diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Northern City station: Finsbury Park

Northern City station: Drayton Park
Opened: 14 February 1904   Zone: 2
Annual passengers: 553,000

Here's an oddity. A tiny underused station only a ball's kick from Arsenal's stadium, accessed via a gabled building that still looks like an old cottage. The ticket hall's nothing special, but the metalwork on the staircase down to the platforms is rather lovely. Unlike the rest of the stations down the Northern City line this one's above ground, though quite low down because it sits adjacent to the tunnel entrance. All that overgrown space to the west of the station used to be sidings and sheds for tube trains, but when these stopped running here in 1975 the land was cleared and is now "a Site of Special Interest in Nature Conservation". A small building beyond the tracks at the foot of the stairs is a Victoria line substation serving the Underground trains which run immediately below. There's also a brightly painted mural of Gunnersaurus Rex, the Arsenal mascot, on the wall about halfway down. Not that many fans see him, however, because Drayton Park station is always closed before and after a weekend match, and after a weekday match, for fear of overwhelming the narrow island platform. The far end of the station is covered diagonally by one of the elevated walkways that links the Emirates Stadium to its surroundings, while the silver stadium itself (and some surrounding flats) are easily seen from the very tip. [6 photos]

Northern City station: Highbury & Islington
Opened: 28 June 1904   Zone: 2

Here's another an oddity - two dingy platforms beside two very busy platforms, where the Northern City line rubs up against the Underground. When the Victoria line was built in the 1960s the northbound Northern City platform was reallocated to the southbound Victoria, while a new northbound platform was constructed for each line. It's fantastic for swift interchange, but less good for a world class customer-friendly ambience. Where previously metal shutters blocked off the interface between one and the other at weekends, now they're flung wide, allowing almost nobody to nip off the Victoria line for a transfer down to Moorgate. Amazingly the tiles and branding still reflect Network SouthEast colour schemes, even 20 years after stations on every other line in London moved on, adding to the retro feel and confirming a certain amount of infrastructural neglect. Further evidence of commercial lethargy is provided by the posters along the far wall, all of which are Macmillan Cancer Support adverts relating to the London Marathon 2014, and most of which are identical. And look, the line diagrams are still all labelled 'Monday-Friday' because Saturdays and Sundays are extremely new, although what's the betting Crossrail will have opened before anyone gets round to updating them. [3 photos]

Northern City station: Essex Road
Opened: 14 February 1904   Zone: 2
Annual passengers: 572,000

You'd be hard pushed to find a bleaker creepier under-the-ground station in London than Essex Road. It boasts two narrow platforms illuminated by strip lights, again tiled in NSE livery, but with no adverts on the opposite walls whatsoever. Essex Road's not a fun place to wait, and definitely feels more cut-off from the rest of the world than most. But if you have the time, and there's nobody else around, take a bit of a look around. The southbound platform has a tiny line diagram showing just two stations, installed before the Hammersmith & City line arrived at Moorgate. But the northbound platform has a whopper, a seven-panel job showing every station out to Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth, and onward connections to Peterborough and Cambridge. These are not places Islington locals tend to go. Two staircases descend from the divide between the platforms, which seems wrong because we're underground so you'd think they'd go up. But no, it's down first, into a pair of deep and well-worn tiled subways. Pick carefully. One leads to the emergency staircase, which is not to be attempted if you're claustrophobic or of a nervous disposition and have an irrational fear of 1970s horror movies. The lift's not much more fun, but at least it's functional and avoids having to walk back up the equivalent of all those steps you just walked down, and more. The ticket office isn't anything to write home about, although at least it still exists, and the exterior of the building looks more like you're emerging from an electricity substation. For this is not quite trendy Upper Street, this is gentrifying Essex Road, and a station most local residents stay well away from. [6 photos]

Northern City station: Old Street
Opened: 14 February 1904   Zone: 1
Annual passengers: 1,396,000

The Northern line platforms at Old Street are more than ten times busier than the gloomier Great Northern platforms, and accessed via separate passageways from the lower concourse. "Trains to Welwyn", says the friendly TfL lettering, before you step through the portal and all gets a little more austere. If you're familiar with what I've written above about the platforms at Essex Road and H&I, Old Street is much the same... Network SouthEast tiling, Network SouthEast platform numbers, Macmillan Cancer Support poster overload and a handful of hard-to-vandalise metal benches. One slight difference is up the far end of the platform where the tiling eventually stops to be replaced by unevenly turbulent concrete, of a pseudo-designery type that wouldn't look out of place at the Barbican. If you'd missed a train on Sunday you might have had 58 minutes to wait and explore these underappreciated surroundings in detail, or you could have probably have walked to Drayton Park quicker, which I'd probably have recommended. [4 photos]

Northern City station: Moorgate

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