Open main menu

Farringdon station looking south-east. The Moorgate Line (formerly City Widened Lines) is the pair on the right, currently used by Thameslink.

The Widened Lines (also known as the City Widened Lines; formerly known as the Moorgate Line[1][2]) are a double-track railway line forming part of the Thameslink Core Route between St Pancras and Farringdon within central London.

For most of their life the Widened Lines ran from King's Cross to Moorgate, and were completed in 1866 when the Metropolitan Railway was widened from two to four tracks between King's Cross and Farringdon (hence the widened name) and a four-track railway opened from there to Moorgate.

The tracks were owned by the Metropolitan Railway but were used mainly by other railway companies. Connections to the Great Northern Railway (GNR) at King's Cross and London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LC&DR) at Farringdon allowed cross-London services to run. There was very soon a connection to the Midland Railway at St Pancras, near King's Cross. In the early 20th century competition led to the cross-London services being withdrawn, although the GNR and Midland services into Moorgate survived. The former GNR services were diverted via the Northern City Line to Moorgate in 1976, and in 1988 the cross-London route reopened for Thameslink. The line east of Farringdon closed in 2009 to allow the platforms at Farringdon to be extended to take 12-car trains.

Looking southwards through Clerkenwell No3 tunnel towards Farringdon from King's Cross Thameslink station



The City Widened Lines between King's Cross and Moorgate Street and their connections

In 1863 the Metropolitan Railway (also known as the Met[3]) opened the world's first underground railway.[4] From Paddington the line was built using the "cut-and-cover" method beneath the New Road, connecting the main line railway termini at Paddington, Euston and King's Cross, then followed Farringdon Road in tunnel and cutting to a station at Farringdon Street near Smithfield, near the capital's financial heart in the City. The service was initially provided by gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives.

With connections to the Great Western Railway (GWR) and Great Northern Railway (GNR) under construction and connections to the Midland Railway and the LC&DR planned, the Met obtained permission in 1861 and 1864[note 1] for a four-track eastward extension to a new terminus at Moorgate and two additional tracks from King's Cross to Farringdon Street.[5][6][7] The Met used two tracks for its own services, the other two tracks being used mainly by other railway companies, and becoming known as the City Widened Lines.[8] A pair of single track tunnels at King's Cross connecting the GNR to the Met came into passenger use on 1 October 1863 when the GNR began running trains,[9][note 2] those towards Farringdon Street calling at a single-platform station at King's Cross York Road, in the reverse direction at King's Cross Suburban station.[10] A west curve towards Baker Street was built but not used for regular traffic and the track removed in 1865. Having withdrawn from running Metropolitan services on 10 August, the GWR returned on 1 October 1863 with through trains from such places as Windsor.[11]

The extension to Aldersgate Street and Moorgate Street (now Barbican and Moorgate) opened on 23 December 1865,[12] and all four lines were open on 1 March 1866.[13] The parallel tracks from King's Cross to Farringdon, first used by GNR freight train on 27 January 1868,[14] entered a second Clerkenwell tunnel before dropping at a gradient of 1 in 100, passing under the Ray Street Gridiron carrying the original Met track before ascending a 1 in 40 slope to Farringdon.[15] A plan was developed to extend the City Widened Lines to Euston, but this was aborted and never completed.[16]

Passenger servicesEdit

City Widened Lines
Finsbury Park
Kentish Town
Maiden Lane
North London line
Canal Tunnels
St Pancras International
King's Cross St Pancras
King's Cross York Road
King's Cross
Hotel curve
York Road curve
King's Cross Thameslink
Ray Street gridiron
Vine Street goods
GNR goods
Snow Hill Tunnel
Main line to Moorgate

On 1 January 1866, LC&DR and GNR joint services from Blackfriars Bridge began operating on to the Met via the Snow Hill tunnel under Smithfield market to Farringdon and northwards on to the GNR.[17] From 3 January 1866 GNR services ran to Ludgate Hill and LC&DR services ran to Farringdon Street.[13]

The Midland Railway junction opened on 13 July 1868 when services ran into Moorgate Street before St Pancras station opened. The line left the Midland main line at St Paul's Road Junction, entering a double-track tunnel and joining the Widened Lines at Midland Junction. A tunnel was built west of Midland Junction with the intent of quadrupling all the way to Paddington, but was not used until 1926. Initially services ran from the Tottenham & Hampstead Junction line to Moorgate and Victoria. From 1 July 1875 the Midland ran services from Hendon and South Tottenham to Victoria, the LC&DR between Victoria and Hendon.[18]

On 1 September 1871 an eastern curve from the Snow Hill line was opened and the LC&DR diverted its Victoria to Farringdon service to Moorgate. This started at 80 trains per day, declining to 48 by 1913.[14]

The South Eastern Railway (SER) built a connection with the LC&DR at Blackfriars Bridge. From 1 June 1878, the GNR ran six trains a day to Woolwich Arsenal and from 1 August 1880 the SER ran to Enfield and Muswell Hill on behalf of the GNR.[19]

By the end of the 19th century a continental service was operating from Liverpool to Paris, via the Widened Lines. Trains departed at 08:00 and arrived in Paris by 22:50 having travelled by paddle steamer access the Channel at Folkestone. [20]

In the early 20th century competition from the electric underground railways and electric trams meant that the SER & GNR service was withdrawn on 30 April 1907, the GNR & LC&DR service in September 1907 and the Midland & LC&DR service in June 1908.[21] Passenger services across London through Snow Hill railway station and Snow Hill tunnel were withdrawn in 1916.[22]

From 1 January 1908 electric locomotives were exchanged for steam locomotives on passenger trains at Paddington, and GWR services continued to run until 1939.[14]

On 28 July 1914 the First World War broke out, and on 5 August 1914 the City Widened Lines assumed major strategic importance as a link between the channel ports and the main lines to the north, being used for troop movements and freight. During the four years of war the line saw 26,047 military trains, which carried 250,000 long tons (254,000 t) of materials,[23] but sharp curves prevented ambulance trains using this route.[24]

The former GNR and Midland services continued to run to Moorgate, DMUs and diesel locomotives replacing steam in the 1960s.[25] In 1976 the former GNR services were diverted at Finsbury Park via the Northern City Line to Moorgate, and York Road station and the curves into King's Cross closed.[26]

In 1978 work started on electrification of the Widened Lines from St Pancras to Moorgate as part of the "Bedpan" line, an electric service between Bedford and Moorgate, opening on 15 July 1983. King's Cross Widened Lines station was renamed King's Cross Midland City, and King's Cross Thameslink in May 1988 when the Snow Hill tunnels reopened for Thameslink.[27]

The line from Farringdon to Moorgate closed on 20 March 2009, to allow the platforms at Farringdon be extended to take 12-car trains.[25]

LC&DR stationsEdit

When the line opened south of Farringdon, the LC&DR had a station at Ludgate Hill that had opened on 1 June 1865[28] and Blackfriars Bridge on the south side of the Thames.[29] On 2 March 1874 Holborn Viaduct opened as a six-platform south-facing terminus.[citation needed] Close by, Snow Hill opened on the through line on 1 August, renamed Holborn Viaduct Low Level in 1912.[22] In 1886 Blackfriars railway station opened, as St Paul's, on the north side of the river replacing Blackfriars Bridge, which closed the same year, renamed Blackfriars in 1937.[29] When through traffic was withdrawn in 1916, Holborn Viaduct Low Level closed. Ludgate Hill closed in 1929.[28]

After Thameslink services started, in 1990 Holborn Viaduct was replaced by new platforms on the through line, named St Paul's Thameslink (in 1991 renamed City Thameslink.[22]

Goods and coal servicesEdit

Railway goods traffic developed in the 1860s and 1870s, by which time almost every station had an associated goods yard. It then became possible to send goods from any station (or siding) in Britain to any other station. In particular, any station in the South of England could receive goods from places in northern parts. Places in the South were also able to order coal from collieries in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire, as well as other coalfields, to be conveyed to destination by rail. Such traffic had to cross London from North to South. There was also a certain amount of traffic in the opposite direction, as well as returned empty coal wagons.

