Site Records

Site Name: Aldwych - Holborn branch (Piccadilly Line)

WC 2
OS Grid Ref: TQ308809

Sub Brit site visits October 1992, September 1994, August 1995 & 2008 (Holborn only)

[Source: Nick Catford]

Aldwych station’s suitability for art storage was not forgotten and during the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, the Tate Gallery made enquiries about using either this station or Piccadilly Circus for sheltering valuable artworks in a nuclear war.

When the Piccadilly Line was built two platforms were provided at Holborn for the Aldwych branch. One is well-known and was in use until the service on this line ceased in 1994; the other was tucked in between the northbound Piccadilly and the other Aldwych platform, located somewhat to the south, such that its extreme northern end abutted the extreme southern end of the
eastbound Piccadilly. It was connected to the latter by a cross passage, the door still being there today.

Photo:Platform 5 at Holborn in 1995. The platform edge can be seen running down the corridor, the rooms to the left were on two floors. The rooms on this side have now been removed.
Photo by Nick Catford

In 1995 the station named fired into the tiles was still visible in one of the rooms. This has now been painted over. Click here to enlarge
The disused Aldwych branch platform at Holborn also found new use during the second world war it was converted into a labyrinth of offices, with a central corridor running along the old platform edge and feeding platform level offices on the west side. On the east side the trackbed allowed two levels to be constructed, the upper being used as dormitories. There must have been about 50 offices in all as well as a kitchen and canteen at the far south end. Two separate telephone exchanges (one Post Office, one London Transport) served the offices; both were connected to the London
London Transport main railway (RL) automatic telephone system, the Control office at Leicester Square, the dispersed London Transport headquarters at Dover Street and the Railway Executive Committee headquarters at Down Street. After the war the place was briefly used as a staff hostel for people who had lost their homes.

Photo:Site of the crossover at the end of Platform 5 in 2008. The track in the tunnel to the
left was lifted c.1917
Photo by Nick Catford

Through the 1950's and into the 60's the platform area was used as a staff hostel and more recently has been used as a store for London University. The short section of tunnel between the platform and the junction was used as a workshop.

The passenger service resumed on July 1st 1946 with a peak hour (7 - 10.30 am and 3.30 - 7 pm) service Monday - Friday. Initially there was also a service running between 7 am and 2 pm on Saturdays but this was withdrawn after 18th June 1962.

After the war there was a revival of a pre-war plan to extend the line southwards to Waterloo. Although the extension appeared on some maps it was finally dropped in the 1960's with the introduction of the Red Arrow bus service.

In 1956 some pre-war experimental stock was refurbished and used on the line until 1963. That year a three car train of 1962 stock came into service on the line and in 1973 this was replaced with the new standard stock used on the rest of the Piccadilly line.

Aldwych Station in 1958

When the Fleet Line (later to become the Jubilee Line) was being planned in the 1970s, it was envisaged that it would run from Charing Cross via Aldwych and Ludgate Circus and on to East London. The eastwards plan was scrapped, but a few hundred yards of experimental tunnel were dug close to the East London Line at New Cross and the main running tunnels
continue much of the way from Charing Cross to Aldwych. This tunnel still exists but is unused.

Photo:Looking north towards Platform 6 at Holborn in August 1995, 11 months after closure.
Photo by Nick Catford

On 4th January 1993 it was announced that London Underground Ltd. was proposing to close the line because the lifts, which date back to the lines opening, were worn out and needed replacing at a cost of £3 million. This couldn't be justified with only 450 people using the station each day. The date set for closure was
2nd April 1993 but after objections were received this date was put back with the last train finally running on the 30th September 1994 when for the first time in its 87 year history the platforms and the trains were crowded.

Photo:Aldwych station a few days before closure
Photo by Nick Catford

For many years the disused platform at Aldwych has been used for testing new lighting, architectural features, paints, tiles and finishes prior to use on the Victoria and Jubilee lines and the Heathrow extension. Many of these 'experiments' can still be seen on the platform today.

Since closure, the line has continued to bring in regular revenue no longer from fare paying passengers but from film and television companies who want to film a scene on the

Filming 'The edge of Love'

Still from the Prodigy's 'Firestarter' video

underground. Both Aldwych and Holborn have been seen on numerous TV programmes and even music videos such as 'Firestarter' by The Prodigy.

The line is still used for testing new features from time to time but as the lift cables have been cut (with the lifts held in place by girders) it is now easier to use Platform 6 at Holborn. This has been fitted with an experimental projection system for projecting advertisements onto the trackside wall. The projectors switch off as a train approaches and on as it departs. The platform has also been raised in line with the train doors, presumably as

....................... ............... ............. experiment to facilitate wheelchairs.

Photo:The disused tunnel between Aldwych and Holborn in August 1995. The site of the crossover is through the doorway. Photo by Nick Catford

Another form of income has come from public tours organised by the London Transport Museum. These tours included the disused platforms at Aldwych with its associated subways and stairways and the short sections of tunnels to the north of the platforms. Private visits have also been arranged for interested specialist groups like Subterranea Britannica who have been able
to walk down both running tunnels from Aldwych to Holborn and visit the hostel on Platform 5. Unfortunately the Museum have now stopped running these tours

Both Platform 6 at Holborn and Platform 1 at Aldwych have changed little since closure in 1994 and have been kept clean and tidy for the film companies. On the platform at Aldwych the original 'Strand' name in the tiling was cleared of numerous posters (by the author) a few days before closure and is still clearly visible. Some of the posters on the wall are not original but have been put there to depict a particular period during filming. The trackwork and infrastructure remains in good condition and a train of ex-Northern Line 1972 tube stock is permanently stabled on the branch; this

Old and new signs at Aldwych in September 1994
Photo by Nick Catford. Click here to enlarge.
train can be driven up and down the branch for filming and to keep the trackwork in good repair. The physical connection with the Piccadilly line Eastbound remains, but requires manual operation. In 2002, a heritage train of 1938 tube stock was used for filming, which required temporary removal of the 1972 unit to Ruislip for the duration.

Click here for Further information and pictures of the Aldwych branch

[Source: Nick Catford]

Home Page
Last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 14:55:14 GMT
© 1998-2009 Subterranea Britannica