Charing Cross Tour

On Friday, 26th June 2015, as part of a "Hidden London" tour run by London Transport Museum, I paid a visit to some of the parts of Charing Cross Underground station that are not accessible to members of the public. This included the former Jubilee line platforms and concourse that last served the public on the 20th November 1999; the same date that through-running of the then-new Jubilee line extension from Green Park to Waterloo commenced. As part of the tour, we were also shown areas that have never been open to the public - namely, part of the cavernous ventilation shaft, and the construction tunnels; both of which were built in the 1970s as part of the work to merge the previously-separate stations of Strand (Northern line) and Trafalgar Square (Bakerloo line) into the single station of Charing Cross, in preparation for what would become the Jubilee line"s temporary southern terminus in 1979.

The tour commenced on the Strand side of the station. From the designated meeting point, participants were led down to the concourse that allows passengers to turn left for the Northern line, or right for the Bakerloo. We, however, would be heading straight ahead; passing through one of the two sets of double doors that are constructed in the partition wall that was built following the cessation of Jubilee line services to this station.

Once through the doors, the bustling, noisy 2015 station gave way to a far more sedate station. Another set of escalators had to be traversed at this point. Unlike those that we had just used, these were motionless; indeed, they were reaching the end of their lives towards the end of the 1990s, but were granted a slight reprieve owing to the station being due to close anyway. Following the closure of this part of the station, many of the mechanical components were removed, in order to provide spares for other escalators on the system that were still in operation. Therefore, these escalators are now three permanently-fixed staircases - the descent to the Jubilee line concourse having to be made without any assistance from an electric motor!

Looking back up the escalator shaft from the lower concourse, we can see that, whilst many of the advertisement holders on the left-hand side are devoid of posters, the holders on the right-hand side are still serving a purpose. The advertisements are changed regularly as the disused area is often used for film work; however, the posters fitted at the time were for an exhibition relating to the so-called "Night Tube".

 

Standing a little further away from the escalators, we see a period back-lit sign advising that these escalators would be best suited to passengers wishing to exit on the Strand or Charing Cross mainline station (note the obsolete reference to "British Rail"), or for interchange with the Northern line.

 

These posters extended to the concourse area; all were reproductions of older posters. The below example dates from 1942.

 

This is from 1951 - the starting wage for canteen staff of 13"15"6 equates to approximately 31379 in modern currency. How times have changed!

 

Other posters had been placed specifically for the tours, and provided a brief history of the Jubilee line in general.

 

These posters provided a history of the station. Prior to the merger of Strand and Trafalgar Square stations, what is nowadays Embankment station was called Charing Cross; its name being changed when the Northern, Bakerloo and Jubilee line station opened.

 

The original 1979 line diagrams are also still in place.

 

Our guide for the tour, Richard, provides a brief history of the Jubilee line, and of the station itself before we head towards one of the two platforms...complete with a train!

Admittedly, this train wouldn"t be very suitable for passenger use!

 

Here, Richard explains one of the "innovations" that the new line brought.

He also explains why the ceiling tiles are missing.

We then headed along a narrow passageway that links the two platforms; this was only ever intended for staff use and so is largely un-furnished.

The platform murals all depict landmarks from nearby Trafalgar Square.

 

Looking back towards the concourse area, we see another reproduction poster; the original for this dates to 1982. In the distance, the engineering train on the other platform can be seen.

 

The second platform is largely devoid of posters (and trains). Perhaps surprisingly, the platform clock was still operational and was even displaying the correct time!

 

After a brief pause on this platform, we then headed to the other (the Bakerloo/Trafalgar Square) end of the concourse, where a screen had been set up and displayed clips from various films that have used this area in some capacity.

Only two escalators were installed at this end of the concourse; the middle section having always accommodated a fixed staircase. Again, notice the "Way Out" indicator.

 

After the clips had displayed, we then ascended the staircase in order to reach the Bakerloo line concourse. Notice that all of the "Please stand on the right" notices have been removed from the sections between the escalators - a scene in the James Bond film Skyfall involves a character sliding down this panelling; the notices being removed in order to facilitate a smoother (and less painful!) descent for all involved in the stunt!

The sign at the top of this escalator, though unlit, could still be seen to be providing guidance for commuters, with the lines arranged in the order that they would be reached by heading this way.

 

More signage could be seen above. Not is all as it seems here, however - the sign is actually a prop that was also a modification made to the area for the Skyfall film, with one of the Jubilee line"s 1996 stock trains masquerading as a District line train for the purposes of filming.

 

We then headed into an area that has never been open to the public - the ventilation tunnel leading to an area above the Northern line platforms.

Walking directly above the Northern line tracks was a slightly un-nerving experience, particularly when a train could be seen departing the platform only metres below!

From our perspective, there was certainly a considerable gap that required minding!

 

We patiently awaited the arrival of the next train; sadly, one did not arrive in time.

Our next area to visit was the other end of the ventilation shaft - on the way there, some nameless wag suggested shouting "boo" as our group passed the grilles between this tunnel and the public passageway leading to the Northern line platforms...

Shortly afterwards, we reached the expansive vertical shaft that draws fresh air in from the outside.

The shaft curved sharply away below us, in order to supply ventilation to the Jubilee line platform area.

 

Meanwhile, above us, the cylindrical shaft gave way to a narrower and more angular shaft made of concrete sections.

 

We then headed back into one of the public passageways and waited by these innocent-looking grilled double doors.

 

The doors concealed a completely different world - this was the original tunnel that had been dug during the 1970s" construction work, in order to allow for equipment to be transported underground. As can be seen, the tunnel is nowadays used as a storage area for materials intended for use on the railway. Notice also the number of spectral orbs that are visible in this photograph - clearly, the area was haunted!

 

The construction tunnel meandered for a considerable distance.

As Richard mentions in the above video, many of the ring sections used in the building of this tunnel were left over from the Victoria line"s construction; hence, the reason why they have 1960s" years of manufacture embossed in them. Incidentally, the "S&S" also visible relates to the Stanton & Staveley Ironworks, which was formerly located in Stanton-By-Dale, near Ilkeston in Derbyshire.

 

After a lengthy walk, we finally reached the end of the construction tunnel.

A couple of posters comparing the difference in tunnel construction techniques in 1897 and 1973 were on display at the end of the tunnel - not a lot has changed in the intervening years!

 

Thank you to the Transport Museum for organising this tour, and to Richard, for delivering it - I enjoyed it immensely!


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