Most Londoners know that there are “ghost stations” on the Underground network. There are probably several dozen of them in all, most of which have been closed for reasons of economy, the fact that they simply weren’t pulling their weight financially. One of the more recent, perhaps the most recent, is Aldwych Station in the Strand, which closed its door to travellers in 1994. It was built in 1907, designed by the leading Tube station architect of the era, Leslie Green. You can usually tell Green’s stations by the distinctive “ox-blood” tiling and the vaguely Arts Nouveau lettering on the main station signage. Russell Square is a good example. Aldwych was used as a public bomb shelter in both World Wars, but particularly in World War II when it was actually suspended from the network entirely between 1940 and the end of the war. Part of it was used to store art treasures, notably the Elgin Marbles. Today, Aldwych’s main function is to be used as a film set for period movie and TV dramas that require an Underground setting.
On extremely rare occasions, the London Transport Museum opens Aldwych to the public for guided tours. Today was the first day in such a programme which ends in early December. Tickets sold out within days, but LTM kindly provided three for London Historians today.
For reasons of Health and Safety, the tour was extremely tightly regulated. But actually, since the station was only decomissioned relatively recently, the old place is very little different from any of the stations in use, and, with only 70 of us in attendance and no tube trains roaring through (obviously), a great deal safer than visiting any station on the network, any day of the week. It is my contention that LTM could run these tours far more frequently, with fewer staff, and open up for themselves a very decent revenue stream. It would also be rather good – and yes, I am well aware of the logistical difficulties – if London Transport or LTM made some of the other ghost stations available to visit on occasional special tours. There are plenty of London historians and railway nerds who would jump at the chance.
Having said all that, the tour was immensely enjoyable and below is a small selection of pictures I took.