surrounds the older City branch, with cross-platform interchange in each direction. Trains from Charing Cross can then run towards Morden, or else turn round using a large loop and return back northwards (this loop cannot be reached from the City branch). Alternatively, trains from either branch can use a central turnback siding south of the station.

Clapham North and Clapham Common stations are the last to retain the original layout of a 3.4m (11'2") wide island between two tracks, all in a single 9.0m (29'8") tunnel.

Following some problems with acid in the ground, about 80m of each tunnel on the Bank branch, just south of Old Street, have been replaced using stainless steel.

Camden Town is essentially a V-shaped station, one arm for the Edgware branch and one for the Barnet branch. South of the station, these meet and redivide at a complex of intersections, so that any combination of movements which do not conflict can be made simultaneously:

                            /--------\
                           /          \
    City    >-----------------------*--*------> Edgware
                         /           \
    branch  <-------\   *-------------*     /-< branch
                     \ /               \   /
                      /     /---------*-\-/
                     / \   /         /   \
    Charing >-------/   \-/---------*     \---> Barnet
    Cross                /           \
    branch  <-----------*-------------*-------< branch

The City branch runs in a large curve, crossing under the Charing Cross branch at right angles at Euston (north of the City branch platforms and south of the Charing Cross branch ones).

Trains run on the right from Borough to Bank inclusive (at the point where the tracks cross south of Borough, the northbound rails are 12.2m (40') below street level and the southbound 19.5m (64')). In addition, at Kentish Town the southbound tube is above the northbound and their centrelines cross over; this could technically be described as right-hand running.

The GN&CR route runs in tube from Moorgate to the south end of Drayton Park, which is in an open cutting. The northbound track then crosses under the NR East Coast Main Line, and the two tracks climb up to the merge with the ECML at Finsbury Park. The original route re-entered tube north of Drayton Park to terminate under the main station.

The Northern Heights Extensions line would have run along the east side of Finsbury Park main-line station, then climbed over the main line and headed on viaduct towards Highgate, located at ground level between two tunnel sections. The line would then continue, mostly at ground level, to Edgware and Alexandra Palace. North of Edgware, Brockley Hill would have been on a viaduct, after which the line would return to tube through Elstree South, then back in the open the rest of the way to Bushey Heath. All the route would have been double track, but Finchley Central to Edgware was built by the GNR as single and never doubled.

Services

The pattern of service is equally complex, and tends to change with each new issue of the timetable. The present off-peak arrangment is to have 9tph on each of the four main routes: Edgware or High Barnet to/from Morden via Bank or to/from Kennington via Charing Cross, plus a 4tph shuttle between Finchley Central and Mill Hill East. In the peaks, the four main routes increase to 10tph or 11tph each in the peak direction, with Mill Hill East served by diverting 5tph of the High Barnet via Charing Cross service. Furthermore, around 7tph on the Charing Cross side are extended beyond Kennington to Morden to make a total of 27tph south of Kennington. In addition, during the morning peak the northbound (i.e. contra-peak) traffic is almost completely segregated, with all trains via Charing Cross going to Edgware and all via Bank going to the High Barnet branch.

Other arrangements have been used in the past; for example, at one time the off-peak service had Charing Cross branch trains to Mill Hill East and Edgware, while City branch trains ran to High Barnet and Colindale. Tooting Broadway was also used as an intermediate terminus.

At the start and end of service a number of trains start northwards from, or terminate southwards at, East Finchley.

The GN&CR route was operated as a simple end-to-end service when it was an Underground line. As part of West Anglia Great Northern Railways, trains run from Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City, Hertford North, Stevenage, and Letchworth, the last two mostly via Hertford North.

From 1927-06-13 until 1936-07 loops at Brent Cross were used to allow a stopped train to be overtaken by a non-stopper (they were removed shortly after). From 1925-09-28 to 1966-10-17, trains to and from the Edgware branch via Charing Cross did not stop at Mornington Crescent. Despite its short length, the GN&CR ran rush-hour trains that did not stop at Drayton Park and Essex Road.

