diamond geezer

 Saturday, February 02, 2013

BAKERLOO: First in line

I don't know about you, but my favourite bit of the Bakerloo line is the tip of the northbound platform at Piccadilly Circus. Not the main part of the platform, where the bright red and green tiling can be a fraction too garish. But step away from the entrance, further round the curve than initially seems possible, and a secret world appears. Underground platforms normally come in pairs, aligned but hidden, but at Piccadilly Circus the Bakerloo platforms are out of sync. The northbound platform sticks out of its tunnel into the crossover space, running almost one carriagesworth past the southern. Stand at the far end, past a set of firmly locked wooden doors, and you can watch trains running in the opposite direction while you wait. They emerge from the tunnel, slowing gently, allowing passengers aboard to stare out of the window at you staring back [photo]. And then they disappear again behind a cylindrical wall, until only the very rear of the train remains on view [photo]. Above ground this would be nothing special, but underground, where tracks are more usually segregated, there's true novelty value. The train opposite hangs around for the regulation thirty seconds or so, then pulls out, immediately exposing a bench at the tip of the southbound platform. If anyone's waiting you could wave at them, but more likely not. [photo]

Most passengers never get this far, especially tourists, choosing to congregate out of sight near the Way Out sign instead. Indeed it comes as a surprise, even an affront, should any more practised traveller stride all the way along to this confidential spot and claim it as their own. One thing I particularly like about standing here is that the Olympics haven't gone away. A magenta sign is still stuck to the brown fascia above the platform, announcing to nobody that ← Horse Guards Parade is off to the left [photo]. Almost everywhere else on the network Games signage is long gone, but up this dead end it's somehow survived. This venue wasn't even Paralympian, so the pink strip is properly six months out of date, but station staff don't seem to be aware of what their furthest extremities hold. It's almost never quiet here, though. A bank of extractor fans whirr away above your head, occasionally pausing so it's possible to hear the busker playing halfway down the escalators at the far end of the station. And then another set of headlamps appear in the tunnel, rumbling over the points past signal A1000, and the skew platforms serve up another now-you-see-it, now-you-don't lightshow on the tracks opposite. [photo]

I don't know about you, but that's my favourite bit of the Bakerloo line.

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