Electrifying London

The Yerkes Era

Charles Tyson Yerkes was born in Chicago in 1837 and became a very wealthy man by dealing in brokerage and investments in tramways and urban elevated railways in that city. He came to London in 1900 backed with millions of pounds provided by US investors and international banks to invest in buying up urban railway schemes in the capital. That same year he acquired the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (CXE&HR) and followed this in 1901 with the purchase of the District, Brompton & Piccadilly Railway, Great Norther & Strand Railway and the Metropolitan District Railway. He completed his group of lines with the acquisition of the Baker Street & Waterloo Railway (BS&WR) in 1902.

Yerkes established a holding company for the management of the group of lines which in 1902 became known as the Underground Electric Railways of London Limited (UERL). It is worth noting that at the time the only railway within the group to be completed and open for business was the Metropolitan & District (To become known as the District Railway) - which was then steam hauled. It was with money from the UERL that the electrification of the District Railway was achieved. The development of the other lines within the UERL group was thus:

District, Brompton & Piccadilly / Great Northern & Strand Railways

The first named of these railways was authorised for construction in 1897 in two separate parts, the first was a deep level tube line from Earls Court to Mansion House and the second was a tube line from South Kensington to Piccadilly Circus. The Great Northern & Strand Railway was granted permission for construction in 1899 from Wood Green to Aldwych on the Strand by deep level tube line. Construction on either line had not started when Yerkes acquired them in 1901 due to problems raising the necessary capital, something yerkes was able to provide. Yerkes gained approval to join the two projects together between Holborn and Picaddilly Circus and extend the western end of the D,B &P from Earls Court to Hammersmith whilst the South Kensington-Mansion House section of that scheme was dropped along with the Findsbury Park - Wood Green portion of the GN & S.

The new look line was finished and opened for traffic between Findsbury Park and Hammersmith in December 1906 with the branch from Holborn to Aldwych opening in November of the following Year.

Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway

When Yerkes bought this concern in 1900 it had parliamentary approved powers to build a tube line from a southern terminus under Charing Cross to Hampstead with a branch line from Camden Town to Kentish Town. Like the D,B & P and GN & S schemes previously mentioned the CX,E & H company were also having great difficulty in raising the capital needed to construct their proposed line, and also as with the other schemes it was only when Yerkes took them over that construction could be funded.

In 1902 whilst construction was commencing the UERL obtained powers to extend the proposed length of the Charing Cross - Hampstead line further north to Golders Green and the branch to Highgate (Archway). The completed railway was opened for business along its entire length on June 22nd 1907.

Baker Street & Waterloo Railway

In 1893 this company gained approval to build a tube railway from Lower Marsh (Adjacent to Waterloo station) to Upper Baker Street. The company had great problems in attracting sufficient investment to finance to construction until the London & Globe Finance Company agreed to provide backing. Construction was able to start in 1898, by which time the powers to build the line had been revised to allow an extension beyond Baker Street to Marylebone. Further extensions were authorised in 1900; at the north end from Marylebone to Paddington, and at the south from Waterloo to Elephant & Castle.

Despite these outwardly affluent signs things went horribly wrong for the BS&W. The principle character behind the London & Globe Co., Whitaker Wright, was arrested for fraud after a number of his associated companies collapsed with substantial debts. In 1901 he was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, however, before being taken down to start his sentence Wright was allowed a private meeting with his advisors. During this unsupervised meeting he obtained a cyanide capsule and used it to escape going to prison. Wright's suicide and the scandal in general forced London & Globe in liquidation and as a result work on the partially complete BS&W slowed to a near halt.

Yerkes' UERL purchased the BS&W from the liquidators in March 1902 and as a result fresh capital was then available for construction work to resume. Rapid progress was made and the first section to be opened to the public was that from baker Street to Waterloo on March 10th 1906. The section from Waterloo to Elephant & Castle opened 5 months later, Baker Street to Marylebone opened in March 1907 and the final section from Marylebone to Edgware Road station opened three months after that. The UERL had decided to defer construction of the Edgware Road - Paddington section shortly after taking over the BS&W.

Further UERL Acquisitions

In 1910 the GNP & B was renamed the London Electric Railway and the BS & W became the LER Bakerloo Line (BAKER Street & WaterLOO), the CXE & H became known simply as the 'Hampstead Line'.

In 1913 the UERL obtained control of both the City & South London Railway and the Central London Railway, thus leaving only the Metropolitan, Great Northern & City and Waterloo & City Railways as the only underground electric railways in London outside its control. Thus was sown the seeds for the modern London Underground network.

Sadly the architect of this scheme, Charles Tyson Yerkes, never saw his ambition realised. He died of kidney failure on December 29th 1905 whilst on a business trip to New York.

UERL Extensions