Minimum running times are:

Edgware to Camden Town 23 minutes
High Barnet to Camden Town 25 minutes
Mill Hill East to Camden Town 18 minutes
Camden Town to Kennington via Charing Cross 16 minutes
Camden Town to Kennington via Bank 21 minutes
Kennington to Morden 22 minutes

Topology

Shown above.

Layout

key to notation

Locations are listed down the page in the southbound direction.

Current line

195919 54.15 [=TT=T] ![Z5] Edgware
203908 52.63 [IP] [Z4] Burnt Oak
213900 51.31 [IP] [Z4] Colindale
221893 50.33 [-] [Burroughs Tunnels north portal]
229887 49.33 [-] [Burroughs Tunnels south portal]
230887 49.27 [IP] [Z3/4] Hendon Central
239880 48.10 [IP] [Z3] Brent Cross
252875 46.53 [=1N2=3B4=5S] [Z3] Golders Green
257873 46.09 [-] [tube mouths]
261870 45.6 [CP] {{Bull & Bush}}
264857 44.18 [CP] ![Z2/3] Hampstead
274851 42.98 [CP] ![Z2] Belsize Park
280844 41.88 [CP] ![Z2] Chalk Farm
288840 41.04 [N1=-=3n/S2=-=4s] %[Z2] Camden Town
40.67 [-] [Camden Town Junctions, southernmost point]
291834 40.40 [CP] ![Z2] Mornington Crescent
295826 39.57 [CP] %[Z1] Euston
292822 39.00 [OP] %[Z1] Warren Street
295818 38.54 [CP] ![Z1] Goodge Street
298813 37.90 [CP2] %[Z1] Tottenham Court Road
299808 37.51 [CPX2] %[Z1] Leicester Square
301805 37.03 [CP4] %[Z1] Charing Cross
303803 36.77 [=N =S +2] %[Z1] Embankment
309799 36.06 [CP] %[Z1] Waterloo
316783 34.15 [N1==3ns4==2S] ![Z2] Kennington
311775 33.24 [=N =S] %[Z2] Oval
305765 31.95 [CP] [Z2] ((Stockwell))
305765 31.91 [n==NS==s] %[Z2] Stockwell
300756 31.09 [IP] %[Z2] Clapham North
294752 30.47 [IP] %[Z2] Clapham Common
288742 29.21 [IP] %[Z2/3] Clapham South
285731 28.06 [CP] %[Z3] Balham
280724 27.08 [CP] %[Z3] Tooting Bec
274714 25.96 [CP] %[Z3] Tooting Broadway
268703 24.75 [CP] %[Z3] Colliers Wood
258700 23.60 [CP] %[Z3/4] South Wimbledon
256688 22.31 [-] [tube mouths]
256686 22.15 [N5=4N3=2S1=] [Z4] Morden
254678 21.32 [-] [south end of Morden Depot]

250962 55.88 [=TT=T] [Z5] High Barnet
261940 53.32 [OP] [Z4] Totteridge & Whetstone
257926 51.80 [OP] [Z4] Woodside Park
255916 50.82 [OP] [Z4] West Finchley
252906 49.67 [n=NS=] [Z4] Finchley Central
272892 47.25 [N=ns=S] [Z3] East Finchley
275889 46.87 [-] [tube mouths]
286881 45.63 [CP] %[Z3] Highgate
294868 43.88 [CP] %[Z2/3] Archway
292858 43.00 [=N =S] ![Z2] Tufnell Park
290851 42.19 [N=/S=] %[Z2] Kentish Town
289845 41.6 [CP] (South Kentish Town)
289840 41.04 [n1=-=3N/s2=-=4S] %[Z2] Camden Town
40.67 [-] [Camden Town Junctions, southernmost point]
295826 39.31 [N==ns==S +2] %[Z1] Euston
38.92 [-] [Euston Loop south end]
38.91 [-] [King's Cross Loop Junction (Northern)]
302829 38.72 [CP6] %[Z1] King's Cross St. Pancras
315831 37.44 [CPX] %[Z1] Angel
320829 36.87 [CP] (City Road)
327824 35.89 [CP] %[Z1] Old Street
327818 35.20 [CP6] %[Z1] Moorgate
327811 34.39 [S==N+2] !%[Z1] Bank
328802 33.69 [S==NX] %[Z1] London Bridge
324799 33.19 [-] [former junction with King William Street route (northbound)]
324798 33.08 [-] [former junction with King William Street route (southbound)]
324797 33.01 [=N/=S] ![Z1] Borough
322795 32.69 [-] [mid-point of tunnel rollover]
319791 32.17 [OP] ![Z1/2] Elephant & Castle
316783 31.32 [n1==3NS4==2s] ![Z2] Kennington

