077/270: #BakerStreet – The Metropolitan

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

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Adopting Huddersfield

This week Geoff and Vicki’s All The Stations adventure began in deepest darkest Cornwall. In the unlikely event that you’ve arrived at this blog without any prior knowledge of the All The Stations project then here’s what it’s all about:

All The Stations is a project for Geoff and Vicki to travel to ALL the national railway stations in Britain in just three months, and to create an online documentary film about the journey. Geoff is a freelance video editor and transport vlogger, Vicki is a museum education professional. Our transport videos already published online have accumulated over 6 million views on Youtube, but in this latest project the aim is to capture the current status of Britain’s railways, and bring them to life as we explore the reality of the places and people we encounter along the way.


The project was predominantly crowdfunded by Geoff and Vicki’s subscribers and in return they offered backers various rewards for pledging money towards the documentary. One of the most popular rewards on offer was the chance to ‘adopt’ one of the 2563 railway stations in Great Britain.

So let me tell you about my adopted station, Huddersfield.

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In Search Of Network SouthEast: Downham Market Preview

As you may know we visited Downham Market this week to take a look at the fantastic NSE style refurbishment. This will form the basis for a follow up video to In Search Of Network SouthEast,” which I intend to get edited in the next 2-3 weeks. In the meantime check out the Periscope we did from Downham Market below…

Don’t forget to keep sending in your pictures of NSE signage and infrastructure to @CASRailwayBlog and I’ll feature them in the video!

Clapham South Shelter: A Collaboration

And now for something a bit different…

Last year I went on a tour of the abandoned parts of Euston station. You might have seen the video. These are naturally excellent content producing opportunities as the subject matter is always bound to draw viewers and readers into Calling All Stations. Sure, visiting these abandoned spaces is nothing that hasn’t already been done on blogs and YouTube, but I always feel duty bound to provide my subscribers with my accounts and experiences of the visits. Abandoned stations tend to be very photogenic so there’s also plenty to snap.

Except this isn’t always easy. The juggling act of getting great shots that I can work with afterwards whilst still listening and paying attention to the LTM guides (of whom you’ve paid good money to follow round) is somewhat of a challenge. This is made even harder if you’re trying to shoot video, especially if you’re trying to frame out the rest of the tour group – who are also trying to get that perfect abandoned-look shot! There’s certainly a sense that the tour guides want to move at a fairly swift pace as well, and I’m reluctant to hold up the group or miss out on any juicy facts just because I’m at the back taking a picture of that empty tunnel behind us. I’m not sure if this was always the case, I remember a tour of Aldwych around 4 years ago where the guides allowed more time for people to get ‘that shot’ of the empty platforms that they so craved. Perhaps LTM are trying to pack more tours into a day, or maybe the Aldwych tour is at a more relaxed pace, but I’ve come to realise it is what it is and I’ve got to work with the time I’m given.

With all this in mind I figured that perhaps a different stance was needed on the visit to the deep level shelters at Clapham South. Instead of producing a narrated video like the one at Euston, I decided to make a return to shooting higher-quality stills and using these to develop a more artistic approach. Whilst I realise applying Instagram filters to plates of chips is somewhat of a cliché, I am however all in favour of doctoring images in post to enhance the viewing experience in a more creative setting. What I mean by this is in reality the shelter was well-lit and full of the people on the tour group, whilst what I wanted to create was the sense of a gloomy, decaying, empty and desolate place. This is naturally not something I normally get to do for my documentary videos.

Now creating spooky images is simple enough, but a silent slide show of the collection would be… well a bit boring really. What they really need is some suitable music to go with them. So it is with great pleasure that I get to collaborate with friend and colleague Robin The Fog, a leading Musique Concréte artist, in creating a the full audio-visual experience that a space like Clapham deserves.

Robin creates his music, not by fancy digital means, but by using tape loops. Taking any old sound as mundane as a squeaking gate or slamming door, Robin loops these sounds through tape recorders and varies the speed in which they play back. The process is then repeated and layered with delayed loops running at different speeds until the sound is unrecognisable from the original recording. The effect is a rich and colourful yet slightly chaotic sonic masterpiece that will likely amaze and terrify you at the same time. Think 1970’s sci-fi film score meets Radiophonic Workshop.

Writer Leila Peacock explains a little more about how the sounds you’re about to hear were created,

The ruins of the Spanish House stand on the banks of the river Sava at the heart of the Savamala district of Belgrade. Originally a decadent customs house in the heart of a bustling port, this decaying structure bears the imprint of many generations. Now an empty echo chamber, its walls reverberate with the rumble of the passing freight trains like the sea inside a shell; songs and shouts return distorted from a trip around the flooded basement and exposed structural supports become an unholy set of chimes. All the sounds you hear on this track were recorded on site and nothing has been added that is not of the building itself. This echoic palimpsest is architectural portraiture in sound.

The track used in the video is called ‘Savamalan Rust, Parts 2 & 3,‘ and is a previously unheard outtake from Secret Songs Of Savamalathe 2nd album roduced and released by Robin’s band, Howlround. The sounds you hear are exposed metal structural supports recorded in the flooded basement of an abandoned customs from that Serbian subterranean world. A very fitting marriage, I hope you’ll agree, to the imagery of Clapham South shelter.

To hear more of Robin and Howlround’s work head over to their website.

Clapham South Shelter was opened to the public in 1944 and offered shelter to some 8000 people during wartime London. After the war the shelter was repurposed and has seen action as a temporary hostel, a hotel and a government archive store. London Transport Museum now offer annual tours of the mile long complex of subterranean passageways and bunkers.

076/270: #LiverpoolStreet – The Split Flap

I have this memory of the main line terminal at Liverpool Street. I’m not sure when it was from because despite it being the closest terminal to where I live (and have lived), I don’t actually get to use it that much. On occasion I’ll divert through here and use the Chingford Lines if the tube really has gone pear-shaped, but the Lea Valley Lines and the Great Eastern Main are, for me, better accessed through Tottenham Hale or Stratford (074). This is somewhat of a shame as I love London Liverpool Street, and why wouldn’t you? I mean just look at that fantastic roof!

Perhaps one day I shall talk more at length about Liverpool Street, but as I feel that I’m digressing let’s get back to that memory…

Take a look at the picture above. The year is Nineteen Ninety Something and I’m standing right in the middle of the concourse ‘pit’ as I now like to call it (as you have to descend to it from any of the street level entrances). I’m looking up at the departure board, which these days is made up of rows and rows of yellow LED displays. And I hear this sound…

*click click click click click click click*
*flap flap flap flap flap flap flap*

Note sure what the hell I’m on about? Well think of the opening credits to the John Cleese film Clockwork or play the short clip above! Now imagine that sound ringing out in the cavernous space of Liverpool Street’s concourse.

For anyone not young enough to remember – they’re called Split Flap clocks and are sometimes known as Solari Boards after the display manufacturer. They were common place at large stations and airports all over the world in the 80’s and 90’s. They feature rows and rows or individual display cards which were SPLIT in to two halves and attached to a motorised reel. This would then rotate at speed until the correct image was displayed where the top half of the card would FLAP down over the bottom. Hence the name “Split Flat.” Sadly the Solari Boards, and the glorious noise they made, were phased out in favour of the modern modular LED displays we have now.

I still to this day associate Liverpool Street with the noise of those boards in the terminus above.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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