GES129 - Barbican Tunnels Part 2
I thought I'd finished with the Barbican estate, the soulless, drab and mostly empty estate that sits in the City of London. Then a year after last setting foot in there, GE077 had heard from another source. There was track access via the basements of the Barbican, and possibly a way into the old sections of Moorgate Station. The Barbican estate is built on top of the Metropolitan, District & Circle lines, between Moorgate and Barbican stations. The area was bombed during the second world war, and the lines used to run under other buildings until that war.
I set about exploring this previously unexplored route. Getting into the starting point of the basements was the easy part. I ended up in a big chamber covered in graffiti from pretty much everyone who'd been in the graffiti Track scene. Just on the left you can see the end of a 'Tox08' tag. My interest was diverted by a ladder at the far end, that lead into a sort of gulley. Descending into the gulley there was a dead end on one side and a slope up to a large fan at the other end. In the middle sat a small silver door that wasn't budging. Realising it was a dead end (literally), I set off to try other possible routes.
We searched around further, but didn't really get anywhere. The other routes all seemed crap and pretty much in-passable without a decent amount of effort. We called it a night, and went to check on another project.
A few weeks passed, and GE077 had got himself some more information from his contact. We ended up back in the graffiti room above, and this time we were going to tackle the nasty looking passages. I say passages, they were basically odd gaps between different sections of the basements and structure supports. We squeezed down one such gap, and ended up in a strange little dead end section with various pipes. I accidentally leant against a wooden panel that fell into a corridor with carpet and lots of lockers. With no one about, I popped in. The area appeared to house two sound recording studios. I opted not to hang around as I could see a dome cam, and got back into the dead end section and replaced the panel. Above me in the gap passage were lots of room like empty sections. A pipe ran through them with a gap just wide enough to squeeze through. I squeezed through as many sections as I could, but there was nothing to be found. I checked another ladder, but there was nothing there. Getting nowhere, We called it a night again.
More weeks passed, and GE077 got in touch with his foreign graffer friend, and discussed where We'd been. It's possibly one of the least easiest of places to describe a route through. This time We returned to the ladder that We had checked on the last trip, and found that We'd missed a connection. This connection was what looked like the end of the small narrow room with various heating pipes in, but in fact was a narrow gap that went deeper into the basements. I hid my bag, and climbed up into the gap, and set off facing the wall with my body, but looking to the side which was ahead. There was no room to walk normally. We were balancing on high voltage cables and shifting along them.
We could hear tube trains rumbling around somewhere, so realised We were on the right path. I passed one section where there was nothing for it but to crawl for about 8m. This lead into a narrow (but wider than where I'd come) section with a ladder up. I could hear the trains rumbling off in the distance, so rather than go up, I was keen to head in the direction of where I thought the noise was coming from. This meant going into another filthy dusty narrow section as seen above. Eventually I came to a wall that was about 6ft, and then had a continuation of the gap going on up there. I tried to climb up, basically levering myself with my boots which were just larger than the gap. GE077 had to help. I had no idea how I was going to get back down. I shuffled on ahead to find...a dead end. Balls! I now had to go all the way back. I got down to where I was, quite easily as it turned out. We shuffled back to the wide section with the ladder going up, and climbed. We came out in some wide empty room like sections. At the far end was a sort of corridor that was broken up by the segment supports. You could duck under them though. I ducked and dived under various supports and found, nothing. No connections or passages that would get me anywhere. I came back and investigated a further one of the 'rooms' that had strip lights in it. It not only had strip lights, but also a door at the far end. The door lead into a loading bay area with a large camera watching.
I went back to the point where We'd started, GE077 had looked around the opposite direction. The only thing he'd found was a pump room with various controllers for the fountains and water park that lay the other side of the wall. A ladder led up to a lid, but it wasn't budging.
The now usual approach followed, whereby a few weeks passed, and GE077's contact got in touch to ask how We'd done. He passed on more information to GE077. I met up with GE077 inside the Barbican, wearing scruffy black clothes and not blending in at all with the usual crowd there. He also had his girlfriend in tow. GE077 beautifully demonstrates the approach and setting here. The camera is obscured by the nasty concrete dust that was floating around, which was truly disgusting. This was one of the squeeze sections. This is not a place to come if you're fat or claustrophobic.