51.28 [-] [end of track]
240914 51.15 [B=] [Z4] Mill Hill East
50.15 [-] [start of single line]
252906 49.67 [N=nS=] [Z4] Finchley Central

316783 33.17 [n1==3ns4==2S] [Z2] Kennington [platform 2]
[-] [via loop]
316783 34.15 [s2==4sn3==1N] [Z2] Kennington [platform 1]

38.91 [-] [King's Cross Loop Junction (Northern)]
38!42 [-] [King's Cross Loop Junction (Piccadilly)]

272892 47.25 [n=NS=s] [Z3] East Finchley
46.77 [-] [end of single line]
279886 46.16 [-] [south end of Highgate depot]

328807 34=25 [V=V] (King William Street)
327803 33=69 [-] [convergence with current route]
324799 33.19 [-] [former junction with current line (northbound)]
324798 33.08 [-] [former junction with current line (southbound)]
324797 33.01 [=S =N] ![Z1] Borough

Great Northern & City Railway

Distances on the GN&CR are set by extension from the Northern Heights values below; it is not known whether the LU kilometre system was ever applied to the line. The present NR milepost numbering starts with zero at the end of the tunnels just south of Moorgate.

313867 41=92 [CP2] [Z2] (Finsbury Park)
314855 40=63 [IPX] [Z2] Drayton Park
315847 39=95 [n==Ns==S +2] %[Z2] Highbury & Islington
321841 39=08 [CPX] ![Z2] Essex Road
327824 37=21 [CP2] %[Z1] Old Street
327818 36=39 [CP8] %[Z1] Moorgate
327817 36=29 [-] [end of tunnel]

313867 41=92 [nnN=5n4=ns=Sss X] [Z2] Finsbury Park
314855 40=63 [IPX] [Z2] Drayton Park

Northern Heights Extensions

Distances have been calculated on an assumed transfer point of East Finchley. Layout descriptions show what the stations in question would have been had the work been completed.

114961 66=05 {{Watford Market}} (1903 proposal)
124960 {{Bushey}} (1924 proposal)
138952 {{Bushey}} (1934 proposal)
162953 61=00 [-] [end of tracks]
163953 60=92 [N=NS=S] {{Bushey Heath}} (post-war proposal)
164950 60=80 [T=T=T] {{Bushey Heath}} (pre-war proposal)
175946 59=45 [NS =NS=] {{Elstree South}}
177945 59=38 [-] [Elstree Hill Tunnel north end]
178941 58=90 [-] [Elstree Hill Tunnel south end]
187931 57=45 [OP] {{Brockley Hill}}
195919 56=19 [^=^^=N=S] [Z5] Edgware (earlier proposal)
195919 56=19 [^=N=^^=S] [Z5] Edgware (later proposal)
213917 54=11 [OP] (Mill Hill (The Hale))
240914 51.15 [OP] [Z4] Mill Hill East
252906 49.67 [N=nS=s] [Z4] Finchley Central
272892 47.25 [n=NS=s] [Z3] East Finchley
280885 45=98 [-] [Park Junction]
282883 45=92 [-] [Highgate West tunnel west end]
285882 45=62 [-] [Highgate West tunnel east end]
286881 45=50 [IP] [Z3] (Highgate)
287881 45=38 [-] [Highgate East tunnel west end]
289880 45=26 [-] [Highgate East tunnel east end]
299878 44=03 [V=NS=] (Crouch End)
308877 43=08 [OP] (Stroud Green)
314867 41=92 [nnn=n=ns=sssS=S] [Z2] Finsbury Park

293899 48=64 [T=TT] (Alexandra Palace)
290897 47=81 [OP] (Muswell Hill)
284891 46=95 [OP] (Cranley Gardens)
280885 45=98 [-] [Park Junction]

Depots

There are four depots: major depots at Morden and Golders Green, and smaller ones at Highgate and Edgware.

