Every couple of years, the London Transport Museum opens up the locked doors of Aldwych Underground Station and allows small groups to look around the deserted platforms and tunnels that form this out-of-use point on the network. Tickets are in high demand: turn up late and your place on the tour will be given away.
Luckily, I only turned up a few minutes late and the kindly old lady on the door let me slip inside the ticket hall. I’ll be honest with you: I was expecting a darkened room filled with cobwebs and dust. But above-ground bit of the station was actually clean, tidy and well-lit. It turns out that the above-ground ticket hall is in high demand for parties, art galleries and film shoots.
Some old ladies took photos of the toilets.
A severe man in a purple shirt read out the warnings that had been posted to me earlier. There is a risk of death, there are no toilets underground, if you don’t appear to be moderately healthy then you will be turned away. I looked around at the elderly couples listening intently to the guide and felt reassured.
If there were an emergency when we were underground then there would be no option but for us to clamber through the abandoned, dark, asbestos-filled tunnel towards Holborn. I sort of wanted there to be an emergency.
We were then treated to a brief lecture on why the station was closed. Apparently the footfall was so low that when the ancient lifts needed replacing in 1994, the multi-million pound cost was considered so high that the entire station was closed down.
According to our guide, the station has seen use since then as a film set and training ground for anti-terrorism police ahead of the 2012 Olympic games. You might recognise Aldwych underground station from films such as V for Vendetta, Die Another Day, Atonement and 28 Weeks Later. The station also served as the inspiration for a level in the video game Tomb Raider III.
I wasn’t told any of this on the tour, obviously, but Google is excellent.
After being treated to an explanation of why the tiling is exciting, we were allowed to descend several hundred steps to platform level. Something rather strange happens when you’re walking in a tight circle down narrow stairs for several minutes.
I felt a bit weird and began to wonder if there would be phone reception under London. There wasn’t.
It was a strange mix of people, mostly elderly couples interested in history and architecture and other boring things like that. There was also a young Spanish couple there too, arm in arm, taking selfies next to funny wartime posters.
A particular stand-out character was the young hippy girl who danced around the abandoned train platform and rubbed all the walls. I think she was enjoying herself.
As you can see, the abandoned platform wasn’t empty, far from it. As soon as we were let into a new area of the station, we all rushed to grab a photograph of it looking empty before everyone ruined the shot. The Spanish couple kept taking selfies and doing funny poses. Obv.
An abandoned train platform is like a normal train platform but with holes in the walls and you get dripped on a lot. One of the tour guides pointed out that “calcite straws” were growing from the ceiling. I think the hippy girl tried to lick one.
Disappointingly, none of the posters on the walls of the platform are original – they’re all set dressings for the television show Mr. Selfridge. Or at least, that’s what the tour guide said.
After taking photographs of every conceivable item of interest on the platforms, we were hustled into a small tunnel and informed that it was haunted. I had come prepared for this section of the tour because I had watched the episode of Most Haunted filmed down here and so knew that superstar celeb medium Derek Acorah felt a presence of a woman in the tunnel.
I didn’t feel a presence of a woman. I just felt cold and dripped on.
Anyway that’s it. Bit of a waste of an evening, really.