The treasure behind the chicken wire

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a friend entitled: “Embankment Station – Eastbound Platform” – an intriguing subject for an email, I think you’ll agree.* Upon opening it, I was greeted with the following:

‘Get yourself there. A panel has come off, revealing this awesome old map behind it. It features delights such as Aldwych and Holborn Viaduct Stations and describes the Heathrow Terminal 4 station as “under construction”.
It encourages you to “Get to know London”. I missed two trains looking at it and might spend my entire lunch break tomorrow revelling in it once more.’

This photo was attached:

Embankment map Thank you Ollie E for being a fellow TfL Geek.

My brain immediately got to work. Firstly, when was I going to manage a trip to Embankment to see this for myself?? Secondly, how old was the map?

The first question was difficult to answer, given that it’s not a station I often find myself at – but this was definitely worth a separate journey. The second one could be answered, but only with a bit of detective work and logical deduction. Ollie had provided me with some initial clues:
– Heathrow T4 was ‘under construction’.
– Aldwych station was still in use.
– Holborn Viaduct station existed.

Now, anyone who’s been on the Aldwych station tour can tell you that the station ceased to operate in 1994, so it certainly wasn’t older than that. A quick Google revealed that Holborn Viaduct shut in 1990, so we were probably looking at a map from the 1980’s. Wikipedia informed me that Heathrow T4 station opened in 1986, and thus we had a few years in the 1980’s to choose from…

It’s taken two weeks, but today I finally got chance to visit the map myself. The eastbound platform of Embankment station is theoretically on my way home from college, but I’d not taken that route on the first Mondays of term. However, after a meeting there this afternoon, I made a plan to make a brief stop at Embankment before continuing home. In the end, I missed four trains while I pondered the map and my goodness, it was worth it!

Now ‘protected’ by chicken wire (not glamorous!), it was utterly entrancing. No wonder Ollie had missed a couple of trains and been tempted by a return trip. Amongst the features that fascinated me were:

Monument escalator The escalator graphic between Monument & Bank. (Also, the East London Line used to be purple! Presumably that’s from the days when it and the H&C were part of the Met line?)

East LondonThe wonder of East London and Docklands (below) without the DLR. Plus, station names when the docks were still ‘docks’ and not ‘quays’. Oh, and Stepney East? That would now be Limehouse.

Docklands

HeathrowThe aforementioned Heathrow Terminal 4 and also, look how far out west the map goes!

Of course, while this is indeed very interesting, it still didn’t answer the question of the map’s date. [Although, now that I’m thinking about it, most TfL maps have a date on them somewhere. Why did I not choose to look for it??] Another clue lay not in the map, but in the last panel of the platform’s artwork:

Embankment Art

The panels which covered up the map are dated 1985. [Can I just take a moment and decry the artwork at Embankment? I mean honestly! It’s reminiscent of a 1980’s duvet cover! When you think of the amazing designs featured across the network, I feel this station has been let down rather badly. Incidentally, the tiles around the map suggest that the original platform had the classic District Line style, which has unfortunately been obliterated.] And thus, one may conclude that the map was current immediately prior to their installation – somewhere around 1984.

Of course, Ollie and I are not the only ones to have been fascinated by the map (indeed, someone joined me to peer through the wire – but perhaps they were just curious as to what was captivating my attention). This blogpost reveals that the map dates from the introduction of the ‘Capitalcard’ – the Travelcard’s forerunner – an event that took place in 1983. It would appear that my deductions were pretty much spot on.

Here’s hoping that the treasure behind the chicken wire remains visible for a good while longer!

*Non-Londoners may not be aware that currently (and until the end of the year) the only functioning eastbound platform is on the District/Circle Line. Neither the Bakerloo nor Northern stop at the station at the moment.

Friday fun for the season of new starts

It’s the first Friday in September. Not the cheeriest of days, but a day for many to celebrate simply because it means that they’ve got through the first week of term. For others, it’s just another Friday to be got through. Either way, let’s find some fun…

To start, how about some DLR themed fun? The Secrets of the London Tube series has featured on previous Fridays, but as many of you will know, the DLR is considered to be a somewhat separate element of the network – nonetheless, the Secrets of the DLR is now available. For many Londoners it remains a line of mystery, never having cause to use it. However, for others, the joy of getting the driver’s seat on a DLR train never dies. [Further joys of living near Stratford: it’s where DLR trains begin, therefore the driver’s seat is highly attainable!]

If that gets your tube-geek juices going, let’s see how you fair on this (actually quite tricky) Buzzfeed quiz on the tube map. I will disclose that I got 24/25 – my knowledge of the outer rings of the Overground isn’t as good as it could be.

Talking of London, what about a bringing together of the world’s best city, excellent literature and maps? The result is utterly lovely and fascinating:

Exhib artwork.inddLiterary London Prints

And talking of maps, I’ve seen this map of an introvert’s heart a few times on Twitter recently, but wanted to find out where it was actually from (bad, bad Tweeters for not linking directly!). It’s by Gemma Correll and is quite frankly the truth about life as an introvert:

Map Introvert Heart

With the start of the university year fast approaching, now is not really a time for a ‘fun’ visit to Ikea – unless you thrive in a milieu of stressed parents and anxious offspring. [I say this, but Belfast Ikea was perfectly pleasant on Monday, despite a city-wide issue with chip and pin machines.] What is fun, if you’re a lover of Swedish furniture and meatballs, is this collection of every Ikea catalogue front cover since 1951, dutifully collated by Home Designing. I was pleased to discover that both the Poang chair and the Lack coffee table are older than I am…

IKEA-1951-CatalogIn 1951, Ikea seemed to be catering for the likes of Sherlock…

IKEA-1974-Catalog-600x521This would appear to epitomise the 70s’.

Thanks to a four-hour internet outage, this was published after 5pm, but no matter, hopefully it’s still fun!

Friday Fun with Secrets

Straight in with the fun today, no messing…

Previously, Friday Fun has featured episodes in a series created by Londonist, sharing the secrets of each London underground line. This week, the series concluded with the Metropolitan Line (and a special on the Waterloo & City – appropriate as I travelled on it for the first time in years on Wednesday!). Honestly, these videos are GENIUS and will provide you with all sorts of tube knowledge that will impress/annoy those you travel with for years to come.

Even if you watched some of them before, they bear re-watching – you’ll always discover something you missed. I now have a list of things I need to look out for on my various travels…

Moving on to a different form of transportation. It’s now 8 days since I favourited a tweet including this video on Twitter (bad me for not Friday Funning last week) and I know it’s been widely shared. However, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone I know share it on Facebook, so perhaps this will be a new one on you. If not, who cares?! It’s brilliant. This is what one man did to kill time while having to overnight at Las Vegas airport, equipped only with an iPhone, a roll of tape and a trolley case – plus a love of Celine Dion:

I love airports and I have a soft-spot for Celine – in fact, this version of All By Myself is the first one I heard, thanks to a teenage collection of her albums. Don’t judge me. It was the 90’s and I love a good power ballad.

On the subject of air travel, I am seriously in need of a long-haul adventure sometime soon – complete with all the novelties and deprivations of flying (limitless films versus limited leg room). I can’t decide if I feel better about flying, or worse, having read this great article on flying in a bygone age – complete with a large slideshow of photos. Definitely worth a perusal.

Sleeping In FlightCan you imagine the luxury??

Finally, a return to one of my favourite Friday Fun topics: periods. It’s been a while (largely because comedy on the subject is rather niche) but this is excellent. Brought to you by the same company who created last year’s Camp Gyno video, what if you were thrown a ‘First Moon’ party because your mother knew you were lying about having started?!

So. Much. Joy.
“Do you sell vagina cakes?”
“Do you know how hard it is to find a uterus piñata?”
“You’re missing the vagician!”
“Periods don’t have glitter in them!”

And with that, I’ll let you enjoy your Friday and all that the weekend throws at you!

Adventuring underground at Aldwych

It’s not often that I set an alarm to remind me to book tickets as soon as they go on sale, but when I heard (via Ian Visits) that Aldwych Tours were taking place this summer, it was an opportunity not to be missed. I confess, I booked the tickets during a Monday morning theology lecture, back in February.

Strand StationStrand Station – renamed Aldwych just 8 years after it opened – on the Strand.

Aldwych station is a special place. Closed since 1994, it’s one of the most visible and accessible of all of London’s (many) disused tube stations, largely thanks to it being on a branch line from Holborn that went nowhere else – meaning that trains don’t use it any more. The London Transport Museum runs tours a couple of times a year (as in blocks of tours, there were 3 weeks in this block), but booking is essential. Tickets went fast. Having previously hunted for abandoned stations above ground, I was finally going to explore one underground!

Last Thursday, with fellow geek Jenni in tow, we finally got inside and my goodness, it was worth the wait and the ticket price! [£25 for an adult, which will also give you 50% off entry at the LT museum, which then lasts a year – great deal.] Tours are led by volunteers, i.e. people who know a lot of information about the tube, just for fun. (Suddenly, I can see an activity for my retirement…) And our guides were great, very informative, willing to answer questions and obviously very passionate about their role.

There is SO much to say about the tour, but I don’t really want to spoil too much of it, because you really ought to go yourselves. Therefore, what follows are simply highlights…

1) Things are not always what they seem:

Fake PosterThe poster on the right is a classic LT poster, but this isn’t as old as it might look – it’s a replica from this century. 

Bakerloo Line SignThe Bakerloo Line has never passed through Aldwych Station (although the reason behind its renaming was owing to confusion to the nearby Strand station that eventually formed part of Charing Cross, which is on the Bakerloo Line). This is a left-over from one of Aldwych’s frequent film roles, this time for Mr Selfridge. 

2) The station was never particularly useful, to the extent that its second platform was never completely finished, nor were passageways between the two. Trains only ran between Holborn and Aldwych (not onwards), meaning that the line had very limited use. Apparently as a train was leaving Holborn, a bell would be rung alerting the lift manager at Aldwych to begin the journey down to platform level to pick up the tiny number of passengers that would be alighting.

Platform 2

The second platform instead found a use as a safe place to store national treasures during WW2 (including the Elgin Marbles), with the rest of the station used as an air raid shelter. Today, the platform has become an ideal place to test new tile patterns or materials used in tube infrastructure.

Piccadilly Line tile trialThe Piccadilly Line’s tiles in trial form.

3) It’s the little things that make a difference. Like an original 1907 sink & tap in the ladies’ toilets [a tube station with toilets!], and the iron work on the lift numbers.

1907 taps & sink

Lift 2

4)  Ultimately, it’s pretty cool to find yourself somewhere not everyone’s going to get to go!

Aldwych Platform 1Looking down platform 1.

Station Closed

Happy Geeks Happy geeks!

Oh, and, at the end of the tour you get handed a booklet chronicling the history of the station – just so you can check up on any facts you might have misheard.

More photos can be found on Flickr.

Friday Fun (for a Saturday evening)

Apologies for the hiatus. When one has to hand in 8,000+ words of essays, immediately followed by a similar number of words across 3 sermons, the desire to write any other words is minimal! Still, the break means that there’s plenty of fun for this week!

[Also an apology for the fact that I wrote most of it on Friday, but then got distracted and forgot to post it. Rather than extending my hiatus further, I thought I’d better publish it now. Fun is fun regardless of the day…]

So, for starters, some London fun. Firstly, there’s been a lot of excitement on Twitter about the forthcoming opening of the Mail Rail as part of the Postal Museum due to open in a couple of years time at Mount Pleasant. I’ve mentioned the Mail Rail before – it’s a classic piece of hidden London geekery and thus the prospect of actually getting to ride is quite exciting. In case you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, Time Out have a collection of photos that takes you behind the scenes of the currently mothballed postal transport system:

Mail Rail

Moving on to the better known London underground network… Someone this week announced that they’d visited every single tube station and taken a photo of the roundel there. Excellent work Mr Mike Turnball!

Roundels...A screenshot from his Flickr stream.

This then opened the floodgates to others who had completed a similar feat. I loved this photo of a roundel made up of roundel photos:

Roundel, CottonSteve Cotton’s Roundel, via Londonist.

Other people turn their photos of roundels into videos. I liked the animation-style element of this one:

To wrap things up for this week, we return to a Friday Fun theme of old – the dulcet tones of the Swingles. This is one of their latest video offerings, a cover of Mumford & Sons After the Storm. [Warning: if you’re anti-beard, you may want to watch this from a distance as the camera goes rather close up to the epic beard sported by their hirsute tenor.]