diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 02, 2013

PICCADILLY: Down the line

Another month, another tube line, another end-to-end journey. Except the Piccadilly allows an end-to-end and-back-again journey, for added value, if you ride around the Heathrow loop halfway though. So please join me on a trip from Cockfosters to the airport and back again (unless I get bored before that and get off early).

Cockfosters is a gorgeous station. Like so many on the Piccadilly it's one of Charles Holden's, with a street-level building that could be an elongated bus shelter, and a cavernous interior for terminating trains. The concrete canopy struts across the trainshed like a computer chip, straight and rigid, perfectly symmetrical. Technically there are four platforms, although 2 and 3 share the same tracks up as far as the pot plants and only the doors on 2 open. There's even a special waiting area with wooden benches just past the ticket barriers, where I hovered to await the correct train. Most don't pause because they don't care about the ultimate destination, they're not going anywhere past Acton. But I needed the train to Heathrow Terminal 4, a numerical secret divulged only by the automated announcement and not by the display, so I hung back. I reached my seat aboard the train just as the cleaner nipped off sharpish before the doors closed. Three hours would elapse before I could be right back here again.

The trees on the approach to Oakwood look like silver birches and pines, not oaks, although maybe these once grew alongside where the train depot once stands. Another characterful station this, with white concrete features midway and barbell-style lamps at the end of the platform. There appear to be rather a lot of contours ahead, first a cutting, then a viaduct between suburban rooftops, then plunging deep into tunnel. That makes Southgate the first of the Piccadilly's underground stations, with high ceilings above the platforms, and cream tiles we'll see much more of down the line. It's also where my carriage becomes rather full, because the doors have lined up perfectly with the entrance to the platform, and people don't like walking any further down, do they?

Straight back out into daylight, and swiftly above chimney level for the elevated curve through Arnos Park. It's impossible to see the arched viaduct up here, but our train is unmissable to anyone kicking a football or picnicking down below. Arnos Grove is famously architecturally magnificent, although there are only hints of this in the modern design of the platform canopy and slatted benches. There's just time to spot the North Circular beyond (actually don't bother) before the train submerges again for almost an hour. Bounds Green is the first of several consecutive cream-tiled stations, this with solid orange borders while Wood Green has dashed borders in a gentle shade of peppermint.

All the seats have now been taken, as central London draws outer residents into its clutches. At Turnpike Lane they board clutching generic coffee, whereas later it'll be Costa and paper-wrapped cookies. At Manor House bodies squeeze into the gaps where the luggage goes, which is OK because there's no luggage yet. If you know the illustrated map that Piccadilly line trains have posted by the door, we've just crept onto that. The first significant exodus of passengers comes at Finsbury Park where the Victoria line does what it was built for and siphons off the traffic. This is also the point where we switch from the 1930s extension to the original 1900s section of line, so prepare for change.

Arsenal is the first of the Leslie Green stations, which means subtly polychromatic tiling patterns and the original name, Gillespie Road, laid out in purply hues. Check out Doug Rose's website if you'd like detailed background information on these Edwardian treasures, or come along and worship in person. The patterns at Holloway Road are subtly different, and browner, while Caledonian Road edges more towards mauve. Watch out too for the giant red roundel at the front end of the southbound platform, it's a century old, and nobody's ever been stupid enough to replace it.

From here to King's Cross St Pancras is a long run, which means unfamiliar travellers head for the door three minutes early and stand there like lemons. Here passengers duly pour aboard, as do the hotel crowd at Russell Square. Even at weekends this section feels like the rush hour, with passengers dutifully standing and shuffling awkwardly close. If anything Holborn is worse, but I'm sitting smugly having boarded ten miles back. The track curves noticeably as we head round to Covent Garden, because this is the line's fulcrum where north-south turns to east-west. "This station is busy at weekends", warns the notice on the tube map, but nobody either notices or cares, so off they plod to queue for the lifts.

It's barely worth the driver accelerating on the brief jaunt to Leicester Square, this (as you surely know) the shortest inter-station journey on the underground. Gradually those aboard are becoming more cosmopolitan, one woman flicking through the Tate's Lichtenstein catalogue, another three discussing honeymoon etiquette. Then at Piccadilly Circus the first suitcase appears, already tagged with a LGW label, but heading inexorably for LHR. I'd say an older demographic disembark at Green Park, or perhaps a little more moneyed, what with Mayfair on the doorstep. And by Hyde Park Corner almost nobody I rode in with from Haringey remains on board.

Knightsbridge has silvery-panelled platforms, reflecting the incoming bling above rather than the area's earlier heritage. But only at South Kensington does the carriage finally empty enough to offer seats for all, such is the draw of the museums at weekends. The last beautifully tiled station is Gloucester Road, again with ceramic Way Out and No Exit motifs inside ticket window-style borders. There are now four suitcases in my carriage - some petite, some bulging, one with hand luggage resting precariously on top. And brace yourself, because after Earl's Court we're firing back into daylight.

If you're not familiar, Barons Court is the best place to change between the District and Piccadilly lines if you're lugging luggage, the platforms being narrower here than at Hammersmith up the line (plus there are much nicer benches to sit on). It's also good to swap lines before the Piccadilly goes express. The railway has four tracks on the viaduct to Chiswick, allowing the blue train to nip down the middle and skip a few stations. We reach Acton Town about an hour after leaving Cockfosters... that's 'we' as in the driver and me, I doubt anybody else has lingered.

Stuff Uxbridge, we're taking the long run out of town to the airport. The train's now once again between suburban back gardens, even the odd set of allotments. South Ealing and Northfields are ridiculously close together, so lucky you if you live nearby. Some trains exit the system here to rise up a ramp to the depot alongside. Then comes Boston Manor, which is the first station with a semi-rural feel, so long as you ignore the M4 carving through the neighbouring park on concrete stilts. A golf course, a canal and a cricket club line the long ride to Osterley, another very open station. And that's where I'll pause, if you don't mind, for important narrative reasons. Sorry, the Piccadilly line goes on, and on, and on.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
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

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

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
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

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
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

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
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards