This past weekend (in June 2014) was one of those rare occasions when the disused Aldwych (nee Strand) tube station was open for visits. It was opened in 1907 and from the start was never much used and it finally closed in 1994 because of the need to replace the lifts.
This station was part of the Piccadilly line one of three tube lines constructed by a Chicago businessman, called Charles Tyson Yerkes. In the early years of the 20th century there were many proposals to build new tube lines in central London but finance was a major issue. Yerkes who had made his money building and electrifying railways and tramways in Chicago moved (some say had to move) to London to try his hand here. He picked up already planned routes and managed to raise funding where others had failed. Amongst the lines he picked up were the Piccadilly Circus and Brompton Railway and the Great Northern and Strand Railway, both of which had got parliamentary approval in the late 1890s. So in essence the Piccadilly line we see today in the central area follows the routes of these two lines joined together. It was a somewhat more complex story than that of course and a number of options were looked at. But by the time it was being built the little stretch from Holborn to Aldwych was built as a spur off the main line. The station we see today is a weird combination of preparing the way for a larger more important station and doing the minimum to actually have a functioning station, as we vividly saw as we werer taken round the station.
There is no working lift so the only way down is by the spiral stairs
And down on the platform there is a train, as it is still possible to run trains along here.
And there are some adverts – these are not originals but would have been put up for some films or TV programme. This is a favourite spot for TV and film makers to get a vintage tube station.
We then got to see the other platform which was never really properly used. For virtually all of its working life, there was only a shuttle service between here and Aldwych, and this needed just one platform..
But London Underground used the site to see how new tiling scheme would look – in this case Piccadilly Circus
We saw some pictures of other mock ups which had been on this platform, including Tottenham court road and Holborn
There were some 1970s style posters, and you could see two letters of the old station name of Strand in the tiling..
After climbing back up the spiral staircase, we had the chance to have a look at the two lifts. The original Art Nouveau style grilles are still above the lifts and we were shown a little feature which allowed evacuation of a stalled lift. If one lift broke down the other one would be aligned with it and the adjoining doors could be opened and the passengers could escape in th working lift.
One other original feature in the booking hall was these telephone boxes. these are very early and apparently were put in by the National Telephone Company. This was before the Post Office got the monopoly on the telephone system
There was also a facsimile of the Beck tube map
And finally we exited through the lift and back out to Surrey Street, noting an interesting sign which tried to encourage interchange between here and nearby Temple station.
We went round to the Strand just in time to see the next batch of eager explorers go in for their tour.
A really fascinating hour. It is just a shame that this is not open on a more regular basis so more people can see the strange world of a tube station that should not really have got built but yet survived in operation for some 87 years.