The MR and GNR already having connections with the Widened Lines, it became convenient to use the route to transfer wagons of goods and coal to the Southern companies. By comparison, the LNWR and GWR used the route via the West London Railway, and the GER used the East London Railway. The method adopted was to run trains from the north to a place on the outskirts of London where there were sidings where the train could be broken up. The wagons destined for places south of the Thames were separated and made into a separate train to run across London to another group of sidings where they could be resorted according to final destination. Originally small groups of sidings were used, such as Kentish Town and West Hampstead on the MR, Holloway and Finsbury Park on the GNR. In the later part of the nineteenth century the amount of traffic outstripped the capacity of such places, and huge new marshalling yards were constructed at Brent Sidings MR and Ferme Park GNR.

The companies south of the Thames received the cross-London traffic at places such as Battersea Wharf and Norwood Junction on the LB&SCR, Herne Hill on the LC&DR and Bricklayers Arms on the SER. Traffic from GNR to L&SWR used the Widened Lines to Clapham Junction or Brentford, or the North London and North & South Western Junction Railways, according to destination, but for traffic from MR to L&SWR the route via Acton Wells Junction and the North & South Western Junction Railway was more convenient, especially after the marshalling was done at Brent Sidings. The extensive marshalling yard at Hither Green SER was opened in 1899, while a new yard opened at Feltham on the L&SWR in 1917-21 largely replaced that company's existing yards.

The overall picture was further complicated by the establishment of coal depots in South London by the "northern" companies, mainly the MR and GNR, which enabled them to take control of the whole transit of the coal from colliery to local distributor. These depots were served by dedicated workings from the yards on the MR and GNR - latterly Brent Sidings and Ferme Park – via the Widened Lines and running powers established at various dates. Further details can be found in an article by Edwin Course in Railway Magazine.[30]

In 1877 there were 58 daily trips from the MR over the Widened Lines their own South London depots and to the LB&SCR, LC&DR and SER destinations mentioned above.[31] There must have been a similar number of workings from the GNR, details of which can be found in the working timetables at the National Archives.

Train loads were restricted through the tunnel section, and there was little scope for running longer and fewer trains. More paths were available for goods trains after the cessation of passenger services in 1916. Freight traffic continued and was of considerable importance in both World Wars. With the decline of wagonload freight traffic from the 1960s and the National Freight Train Plan of 1968, more use was made of the West London Line, allowing the Widened Lines to be abandoned for such traffic.

Goods depotsEdit

Goods depots opened near Farringdon on the Widened Lines. Smithfield Market Sidings opened 1 May 1869, serviced by the GWR. The GNR opened its depot on 2 November 1874, the Midland followed with its Whitecross depot on 1 January 1878. Finally the Met opened its depot at Vine Street in 1909, serviced by electric locomotives from West Hampstead[32] The GNR goods depot closed on 15 January 1956 and Smithfield Market was last served by train on 28 July 1962.[32]


19th centuryEdit

Almost from the date of opening of the Widened Lines, the various railway companies supplied their own steam locomotives (mostly fitted with condensing apparatus). These included:[33]

Great Northern Railway

Two 0-8-0T locomotives from the Avonside Engine Company, delivered in 1866 and numbered 472 and 473. These were designed for hauling coal trains to Farringdon Street and to South London via Snow Hill. Six locomotives were ordered but the last four were cancelled because the first two proved ill-suited to the route because of their long rigid wheelbase. For passenger services, "120 class" 0-4-4WT locomotives 621-628 (built 1872) were used. These had inconspicuous condensing apparatus with the pipework hidden from view.

Great Western Railway

For freight working, the GWR used 633 Class 0-6-0T locomotives 643 and 644 built at Wolverhampton railway works in 1871-1872. Four other members of the same class, 633, 634, 641 and 642, were used later.

London Chatham and Dover Railway

Four 2-4-0T locomotives, built by the railway in 1872-1873 using boilers from 4-4-0s that had been acquired in 1860-1861, were used. These rebuilds kept the names of the donor locomotives: Aeolus, Bacchus, Vulcan and Comus. Later, LCDR R class 0-4-4T locomotives were used.

London and North Western Railway

Sixteen Beyer Peacock 4-4-0T locomotives, delivered 1871-1872 and numbered 2055-2070. These were to the same design as the Metropolitan Railway A Class but had weatherboards at the rear as well as the front.

Midland Railway

Six Beyer Peacock 4-4-0T locomotives delivered in 1868 and numbered 204-209. These were to the same design as the Metropolitan Railway A Class.

20th centuryEdit

During the 20th century, steam locomotives used on the Widened Lines included:

In the diesel locomotive era, British Rail Class 23 (Baby Deltic) and British Rail Class 31 locomotives were used on passenger trains between King's Cross and Moorgate.

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ In the Metropolitan Railway Act 1861 and the Metropolitan Railway (Finsbury Circus Extension) Act 1861 and Metropolitan Railway Act was given Royal Assent on 25 July 1864 approving the additional tracks to King's Cross.
  2. ^ One of these tunnels, completed in 1862, was used to bring GNR-loaned rolling stock to the Metropolitan Railway when the GWR withdrew its trains in August 1863.[9]


  1. ^ Network Rail (June 2015). Kent Sussex & Wessex Sectional Appendix. Module KSW2. p. 136 (supplement). SO280 Seq 001.
  2. ^ Quail Map 4 - Midlands & North West [page 1R] March 2005 (Retrieved 2016-10-23)
  3. ^ Horne 2003, p. 5.
  4. ^ Day & Reed 2008, p. 8.
  5. ^ "Fowler's Ghost" 1962, p. 303.
  6. ^ "No. 22529". The London Gazette. 12 July 1861. pp. 2871–2872.
  7. ^ "No. 22537". The London Gazette. 9 August 1861. pp. 3314–3315.
  8. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 130.
  9. ^ a b "Fowler's Ghost" 1962, p. 301.
  10. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 25.
  11. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 35.
  12. ^ Green 1987, p. 6.
  13. ^ a b Jackson 1986, p. 47.
  14. ^ a b c Jackson 1986.
  15. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 48.
  16. ^ London Railway Atlas p.75
  17. ^ "Fowler's Ghost" 1962, p. 304.
  18. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 49.
  19. ^ Jackson 1986, pp. 132–133.
  20. ^ Martin, Andrew (2013). Underground Overground: A Passenger's History of the Tube. London: Profile Books. p.56. ISBN 978-1846684784.
  21. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 50.
  22. ^ a b c "Snow Hill". 20 April 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  23. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 231.
  24. ^ Jackson 1986, p. 232.
  25. ^ a b "Moorgate (Widened Lines)". 20 April 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  26. ^ "King's Cross York Road". 1 October 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  27. ^ "King's Cross Thameslink". 20 April 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  28. ^ a b "Ludgate Hill". 20 April 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  29. ^ a b "Blackfriars Bridge". 20 April 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  30. ^ Edwin Course, The Foreign Goods Depots of South London, in Railway Magazine November 1960 p761
  31. ^ "Buckjumper" in
  32. ^ a b Jackson 1986, pp. 333, 365–367.
  33. ^ Smith, Martin (1994). Steam on the Underground. Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-7110-2282-8.


  • Day, John R.; Reed, John (2008) [1963]. The Story of London's Underground (10th ed.). Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-316-7.
  • "Fowler's Ghost" (May 1962). Cooke, B.W.C. (ed.). "Railway connections at King's Cross (part one)". The Railway Magazine. Tothill Press. 108 (733).
  • Green, Oliver (1987). The London Underground: An illustrated history. Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1720-4.
  • Horne, Mike (2003). The Metropolitan Line. Capital Transport. ISBN 1-85414-275-5.
  • Jackson, Alan (1986). London's Metropolitan Railway. David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8839-8.

Further readingEdit

  • Goslin, Geoff (1997). The Great Northern and Midlands Railways and their successors. Steam on the Widened Lines. Vol. 1. Connor & Butler. ISBN 0947699252.
  • Goslin, Geoff (1998). The Great Western and Southern Companies. Steam on the Widened Lines. Vol. 2. Connor & Butler. ISBN 0947699287.

External linksEdit