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© Transport for London
Collection of London Transport Museum

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City & South London Railway "Padded Cell" coach No 30, 1890

  • Dimensions: Width: 2150mm, Height: 2700mm
  • Reference number: 1981/538
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    This is the only surviving locomotive and coach from the first electric underground railway in the world. They may look small and primitive today, but they represent the start of a revolution in urban transport. This was the beginning of the London Tube system on which the city now depends.
    The original City & South London Railway locomotives and coaches of 1890 were highly experimental. Nobody had built an electric Tube railway before and not surprisingly the trains had many limitations. By the time additional rolling stock was needed for the railway's extension in 1900, various changes and improvements had been made to the designs.
    The original City & South London Railway (C&SLR) line was about 5km (3 miles) long, running from Stockwell to King William Street in the City of London. The twin circular Tube tunnels ran directly under the street about 18m (60 feet) below ground. There were only five stations in 1890, and passengers reached the platforms by hydraulic lift.
    A journey on the first Tube railway was clean and fast compared to the old steam underground trains, but the coaches felt small and cramped. Punch magazine called it the 'sardine box railway' because of the packed conditions at rush-hour. The coaches were soon nicknamed 'padded cells' because of the high-backed bench seats and lack of windows. The only air came from ventilators above.
    A gateman travelled on the open platform between the three coaches of each train. He opened and closed the folding gates and end doors at each stop and, because there were no windows, had to call out the station name for passengers inside. The railway soon found that passengers preferred to see for themselves, and fitted full-size windows in their coaches.
    The City & South London Railway (C&SLR) was extended south to Clapham in 1900, and north to Euston in 1907. But it struggled to survive as an independent railway company. In 1913 it became part of the Underground Group. After the First World War plans were made to integrate the pioneer Tube with the other lines. Integration required complete reconstruction and modernization of the C&SLR in 1923-26. The tunnels were enlarged to take multiple-unit Tube trains, and the C&SLR was linked to the Hampstead Tube at Stockwell and Camden Town, creating the Northern line (though it was not renamed until 1937) .
    City & South London Railway (C&SLR) locomotive number 13 was built by Mather & Platt of Manchester. Coach number 30 was built by the Ashbury Carriage & Wagon Company, also of Manchester. Both were supplied for the opening of the C&SLR in 1890, and were modified and improved during service on the line. The coach was later fitted with full-size windows, but restored to its original condition when it was set aside for preservation in the 1920s.
    The locomotive and coach were both withdrawn from service when the line closed for reconstruction. They became the first examples of underground rolling stock to be preserved, but have only recently been reunited. The locomotive was presented to the Science Museum, South Kensington in 1923 and displayed for many years with a false numberplate to represent number 1. The coach was restored to its original condition for the 1925 Stockton & Darlington Railway Centenary parade, then displayed at the York Railway Museum until the 1960s. Loco and coach were first displayed together at London Transport Museum's Electric Tube Centenary exhibition in 1990.


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