A visit to the abandoned Aldwych tube station

Went to visit Aldwych station last night, one of London’s abandoned tube stations. The tour was run by the London Transport Museum, in partnership with TfL, and I was organised enough to buy a ticket within the 24 hours before they sold out.

It’s impressive. Lots of layers of history on top of each other. Passageways and lift shafts that were abandoned unfinished before the station even opened in 1907. A platform 2 that was used for storing artworks from that National Gallery during World War I, and the Elgin Marbles during World War II. A platform 1 that was used as a bomb shelter during the Blitz, with up to 3000 people sheltering there overnight.

There’s also lots of bits left over from having been used as a set for film and television. Reproduction old advertising posters, a continuation of the green tiling painted onto hardboard – even the “station closed” with old London Transport roundel was a fake.

The station is used quite as bit – and not just as a filming location. The one working platform still connected to the rest of the network is used for security drills and evacuation training.

The duty manager for our visit mentioned the London Underline concept for transforming some of the disused underground tunnels into a subterranean cycle path – in the news recently after winning a ‘best conceptual project’ prize at the London Planning Awards – and asked us to consider just how practical this was as we walked down, and up, the 160 steps of the spiral staircase (the two lifts having long ago gone out of service).

As it is, the station is a mini museum in and of itself, a Grade II listed structure with a Grade I listed section of original track still in situ.

The London Transport Museum hope to open up an additional three abandoned Underground stations for tours later this year.