Suburban Electric Railway Association      
Located at the COVENTRY ELECTRIC RAILWAY CENTRE, Rowley Road, Baginton, Warwickshire           


The History Zone

History of North london DC Services

Part One

The London And North Western Era
1914 - 1923

In 1907 the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) gained parliamentary approval to undertake a massive remodeling of their suburban services. The scheme involved the provision of two extra tracks running parrallel with their existing Euston to Watford Junction main line to separate suburban services from express and home counties local trains. Also a new branch from Watford Junction to Croxley Green was to be constructed, branching off from the existing Watford to Rickmansworth line. In addition new suburban stations were to be built and a link between the LNWR and the Bakerloo line of the London Underground Electric Railway group was to be installed at Queens Park. In order for through working to LNWR metals by Bakerloo trains and to improve the efficiency of new LNWR suburban services the whole network was to be electrified.

Work began on this massive project in 1909, the same year that the LNWR took over the management of the North London Railway, as a result of this the NLR route from Broad Street station to Richmond was added to the electrification proposal. Which when completed would be the largest, and most expensive, integrated electric suburban railway of it's time. All lines were to electrified at 630v D.C. and fed from a railway built power station at Stonebridge Park. Current was supplied to the trains by an outer conductor rail and negative return was made by a return 4th rail between the track gauge.

Map of LNWR electrified network

Work on the project was considerably slowed by the outbreak of the First World War and the first LNWR electric trains did not run until 1914, and then only on the short route between Willesden Junction to the District Railway station at Earls Court via Addison Road (now Kensington Olympia). The Bakerloo connection was completed at Queens park in 1915 but underground trains could run no further north than that for another two years as the line north of Willesden to Watford Junction was not electrified until 1917, The LNWR began Watford-Broad Street electric services in the same year, this was possible as a year earlier electrification of the NLR route from Broad Street to Richmond, including a branch to Kew Bridge, had been innuaguarated.

An official photo of the first LNWR electric train in London (archive)

By 1922, the last year of the LNWRs existence, a full electric service between Euston and Watford Junction, along with the Croxley Green branch was started by the LNWR. The last line to be electrified was the Rickmansworth branch which was not energised until 1927, by which time the London Midland & Scottish Railway were in charge of the routes.

The LNWR Electric Units

The LNWR order an initial batch of three car units to work their services with electrical equipment provided by Siemens of Germany, the car bodies were built by Metropolitan Cammel at the Wednesbury works. This first batch of units arrived in 1914 in time for the start up of Willesden - Earls Court services.

Builders works photo of a 'Siemens' stock car (archive)

When the construction of the second batch of LNWR units was due to commence a problem had arisen with obtaining further electrical equipment from Siemens, Britain was at war with Germany ! An alternative supplier was found in the Oerlikon company from neutral Switzerland. The first batch of Oerlikon equipped units were delivered from Met-Cam in 1915.

Official LNWR photo of one of the first batch of 'Oerlikon' units (archive)

The final batch of Oerlikon units were delivered in time for the commencement of the full electric service between 1921 and 1923.

Despite the difference in electrical suppliers and build dates all the units were of the same style of construction save for a few minor differences. All were formed of three coaches, A driving motor brake, intermediate composite (first and third class) trailer and driving trailer brake. All the electrical switchgear was house in a compartment between the cab and guards brake of the driving motor car and the power of the four traction motors fitted to each of these cars equated to 900hp. all the passenger accomodation was in open saloons with a mix of longitudinal and transverse seating.

A unit of the last batch of 'Oerlikon' cars in LMS livery (archive)

The units lasted in use until the late 1950's with the exception of a batch of siemens stock cars which were transferred to the Lancaster - Morcombe- Heysham route in the mid 50s, for which they were converted to overhead wire AC electric operation. These units remained in use on this route until the late 1960's.

A unit of 'Siemens' stock after conversion to overhead AC
electric operation on a Lancaster - Morecombe service (archive)

Continue to part two