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GES267 - Charing Cross Loop, London

GE077 was keen to see what was left of what was formerly the terminus of the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line. I wasn't massively keen, but it would be adventure and wandering around the tube network, which is always fun. While we were thinking about it amongst other projects, a website we followed where a guy get's permission to visit places, reported on the Loop. Some useful information was posted up, and we set about trying to get in.

Some history, in 1914 a loop was built at Embankment (or Charing Cross as it was then known, the current Charing Cross was known as Strand station) to allow terminating trains to loop around and head North again. It was only operational for 12 years, before the extension under the River Thames to Kennington was built in 1926. The loop lay unused and was plugged under the Thames to avoid maintenance from being under the river. In 1940, when the Luftwaffe dropped a bomb that was a direct hit on the tunnel. This had little effect on the station, as the Loop had been capped in the 1920s, and flood gates had been installed prior to the war at the Northern entrance to the Embankment station. The main part of the loop still exists, rusting away filled with water from the Thames.  The Western side of the loop is capped into the wall of the Northbound tunnel, the Eastern side has a 100m long section from the plug at the Southern end of Embankment station, to where it joins the current Southbound running tunnels.  One final point to make here, is that there was only one platform on the loop, the current Northbound platform for what was then Charing Cross Station. Hence why this platform has a curve to it.

This map should show things in clearer detail, the Northern Line ends in a loop. Strand station was re-named Embankment Station later on.

This illustration from Popular Science Monthly shows a cut away of 'Charing Cross Station', the terminus on the Northern Line Charing Cross Branch or Hampstead branch as it was known. The District & Circle Lines run behind the Underground building in this image. The trains in the Loop show how tight the turn was, and also the brilliant engineering involved to create the loop. Not shown on the illustration is Pages Walk, which also runs behind the station. It can be seen on the diagram above, just beside the Charing Cross station logo where it says 'Cable Shaft,' and disappears off the map towards the Bakerloo line.

This is the layout of the area after the Northern line was extended south of the river. The Loop has been cut off, and extended South on the Northbound tunnel. A new tunnel has been built from the newly named Charing Cross Station (formerly Strand) heading South. This is the Southbound tunnel. The Southbound tunnel is where the abandoned part of the Loop is accessed.

There also exists a utility tunnel in this area. 50m north of the point where the loop once left the running tunnels, is a small door in the side of the tunnel wall, visible from the end of the Southbound platform at Charing Cross. It passes under the Southbound running tunnels and terminates in the station.

It can be seen as dotted lines on both maps above running from one platform at Charing Cross to the other platform, and continuing briefly before heading South towards Embankment. Terminating just before the station.

As GE077 and I leapt off the platforms at Embankment, we ran up the tunnel as quick as we could, wary of the live rails and potential trains. We passed an open side of the tunnel, with piles of rubble on. He jumped to investigate that, while I kept going to Charing Cross. As I got to the station, I realised I must have passed the Loop entrance. Then I noticed doors either side of me, and went to explore.

The open door in the picture shows the dark rails of the Southbound track going by. Across in the other wall was a similar door. Safe from being fried and squished, I chilled for a moment amongst the grime and rubbish.

The tunnel is split in half by a brick wall. The wall has cable carrying pegs on either side.

The curve in the tunnel as it heads South, a window into the other side of the tunnel.

The tunnel heading to Embankment station, it ends with a brick wall.

While I was messing about in the utility tunnel, the pile of rubble GE077 was investigating, turned out to lead to the abandoned Loop section. This is where the loop once ran, and is now a small dual portal. The bright light down the tunnel is Embankment Station

Very carefully stepping over the live rail, and into the portal in the middle of the picture, we found a few TFL notices, and a 1.8m door to the loop. Note the drop in ceiling height behind the door, there is a huge concrete plug here, about 1.5m thick.

The loop section is used for storage, here you can see sleepers piled up. It must have been fun getting them in here. This shot looks towards the entrance and the aforementioned concrete plug. The other side of which is the Northern Line we'd just left.

Moving down the tunnel, there were a number of metal cabinets containing very little of interest.

Halfway down the short loop tunnel, a side entrance, now bricked up. Bags of rubble, all carried through the narrow plug entrance to the loop, and dumped here.

We spent the early hours of a morning searching around Victoria Embankment Gardens for a possible way into the Loop, either via the Heading tunnel, or the Vent shaft near the plug. On getting here, we realised that was clearly fruitless.

The tunnel ceiling is covered in stalactites along it's length, but here they are much longer due to few people coming down this end of the loop.

The end of the line, so to speak. This is the plug keeping the river Thames from flooding the tunnel. At this point, I'm directly underneath Victoria Embankment Gardens, 40m from the Thames.

Back into the Northern Line southbound tunnel, and it was a short walk dodging the live rail to Embankment station.

I continued down the platform, as GE077 headed off out of the system. I wandered back into the tunnel as it goes under the Thames. The tunnel hadn't been cleaned and all sorts of customer debris littered the tracks, including an ornate diary with what looked like Chinese or Japanese script. I left it on the platform as i departed. Unfortunately I couldn't find the other half of a £20 note. Shucks! The reflective squares on the left tunnel wall, are carriage markers, numbered 1, 2 etc. So the driver knows how much of his train is still in the station.

Back in Embankment station, the quietness got the better of me, and I couldn't help myself from taking the opportunity to get one of those rare opportunity photos. So off came the kit, and I sat down for a pic on the platform.

I wandered into the district line cut 'n cover tunnel for a quick peep. The tunnel is wide and much easier to walk around. As I left the station Eastbound, I found an empty area on the right of this picture, that runs behind the platform wall for about 15m. (you may need to raise the brightness on your monitor briefly to see it).

There was also a line of storage cupboards on the right of the track. There are also carriage markers on the wall again.

What might have been some kind of signalman's hut marked the end of the short row of buildings. They were all empty inside.

The Eastbound junction outside Embankment station, allowing trains to reverse and go in the opposite direction. I didn't fancy going any further, as it was repetitive and pitch black.

It was time to get the hell of of here. We'd been far too cheeky. We'd explored every tunnel possible in the area, so job done and on to look at other items of interest.

Thanks to GE077 and GE029 for the re-visit.


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