A Brief History Of The Hammersmith And City Line

By M@
A Brief History Of The Hammersmith And City Line

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Hammersmith and City line display on a train
Image: Matt Brown

The pink line. The slow line. The H&C... The Hammersmith and City has always had a bit of an identity problem. It shares most of its track with other lines and, for much of its life, didn't exist as a separate entity at all. And yet, the tracks running down from Paddington to Hammersmith were the first major extension to the underground railway, following the opening of the Metropolitan in 1863.

Here, we present a brief, readable chronology of the line's evolution.

See also:
A brief history of the Bakerloo line
A brief history of the Central line
A brief history of the Jubilee line
A brief history of the Metropolitan line
A brief history of the Northern line
A brief history of the Victoria line
A brief history of the Waterloo & City line

A route map for the Hammersmith and City line
The line as it is today

1861: A Bill to build a railway from Paddington down to Hammersmith receives Royal Assent. The Hammersmith and City is GO!

1862 (6 Nov): In what might be the first serious accident on the Underground railway, six workers are killed when a viaduct collapses near Ladbroke Grove. An inquest found their deaths to be accidental and no blame was apportioned, although it was noted that "sufficient attention was not paid to the character of the soil on which the foundation of the piers was laid." 14 arches were destroyed in the collapse, which happened on Silchester Road (right next to the future Grenfell Tower site).

1863: London's very first underground passenger railway — indeed, the first in the world — opens between Farringdon and Paddington. These tracks, operated by the Metropolitan Railway, will form part of the future H&C route.

1864 (13 Jun): If railways can be said to have birthdays then this is the H&C's. The first service runs all the way through from Farringdon to Hammersmith, less than a year and a half after the opening of the Metropolitan Railway. The Hammersmith and City Railway, as it's called, is operated by the Great Western Railway. Your choice of stations in these opening months is quite limited. Between Paddington and Hammersmith, the only stops are Notting Hill (now Ladbroke Grove) and Shepherd's Bush.

1864: If you thought the line was just a simple shuttle between Farringdon and Hammersmith, think again. A few weeks after the opening of the route to Hammersmith, a branch line carries some services down to Olympia (then called Addison Road). This alternative route is overseen by the West London Railway.

1866 (1 Feb): Westbourne Park station joins the line.

1867: The Metropolitan Railway acquires a major stake in the Hammersmith and City Railway. It gets rid of the broad-gauge track, operates most of the trains and starts pummelling the H&C branding out of existence. Before long, the line to Hammersmith is considered part of the Metropolitan Railway. It would be over 122 years before the H&C name resurfaced.

Latimer Road station platform and roundel
Image: Matt Brown

1868 (16 Dec): Latimer Road station joins the gang. It's positioned just before the branch point where Olympia trains peel off from their Hammersmith-bound brethren.

1871 (30 Oct): Royal Oak station opens, serving both mainline trains and those on the Hammersmith and City.

1876 (18 Nov): A bit of action at the eastern end of the line, where services are extended round from Farringdon to Aldgate.

1884: After a series of minor extensions and hook-ups with existing rails, the H&C now connects with Whitechapel. From here, services can run along the future Overground tracks to reach as far as New Cross.

1906: The entire line is electrified.

1908: Another new station for the H&C, as Wood Lane opens north of Shepherd's Bush. It's not the same one we know (and possibly love) today, though, which is a new build to the north.

The gable of Hammersmith station viewed through a pub window
Hammersmith station, viewed most sagely from the pub. Image: Matt Brown

1914 (1 Apr): The line gets yet another new station in the shape of Goldhawk Road. At the same time, the original Shepherd's Bush station closes down, to be replaced by a new station of the same name (today's Shepherd's Bush Market).

1936: Hammersmith services run as far east as Barking for the first time as the Metropolitan line reconfigures its network.

1990 (30 Jul): If railways can be said to have birthdays then this competes with 1864 for the H&C. Since the 1860s, the line had generally been considered part of the Metropolitan. From this date, the Hammersmith and City line is granted its own name and colour — that pink/salmon hue that remains today. Hundreds of balloons were released to mark the launch of the rebranded route. So, depending how you frame it, the H&C is either London's second oldest underground line, or its most recent.

2008 (12 Oct): In ye olden days, underground stops changed name at the drop of a station master's hat. It's much rarer in modern times, but today sees the H&C's Shepherd's Bush rebranded as Shepherd's Bush Market (avoiding confusion with the Central line station, which retains the name Shepherd's Bush). On the same day, a new Wood Lane station opens (the first of that name since 1947, when the previous Wood Lane became White City... but not the modern White City... only to close a decade later). By golly-gumdrops, the rail network in this part of town is confusing! Anyhow, the new Wood Lane station remained the most recent addition to the tube network until the Northern line extension in 2021.

2012 (6 July): New rolling stock begins rolling out on the H&C. So-called S7 stock replaces C-stock cars that have been in service since 1970. If, like 98% of passengers, you don't give a tinker's cuss about stock names and types, just know that these new cars are the ones that suddenly had air conditioning.

2024 (13 Jun): The Hammersmith & City turns 160 years old. You can't move for street parties and bunting.

Last Updated 18 January 2024