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History of the Central Line’s Hainault loop revealed on the 150th anniversary of the London Underground

Plessey - in wartime 1940 - working in central line underground near Gants Hill Plessey - in wartime 1940 - working in central line underground near Gants Hill

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
10:01 AM

It is exactly 150 years since the first journey on the London Underground took place.

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Gants Hill, Central Line stationGants Hill, Central Line station

The Metropolitan Railway ran its first steam train for just four miles between Paddington and Farringdon on January 9 1863.

The next day, 40,000 passengers used the first underground railway in the world.

Seeing the success of the Metropolitan used Line, other developers quickly followed with the Waterloo and City Line and in 1900, the Central Line.

The Central London Railway, as it was then known, was one of the first deep-level “tubes” and ran from Shepherd’s Bush to Bank.

It is now the busiest line in London, with around 260million passengers a year.

But it took more than 50 years to grow into the line we now know, running for 47 miles between West Ruislip, on the edge of north-west London, and Epping, in Essex.

By 1946, the route had extended as far as Stratford and stations from Snaresbrook to Woodford and Newbury Park opened in December 1947.

Barkingside, Fairlop and Hainault completed the loop in May 1948.

The tunnels were essentially completed in 1939 but the outbreak of war put public transport on hold and the five-mile stretch from Leytonstone to Gants Hill was used as a munitions factory.

Plessey opened in1942, complete with escalators, air conditioning, a miniature railway and canteens to produce an array of components for military and defence equipment.

The factory moved back above ground at the end of the war and in 1945, work on the tube continued.

Instead of building more costly and time-consuming tunnels from Newbury Park, the new line went above ground and took over an older train line.

The “Fairlop loop” had been opened by the Great Eastern Railway in 1903 between Ilford and Woodford via Newbury Park but the Central Line quickly overtook the former route.

The connection between Ilford and Newbury Park was closed in 1947 but the line to Seven Kings lasted until 1956.

Road bridges at in Vicarage Lane, Benton Road remain but the track is long gone and much of the cutting used by the former railway has been filled in.

The Hainault to Woodford section of the line went on to become a guinea pig for experimental systems and trialled the line’s first Automatic Train Operation years before the system was introduced in 1996

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