Berkshire stations that were “underground” long before Crossrail
This week saw the launch of the Elizabeth line. The long-delayed Crossrail project launched its first services on Tuesday May 24.
The Elizabeth line has seen the official London Underground map updated – with Berkshire destinations including Reading, Twyford, Maidenhead, Slough and Langley added to the iconic map as a result. Burnham, a station that serves a town in Bucks but is geographically in Berkshire, is also making the new Underground map.
The iconic London Underground map, known around the world today, was first designed in 1931 by Henry Beck. And the new Elizabeth Line – which runs from Reading to Shenfield in Essex via Heathrow Airport and central London – appears there in Pantone Purple 266.
However, this is not the first time that Berkshire stations have been served by the “London Underground”. While some counties bordering the capital, namely Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, have London Underground stations to date, Berkshire does not.
This was not always the case however. Three county stations – Slough, Windsor and Langley – were on the District Line for a short time.
We are of course talking a long time ago for this. Long before the famous Henry Beck Underground Map and before Heathrow Airport (before, in fact, fixed-wing flight). The “London Underground” service to Berkshire arguably predates the London Underground itself.
Expansion into Berkshire
The history of the London Underground began in 1864 with the creation of the Metropolitan District Railway. The purpose behind this was to link London’s rail termini on an underground line known as the ‘Inner Circle’.
This grew rapidly and by 1871 the District Railway was operating its own trains. The railway would grow over the following decades and eventually reach Berkshire.
Services to Windsor, Slough and Langley commenced 1 March 1883 – service commencing and ending at Windsor. Services from all three Berkshire stations went to Mansion House in the City of London via Paddington.
Of short time
While there is no doubt that people living in Windsor these days would greatly appreciate a direct service to the City of London, that was not the case back then. It soon began to prove unprofitable to operate Berkshire’s service to the capital.
So on September 30, 1885 – about two and a half years after its launch, the District Railway cut service to all three Berkshire stations. Five Greater London stations also lost service – these were West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall, Hayes & Harlington and West Drayton.
The new route would see the District Railway begin and end at Ealing Broadway. This decision appears to have stood the test of time as the District Line continues to terminate there to this day.
What happened to Berkshire Tube stations?
In reality, nothing – there are no long-lost abandoned sites to look at like you sometimes get when the rail infrastructure is cut. Slough and Langley continue to operate as stations and are now on the London Underground map thanks to the Elizabeth line.
As for Windsor, it continues to operate as Windsor and Eton Central – a name it has had since 1949. It is one of two railway stations serving the city along with Windsor and Eton Riverside.