Northern Line

From Academic Kids

Lines of the
London Underground
  East London
  Hammersmith & City
  Waterloo & City
  Docklands Light Railway
For other uses, see Northern Line (disambiguation).

The Northern Line is a deep-level tube line of the London Underground, coloured black on the Tube map. With two routes through the central area and two to the north, it is one of the more complicated lines on the system.



High Barnet branch

A typical Northern Line platform, at Bank underground station
A typical Northern Line platform, at Bank underground station

Edgware branch

Inside a Northern Line carriage
Inside a Northern Line carriage

Camden Town

The junctions connecting the two northern branches of the Northern Line to the two central branches are just south of Camden Town station. The station has a pair of platforms on each of the two northern branches, and southbound trains can depart toward either Charing Cross or Bank from either of the two southbound platforms.

Charing Cross branch

(Also known as the West End branch.)

Southbound trains on this branch often terminate at Kennington, where they return by means of a loop track.

Bank branch

(Also known as the City Branch.)

Morden branch


Formation of the Northern Line

Missing image
City & South London Railway train, 1890

The City & South London Railway, London's first deep-level tube railway, was built under the supervision of James Henry Greathead who had been responsible, with Peter W. Barlow, for the Tower Subway. It opened in November 1890 from Stockwell to a now-disused station at King William Street; the latter was inconveniently placed and unable to cope with the traffic, so in 1900 a new route to Moorgate via Bank was opened. By 1907 the CSLR had been extended to run from Clapham Common to Euston.

The Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (known as the "Hampstead Tube") was opened in 1907 and ran from Charing Cross (known for many years as Strand) to Golders Green and Highgate (now known as Archway). It was extended south by one stop to Embankment in 1914.

In 1913 the two lines came into common ownership, and during the 1920s connections were built so that the two lines joined at Camden Town and Kennington. The tunnels of the CSLR were also expanded to match the standard size and the lines were extended from Golders Green to Edgware in the north (1923 and 1924) and from Clapham Common to Morden in the south (1926). The resulting line became known as the Morden-Edgware Line, although a number of alternative names were also mooted along the lines of the Bakerloo, such as "Edgmorden" and "Medgware". It was eventually named the Northern Line in 1937.

Morden Extension

The Morden extension added seven new stations all designed by Charles Holden in a modern style that became known as the "Morden Style". With the exception of the stations at Morden and Clapham South, where more land was available, the new stations were generally built on confined corner sites at main road junctions in already developed areas. Holden made good use of his limited space and designed impressive buildings. The street level structures are of white portland stone with tall double height ticket halls with the famous London Underground roundel design made up in coloured glass panels in large glazed screens. The stone columns framing the glass screens are summounted by a capital formed as a three dimensional version of the roundel. The large expanse of glass ensured that the ticket halls were bright and, lit from within at night, welcoming. The first and last new stations on the extension, Morden and Clapham South, included a parade of shops and were designed with structures capable of being built above (like many of the earlier central London stations). Clapham South was extended upwards around the time of its original construction with a block of apartments; Morden was extended upwards in the 1960s with a block of offices. All the stations on the extension are now Grade II listed buildings with the exception of Morden.

After Nationalisation in 1933 the Great Northern & City Railway, which ran from Moorgate to Finsbury Park, became part of the Underground as the Northern City Line; it was operated as part of the Northern Line, though it was never connected to it.

New Works Programme 1935-40: the Northern Heights plan

In June 1935 an ambitious plan of new extensions was announced by LT, including a complex of lines north of Highgate across the "Northern Heights," linking the Highgate branch and the Northern City Line to an existing suburban branch line which ran on the surface from Finsbury Park to Edgware via Highgate, with branches to Alexandra Palace and High Barnet. The line taken over would also be extended beyond Edgware to Bushey Heath and a new depot at Aldenham. This would involve electrification of the surface lines (served by steam trains at the time) and the construction of two new stretches of track: a connection between the Northern City and Finsbury Park station on the surface, and an extension of the Highgate branch tube to the LNER line near East Finchley via new deep-level platforms below the existing Highgate station.

Missing image

Work began in the late 1930s, but was disrupted by the start of the War. Sufficient progress had been made on the Highgate link and the High Barnet branch that they were allowed to continue and opened in 1941. A single track of the LNER line to Edgware was electrified as far as Mill Hill East in order to serve the barracks there, thus forming the Northern Line as it is today. The new train depot at Aldenham had already been built so was converted into a repair facility for buses. Work on the other elements of the plan was suspended.

After the War, the area beyond Edgware was made part of the Green Belt, and the potential demand for services from Bushey Heath thus vanished. Available funds were directed towards completing the eastern extension of the Central Line instead, and the Northern Heights plan was dropped. The line from Finsbury Park to Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace via the surface platforms at Highgate was closed to passenger traffic in 1954. A local pressure group, the Muswell Hill Metro Group, campaigns to reopen this route as a light rail service. So far there is no sign of movement on this issue; the route, now the "Parkland Walk", is highly valued by walkers and cyclists and suggestions in the 90s that it could in part become a road were met with fierce opposition.

The suburban railway heritage of the High Barnet branch beyond Highgate can be seen in the design of the stations.

More recent developments

In 1975 the Northern City Line, known by that time as the Highbury branch, became part of British Rail. It is now served by WAGN.

In the 1980s and 1990s the line was nicknamed the "Misery Line", though its reputation improved somewhat after the introduction of new rolling stock in the late 1990s.

In 2003, a train derailed at Camden Town. This damaged points and signals, and trains did not cross there while repairs were underway -- trains coming from Edgware only worked the Bank branch and trains from High Barnet and Mill Hill East only served the Charing Cross branch. This situation was resolved when the crossing reopened, after much repair work and safety analysis and testing, on 7 March 2004.

A joint report by London Underground and its maintenance contractor Tubelines concluded that poor track geometry was the main cause, and that, because of the geometry, extra friction arising out of striations (scratches) on a newly installed set of points had allowed the leading wheel of the last carriage to climb the rail and so derail. The track geometry at the derailment site is a very tight bend and tight tunnel bore, which precludes the normal solution for this sort of geometry of canting the track by dipping the height of one rail relative to the other.

See also

Leslie Green - architect of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway's early stations

External links



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