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

084/270: #Kenton – The Intruder

Kenton shares many similarities with sister stations at Harlesden (079) and North Wembley. This is another example of a set of brand new stations being constructed wholesale with standardised designs. Sadly some of the stations on this stretch of the branch appear a bit under loved. Not least of all at Kenton, where the footbridge here has been in a permanent state of renovation for a good forever.

In its place is a temporary, and equally rickety, scaffolded footbridge. At the foot of which on the northbound side is a sign which is all manner of wrong. If you thought the incorrect font at Paddington (055) was bad then wait till you take a look at the intruder below… Along with its sisters this station is managed by Network Rail which may go someway to explaining the lower standards of upkeep along the branch. Now you might forgive Network Rail for using Rail Alphabet, the once standard font for mainline signage, instead of London Underground’s preferred New Johnston, but what they’ve actually ended up using is Transport Heavy – the font used on all of Britain’s Road signs.

It hurts my OCD.

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index

083/270: #HarrowAndWealdstone – The Veteran

Ah Harrow & Wealdstone, I’ve been looking forward to you. Now we finally get to discuss, as promised at Kennington (049), what constitutes the oldest station on the Underground.

I know this is going to cause much debate, probably upset some purists and generally cause havoc amongst the railway community. But, I’m going to do it anyway as sometimes I like to play devils advocate.

Harrow & Wealdstone is the oldest station on the Underground.

WAIT WHAT?!

“But I thought you said Kennington was… and what about Baker Street… and and Paddington and and….”

Well all of those are in some way correct, it just depends on how you bend the definition of oldest:

  • Kennington is the oldest tube station (i.e. deep level) which also features an original street level building. Opened 1890. 127 years old.
  • Paddington through to Farringdon on the Circle Line is the oldest passenger Underground Railway. Opened 1863. 154 years old.
  • Snaresbrook and Woodford are the oldest stations on the network still to retain all or part of their original buildings. Opened 1856. 161 years old.
  • And finally, Harrow & Wealdstone is the oldest continuously existing station on the network served by Underground trains. Opened 1837. 180 years old.

Now I’m going to admit, the inclusion of Harrow & Wealdstone is fairly dubious as the station has been rebuilt so many times it’s akin to Trigger and his broom from Only Fools And Horses. Can it truly be the same broom if you’ve replaced both handle and brush multiple times? Nevertheless there has been a station on this site for going on 200 years, and despite the fact the Bakerloo Line wouldn’t arrive here until 80 years into the station’s existence, it’s still something I find impressive.

So come on, what do I really think, is Harrow & Wealdstone really the ‘oldest’ Underground station? Well notice how I’ve been careful in my naming of both here and Kennington… and let’s just say that there’s still Snaresbrook, Woodford and a whole host of Circle Line stations still to visit…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

Station Index