GES220 - Charing Cross Overrun Tunnel & Vent Shaft (Part 2)
Following on from the first visit here, I was left with a quandary about the overrun tunnel. Were there any trains down there, were they vintage trains, stored for special occasions? Also, what occurred at the end of the tunnel, as it was left with plans originally to continue digging. The trouble was that going back wasn't easy, so it was left on the drawing board so to speak. That was until I found information about a vent shaft that we didn't know about. I checked it out on Bing Maps, as their Bird's Eye view is very useful. Unfortunately it also showed that other than precariously climbing over a church roof or other buildings, it wasn't going to happen. I went to have a look anyway, and found out what I already knew, that the route via the church was borderline suicide. I walked around the corner to find that a building that backed onto the vent was being completely renovated, and as such had scaffolding up to the roof. Greatly intrigued, I put it down to check out.
When the time came, GE077 wasn't feeling too well, so dropped out. The vent sits near a busy area of Covent Garden, and as it was a Saturday night, it was going to be a long wait. I had been out earlier crawling around the dirt of another tube site, so wasn't looking the cleanest. I sat under some scaffolding on another building across the road, waiting for it to get quiet. Groups kept passing by every few minutes, drunk City boys, foreigners having a blast, and hen dos. One of the hen dos walked past me, when a woman pointed at me, 'O!, Trace, snog the homeless guy, na-ha-ha-haaaaa.' Revolted by the idea of some overweight orange skinned bride to be with most of Boots lower end beauty products used simultaneously, I stood up to my full six foot plus height. "Do you bloody mind, I'm not homeless, and certainly not desperate enough to snog 'that'." With a shocked looked, the woman walked off with her fellow hens, one of them making a very rude hand gesture. It was gone 2am, and I was getting restless. I went over to where I planned to climb up, however a new problem. There were two guys settled down for the night constantly lighting something they were smoking. They looked out of it though, so I discounted them as a problem. I just needed a woman to stop urinating in the nearby church doorway, with her male friend stood in front of her, and all would be good.
Finally, I went for it, and shot up to the first floor of the scaffolding. I pulled back the sheeting to see a bounce beam alarm, 'Dammit.' I had two options, now I was up, skirt all around the outside of the scaffold in full view of everyone, or drop down and try a different approach. The two guys who were under the scaffold had walked out into the road to see what I was doing. They looked pretty gone. Only one thing for it, and I set off around the outside of the scaffolding. As I got towards the corner above the main throughfare, a group of revellers started singing the 'Spiderman' theme. 'Arghh', I didn't need this. I quickly turned the corner and into the scaff, leaning against a board, I was now out of sight. The next problem then presented itself. A pir sensor was just in front of me, and something was flashing against a window. I sat wondering if it had sensed me, but I noticed an alarm box just across from it, that would likely emit some form of noise if I'd triggered something. Having given the singing revellers a moment to pass by, I popped out again and made my way around the overhang barrier. I was now back where I'd started, but one layer higher. I found a point where the covering was loose, and crawled in. There were no alarms, and I climbed the ladders to the roof. When I got to the top there was sheet metal high above the roof, to keep the place weather proof while they worked on it. I worked my way around to the back, and finally was on a small flat roof next to the vent shaft.
Now that I had got to the shaft, I was hoping to find a door or something to get in. Sadly no such luck. My curiosity was such that I wanted to know what was on top, and whether there was a way in. This would involve leaping from the scaffold to the top of the vent. As anyone who's read any of the posts from taller places, you'll know heights aren't my thing. However, I was getting better with them. I normally rely on others to go first, which helps me build up the courage to do it. This time I was on my own. I took the usual precautions, including leaving my backpack on the scaffold, and then leapt across onto the roof over a 5 storey drop. My first thoughts on landing and clinging to the railings around the vent were, 'how am i going to get back?!' There were a number of square mesh grills laid out, and one of them opened over the top of a ladder. It looked dizzying, but after what I'd just done, it was a walk in the park. I dropped down 4 or 5 ladders to ground level. However as I was descending the last ladder, while checking around for anyone about I spotted a camera in the corner. Luckily I was just above it. I went up a few steps, and stood looking around. As an infiltrator, you never know, and can rarely be sure what measures those that don't want you there will take. A number of situations have a camera watching a door, when the door opens the camera records. Otherwise it doesn't record and just sits in the dark mostly. City Rd and Down St stations were like this. I guessed this one would be the same. I took a picture and climbed back up. I would show it to GE077. When I got back down the scaffold, it was quieter outside, I saw a gap and quickly climbed down, walking quickly off into the night.
