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Top five: Tube Stations

21 June 2013 Charlie Kenber

Every day somewhere around three million of us ride the tube. Whether you are a regular commuter or a tube novice, it is likely that in the rush to get – or to find – the next train you tend not to notice your surroundings so much. To help out we go through a few of London’s underground highlights.

Oval

Every day at Oval station the staff put a new ‘Thought for the Day’ on their station whiteboard. Ranging from witticisms to uplifting quotes the thoughts are almost guaranteed to put a smile on the face of even the most hardened commuter. The tradition is also followed by staff at Angel station, and travellers even query it when the quote hasn’t been renewed! If you can’t see them in person, check out Oval Station’s twitter feed, or the archive of Angel Station’s ‘Thoughts’.

Westminster

Westminster station truly is a feat of modern engineering. Construction of the deep-level station required the deepest ever excavation in central London: an enormous 39 metres down. Such was its proximity to Big Ben that grout had to be injected around the clock tower’s foundations to limit its movement, thus avoiding structural damage. To get to the platforms you descend escalators hung within a huge concrete well, braced by concrete beams and steel tubes: surely the most futuristic station on the Underground.

Aldwych

Although its sort-of cheating, in that it is disused, Aldwych station still deserves a mention. One of numerous underground structures left as a relic by tube reconfiguration over the years, it was originally opened as Strand station in 1907. From 1917 only one platform was in use however, and it was finally closed in 1994 due to low revenues. During both World Wars disused parts of the station and the tunnels were used to shelter the British Museum’s artworks from bombing. Today, it is possible to access the station on odd occasions – tours are occasionally operated by the Transport Museum. The station is also used as a testing ground for future platform designs, and is frequently used for filming, and therefore remains in surprisingly good condition. The ticket office is maintained by London Underground as a museum piece, and the rest of the station is often redecorated by production companies. If you ever do get the chance, wandering around Aldwych is definitely worth doing.

Baker Street

Baker Street is London’s oldest tube station, built in 1863 for the Metropolitan Railway, and it’s certainly noticeable. From the timber-panelled ticket hall and its grand globe lanterns, to platform tiles adorned with Sherlock Holmes’ silhouette, the station certainly feels historic. A sign even remains above the ticket office with the words “Luncheon and Tearoom”. Plaques along the Circle and Hammersmith and City Line platforms – the original platforms, still in use – commemorate the station, with drawings and photographs of the original design. So a trip that manages to combine both transport history and one of British fiction’s most famous characters.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf is the busiest Tube station outside of central London, and the busiest single-line station on the entire network. Despite this, it was recently voted Londoners’ favourite station in a YouGov poll, and keeps up with heavy footfall by simply being enormous. Most of this size is below ground however, so from the surface you can merely appreciate the sweeping glass canopies designed by Norman Foster. Each end of the station hosts one of these spectacular roofs, and just to make it even more stunning Jubilee Park sits above it. Opened as recently as 1999, it is also one of the newest stations on the network, and well worth a detour. Or you could just watch 28 Days Later, in which the station featured.

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