As we climbed up the ladder after the first squeeze section, we stopped halfway. Next to a large vent pipe was a small gap just big enough to squeeze through. GE077 went first, and then I followed. We ended up on a gantry, that lead into an open room. The first thing we heard was the now much clearer and louder rumble of a train. We were getting closer to the goal. The gantry crossed what's been referred to on an official visit as a pump room. Beneath the gantry and below the floor (seen in pic below) was a stream that had been culverted here. One of the things you noticed quite often when exploring tube networks, is the number of streams that are diverted or culverted to make way for the tunnels. Through the dark archways at the back of the photo was a large empty room, similar to the one we were in. It was plastered in graffiti from various writers, similar to the photo at the top of this page.
The small silver door links the room above, to the room seen in the next picture. The stairs lead up to a second level in the room, which goes off to the right of the picture into another room with large fans.
On the left and right of the pictures run the train tunnels, the mainline on the left, and the right is the tube. The tracks are at the same level as where GE077 stands. The small doorways in the wall on the left (near the silver door) and right (behind stairs) lead under the tracks.
The room with fans that lead off from the previous photo. The two large fans weren't working. There were no other exits from the room.
Through one of the small open doorways, leads into here, under the tracks. The narrow gap squeeze was pretty grim, but this was a whole new level. There was thick brake dust from the trains everywhere. There was also, as seen in the centre of the picture, pools of stagnant water with highly dubious odours. This was not a good place to be. However, GE077 and his lady set off towards Moorgate on the tube track side, and I did the same on the mainline side. We would have to squeeze through the tiny gaps, seen on the right hand side of the photo below.
I squeezed and climbed my way through filthy conditions. Occasionally a set of stairs would lead up to a grill, from where one could see the station in the distance. The mainline tunnels aren't currently used, so they were dark, and only the station was lit up in the distance. After 5 or 6 sections, I bumped into the other two. They couldn't go any further on their side, so had gone into one of the cross through passages onto the mainline side. We made our way through the remaining sections, and got to the end. We found...a dead end. F&@k!!!! We now had to turn around and go all the way back.
On the way back, I crossed to the tube side, and popped my head out of a hole in the concrete wall and fired off a shot of a train heading into the station.
Another odd little alcove lead into this room, with a mish mash of concrete and half arsed painting. The gate at the bottom leads towards the pump room area. It was good to know we were getting close.
The steps lead up into the mainline tunnel. The bright lights in the distance are the disused section of Moorgate station for previous mainline connections.
I crept anxiously up to the platforms. I started spotting the various cameras, one of which you can see on the left looking pretty much at me. I tried to keep the edge of the door and support between me and the cctv camera. And then quickly fired off a couple of shots. The gates seen here are the reason there's so much graffiti from the starting point into the various openings in the basement structure. Taggers used to come through here to spray the trains on the tube side of the station (on the left of the picture, on the other side of the walls). I tip-toed off and walked a 100m or so down the mainline tunnel. There seemed little point going on, so I returned to the filth and squalor beneath the tracks, finally emerging in the pump room and keen to leave.
We rested in the room with the UV lights, it was one of the few dust free places. GE077 and his lady shared a can of Stella Artois.
After a rest (we were knackered, I was absolutely knackered), we faced up to more pain, squeezing and crawling. In one section I managed to ram my thigh into a large screw sticking out. It later produced a beautiful large bruise. On finally getting out into the lake area of the Barbican, I knew my tube exploring career was going to come to an end soon. I was sick of the nastiness, the having to clean my clothes for ages with pre-washes in buckets. As well as my camera bag etc. The fun element was being lost as the places I was getting too now were mostly deep behind the scenes and, well, just filthy and nasty. This wasn't how I wanted to spend my time. I wore gloves for some of the exploring on the last trip, but still they came out looking light this. My face was looking the same.
When I got home, I spent an hour scrubbing my hands and face with a nailbrush, fun, it was not. After a long shower, I was finally able to contemplate bed. Moans aside, it was still good to penetrate deep into 'the system'.
Thanks to GE077 and his lady. Unfortunately I heard the graffer contact been busted recently for hundreds of offences, and was residing in prison. Apart from the things the graffer has seen, I wonder if the tagging was really worth the loss of liberty.
This explore is from 2013, the following year the crawl section was flooded, so this is no longer a possible route.