A nerd’s idea of a fun day out

Last weekend, while enjoying a perfect autumnal day and realising that I had the coming Friday off work, I started to formulate a plan for the nerdiest day out…

For a long time, as I’ve mentioned (seemingly numerous times) before, I’ve harboured a desire to seek out the disused train stations that are scattered across London. In order to have a relatively stress-free expedition, it would need to take place on a weekday (avoiding weekend line closures and tourist crowds), so Friday seemed perfect.

It didn’t quite go to plan. Firstly, it was a solo adventure (I’m not entirely sure if this is a negative, but it would have been fun to share it) thanks to a couple of similarly nerdy friends having other plans [though fear not, I have other such expeditions up my sleeve which you may join me on]. Secondly, the weather was abysmal. So abysmal that I wore my wellies and got soaked to the skin thanks to issues with holding an umbrella and taking photos simultaneously – this photo (taken during my 15min wait for a train after just missing one) illustrates the conditions:

Anyway, back to the nerdiness. I planned my route with the help of the Abandoned Tube Stations site, choosing to concentrate on those with buildings still visible above ground and, on this occasion, those accessed via the Northern Line. The plan was to work my way up from London Bridge, hitting abandoned buildings at City Road, Angel, South Kentish Town and Highgate. I set off with a backpack containing a couple of nerdy books (London’s Disused Tube Stations and What’s in a Name? Origins of Station Names on the London Underground), my camera and wearing my nerdiest glasses…

1. City Road (closed 1922)
Between Old Street and Angel sat City Road station, though lack of use marked it out for closure early on. All that’s left is a ventilation shaft, which made it quite a challenge to spot given as I had only a sketchy idea of where it was located. It turned out to be closer to Angel than Old Street (thus making even more sense of its early closure) and quite an unremarkable building.

2. Angel (Re-built 1992)
Just a few minutes up the road is the old entrance to Angel tube station – a station that hasn’t closed, simply re-built with its new entrance around the corner from the old one. Over the years the old building has had a variety of purposes – I’m pretty sure that when I lived in the area as a student it was a pizza restaurant. There’s some interesting classic tube architecture, though most of its blocked by hideous metal walls. On the plus-side, there was a weird horse sticking out of the side of one wall…

3. South Kentish Town (closed 1924)Re-joining the Northern Line at Angel, I headed up to Kentish Town in pursuit of a station that I have travelled past at least 500, if not nearer 1000 times (on my way to and from school for 3 years, then later while at university). You’d have thought I’d know exactly what I was looking for, but no – it was on the opposite side of the road than I’d expected and further away from Kentish Town station than I’d thought.

The station’s between Camden and Kentish Town, and again was a case of too short a gap between other significant stations. It’s also responsible for an event that’s gone down in London Transport folklore – when an absent minded passenger alighted from a train at the closed station while a train was stopped by a signal. He had to stay on the platform until another train picked him up, but the story spawned a number of fictional accounts – each detailing increasingly ridiculous ways in which the passenger made their way  to safety. (Though, for anyone who’s watched the terrifying Creep, getting stuck in a deserted tube station is truly the stuff of nightmares.) Anyway, it’s now a truly unremarkable branch of Cash Converters, though much of its classic exterior is still visible:

4. Highgate high-level station
Nostalgia got the better of me in Kentish Town. I was approaching home territory (the wilds of proper north London) and seemed unable to stop myself from re-tracing past journeys. As there was no 134 bus (which goes straight to Highgate) forthcoming, I jumped on a 214 to Highgate Village instead – fancying the opportunity to see Parliament Hill fields and the village. Sadly it terminated early, at the fields and only half-way up the hill to the village. I’d forgotten just how steep Highgate West Hill is (we used to walk it as teenagers after afternoons spent snake-boarding on the heath, but I realised en route that my friends’ house was only part-way up the hill!) and my calves are paying for it today. By this point the weather had also got a lot worse – I could barely see a thing through my rain spattered glasses.

After a little bit of getting lost (I always get lost in the village) and some further nostalgia in my favourite children’s second hand bookshop, I was at Highgate tube station and made a shocking discovery…

I’ve walked past the high-level platforms on countless occasions (this was the station I commuted from for years and years) and never fully realised that they were there! Walking down the path from Muswell Hill Road, I wondered where the best view of the platforms would be – then I looked to my right and realised I could see them! It’s rather eerie, above the tube station is an almost perfect set of station platforms and buildings, just totally deserted since the railway closed in the 1950s.

The station could be a blog post in its own right, but here are a few glimpses:

An old station building now in someone’s garden and a glimpse of the platform from the hill.
 
The view from the car park – though you can’t actually see this, thanks to a high wall & some barbed wire. My camera got round it though. 

By this point I was soaked and exhausted (and it was only 1.30pm!) so I abandoned plans to discover other stations for another day – yes, there will be further instalments of this super-exciting adventure. There are quite a few photos on Flickr, if it’s your thing. If it’s so much of your thing that you’d like to join me on a future expedition, let me know – I’m sure it’ll be a case of the more the merrier!

A couple of things I’ve realised in engaging in this activity:
(i) People aren’t as judgemental about this kind of thing as you might think. Yes, it’s nerdy, but in reality, most Londoners are so dependent upon the tube that anything to do with it can become fascinating. Having said that, I’m not quite so keen on the fact that one friend thought this was a great fact with which to introduce me at a gathering where I knew no one. (He will be quick to point out that everyone he/I told loved the idea, so no one thought I was a loser, but the risk was there…)
(ii) We can be so blind as we go about our day to day life that we can miss these places. The fact that that two of the buildings were ones that I’d passed frequently yet never fully noticed says a lot. Keeping your eyes open and looking out for something out of the ordinary is a great skill to have.

Comments

  1. actually a perfect puddle. completely beautiful

  2. I love love love this post. I’m such a nerd too; I just hadn’t realised how much. When you leave your home country, information like this can make you really nostalgic for it.

    I always remember discovering the mosaic tiles at Tottenham Court Road were by Eduardo Paolozzi. How many times had I walked through there as a teenager and not thought about it?

  3. Thanks Jenny! Have to say, I found your post on Thai school buses similarly fascinating – my transport nerdiness seems to cross continents!

    I love the fact that London Transport seems to have been built upon the ethos of being both aesthetically pleasing & functional – I may be biased, but I think our stations are generally more attractive than their New York counterparts.

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