The building site was securing the bars needed to climb up to the higher levels. I told GE077 we needed to go real soon, but he was still not well. So I would have to go solo, and made a rare weeknight foray. A few days after my initial trip, I turned up in the early hours. It was quiet, but still a few people about. I waited for some street cleaners to leave, and bounced up the scaffold, following the route I'd taken a few days earlier. I cleared the gap onto the vent, and shimmied down the ladders. Eventually I got to the last gantry, and looked down to study the situation. Unlike before, all the lights were off bar one. I opted to try to bypass the camera underneath, but a beeping sounded every time I moved near it. I figured it wasn't consistent, so just went for it and started descending the circular stairs that descended from ground level to 42m down at track level. I had no idea whether I'd been detected, filmed or whatever. My curiosity was urging me to find out what was at the bottom of the shaft, to see what was in the tunnels. After what seemed like an age in one of the deepest shafts I've been in, other than Bull & Bush. I came out in a large tunnel that went off around a bend. This picture shows the bottom of the stairs from the vent.
The path ahead. This was lightpainted (wobbling a torch about with a long exposure) and is a fisheye lens.
Around the corner didn't lay some nice tube tunnels, instead a large fan blocked the passage. A door led to a passage that bypassed it.
The rear of the fan showed it wasn't a particularly sophisticated piece of machinery.
Turning around from the above shot, a few steps lead up to the tube tunnel. On the far wall a schematic of the tube vent and access to the tube tunnels. You can just make out the long spiralling vent shaft. Looking at the map, a reason for this presented itself. At Aldwych, a road tunnel links the Waterloo bridge to Kingsway. In order for the Jubilee line to hold it's path, it would have to go underneath this road tunnel. Another theory might be, that there were plans to extend the Jubilee line through Aldwych station (only 100m from the end of the Jubilee line terminus) and on to Cannon St. The depth of the Piccadilly line platforms at Aldwych are about 25m, so the deeper depth would have platforms being built below the Piccadilly line. Anyway, those are my theories!
Directly opposite the doors above, was a crossover tunnel between the North and Southbound tracks. A shot below of the other side of the vent doors.
I opted to go up to the station first, to see if any trains were holed up here. I treated the tracks with the usual respect, and with just cause. I passed a traction current indicator box with the dreaded 'ON' illuminated. The map on the box is a bit confusing. On the left hand side just off the box is Green Park station. The current Jubilee line runs South to Westminster from there, the old Jubilee lines run South East to Charing Cross.
Knowing the platform was littered with cameras, and that I'd already seen it. I didn't bother going to the platforms. At this point a small crossover tunnel lead off to the left.
Semi-circular crossover tunnel, just before the station. In the centre of the wall side, you might just make out an alcove.
The alcove leads to a narrow sloping passage that ends in a door into a sub station. The Eastern end of the station platforms is a sub station now.
With sadly no trains, I headed back to the vent, and kept going another 100m. I passed carriage indicators on the wall, that lead up to these stop lights. At some point this tunnel was or is used for laying up trains. According to Wikipedia, 2 trains can be stored in each overrun tunnel. Another 100m lead to more stop lights with a sand buffer pit behind.
Behind the sand pit was a wall with a fan in it. I'm not quite sure what purpose the fan had, as it would be ventilating a small section of tunnel about 10m long.
This is the end of the Northbound Tunnel, behind the camera is the fan in the pic above. A narrow crossover passage existed just to the left of the camera.
Inside a sign showing this was a Defined Area. The date of 1976 was 3 years before Charing Cross opened as a Jubilee Line Station in 1979.
The short crossover tunnel can just about be made out on the right of the picture. This was the end of the Southbound Tunnel. It was strange touching the wall at the end of the tunnel, this was the furthest point East the Jubilee line used to go. a 100m further East and I would be below Aldwych station.
The sand buffer pit in-front of the picture above.
I walked back up the tunnel to make my way back up the vent. I would have thought I'd have been caught by now if anyone had come because of the alarm. However I was still a little cautious on the way up. At ground level there was no sign of activity, so I decided to just leg it past the camera and race up the first ladder. More beeping as I went past, a little more insistent than before. I didn't care as I knew I was out of there. I got safely back onto the building site, and made my way down the stairs inside the building. As I was dropping off the scaffolding on to the street, a rare observant member of the public started saying loudly to his companions that 'he doesn't have a safety harness on.' He proceeded to come towards me. I was already heading to a side alley and escape route and legged it down the alley and fled into the night.