London’s Tube stations serve one of the busiest transport systems in the United Kingdom. Navigating more than 400km of tracks, 270 stations and 11 lines, more than five million passengers travel by Tube every day, including commuters and tourists.
The 19th century Underground transport system was first suggested by London solicitor Charles Pearson in 1845. Developed throughout the Victorian era, expansions and upgrades were carried out continually during the 20th and 21st centuries.
Over the decades, many new stations have been added to help the system flow well, but at the same time, some Tube stations have been abandoned, for various reasons.
Aldwych Tube Station is located in the City of Westminster, in central London. It once marked the start of a branch of the Piccadilly line, after first opening in 1907. Initially, it was known as Strand, but its name was changed to Aldwych in 1915.
In the early years, various expansion plans were mooted for the station, but most were unrealistic, such as tunnelling southwards towards Waterloo. During World War II, it was used as an air-raid shelter during the Blitz bombing raids over the capital.
After the war, it was served mainly by a shuttle train and suffered low passenger numbers. It had been earmarked for closure several times and the service was reduced to peak hours on weekdays in 1962, before it was closed down altogether in 1994. Lifts needed replacing and the operators felt it was too costly in comparison with the low income generated by declining passenger numbers.
It has been used as a film set for many popular films. Even before it closed down, filming took place during times when no service was operated. The movies filmed there included Battle of Britain in 1969, Superman IV in 1986, The Krays in 1990 and the horror film, 28 Weeks Later, in 2007. It was also a location for filming the ITV drama series, Mr Selfridge, in 2013.
Aylesbury was on the London Underground network until September 1961. Wycombe Railway opened it in 1894, in an era when the Metropolitan Line had big expansion plans. Aylesbury had lines to Quainton Road and Waddesdon Manor, with trains also going into the Buckinghamshire countryside.
Stretching almost as far as Oxford, other lines branched off to Winslow, Granborough Road and Verney Junction, while a section known as the Brill Tramway operated to Westcott, Wootton, Brill, Church Siding and Wood Siding. Over the years, the expansion plans were shelved.
None of these stations are in use today, although there’s an over ground rail station at Aylebury.
Ongar Tube Station used to be the final stop on the Central line. However, it closed on 30th September 1994. Today, it serves as a heritage rail line, run by the Epping Ongar Railway, which opened in 2004. Closed in 2007, it reopened again in 2012 and remains operational today.
The Ongar site runs family-friendly events, such as Easter egg hunts, but can also be hired out by private organisations to raise funds for the line’s upkeep. In 2015, according to a BBC report, the station was embroiled in controversy, when bosses hired it out to the producer of adult movies.
The resulting 28-minute adult film, produced by the company, Brazzers, caused outrage among critics, who felt it defiled the heritage site’s family-friendly image! Later, rail bosses described their decision to allow the filming as an “error of judgment”.
Great Missenden Tube Station was once on the seemingly endless Metropolitan Line. It was the first station after Amersham. Opened on 1st September 1892, it was run by the Metropolitan Railway.
Great Central Railway served Great Missenden from 1899 and the station was linked with Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield.
When the Metropolitan Line’s successor, London Underground’s Metropolitan line, became fully electrified in the early 1960s, rail chiefs decided to stop the Underground line at Amersham. Great Missenden has been served only by main line services from 1961 to the present day.
South Kentish Town
The former South Kentish Town Tube Station has been labelled the “ghost station” by the media. It was closed only 17 years after first opening in NW5! Planned in the 1890s, it opened in 1907 on the Northern Line.
Sadly, the station was hardly used, despite its modern facilities, including lifts and glazed tiling. It was a favourite of the late poet laureate John Betjeman, who loved railways. He famously wrote of “passing South Kentish Town”, although trains seldom stopped there, because there were so few passengers.
It was run by the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, who closed the station down in 1924 due to low passenger numbers. The site became a tobacconist’s in the 1930s, with some of the area also occupied by a coal merchants.
Today, it is a Cash Converters pawn shop and is barely recognisable as a former Underground station, although the famous terracotta arches, designed by Leslie Green, are still visible – of the same kind as those found along the Bakerloo, Northern and Piccadilly lines.
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