One of the first underground stations to be built, Baker Street is certainly steeped in history. The world’s first underground railway was powered by steam and it’s almost difficult to imagine that this clean well-kept station once hosting loud and billowing steam locomotives. Anyone who’s ever ridden behind a steam loco going through a tunnel will tell you how quickly these cramped spaces fill with sooty smoke. However even in the 1860’s, our Victorian cousins were thinking about how to mitigate the use of steam power in such confined conditions. Compressors were used on the locomotives to help reduce the amount of exhaust smoke and special considerations were given to the designs of the stations and infrastructure. The construction of the arched retaining walls here at Baker Street on the original platforms (now served by Circle and Hammersmith and City Lines) were famously designed to let daylight in and steam and smoke out.
Upstairs is one of my favourite features of any Underground station – Chiltern Court, the grand Edwardian era Charles Clark building which housed the Metropolitan Railway’s headquarters, luxury accommodation and a hotel. This is not a feature unique to the Metropolitan Railway and, as we know, some of London’s top architectural delights are former multipurpose railway headquarters. Facilities like those here at Baker Street and others at St. Pancras and Marylebone, were built to not only welcome the railways’ passengers but to provide a showcase for the company’s might and wealth.
Part of Chiltern Court is open to the public in the form of The Metropolitan Whetherspoons which is certainly well worth a visit.
Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk