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#EmptyUnderground

I take the tube at least twice a week somewhere in town. Predictably I spend rather longer on it than I should: I find myself trying to get a gap in the crowds; a pause in the orderly chaos.

That’s because I’m so often attempting to take a shot that is comparable with the archive shots of yesteryear: those that feature just the architecture and engineering, rather than shots of those who are using it.

Sometimes it can be really quite pleasant to stop to one side, avoid the rush – and for a fleeting moment – experience the #EmptyUnderground.

I’ll be looking out on Twitter for more #EmptyUnderground so do snap some, upload to Twitter with that hashtag and I’ll make a blog post of them in a couple of weeks’ time.

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Warren Street, January 2017
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Charing Cross, December 2016
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Southwark, July 2016
Through the 1980s King's Cross Thameslink foot tunnel (still open 0700 - 2000 weekdays) with its huge SMILE prints mid-way) but on this Saturday visit was eerily quiet
King’s Cross Thameslink, December 2016
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Southwark, July 2016
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Camden Town, December 2016
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The hidden tunnels beneath King’s Cross station

Last week I was very lucky in getting a balloted ticket for the District Dave Forum Christmas Meetup – to go and see something really quite interesting, and very unusual. (District Dave’s Forum is a place for the most ardent London Underground enthusiast to enjoy – there are a lot of very knowledgeable people there who understand the past, current and future of the system much more than I there). I’ve lurked on those Forums for many years and occasionally ask a very stupid question.

One of the things that characterises TfL today is the incredible number of transport enthusiasts who work within the organisation. Thanks to them, the Forum social this year was an expertly-arranged tour of the “Hidden Tunnels of King’s Cross” by off-duty station staff. Our main organiser and guide was one of TfL’s greatest advocates, Jack Gordon. His enthusiasm for his day-to-day role assisting passengers around King’s Cross is superseded only by his love for the history of the network. TfL is lucky to have  people like him (and so many others) taking time and effort volunteering to show those of us of a nerdish disposition around something that they adore.

So it was that we took a remarkable two-hour trip in and out of dozens of rooms, corridors and tunnels. From the frankly sci-fi warren of concrete tunnels and rooms beneath the new King’s Cross Ticket Hall (some of these voids are four storeys high) to the faded original Northern Line pedestrian tunnels, still showing signs of damage from the dreadful fire of 1987. We even had a wander around the old King’s Cross Thameslink railway station, now just used as an access route from Pentonville Road to the Underground platforms on weekday.

What fascinates me about our “hidden” or “abandoned” tunnels isn’t so much that they were railways or foot tunnels at all, but that our city and our needs have grown so rapidly that they have outgrown these systems that were built for them. That our growth as humans mean we’re now too tall for some tunnel clearances; and that London sometimes grows or changes priorities so fast that the infrastructure that was built for it was sometimes already outdated before it was completed. It was an exhausting, but truly wonderful trip.

After our epic tour most of my fellow tourists retired to the pub with the rest of the Forum folk, but I headed off to Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield to look at the winter-time evening illuminations and have a drive around the miniature railway. Because, of course, weekends are made for playing trains.

Note: TfL has given permission for photos in these locations to be published online here.

The "secret" now-disconnected never-used siding deep beneath King's Cross on the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City and Circle lines. It was built to enable goods trains to take spoil out by rail, but was never used in this way.
The “secret” now-disconnected never-used siding deep beneath King’s Cross on the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City and Circle lines. It was built to enable goods trains to take spoil out by rail, but was never used in this way.
Fire damaged tunnels dating from the awful King's Cross fire of November 1987. These are still retained for maintenance purposes; you can see how the heat melted the adhesive holding the tiles to the wall. Note also the wooden handrails and indeed wooden steps.
Fire damaged tunnels dating from the awful King’s Cross fire of November 1987. These are still retained for maintenance purposes; you can see how the heat melted the adhesive holding the tiles to the wall. Note also the wooden handrails and indeed wooden steps.
Another view if the fire-damaged tunnels dating from the awful King's Cross fire of November 1987.
Another view if the fire-damaged tunnels dating from the awful King’s Cross fire of November 1987.
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A pause to remember the 31 people who lost their lives in the King’s Cross fire of 18th November 1987. You’ll find this memorial and clock in the older ticket hall, just at the top of the escalators. Do go and see it for yourself.
One of the many vast concrete chambers that exist underneath and around the newest King's Cross Ticket Hall. This one is part of the ventilation system.
One of the many vast concrete chambers that exist underneath and around the newest King’s Cross Ticket Hall. This one is part of the ventilation system.
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St Pancras Clock Tower adjacent to King’s Cross London Underground Station – from “The Egg”!
The Egg is the name given to the metal-covered ventilation and access shaft out on King's Cross plaza. You know the things; the big grey and black buildings.
The Egg is the name given to the metal-covered ventilation and access shaft out on King’s Cross plaza. You know the things; the big grey and black buildings.
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Old posters peeled off the wall – pre-1987 – for something happening at Kentish Town!
Excitement was definitely building. These trips are as much about meeting old friends (and making new ones) as seeing old transport infrastructure.
Excitement was definitely building. These trips are as much about meeting old friends (and making new ones) as seeing old transport infrastructure. It has been suggested that Paul is old transport infrastructure too, of course.
London Underground under London Underground. On the Met Line platforms, the newer fascia can, in places, be opened up to show the older tiling on the earlier wall face, behind. Note the lettered tiles.
London Underground under London Underground. On the Met Line platforms, the newer fascia can, in places, be opened up to show the older tiling on the earlier wall face, behind. Note the lettered tiles.
More walking down old Northern line pedestrian tunnels. Note the graffiti made in the dust - untouched since Andy Keane did it in April 1979.
More walking down old Northern line pedestrian tunnels. Note the ‘graffiti’ made in the dust – untouched since Andy Keane did it in April 1979.
A quick stop to admire the tiles on the Victoria Line platforms. The tile motif here is by the remarkably prolific designer, Tom Eckersley - a cross of Kings.
A quick stop to admire the tiles on the Victoria Line platforms. The tile motif here is by the remarkably prolific designer, Tom Eckersley – a cross of Kings.

