090/270: #PiccadillyCircus – The Illuminations

As I’ve probably said before, there are a collection of stations where I already have the perfect cover picture in my mind. London Bridge (026) is was a great example, I knew exactly how I’d frame the shot, the roundel giving way to The Shard in the background.

At Piccadilly Circus I had a similar idea. Another roundel shot (there are no surface buildings so this is the only option) looking up at the main focus point of the Arrows of Eros,* which would sit prominently in the centre of the image. Behind the vision is illuminated by Piccadilly’s famous giant advertising boards, and I’ve framed it all just so to cut out most of the unruly hubbub of people bustling about.

Unfortunately none of what I just said happened.

None of the subway entrances sit in the right position to make Eros* look like anything other than an insignificant spec on the horizon. The billboards had been (I’d forgotten) turned off for renovation works and replaced by naff static banners on scaffolding, making the whole scene look like any other building site in London. The final kicker is the nasty city sightseeing ticket shed which photobombs any hope of salvaging a decent shot.

Still this project isn’t about capturing the idylls of London I have in my mind but more the reality. And the reality is that in mid April 2017, a crowded and illuminated Piccadilly was a bit disappointing.

*It’s not actually Eros, the Greek god of love and attraction, but Anteros the god of requitted love and avenger of unrequited love – which is naturally much more ‘London,’ but you all knew that right?…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index

089/270: #GreatPortlandStreet – The Nandos

Mark Mason, in his book Walk The Lines which I have recently be acquainting myself with, introduces a concept that every Londoner has a ‘personal tube line.’ That’s not just the line you live or work on, but more a fictitious line that would run through all the stations that have some personal meaning to you. It wouldn’t be geographically very useful, or even logical, but it would connect up all the points in London that you find significant or have influenced your life in someway.

I suppose my ‘personal tube line’ at the end of this challenge would by virtue mean it includes every station, but that just seems greedy, so for the sake of this thought experiment let’s ignore it.

Now I know after all of this you’re expecting Great Portland Street, visited all the way back in April, to have some grand emotional significance to me, but I must admit you’re probably going to be disappointing with the punchline. Hopefully however it will go someway to explain what Mark meant – some stations just start to get associated with common events, feelings, or activities.

Sitting in the middle of a traffic island at the top of it’s namesake at the junction with Euston Road, Great Portland Street is not the busiest of Central London stations. Below ground the platforms are lit with warm and inviting yellow lights which complement the soot stained girders and brickwork making you feel like you’re in a trendy whisky bar somewhere in Manhattan. This should be my ‘backup station’ (we all have one…), it being the 2nd closest stop to where I work. However it doesn’t really start to feature in feasible backup routes until both the Central and Victoria lines are broken, which *touches wood* happens infrequently. No, Great Portland Street holds significance to me for being a few doors up from the branch of Nandos I often (…OK, very often…) visit after work. Once laden with much chicken and spice, I’m too lazy to walk back to Oxford Circus (002) (even though this is probably a quicker route home), opting instead to take an S-Stock round to Liverpool Street (076)*. This has rather wonderfully meant that I associate Great Portland Street with chicken. I told you it wasn’t a great punch line.

*Or if I’m feeling particularly lazy and full of chicken I’ll wait for a H&C to cross platform interchange at Mile End…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index

087/270: #WembleyPark – The Stadium

If you’ve ever wondered why England’s national stadium is located where it is, then you’d probably not be surprised that as with so many other things in our lives, its history is rooted in the Railways.

By the early 1900’s the Metropolitan Railway had conquered, neigh invented, suburbia. The metroland estates offered cheap, attractive and spacious living whilst still providing a link to the heart of the city where people worked. It was a shrewd bit of business. Sell land and houses to the newcomers moving out of the city and then ticket them as they commuted back to their jobs in town. It was win win.

However there was still one market the Metropolitan Railway hadn’t tapped into. How could they attract the inner city dwellers who didn’t move to Metroland and had no use for the railway in the centre of town?

The answer was dreamed up by the chairmen of the MR, Edward Watkin. He purchased a large chunk of land near a forgotten hamlet called Wembley and set about constructing pleasure gardens which he would charge people to enter. And these gardens were more than just a row of plant pots, Wembley Park would host boating lakes, ornamental landscaping, cricket and football pitches as well as a crowning foley at its centrepiece to rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

With the exception of the centrepiece monument, The Watkins Tower (a story worthy of its own blog another day), the park and the sizeable station that accompanied it was a huge success and by the end of the 1910’s over 100 sporting clubs were paying to use the facilities.

It’s this sporting pedigree that led the park to be selected for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition which brought about the construction of a twin-towered 125,000 seat stadium. After the exhibition the stadium’s size (and ease of public access created by the railway) continued to attract the punters. The England national football team moved in and the rest was history.

These days the pleasure gardens are long gone and the area is now an urban centre in its own right. Of course the stadium and arena, updated through time, still remain and though a number of other stations may be technically closer, it’s still Wembley Park that hosts the bulk of fan traffic on match days from its ample perch aloft Olympic Way.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index

086/270: #PrestonRoad – The Olympic Halt

Preston Road owes it’s existence to the Uxendon Shooting Club who first requested a small halt be constructed here to serve the 1908 Olympic Clay Pigeon Shooting venue. I’m bloody glad they did, as other than a fire in 2016 which burnt through the upper floors of the 1932 street level building, I was struggling to come up with any sort of anecdote at all.

That’s not to say the station is dull by any means. It’s got a pleasing and rather grand Arts and Crafts facade, similar in style to that at Kingsbury (035) but better kept. The platforms are more modest, with a central wooden waiting room block and some scattered flowerbeds. Yes we’re in true suburbia alright, but we’ll save all that juicy metroland stuff until we’re a little further out of town…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index

085/270: #NorthwickPark – The Gallery

At Northwick Park TfL have teamed up with the University of Westminster to showcase undergraduate artwork. This isn’t the first time a marriage betwixt transport and art has occurred on this trip as we saw a similar showcase at Terminal 4 (023).

Just like the goals of my own Map Challenge journey, if the artwork guides commuters eyes away from their phones and towards the stations themselves then it’s a job well done.

I’m particularly fond of the empty tunnel at night on the left there. You can’t beat a good photo showing the illusion of empty infrastructure…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index