Going Underground - A visit to Aldwych tube station

Back in February I bought an underground ticket. Thats not really unusual lots of people in London do that. But this ticket was a little special, I couldn't use it for nearly six months and it could only be used at a single now closed station. Aldwych station off of the Strand is that station, closed to the public in 1994 but still a working station in other ways.

The Lovely people at London Transport museum periodically organise trips into the station and down to the platforms to see a small part of hidden London. After queuing and showing our tickets we were taken into the  ticket office and introduced to our guides for the evening, London Transport museum volunteers Dave and Keith.  Dave and Keith took turns to explain various parts of the station and the story behind it  throughout the visit, both were really friendly and knowledgeable about the station and its history and were able to answer lots of questions from the visitors.

Entrance to Booking hall
Entrance to Booking hall

 

Dave and Keith or was it Keith and Dave
Dave and Keith or was it Keith and Dave

Aldwych Station was intended to be a busy end of line station but developments with other parts of the tube network overtook it and it ended up as a little used spur to the network. Even during construction it was realised that it would not be as busy as was intended. Only one pair of the lifts were completed, unlike other stations where you enter in one side of the lifts and exit the other these only had on entrance and exit at platform level, the extra tunnelling required to  make them fully walk through was not completed.  The platforms were not fully finished as the volume of people didn't justify it. Slowly the station opening was reduced, first Sundays,then Saturdays, then Weekday off peak services. From 1962 till its final closure it was served by only one train every nine minutes at week day peak times only. Despite it now been closed to the public for twenty years it is still a working station in regular use by Transport for London,  for emergency training, practising removing passengers from underneath trains by the emergency  services and more mundane things such as testing adhesives for the tiles and posters used on the underground network. One of the platforms is also used by film and television for when period underground stations are needed.

 

Station Closed. But not if you managed to get a ticket
Station Closed. Open for one night only

 

 

 

The unfinished platform roof
The unfinished platform roof

Not real Posters but  for period  effect. How can you tell? The Poster for the 'Empire London' Bills Hylda Baker as 'Britain's foremost T.V comedienne' T.V was closed down during the war but the poster to the bottom right was urging parents to evacuate their children to the countryside for the war.

Period Tube posters
Period Tube posters used for Film or T.V

A Real poster from the early 1970's for D.H Evans of Oxford Street.  Why there aren't shops now that sell Separates, Sausage Rolls and petticoats I'll never know. IMG_20140620_200716     A 'Chad' These originate from the 2nd world war but seemed to die out in the 1980's

Wot no tube trains
Wot no tube trains

An area of the platform used for testing How tiles look on the platforms and the adhesives used. Might seem really dull but if there was a problem with tiles falling off on a busy platform it could cause a real headache for TFL staff and commuters.

Top secret London Underground tile testing
Top secret London Underground tile testing

 

IMG_20140620_195415
Nothern line train used for emergency training and practise

 

 

 

An early use  QR Code on the train?  No the sticker says 'Please keep clear of the doors' but has become rather worn and tattered

QR Code?
QR Code?

Fortunately we were authorised for one night only. IMG_20140620_195544   The darker wood in this photo is where a ticket booth was installed into the lift so the lift attendant could both sell tickets and operate the lifts

remnants of in lift ticket booth
remnants of in lift ticket booth

The emergency lighting in the lifts was a candle holder

Candle Holder for Emergencies
Candle Holder for Emergencies

And thats it, back to 2014

 

 

Way out
Way out

I haven't gone too deeply into all the facts and figures about Aldwych station and its history in this blog post, but wanted to give you a flavour of the visit and the experience.

Aldwych station is a fascinating mix of  fact and fiction. Re-created station fittings,wartime posters that weren't ever really there. Platforms that were never properly finished all confuse and delight. It isn't a museum experience all accurately researched and historically correct, neither is it a theme park where oak beams are made of plastic designed to deceive. In some ways it is exactly as it would have been on the day it open and closed but in others it is  a working and changing underground station.

To spend an hour at Aldwych was a real joy and privilege.  I would like to thanks everybody at London Transport Museum    and Transport for London for making the visit possible. If you do want more information there is a book available about the Station available at London Transport Museum, I'm going to buy the book and if you get chance to visit Aldwych I fully recommend it.
The Jam - Going underground to finish. Well why not.

 

 

 

 

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