13th October 2018
Hidden London Tour of Aldwych Tube Station
Aldwych station is at the end of a short branch line from Holborn on the Piccadilly Line. There has been no service on this branch since 30th September 1994 but it would be inaccurate to describe it as a disused station. It is still connected to the network and used for training emergency workers and as a film and TV location. The sign outside refers to it as a "non-operational station" which seems like a better description.
Public access is only usually available on one of the Hidden London tours run by the London Transport Museum.
The station opened in 1907 as Strand Station and was renamed in 1915 to Aldwych. At the same time nearby Charing Cross Strand station became just Strand.
The station was never heavily used and money was therefore always in short supply. In fact many parts of the station were never completed as the expenditure could not be justified. At the time of its closure in 1994 the branch was only being used by about 450 passengers a day.
It has however proved useful for other functions. In both world wars it was used as an air raid shelter and for storage of valuable national artworks. It was also useful for building mock-ups of proposed station designs, for staff training, and as a filming location - V for Vendetta, 28 Days Later, Sherlock, and Superman 4 amongst others.
For the tour we met up in outside the Surrey Street entrance and once the formalities were completed and we had our fetching pink wristbands (not hi-vis jerkins on this tour) we entered via the Strand entrance into the ticket hall.
The hall has original tiling though a more plain "economy" version of that found in other contemporary Leslie Green stations - economy being a recurring theme at Aldwych as it was realised from the outset that it would not be a busy station.
Down the spiral staircase 160 steps from ground to platform level (the equivalent of a 15 storey building) as the lifts are no longer working, again the original tiling still exists.
The eastern platform which wasn't normally used for trains has some of the original 1907 track, a lot of film set props, some station mock-up designs, and some interesting old posters.
Including this ironically topical one:
Good to see someone has been upgrading the cabling to meet 2015 fire regs:
On the western platform there is a train used for training and filming purposes (and on the tour for an audio presentation about the station as an air raid shelter in WW2).
Dark in here, isn't it?
Tube aficionados will note that this 1972 stock train would never actually been used on the Aldwych branch and in fact this one hails from the Northern Line according to the line diagrams inside the cars.
The tunnel entrance to the rest of the Underground network. Note the partial decoration, another economy measure as the original trains were only two cars long only half the platform length was fully finished, later trains being three cars some extra basic decoration was added.
This way to Holborn...
The lift cars. Three double-car shafts were built but only one was actually equipped with two cars. Also the entrance passages to the cars were never finished and passengers entered and exited via the exit passages - another money-saving measure.
The lift controls. In 1922 the ticket office was shut and ticket booths built into the lift cars so the lift operator could issue and collect tickets as well, reducing the number of station staff required.
End of the tour. This old sign shows that Aldwych was considered an interchange with Temple station a short walk away on the District Line though not shown as such on tube maps. Temple is about the nearest station to use if you're going on an Aldwych tour being at the other end of Surrey St.
The Surrey Street station building. The odd spacing of the "PICCADILLY RLY' lettering is because it originally said Piccadilly Tube but the Underground Electric Railways Ltd. who opened the line (as the Great Northern, Brompton and Piccadilly Railway) didn't like the use of the term tube so it was changed.
As always this Hidden London tour was well run, informative, and enjoyable. You need to get in quick as spaces are limited and tickets not cheap but you get to see parts of London that most people never see and it's worth doing. If you are an LTM Friend you get advance notice of tour dates and early access to the booking system.