Monday 21st June 2021
It’s not just buses and trains that offer interesting rides.
The London Underground also has an intriguing history and much to explore.
I recently spent a few hours at the eastern end of the Central Line. It’s always an enjoyable travel experience – with each station full of fascinating individual characteristics. Many have heritage from the days when Great Eastern Railway steam trains ran along the tracks before they became part of the Underground.
Stations on the Hainault loop from Wanstead through Redbridge to Gants Hill reflect a different era, being built in the late 1930s and becoming operational after the Second World War.
Trains are currently back to running a 20 minute frequency shuttle between Woodford and Hainault rather than these stations having through trains from Ealing Broadway/West Ruislip and central London, although I noticed the “next train’ indicator signs haven’t caught up with this change, still showing the journey as having come “via Woodford”.
Here are a few of my favourite spots from this end of the line ……
Wanstead is exceptionally the most brutally concrete built station on this section of the Central Line…
… complete with rogue “UNDER GROUND” sign with its unfortunate gap between the “R” and “G” …
… bit it makes up for it below ground with lovely analogue clocks with roundels instead of numbers to denote the hours.
There were originally grand plans for a bus interchange alongside Wanstead Underground Station before it was built. Sadly these never came to anything, and the red colouring gave way to boring plain concrete. Here’s how it could have looked.
Redbridge reminds me of Southgate with its round ticket hall and bus stop for route 366 on the inner road….
… but it also has a tall brick tower you just can’t miss surrounded by a wonderful trellis ….
…. with thirteen roundels placed around it.
Downstairs on the platforms there’s a throwback to the days when Central Line trains ran beyond the terminus at Epping with North Weald, Blake Hall and Ongar still in situ under the covered panel.
The next station along, Gants Hill, has very little presence above ground – just a few roundels at the tops of subways dotted around the ‘Gants Hill Roundabout’ on the A12. But what it lacks on the ground, it more than makes up for beneath with a superb Moscow style inspired cavernous area in between the two platforms…
… with gorgeous uplights either end of double back polished wooden seats.
It also has another of the Central Line’s lovely analogue roundel-for -hours platform clocks..
Newbury Park‘s claim to fame is of course its wonderfully over the top bus station structure to be found immediately outside the very understated station entrance for passengers. The station dates back to 1903 when it was part of the Great Eastern Railway which branched off from the main line by Ilford.
The bus station was designed by Oliver Hill and opened in July 1949. You can’t miss it.
Installed at a time when interchange between bus and Underground train was the future, and what never happened at Wanstead certainly did at Newbury Park.
Barkingside has a rather nice ticket office building, dating from its main line rail days ….
… and as with most of the stations in the open air on the Central, has wonderful well kept floral displays on the platforms.
There’s not much to say about Fairlop, Hainault or Grange Hill.
Chigwell has a perfectly symmetrical ticket office building….
…. built exactly centred above the tracks.
Roding Valley of course has the distinction of being the least used Underground Station, even though it’s situated in a residential area, albeit with low density housing and car/s in the drive; and it’s not too far to walk to nearby Woodford Station with its more frequent service which is probably why passenger numbers are so low.
It’s always lovely to pay a visit to Roding Valley and savour its quietness.
It’s one of only two Underground Stations without ticket gates (the other being Mill Hill East – thanks to alisonprater2014 for reminding me about that station also being gateless in the comments).
Further up the line towards Epping, Loughton Station has an Oakwood and Northfields style entrance roof above the ticket hall which is gorgeously out of proportion to what the floor area would normally justify, but makes for a wonderful airy atmosphere inside. However, it wasn’t designed by Charles Holden as it’s lookalikes were but by John Murray Easton of the LNER company and opened in 1940.
And it has the most adorable old style London Transport bus timetable display holder. The type you really only find in a museum these days, but so reminicscent of what used to be found across the network decades ago, in the “good old days”.
The only downside is its display harks back to the “old days” too including unofficial timetable displays for TfL services as well as well well out of date information for Essex County Council funded routes that have long been withdrawn.
However after my visit when I tweeted about my findings when I was there on Friday 11th June I was delighted to see a tweet from Aidan Knight to report on the following Monday, 14th June, “the team have removed the out of date info that they can”. Well done and thanks Aidan.
And, finally, end of the line, Epping has a lovely rural type station building, with buses pulling up right alongside, which is handy for interchange even though the canopy is sometimes insufficient for the numbers waiting.
And, like Loughton, the bus information is always, but always, out of date here.
Every time I visit, I just know I’ll find something that misleads potential bus passengers such as long collapsed company ‘eos’ advertising its withdrawn route 87 I saw on my most recent visit.
Why oh why use ‘hazard warning tape’ to fix the information? What image to passengers does Epping Forest District Council thinks this portrays about its DRT service?
It’s a shame these small things spoil what otherwise is a magnificent stretch of the London Underground with some wonderful historic features to marvel at.
Including Snaresbrook Station with its original Great Eastern Railway platform canopies and decoration.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.