Sunday, 31 July 2011

Pretty Tube Stations

Anyone not wanting to read a geeky train-related post, turn away now...

Source: London Transport Museum

Okay, now I'm alone with my fellow transport enthusiasts, I can gush unashamedly about Underground stations.  I was very pleased to read the other day that English Heritage has listed 16 new tube stations, particularly as some of these are ones for which I have a particular, personal fondness.

I've always liked Russell Square and Chalk Farm:

Russell Square Station (Photo by Diorama Sky via Flickr)

Chalk Farm Station (Source: Geograph)

I just love the "ox-blood" faience - it's such a rich and distinctive colour, which was the point really, to draw people's attention so they could spot the nearest tube station easily.  And they have beautiful green, art nouveau style tiles once you're inside.  Well, underground travel isn't a terribly pleasant experience, so why not liven it up with some vibrant colours?  The architect responsible for these stations (along with other lovelies such as the already listed Mornington Crescent ) was Leslie Green, who designed 40 stations for London Underground between 1903-1907.  Impressive turn-out for only a few years in service but I suppose when you're onto a good thing with your design and also aiming for standardisation, it's a lot easier...

I was also quietly pleased to see Wood Green make the list as well.  This used to be my local tube station and - although I didn't enjoy living out there particularly - I can't help but have a soft spot for the building I ventured through every day on my way to work.

Wood Green Station (Source: Wikipedia)

And back in the day (Source: The Independent)

I have to confess that, although the ticket hall is quite nice, overall it never particularly spoke to me architecturally.  Even though it is 1930s and by Charles Holden, who has some other buildings that I adore.  Holden is probably the architect most famously associated with London Underground, introducing a modern, minimalist style to the stations during the 1920s and 1930s.  He also designed 55 Broadway as the headquarters of London Underground - a fabulous building from the outside, though I've never been privileged enough to see inside it.  To me, Wood Green Station doesn't hold up quite as well against his other work but there you have it - someone must have deemed it worthy!

Source: Doug Rose


  1. Train Geekery - I LOVE it! I have always had a romanticised obsession with vintage trains and stations. The stations in Sydney are ok, but when i lived in London, i loved going to and finding new beautiful stations, they have such charm and history! I'm glad i'm not alone on that :)

  2. You're definitely not alone! I find the most unexpected people are train geeks deep down. I really can't put my finger on what it is about trains and train stations but I can't help but love them... Mostly... And you're right, it's always lovely to come across a new and interesting station - I've been to some rubbish places that happen to have unexpectedly lovely stations. You just never know!

  3. (Of course, by "new and interesting" I mean new to me rather than new stations! Definitely prefer the old ones...)

  4. They can be such romantic places, don't you think? So many stories. Airports just don't have that, despite the stories of those travellers. Too much speed there. Less soul. Russell Square and Chalk Farm do look great! How exciting for you, about Wood Green. I agree, its architecture didn't excite me while there. The bricks of St. Pancras, on the other hand, did! A passer-by laughed as I photographed them close-up. "They're just bricks, love!" "I know, aren't they wonderful!" I exclaimed, smiling.

  5. Train Geek here too! I have always found train stations interesting I especially love the piccalilly line as it still retains lots of its 30's and earlier tiles and signs,they seem to have been designed with a bit more comfort and style in mind than some of the more modern ones. Also I find the abandoned tube stations strangely fascinating, as well as a bit sad, I feel sorry for them. I know I'm bonkers:)

  6. Susan Janet - you might be right about the speed of airports not allowing the same interest of the railway stations seep through. Although people probably actually linger longer in airports, but not in happy way! Perhaps it's also something to do with the fact that airports make more of an attempt to be standardised so they're familiar whatever country you're in? Train stations are more quirky and showy? Who knows?? Maybe it is just the period of architecture, because I find images of Tempelhof in Berlin wonderfully evocative. 1920s, devastatingly no longer functional.

    Wendy - I agree, the Piccadilly line is great. Not only the 1930s bits but the fact that it covers such a stretch of time. It was one of the earlier ones (from memory) but then expanded - so it's lovely and varied. And you're not bonkers - I totally know what you mean about the abandoned stations. Though perhaps I find them more spooky than feeling sorry for them! I've tried to look for York Way - between Caledonian Road and King's Cross - a few times. Apparently you can see the platform quite well from one side as you pass through. I've never managed to glimpse it... but it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, just peering out in the dark, attempting to see it!