World's first underground

Main line railways made it easier to get to London, but also contributed to the growing congestion on the streets.

In 1860 work began on the first attempt to solve the problem: an underground railway. The Metropolitan Railway was designed to link three of London's main line termini with the City. The track was laid mostly in a shallow cutting excavated along the street, which was then roofed over. This method was known as cut-and-cover construction.

The first section of the Metropolitan opened from Paddington to Farringdon on 10 January 1863. A second underground line, the District, began operating five years later. The two were eventually linked to create the Circle line in 1884.

The early underground was a huge engineering achievement and very well used, but had one big disadvantage. Its steam locomotives created a permanent sulphurous fug in the stations and tunnels. The only surviving steam engine from the 1860s, Metropolitan number 23, is on display in the Museum.