Morden depot is on the surface south of Morden station. Golders Green depot is east of the station; it can be entered at the south end from the tubes, or from the station by reversing in a siding extending a short way into the tube. Edgware depot is east of the station; to reach it, trains run south into a siding extending to 53.59, then reverse into the depot.

Highgate depot is the most interesting. The depot is situated on the LNER line that used to run to Finsbury Park. A single track runs from the depot to just before the tube mouths, where it becomes double. The two tube mouths are then on each side of this line; the tubes connect to the outer faces, and the depot lines to the inner faces, of the two island platforms at East Finchley. Trains from the depot must thus run northwards either into the sidings at the latter, or to Finchley Central.

The GN&CR used to have a small depot at Drayton Park. The current First Capital Connect trains are served by a depot at Hornsey.

Connections

The only way off the line is via the so-called "King's Cross Loop" - a single-track link between the Northern and Piccadilly Lines. A train in the northbound Piccadilly Line platfrom at King's Cross St. Pancras can run southwards on to the loop and thence into the northbound platform at Euston (the reverse movement, while physically possible, is not signalled). There is also a third track (the so-called "Euston Loop") from the end of the southbound platform at Euston to Euston Loop Junction (which is in the northbound track only) and thence on to the King's Cross Loop, from which the train can run north on the Piccadilly or reverse from the platform over a crossover to the southbound track. The Euston Loop, of course, is the old northbound track before the reconstruction at Euston to accommodate the Victoria Line.

  N = Northern Line, City Branch                   P  P  Cockfosters
  P = Piccadilly Line                              ^  v
  V = Victoria Line                                |  |
  E = Euston Loop                                  |##|
  K = King's Cross Loop                            |##|
                                                   ^##P
  Edgware,                          KING'S CROSS   P##v
  High Barnet,                      ST. PANCRAS    |##|
  Mill Hill East                                   |##|            Morden
  N>------------N>----*---------------------N>-----*--|-------\   via Bank
  N<--\      ########--*--\              ######## /|  |        \-------->N
       \     ########      \--E---*-*-------<N---/-|--|-----------------<N
  V<----\-------<V--------\      /   \------K---/  |  |
  V>-----\------V>-------\ \    /                  |  |
  Brixton \  ########     \ \------------------------------<V---*-------<V
           \----<N---------\--/                    |  | ######## *-----
                            \------------------------------V>---*------->V
              EUSTON                               *  |        Walthamstow
                                                   |\ |            Central
                                                   | \|
                                                   |  *
                                                   |  |
                                        Heathrow,  ^  v
                                        Uxbridge   P  P

In Underground days the GN&CR was connected to the GNR by a single track from Drayton Park to Finsbury Park goods depot, and until 1970-09-29 trains were exchanged with the rest of the system over the Northern Heights route to Highgate Depot. Thereafter these movements were done via NR tracks and the Widened Lines (see the Hammersmith & City Line).

The GN&CR is no longer connected to any part of the Underground.

Rolling Stock

The line is operated by 1995 Tube Stock. The 1972 Tube Stock formerly found on the line was finally withdrawn on 1999-02-03, and the 1959 Tube Stock on 2000-01-@@.

The line is fitted with Thales Seltrac S40 signalling with ATO (Automatic Train Operation) and so does not have conventional signals.

1959 Tube Stock only operated in 7-car trains (made from a 3-car unit and a 4-car unit coupled together). Single units and other combinations can operate in depots (some stations are not long enough for 8-car trains, and only one cab in each unit has door controls, radio, and passenger alarm).

1995 Tube Stock runs in 6-car trains (two 3-car units coupled together; single units have only one cab and may only run alone within depots). The stock is not permitted to run on other lines because it may interfere with signalling equipment.

The line can also be used by single 4-car units of 1967 Tube Stock if fitted with tripcocks, and by 1972 Tube Stock. In both cases passengers must not be carried.

The GN&CR is served by class 313 EMUs. Only EMUs are permitted on the line, and these are the only types operated by First Capital Connect that are currently fitted with shoegear (they also operate the dual-voltage class 365, but with the shoegear removed at present).


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