Incidentally, you can learn about all the Victoria line tile motifs on www.victorialinetiles.co.uk 

Then a quick walk through a long-abandoned public tunnel, now used solely for maintenance and storage, between Pentonville Road and the lower Underground platforms.
Then a quick walk through a long-abandoned public tunnel, now used solely for maintenance and storage, between Pentonville Road and the lower Underground platforms.
Through the 1980s King's Cross Thameslink foot tunnel (still open 0700 - 2000 weekdays) with its huge SMILE prints mid-way) but on this Saturday visit was eerily quiet
Through the 1980s King’s Cross Thameslink foot tunnel (still open 0700 – 2000 weekdays) with its huge SMILE prints mid-way) but on this Saturday visit was eerily quiet
Me (Tim Dunn) by Badry Mostafa's mosaic, at the old King's Cross Thameslink entrance, surely one of the finest depictions of British Rail and London Transport integration ever completed. Note the huge torch slung around me - we'd needed these in several darkened corridors!
Me (Tim Dunn) by Badry Mostafa’s mosaic, at the old King’s Cross Thameslink entrance, surely one of the finest depictions of British Rail and London Transport integration ever completed. Note the huge torch slung around me – we’d needed these in several darkened corridors!
Badry Mostafa's mosaic on opening day. (c) @ltmuseum
Badry Mostafa’s mosaic on opening day. (c) London Transport Museum Collection
And finally - a number of District Dave Forum members in the old booking windows at King's Cross Thameslink. A reminder that our roaming about old transport infrastructure, like the infrastructure itself, is really about the people.
And finally – a number of District Dave Forum members in the old booking windows at King’s Cross Thameslink. A reminder that our roaming about old transport infrastructure, like the infrastructure itself, is really about the people.

Hidden London tours are back for 2017

You’ll be pleased to read that Hidden London tours are back (on sale Wednesday 23rd November) but they sell out fast! As a regular visitor to these, I recommend that to get the best chance of the ticket you want, sign up to the London Transport Museum Newsletter (by 23:59 on Monday 21 November 2016) to get advance booking.

The ticket prices just about cover the costs of running what is a complex operation in logistics, safety and customer experience. So that some of it is accessible to all, the closest thing I can do is to take a lot of photos and share them: so below are some from my recent trips to Clapham South Tunnels and to Euston Tunnels too. I’ll be popping to a few next season and sharing the experience on this blog.

Down Street station

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Tiled signage in long lost corridors
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Signs of its use as a WW2 control room
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Gloomy, echoing tunnels beneath the streets with a distant rumble of trains
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You’ll feel trains scream past you on your way to some parts of the site

Clapham South Shelters

This one is less grubby  but no less interesting… miles of fascinating tunnels used for different purposes at different times. The expert guides will take you through the story of these tunnels and their future.

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Every wondered what this large tiled cylinder embedded in the front of this Clapham housing block is? You’ll find out: it’s part of the tour.
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Expert guides are on hand throughout (and they really are delightedly devoted experts)
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So much signage. So much to research later!

Euston

And finally for now, a single snap of the Euston Tunnels. A specific photo tour is being organised for those who’d like to linger longer.

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These British Rail posters (and a British Railways poster of the late, lamented, Midland Pullman) date from 1965: given that the BR logo had just come into service that year and the station tunnels here closed soon after, they could only have been seen for a few short months. Just along the wall are posters for contemporary films like Psycho. Apt, down there…

Don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter!