Further adventures of a TfL nerd

There are various quirks that emerge in my regular day-to-day London behaviour – I like to walk (stupidly long distances) to places for no good reason sometimes; when boarding the top deck of the bus I will always aim for the seat on the far-right of the front row; I get irrationally annoyed when people take up too much space on the pavement for me to over-take them; I like to be able to walk down escalators…I could go on.

Many would lay claim to some of the above quirks, but lately I’ve noticed a few, rather more nerdy ones appearing. Do many people deliberately manoeuvre themselves to the front of a DLR train so they can pretend to be driving it? [DLR trains are automatic.] Anyone else love the thrill of being able to see exactly where they’re going and feel every jolt and shudder? Has anybody else felt that they missed a trick in not including some rollercoaster-esque moments – like the steady ascent into Canary Wharf that ought to end in a dramatic drop?

Yesterday, I got absurdly excited at the prospect of using the Waterloo & City line, which I rarely travel on. It’s something of an oddity, what with only containing two stations, and simply exists to provide an under the river shuttle between Waterloo and the City. [Gosh, it was clearly a genius that came up with its name!] Plus, it’s the tube featured in Sliding Doors and I once got to observe new rolling stock being delivered to its tracks – a definite TfL nerd highlight.

You see, there’s no open air access to the line – unlike all other lines which connect emerge above ground somewhere or somehow – so moving the new trains in when the line and trains were refurbished four (ish) years ago was tricky. It just so happened that one Saturday morning on the way to my old, skanky gym in Waterloo, I spotted a train carriage in mid-air and paused to see what was going on. Turns out that the only way to get the trains down there was to cut a massive hole in Baylis/Waterloo Road (at the junction by the Old Vic) and use a crane to lower the carriages in, one by one. Fascinating. I wish I’d taken a photo, but luckily a quick Google has brought one to light:

Photo courtesy of the very useful SE1 website.


The other quirk is the continuing quest for disused stations. Ever since my nerd’s day out back in September, an increasingly grubby list of locations has sat in my jacket pocket. It’s not often that I’m the vicinity of a known station, but very occasionally I stumble upon them by chance – like last Sunday, while on a secret mission in Primrose Hill.

Emerging from Chalk Farm station and heading up towards the hill, I looked up a road to my left and spotted a bridge and a building that looked suspicious. Closer inspection revealed a set of buildings that had to be a former station, especially given their proximity to a railway bridge. I wasn’t entirely sure which station it was (it wasn’t on my list), so had to wait until  I got home to check out. [Those wondering at my sanity may be relieved to hear that it was well over 24 hours before I actually looked it up. I didn’t even use my iPhone there and then.]

The former Primrose Hill station buildings.

Turns out that the reason it wasn’t on my list is because it wasn’t a tube station, but a mainline one. Originally known as Hampstead Road, then Chalk Farm before becoming Primrose Hill in 1950, it closed in 1992 – a relatively recent abandonment. Disappointingly, perusal of this website revealed that the platform and its canopy was visible until just over two years ago. I’m glad – in an extremely nerdy way – that I thought to look up the road just at that moment.

Now that spring has sprung I’m feeling an urge to go on another purposeful disused station hunt, so those that wish to join me do get in touch and we can formulate some kind of plan, no doubt involving flasks of tea (or whisky – I’m not fussy), anoraks and possibly binoculars…


I’ve just caught up on a tweet my sister sent me yesterday sharing a couple of videos she described as ‘geektastic’ (couldn’t watch them at the time, as I was trekking round London looking for churches), but having now watched them, I can confirm that they are indeed geektastic and incredibly informative.

Ever wondered what the point was of Mill Hill East station on the Northern Line? The random branch line that seemingly goes nowhere. Turns out it was meant to go somewhere – Edgware in fact – which would have created an incredibly convenient Northern Line loop. This, and other fascinating factoids about North London’s public transport system, are included in this video:

Part two is a similarly intriguing film about the 1960’s Ringways project that would have seen London surrounded by motorways – kind of glad that one didn’t get off the ground.


  1. Pahaa! I loved that film, and am now very annoyed. The Northern line would be so much easier to navigate if it joined up!

  2. Ever had a gander at the croxley green branch? The whole line remains in-situ from Watford, though overgrown. and is still technically open despite being cut through by a road. Im planning to have a wander that way soon when i can think of an excuse, its a bit of an expensive trek for a 20 something from the south coast…!

  3. I hadn’t heard about that! May have to investigate that one.
    (And sometimes transport geekiness is worth the expense!)

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