diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 03, 2013

Underground 150 Paddington to Farringdon

In January 1863 the Metropolitan Railway opened the world's first underground railway beneath the streets of London. Construction had taken three years, and the political machinations and fundraising much longer. The original plan had been to link London's northern rail termini to the City, but that final destination proved elusive and the line was forced to end at Smithfield. To save money most of the line was built beneath roads, rather than buildings, using the cut and cover method. The railway followed the Marylebone and Euston Roads, which had themselves been carved across the outskirts of the capital a century earlier, then hooked down to Farringdon through cutting and tunnel.

I'll not go into enormous detail about the construction of the line because you can read about that elsewhere. Instead I thought I'd take you for a walk along the original line, all nearly four miles of it, at modern day street level. It's not one of London's greatest walks, to be honest, given that most of it involves breathing in six lanes of carbon monoxide. But bear with it, because it heads past some of the capital's more interesting places, and because I'll be dipping down into the stations too. Let's start at the Paddington end, and probably not at the Paddington station you're expecting...


Bishop's Road station: There are currently two underground stations at Paddington, both called Paddington, linked only by a pink and yellow stripe on the floor. The original is the current Hammersmith & City line station, at the far end of the mainline platforms, not the rather nicer District line station at the Praed Street end. The Metropolitan Railway snuck in where it could, which meant the unwanted space between the local lines and the Grand Junction Canal, with access from the Bishop's Bridge Road. What had once been a footbridge where anglers dipped their rods in the River Westbourne became a far mightier span when the Great Western Railway Company dug a steaming chasm through the area in the 1830s. Three decades later the Metropolitan Railway terminus opened out onto this bridge, more an apologetic outpost than a fresh station at the heart of the community.
"Bishop's Road occupied an awkward position between the main line station and the Great Western Railway coal depot alongside Paddington canal basin, further restricted by an approach road to the Great Western goods depot. Bishop's Road bridge was partially demolished to make room for the station building, set back behind a forecourt for cabs and omnibuses. The structure had a gable at each end with high pavilion roofs and balustered parapets. Platforms were built in a cutting between blind-arcaded brick retaining walls, beneath a bow girder and plate glass roof of 62ft span. Stairways and offices were set into the walls at platform level and a footbridge stood towards the east end of the platforms. From the westbound side there was a subway to the Great Western station."
The old Bishop's Road station has long been wiped away, with a complete rebuild in 1933 and another underway. I think there's a stack of original brickwork beneath the bridge, adjacent to the very modern emergency exit staircase, but little else to make this anything other than a depressing place to wait. The platform's gloomy at one end and exposed at the other, with a single Next Train Indicator in the centre giving inadequate advance warning of escape. It's worse than usual at the moment because blue walls surround the main staircase while rebuilding continues. A couple of new staircases have gone in, leading up to an airy ticket hall with circular patterned windows and a long bank of barriers. Apart from the glass there's not much to like, but at least passengers should be swift enough sweeping through.

The latest rebuild of the Hammersmith & City line station is in preparation for Crossrail, even though that'll pass through on the opposite side of the mainline. This part of the Paddington Integrated Project should be complete by 2014, ensuring that increased passenger numbers have been prepared for. Those with suitcases will be glad to discover a new taxi rank has already been built alongside. It's a bit of a trek to reach the picking-up point, because that's at the far end, but much easier to reach (from the H&C) than previous arrangements on Eastbourne Terrace. Scores of taxis sweep in via a special ramp from Bishop's Bridge, with all non-cab traffic prohibited, and a marshal in a box at the top of the slope halts any pedestrians attempting to enter. [More from London Reconnections]



An alternative exit for pedestrians is up a short flight of steps to the canal. Straight out onto the towpath, no less, which is a novel way to leave a station, but in this case fully justified. The Paddington Basin development lies to the right, and Paddington Central to the left. The latter is built on the site of the old Great Western goods yard, hemmed in between the water and the Westway, and has covered several acres with concrete. Here a cluster of soulless office blocks encircles a central green "amphitheatre" ringed with shops, while to one side a boulevard rises to a dead end beside a Novotel. The developers' blurb claims this is "a Place with life and energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week" but, having visited over New Year, I can assure you it's not.

If I've got this right, the original entrance to Bishop's Road station was located where the taxi rank disgorges, opposite the barriered gateway to Paddington Central. It's not somewhere you'd currently want to hang around, although there is a good view across the entire mainline station from further along the bridge. Alas there's no easy access to the rebuilt station, bar an unsignposted diversion through the new development via the canal, so you could that argue public transport access has gone into reverse here since 1863. But Crossrail will be here soon, and it is gloriously appropriate that at both ends of the original line, 150 years on, another groundbreaking project is underway. [10 photos]

» Edgware Road


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sunday 27 April (10am-4.30pm)
Perivale Wood Open Day
Annual opening of a bluebell-
infested nature reserve.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
tired of london
thelondonphile
in the aquarium
christopher fowler
thamesfacingeast
one bus at a time
london daily photo
london reconnections
150 great tube things

read the archive
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv