GES154 - British Museum Abandoned Station, London
Although not the most interesting or picturesque of the abandoned stations, this one has the distinction of being the rarest to be visited by anyone without permission, from graffiti taggers to explorers. Four explorers had tried to do it before, and ended up in police cells. The stakes are high for getting here.
I was planning to do it with GE077, and knew that GE045 and GE049 were planning to go to @ldwych, where we intended to exit. In the end we decided to all go together. On entering the Piccadilly line, we found it silent and dark. The track light indicator glowed a ghostly white, illuminating the dreaded words, 'On'. The risks were high on all fronts. And yet all of us happily walked off down the Eastbound running tunnel heading south. Being taller than the others, I also had the problem of keeping my head low, not forgetting large feet. There isn't much room between the non-live rail and the base of the tunnel curve. I had to concentrate while keeping a steady pace going. The odd minor stumble here and there. Strange boxes with large cables sat next to the non-live rail, so I carefully trod next to the live rail to get around it. One might imagine that the tunnels are full of filth, rats, debris and rubbish. However this isn't really the case. They are usually very clean, the floors are flat, with the sleepers lying true to the concrete separating them. There is the odd small sign with numbers that mean little to the layman, but other than that there is little of interest. One thing I was quite pleased to see were safety crossovers between the two lines, where it would be possible to take shelter if a train came unexpectedly down the tracks. The Northern Line through Hampstead area doesn't have these.
Our first test came at a live station, where we would now have to run down the ludicrously over populated by cameras platform. We all ran like crazy things, and thank goodness no one official appeared to be there (it looked something like this video here). It was good to get back in the tunnel, and we pushed on to the next station. However we immediately faced a problem, the tracks split here. I wasn't expecting this, and there was no indication as to what the different tunnels lead too. Luckily GE045 had a good map, and pointed us in the right direction down the left hand tunnel. We pushed on, and not long after, we found ourselves with another split in the tunnels. 'Left or Right?' being the options. GE045 came through again, and we headed down the right tunnel.
We spotted a white plastic floor plate showing we were going in the right direction. There are usually loads of these, but this stretch of track had very few. We kept going down the dark tunnels 25m or so beneath the surface. I was clearly overdressed for the warm tunnels, and was starting to perspire a bit. We finally saw the lights of the next station off down the tracks, and a wave of euphoria brushed over us, as we got closer to our targets, this could actually work! We got to within 50m, and as I was talking about how we'd have to cross over, as the platform was on the other side of the tracks...the lights flickered on all down the tracks. We all looked at each other and emitted a combined "Shiiiiiittt!!" It would be assumed that if the track lights come on, and the power goes off, that it means that the cops are on their way, now able to get into the tunnels. The combined view was that we should continue south, as we could see the platform ahead of us was empty. I ran as fast I could muster down the platform, GE045 close by, and half expected to have been rugby tackled by some cops coming out of one of the exits. However we made it back into the tunnel. The lights on and hopefully the power off, we ran down the middle of the tunnel between the live and non-live tracks. It was a good 500m or so to H0lborn. I got there first and stopped at the point where the tracks split between platforms. GE077 ran straight past me, and kept going down the H0lborn abandoned platform to Aldwych. I called after him, but to no avail. I still wanted to get to the target station, and hoped he'd join me. However it wasn't to be. GE045 came next, and I said that I was still going to go to British Museum station. We shook hands and wished each other luck. There was no sign of GE049. I found out later they just walked the whole way from RS to Aldwych.
I ran off down to the Eastbound Piccadilly platform, and nervously hopped onto the platform, and looked for the signs for the Central line. I went through the platform exit, down the stairs, along a short passage, and then into an escalator hall. Powering my way up the non-moving escalators, I came out at the top, and then had to cross another escalator hall. The bottom of these escalators were all taped off with red and white tape. Thankfully there was no one about, and I dropped down the stairs to the Central line. Turning left I was on the Westbound platform. It was empty. I ran for the end of the platform, absolutely shattered at this point. A final look back, and I hopped off the platform, and into the darkened tunnel. The power was on here, and the track lights off. I crossed over the live rails, and began walking up the far side of the tracks, where a non-live rail was next to the zero clearance tunnel wall. 100m later, and I found the wall beside me disappear and I was in British Museum station. I couldn't believe it, finally, the 14th and last disused station had been conquered.
This was the easy way to enter for a few years.
And this was the interior
My jubilation at getting to the station was quickly crushed by the fact it was not a looker, or feature filled. It used to look like this at one point. All white tiles, reminding me of most of the Parisian abandoned stations.
Now it looks like this. Looking West up the Westbound platform. Like other stations, disused rails and fixing grips lay everywhere, as well as bags of spoil and rubbish. The station only had exits/entrances at one end of the platforms, the Eastern end. There was no other surface access.
A blocked off crossover to the other platform used for storage, mostly of crap.
An open crossover through to the Eastbound platform. You can see here the tunnels were quite close together, with barely 2m between them. There were no passages between the platforms parallel to the tracks, like at most other stations.
Looking West up the Westbound platform. The track can be seen splitting for the reversing siding.
