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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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*
*flap*
*click*
*flap*
*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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075/270: #StepneyGreen – The Decay

The inviting Victorian facade of Stepney Green welcomes you in from the hubbub of the Mile End Road. Down below the picture is different. Rust riddled ironwork line the passageway walls and years of damp and water ingress have discolour the once white tiles, streaking them 50 shades of brown. Ancient signs poke their way through the grime and the odd vine routes its way into the brickwork. Yes Stepney Green seems to be in a permanent state of decay, but one that reminds me of the utopian ruins of the “Sanctuary” in Logan’s Run. Nature peacefully reclaiming our man-made structures. All it needs is some cats…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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074/270: #Stratford – The Anxiety

Stratford. It’s actually quite an interesting place, historically speaking that is. Know where to look and you’ll come across abandoned bridge parapets, forgotten platforms, commanding modern architecture mixed in with a railway heritage that stretches back to 1839. It’s also a great place to spot a diverse range of rolling stock with the Olympic stadium looking on in the background. Class 90 MkIII sets speed through on their way to Norwich, 66’s lead container freight round to the North London line, tube and DLR intermingle on different levels and if you’re lucky you might spot the new Crossrail fleet on test.

But none of this matters compared to the unbridled evil that Stratford has come to personally represent.

Westfield.

Three levels of badly designed crowded commercialism looms over the northern exit of Stratford station filling me with a sense of anxiety and dread. Slow moving pushchairs dawdle their way through the unnecessarily warm aisles, sharing their space with confused bargain hunters and lost souls. Yet I still find myself drawn here for the sheer ease of convenience that it presents. Why. Why do I do it?!

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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073/270: #FinsburyPark – The Heights

I’m here a little earlier than expected, but the gamble on skipping out Finsbury Park in Episode 1 of the Map Challenge Vlog has paid off, as I arrive to collect the station through natural means.

Starting from here it has become a bit of a tradition, all be it an odd one, to walk the Northern Heights in the early days of December. Cold and bleak it maybe, the pilgrimage to Alexandra Palace has turned into a marker event for the opening of the Christmas period and one I look forward to very much.

If you’ve not heard of the Northern Heights before, it’s arguably one of London’s best walks, albeit for railway enthusiasts at least. Taking you on the dismantled Great Northern Railway route from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, the Parkland Walk takes you through the tranquil sights of North London, passed the abandoned Crouch End platforms in the middle of a forest and up onto the Muswell Hill viaduct which features commanding views of the city.

Though I was on my way to Alexandra Palace on this occasion it was not on foot, but I’ll be sure to be back here later in the year for that annual quest towards Highgate…

Image copyright A Carter – CallingAllStations.co.uk

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