GES132 - Aldwych Disused Tube Station
A while ago, a fellow explorer and drainer, told me that I would never be anything until I'd done the tube, like he had. Known for his ranty couldn't care less opinionated attitude, for awhile we exchanged pointless ranty emails that meant nothing. I told him he was mad, and that there was no way I'd step foot on London's underbelly of transportation exploration possibilities. The risk of death and tap on the shoulder from the boys in blue enough to put me off. But then Mark Lane became an option, as it seemed every explorer in London was doing it, and more from further afield. As I climbed down onto the platform of Mark Lane with my newly acquired colleague, we were crapping ourselves, as live trains ran a few feet from where we were. We knew we really shouldn't be here, but something was holding us here, there was a unique attraction. Not just the thrill of being somewhere one shouldn't, but being somewhere very few people in their right mind would want to be. Then there were the images I was capturing in my camera. They were relatively unique, unseen before, except amongst fellow explorers. A sick love interest had evolved, and I wanted more.
Mr. Ranty Pants was right. The only problem was the tube network is protected pretty well, and exploring it is pretty difficult. Tackling it by myself wouldn't be easy. Luckily I had a great foil for seeing more of this subterranean wonder world of brake dust and fear. GE077 was very much up for working to turn the tube opener until the last station falls. To be honest, I never thought I'd do Magic Door, and when I did that, I never thought i'd have the balls to do Bull & Bush. Then I just never thought we'd find a way to do some of the harder stations. But sure enough, along with help from GE007 and GE010, we did. When I got home after doing a certain station, I really believed that was it. Four of the South East's ballsiest explorers had been busted doing Aldwych. The way they'd done it was insanely dodgy, it had worked once, but not twice. I'd left it as a Pipe Ninja dream.
Fortunately GE077 hadn't. One of the most tenacious explorers I know, along with GE041. GE077 kept plugging away and checking the options. I had thought of leads and trudged the area myself. But turned up little. And then when GE041 mentioned something in a throwaway moment, that gave me food for thought. GE077 pursued it, and came up with what seemed possible. We wore our urban camouflage and went to check out his lead. However it didn't seem possible. I offered that a more direct route should be taken, and he followed this up with GE007. BINGO! There seemed to be a way in. This was merely the first hurdle of a 100m hurdles race, and each hurdle could see our downfall, and collars felt. We may not take the ballsier direct ways into places, but we plan and use patience as applicable, and we get in. And thus it was, that we were wandering into the crossover near Holborn's abandoned platforms, as below. The tunnel on the left was the Westerly Platform at Holborn that closed in 1917. The Easterly platform on the right, served Aldwych up until it's closure.
The former live tunnel that lead to Aldwych which was closed in 1917 (behind the camera in above shot) had had it's rails removed, and was just small rocks. A doorway goes from the old tunnel to the operational tracks.
This is the old tunnel sans tracks. Fans of the Prodigy might recognise it, as it featured in the Firestarter video.
The tunnel ended with a door and blocked off section across the tunnel. A place to store slabs as well. Interestingly we found a fairly recently deposited bottle of lucozade and special brew.
The other side of the door in the first of Aldwych's two platforms. This is the platform that was closed in 1917. Since then it has been used for trying out new station designs.
180 degree turn from the above pic, and one can see the rest of old platform. I really liked the ceiling here. It made this bit of the tunnel vibrant and exciting. One can see where they concreted over the old tracks. The train would have come from behind the camera to stop at the end of the tunnel ahead of the camera.
Aldwych was original called Strand station, and sadly most of the other letters have been pained over. Most of the posters were oddly dated 1971, odd, because most of the notes I've found about here, say the platform closed in 1917.
Looking back to where we entered the platform.
A couple more posters on the wall.
The unfinished steps up from the end of the previous platform. Off camera to the right, was the end of the tunnel from the platform.
The decorated bridge across the two platforms. The far end of this passage, has stairs down to the left, and they emerge in the middle of the 1917 closed platform.
GE066 looks towards the camera. Behind the camera is the operational (but very seldom used) tunnel up to Holborn. This is the platform that closed when the station closed in 1994. It's used to bring in vintage stock trains for filming events and heritage parties/tours.
Looking up the tunnel towards Holborn. The lights are on, even though this wasn't out of hours that we were there. Showing that the track really is very rarely used.
The 'hilarious' picture below is merely that, 'hilarious.' Obviously the joke is that the two passengers are looking the wrong way. The trains come from behind the camera. The tunnel in the picture is no more than about 30-40m long. The posters behind us are reproductions.
Walking down the tunnel in the above picture, two vent shafts were off to the right. This is one of them.
On the left of the tunnel above, is this old tunnel. It's the end of the 1917 tunnel. It emerges next to the unfinished stairs mentioned above.
Looking into the station from the dead end tunnel. The tunnel entrance in the distance is to Holborn. A helpful arrow on the track bed tells us where we are.
The stairs to the ticket hall, still with their original tiling. The open silver door leads to the unfinished stairs and the 1917 platform.
behind the camera in the above photos, is 3 shafts in a row. One was used for the lift from the ticket hall. The other 2 were built for lifts, but never used. The top of them is now covered over as the 'fake' ticket office. A bridge across one of the shafts.
Another of the shafts seen from the unfinished side of the shaft. The red door that can just be seen, is at the base of the stairs to the ticket hall.
The unfinished area at the back of the lift shafts. Kind of strange that it was never finished off.
passageway from the lifts down to the 1994 platform. You can just make out the bridge across the platforms entrance by the top of the stairs on the right.
Having explored all there was to see down below. It was time to risk ascending to the surface world. I wasn't as keen to see this bit of the station, as it was mostly fake. Tarted up as a museum and filming location. However it's historical charms swayed me into liking it. The back of the ticket hall. Behind the wall on the left, is an area sitting over two of the lift shafts. The fire escape doors lead onto Surrey St.
Turning the camera around from the previous shot. This is the back of the lifts.
Hefty ironwork on top of the lifts. It's claimed that the lifts would not pass health and safety tests anymore, which is why this station was closed. The fact that it was a a big loss maker for the tube most likely being the overall factor. It was often said it was quicker to walk to Holborn than take the train.
The gents toilets.
The front of the two lifts. Gorgeous dark woods used.
The shutter door on the right was the main entrance to the station. The original ticket office sits either side of the expandable gate at the top of the steps on the left. You can see the small wood outlined windows. The steps next to the main entrance, go down to the next photo.
Some sort of meeting/training room sits here, or maybe used as a production office for shoots. It sits at the bottom of the stairs next to the stations main entrance.
Looking down the ticket hall. The light wood outlined ticket office on the left is fake, built as a film set. It sits over the top of one of the lift shafts. The open doorway at the far end is the gents toilets, on the left of them is the lifts.
The other side of the expandable gate, with the fake ticket office on the other side, and the original on the left. The door on the right next to the expandable gate is the women's toilet.
Well, it'd be rude not too. Inside the women's toilet. The other side of the doors in front of the camera had a wash basin at each end. Two toilet cubicles were on the right of the camera. Behind the open door.
Old telephone booths, with images advertising the stations film possibilities and connections. The red fire exit doors lead onto the Strand.
Although there are many graffiti taggers one could note as inspirational, not least T0x and 10ft, when it comes to tube exploration. In the world of non-graffiti recreational exploring, there is only one name that stands out when it comes to exploring tubeage. Mr. Si0logen Jeeves Westminster. One of the most dedicated and funniest people i've ever met on the scene. This shot was taken as a tribute to him, and his similar shot. You can still see his smudge at the base of the roundel!
It was then back into the tunnels, and the risk of many hurdles. We'd done it once, but twice. I ran with fear, but eventually we made it to the surface world and tried to blend in and leave quickly. We couldn't believe that a pair of noob explorers could get this far, but far we had. Many thanks go to GE077 as ever, and to GE007 who sadly couldn't join us, but was helpful in preparing those hurdles.
With only two stations left, can they be done, meh, i doubt it.