diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NORTHERN: Hampstead

Hampstead, on the Northern line, is the deepest station on the London Underground network. It's not that the trains dip down, it's that the land here is higher than at the stations on either side. The platforms at Hampstead are 192 feet below ground level, that's nearly 60 metres, which is a bit taller than Nelson's Column. This means, if you have any sense, you'll use the lifts to make your way between the ticket hall and the trains. Hampstead has extra-speedy Otis lifts, and the longest lift shaft on the Underground at 181 feet deep. But there is a back staircase which is open to customer use, although you have to be relatively fit to use it. Signs at the bottom warn passengers that "this spiral staircase has over 320 steps", and that this is "equivalent to climbing a 15 storey building". At other stations with lesser staircases you might ignore the warning and hike up anyway, but at Hampstead it's best to keep away, unless you're trying to prove a point.

I experienced the 320 steps in the safe direction, going down. The entrance isn't immediately obvious, nor do TfL want it to be, tucked away in the back corner of the ticket hall and then doubling back. The first descent is straight, then comes a brief landing where the spiral begins. It was here I met a brave soul walking up, not obviously out of breath but evidently relieved to be nearly at the top. The top section of the spiral is a little austere, constructed from white-painted curved metal panels, but soon the original tiling kicks in. It's cream with a reddish brown border, and this'll be your guide for several revolutions downward. All the treads are modern with yellow safety trim, and they appear to be grouped in 180° sections each of 17 steps. Round and round and round they go. Someone's stuck a series of numbers on pieces of paper on the central supporting pillar, starting with "1" at the top, counting up to a final "17" down below. I think they're counting the mini-landings, and the idea is to dissuade climbers from getting too far ("What? We're still only at 14? I think we'd better turn back now!"). Even when walking down, the stairs go on and on and on ("Seriously? We're not there yet?"), but then this is the longest staircase on the London Underground by some considerable margin.

Nobody spotted me emerging at the bottom, no train had recently disgorged its human cargo towards the lifts. And nobody waiting on the platform noticed that I was the fit bloke (or nutter) who'd walked down 320 stairs to be there. But I suspect only I fully realised quite how far below the ground we were, at the undergroundest Underground station of all.
The 10 deepest stations on the Underground
  1) Hampstead 58.5m
  2) Holborn 41.1m
  3) Highgate 37.3m
  4) Covent Garden 37.0m
  5) Angel 35.7m
  6) Belsize Park 35.6m
=7) Leicester Square 33.2m
=7) Russell Square 33.2m
  9) Euston (City branch) 33.1m
10) Piccadilly Circus 32.2m

The 10 longest staircases on the Underground
  1) Hampstead 320 steps
  2) Covent Garden 193 steps
  3) Belsize Park 189 steps
  4) Russell Square 171 steps
  5) Goodge Street 136 steps
  6) Caledonian Road 134 steps
  7) Moorgate 131 steps
  8) Bank 128 steps
  9) Queensway 126 steps
10) Edgware Road 125 steps
» Depth data calculated using a spreadsheet spotted by Ian Visits, here.
» Steps data taken from a list counted by Geofftech, here

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