GES238 - The Original Metro Line, London Pt 2
When looking at doing as much as possible of the original section of the London Underground, there were only two sections that seemed possible. The first was covered in Part 1, the Farringdon Tunnel. The other part was an open cutting near Paddington. We reccied the area a couple of times, and had identified possible access points. The first point involved climbing over a door wedged between some terraced houses, however we were spotted by what I can only describe as a Muslim watchman. He seemed to be patrolling the neighbourhood keeping an eye on the various Arabic looking properties. When we were about to try again, he came walking along the street, so we abandoned the idea. The cutting we were looking to access had a bridge across it, so we looked into roping down to the tracks. I shimmied over the bridge wall and along the cutting wall looking for an anchor point a bit more private, but was spotted by some freak working at a desk at 3am. The whole area is very visible from neighbouring houses. We left the idea on the drawing board for a couple of months, until I figured to just keep trying the alley between the terraced houses. By this time we'd done the Farringon section, so I was feeling happy I'd done pretty much all I wanted on the network, so being caught wouldn't be too annoying. GE077 wasn't so keen, so I said I would go down, and if all ok, he could.
The day came, when I say day, i mean night. And a big risk for me, it was a school night. We both turned up and GE077 went for the gap in the terraced houses, no one showed up, so he opened the door, and I got disabled access. We bounced around until we were above the tracks.and GE077 set up the ropes. I had a moment of panic about which way the descender went, and GE077 opted to go first. Relieved, I watched him descend the handful of metres to the rails that lead to the side of the track. I sat on the wall checking various bits on my phone, trying to look obvious and not suspicious. I checked over the wall now and again, just to make sure of nothing untoward. After 20mins, I got a text and GE077 was coming back up the rope. He said it all went okay, and I attached myself to the rope. Over the wall, and seconds later I was climbing down the side rails. There was even a small ladder for a stop signal. I tucked the rope behind the cables and quickly set about getting the camera onto a tripod.
This is a shot looking West, the light in the centre distance is the Paddington District & Circle line station. It was opened 5 years after the original section opened. The road bridge was above me at this point.
Turning the other way, the road bridge is in the immediate foreground, and a tunnel goes off to Edgware Road in the distance. I liked the extensive use of the same darkened brick in this area, from this view point one can imagine being back in the 1860s, ignoring the track lights and cables, obviously! Note the area on the right just past the bridge, it will feature later in the story...
The entrance to the tunnel section which runs through Edgware Rd station all the way to Baker St before seeing daylight again. Note the crossing point between the live rails Again, this will be referred to later on...
Walking gingerly down the tunnel, I came to the split. Here the Hammersmith & City Line comes in from the left behind the camera, the Circle & District from the right behind the camera. The station visible in the distance is Edgware Rd. Unbeknown to either of us, there was a train stabled there. It's train lights just visible on the right edge of the station opening. This was a bit nervewracking, as wherever there is a stabled train, there's usually a 24/7 guard to protect from graffiti taggers.
The same view as above, but instead of a 50mm lens, a 11mm lens. Now the huge steel roofing beams can be seen, as well as the merging rails.
Going back on myself a bit, this is looking up the very dark Hammersmith & City (H&C) Line tunnel to Paddington H&C Line station, at the back of the mainline station in Paddington. Note the small portal on the left. The H & C Line station was the original terminus of the first ever urban underground line, formerly known as Bishop's Road Station.
The portal in the above shot was for a walkthrough into this small bell like room. It had a small hole in the top, now covered, for ventilation. Having seen a similar room elsewhere, I think this was for a line signalman before electric signals.
Another shot up the tunnel to the former Bishop's Road station, at Paddington.
Back to the junction between the lines, looking East to Edgware Rd.
A cabinet on the wall at the start of the split between lines. The track snaking off on the left goes to the starting point in the cutting.
A wide shot of the District & Circle Line on the left, and the Hammersmith & City Line on the right looking Westbound. It was while taking this shot that things went a bit wrong. I had lost track of time, and even though this was my last shot, the track lights along the wall fluttered out. "Cripes!" Or words to that effect emitted quietly over my vocals chords. Ever the professional, I waited the 10" or so until the exposure finished and picked up the tripod and headed up the tracks to the rope. I had to constantly watch my tripod as catching it on the now live rails would not be pretty.
I crossed over the tracks at the crossing point mentioned earlier. It was as I did so that I noticed a train sat in the tunnel. "Cripes!" How had it got there so quickly! I was pretty sure it might have seen me. In a nervous panic I flipped over some cables near the bridge as mentioned earlier. I quickly packed up my tripod and camera, then lay low. I checked my phone and had texts from GE077 warning me. This was NOT good! The train pulled forward and stopped near the crossing point. Looking up from my lying position, I could see into the train. The driver walked up and down the train peering through the window. Thankfully he didn't see me, and a few minutes later the train pulled away. My brief relief was short lived, as another train was behind it. This one pulled up a metre short of me, on the same Eastbound tracks. I could see through the darkened window of the cab out of the corner of my eye. The cab was just forward of where the rope was dangling. I felt sure we'd been rumbled, and that the second driver had seen me. I told GE077 to get out of there. I expected a troop of BTP officers to come running down the tracks to bust me. Instead, the driver climbed out of his cab and hopped the live rails to come over to me. I was in acceptance mode that the game was up, so wasn't overly worried. "Are you alright there?" He asked. "You were seen crossing the tracks and the tracks are live." Feigning tiredness I explained I had been doing too much overtime and was shattered. He asked where I was 'booked out', and I pointed up the tracks to Paddington D&C station. I apologised for causing trouble, and walked off up the tracks to Paddington D&C station. The train didn't pull away, so I lost the chance to get to the rope. I walked up the tracks to the station in the 1868 tunnel. I was expecting a number of BTP's finest to be sat on the platform waiting for me. As I climbed up onto the platforms, there was no one about.
I walked up the stairs to the ticket hall, and again, no one was about. Ahead of me the barriers were open, so I walked through. I couldn't believe this. As I passed through the barriers, I could see a gap in the shutters to the street, they were open! I parted them and was on the street. No screaming police vans or anything other than a chap unloading newspapers at a newsagents. I walked off up the street in utter disbelief. I thought I was screwed. After 60m or so, a chap from the station in a dark jumper shouted 'Oi!' at me. I turned, saw who it was, waved, and kept on going up the street. I then headed off around the corner to my 'getaway vehicle.' I called GE077 saying I was out and couldn't believe how I'd got away with it! He sensibly replied along the lines of don't hang about, get out of there. 'Oh yeah' and hung up, before heading off into the night still unsure of quite what had happened.