Looking East down the Eastbound track to H0lborn. If you look on the once white tiled roof, you can see a long oblong shape clearly visible above the cables. This is where the Eastbound platform was bricked up during WWII. It can be seen being built from the opposite end to the below shot here.
The Eastbound tunnel from Tottenham Court Rd is on the right, the reversing siding is on the left with lights on.
Looking East down to the westbound platform, behind the camera is the reversing tunnel. The Westbound tracks go off on the right of the camera into the darkness.
A reverse shot of the above. The Westbound Running Tunnel on the left, the reversing tunnel and Eastbound Running Tunnel are next to each other, however only the Eastbound Running Tunnel can be seen on the right, due to the camera angle. From here both the East and Westbound running tunnels slope downhill as they go West.
Various rumours existed about the possibility of an exit existing from the Reversing Tunnel, that emerged at the back of a Photography store. Not knowing what was going on back on the Piccadilly line, I was hopeful this might provide a way out. As I reached the end of the tunnel, I could see that there was indeed some kind of exit here.
I walked up to the buffer, and pointed my torch down to see a passage below. This was starting to look good, and I could find my way out.
However my hopes were dashed when I got down to the bottom of the passage, as it merely lead to a crossover between the East and Westbound Central line running tunnels. Oh balls! I looked around in the running tunnels, but couldn't see any sign of an exit or passage off somewhere. I went out onto the Westbound running tunnel, and walked back to the disused station.
As I walked down the station towards H0lborn, I noticed at the end of the station there was a door covered by bags of rubbish. I moved them aside, and went in. I was taken by surprise, as I hadn't seen pictures of these white tiled tunnels before. They were the passenger tunnels to the surface, before being bricked in. This is the Westbound passage looking down to the door to the tracks.
Not much of a passage, as it ends just on the corner here, where it was cut off from the surface building. Over the years various track workers have left there mark in the grime.
A remnant of a notice from the former borough of Holborn, advising people 'Where to go' during WWII.
On the wall next to the shot above, were a few more relics from WWII, a sign for a Chief Shelter Warden's room, and first aid post.
On the opposite wall to the above, another Chief Shelter Warden's sign.
Popping out, I crossed through to the Eastbound platform, and took a shot from the far end looking West here. I used some LED lights to try to light it a bit. You can see the line just off centre on the ceiling where it gets lighter, this was the line of the wall built here to create offices during WWII.
Behind the camera in the above shot, were some stairs up to the passenger entrance to the station. A little longer than the other passageway seen above, but not much more. The camera is stood next to the furniture poster here, looking towards the steps from the tracks.
The furniture poster painted onto the tiles was quite a find. The steps to the tracks are off down the passage on the right. This poster can be seen clearer here.
With the camera's back to the furniture poster, this was the bit of passage around the corner that ends in a blocked up tunnel. Someone had tried to dig through the breeze blocks, but not got very far.
A photo taken from right at the Eastern most end of the Eastbound Platforms, looking toward the lit up H0lborn Westbound platform for the Central Line. It doesn't seem far, but is about 100m, and takes about 5mins to walk when being careful of the live rails. Note the gradient down to the station.
Concerned that all hell had broken loose on the Piccadilly line, I lay down on a sleeper for a few hours of intermittent sleep. The thing about the underground is that sounds can travel some distance, and you hear knocks and bangs from all corners. A newspaper once offered money to anyone that would sleep in the supposedly haunted British Museum station. Well, I can say I've done that for a few hours, and lived to tell the tale. I guess the aforementioned noises are what people might attribute to ghosties and ghouls!
Four hours had passed since I set foot in this disused station, and getting the feeling that I should be ok, I hadn't heard any voices, nor had the track lights come on. So I creeped down to H0lborn Station, and climbed onto the platforms, and slowly jogged through the station, I was absolutely knackered. Fearing being busted at any second, I turned each corner thinking it would be my last as a free man. However I needn't have worried, and passed back through to the Piccadilly line platforms. In my confused state, and also because LU never give you a clue as to which direction is which on a platform. I found myself walking off to Covent Garden. When I spotted my error from a white plastic floor plate. I turned around, wearily climbed up onto the platform, and sloped off up the platform, and back into the tunnels. The tracks were dark now, so i figured any official persons had gone. I was now stood at the point where I could see down Platform 5 (disused) at Holborn, and where I'd shook GE045's hand over 4 hours earlier. I had done it, mission accomplished. All I had to do was walk down to Aldwych and out.
This marked the completion of the last disused station on London's Underground network. As I told GE045 afterwards, he didn't shake my hand, he shook the hand of someone who represented all London metro explorers. All of whom would want to see what the station was like, and feel that 3 years of exploring since GE008 did L0rds station in 2008 had reached it's conclusion. Of course there are still interesting bits of the network to explore, but they'll be left for other explorers to try their luck and achieve in the future. I wish them the best of luck. I'm retiring from exploring the tube, I saw a hell of a lot of it, and didn't get caught. It's best to go out on top.
Props go to GE077, GE045, GE049 for coming in with me, and all those that have enjoyed exploring this really rather cool network over the last few years. Cheers!
A video of the trip exists here