Welcome to london-railfan.info
Railfanning London‘s Railways

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Visitors to London who are also transport enthusiasts (‘railfans’) sometimes ask for advice as to the ‘best’ things to see on London’s railway network. This page is part of a guide which aims to answer that question.

If this is the first time you have reached these pages then it is best to go to the Opening Page which sets the scene, explains the difference between the small and the large profile trains, offers advice on the best type of ticket to buy and photography tips.

Alternatively, it is possible to view everything on one page


Station Architecture & Features

Covent Garden station. . Covent Garden station.
Some people - especially those from younger generations - look at historic brick and stone heritage ‘museum piece’ stations from yesteryear somewhat unfavourably, seeing them as being relics of a byegone era. Their thoughts are that a modern railway should have stations that feature a cutting edge glitzy design which uses modern materials such as concrete, metal and glass (or similar).

Served by Metropolitan (left) and Piccadilly (right) Line trains, in the early 1990's Hillingdon station was resited as part of a new road project and the replacement station is of the contemporary design which younger people desire. It is bright and airy, but it has to be asked what they think about the white painted metal joists (with peeling paint) and what look like ‘el cheapo’ residential ‘car porch’ style lights on the platforms?

This page is mostly about older / historic stations which have stood the test of time and in their own way can be as visually appealing as anything that is built nowadays. Sometimes these older stations are actually more functional than present-era stations for which the designers often seem more interested in what might look good than whether it actually performs well.


As a general theme stations which were once served by steam trains but became part of London Transport in the 1940‘s have been preserved better than those which remained part o f the national railway network. For example, if you travel on North London Line (London Overground Stratford - Richmond) you will see some stations where British Railways knocked everything down and nowadays there is nothing much more than ‘bus stop’ shelters on the platforms. eg: Finchley Road and Frognal.

On the Underground stations with Victorian and Edwardian-era buildings can be found on all the subsurface lines, as well as the Central Line east of Leyton and Northern line north of Finchley Central.

In the 1930's many new stations were built (and some existing stations rebuilt) in connection with extensions to the Piccadilly, Northern, Bakerloo and Central Lines. Typically these followed a European geometric Art Deco style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Although there were individual variations they often featured tall block-like ticket halls rising above low horizontal structures housing the station offices and shops, with the ticket hall's brick walls being punctuated with panels of clerestory windows and the structure being capped with a flat concrete slab roof.

In 1979 the Bakerloo Line's Stanmore branch became part of the Jubilee Line.

Many stations on the Jubilee Line extension (Westminster - Stratford) are modern in design, as are some rebuilt stations elsewhere in London - such as Hammersmith (Piccadilly & District Lines), the new stations on the London Overground East and West London Lines, and the DLR.

Note that although not specified in the comments below, since 2000 many stations on the Underground have seen much refurbishment and installation of new safety systems and CCTV camera systems. Typically stations were refurbished in a way designed to retain what is now seen as their 'heritage' styling, with (especially) platform walls being retiled on an almost ‘like for like’ basis.

More information about 1930's and immediate post war London Underground stations (and other buildings) built in Art Deco and Modernism styles can be found at these links. The first link also explores the Metro-Land phenomena designed to create new residential areas where the inhabitants would become passengers of the Metropolitan Railway:
http://www.modernism-in-metroland.co.uk/metro-land-and-modernism.html .
http://www.modernism-in-metroland.co.uk/tube1.html .
http://www.modernistbritain.co.uk/browse/tag/transport/ .

Covent Garden station. . Covent Garden station.
Designed by the architect Henry Green, London‘s Covent Garden station is typical of the over 40 stations built in the first decade of the 20th century by the Underground Electric Railways Group (UERG) for what nowadays are known as the Northern, Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines.

The UERG corporate style included distinctive ruby red glazed bricks and - to maximise financial income from the valuable land space - a structure which permits several floors of offices to be built over it. Note the distinctive London Transport roundel symbol located on the side of the building so that it can be seen by people elsewhere along the road and can act as a ‘homing beacon’ making it even easier to find the station.

At platform level the tiling each of these stations followed a different colour scheme, so as to aid identification by regular passengers travelling in passing trains.
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See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Typically these 40 stations were built with lifts and not escalators. Although some have been rebuilt Covent Garden still uses lifts, and being at the heart of an area which is very popular with both locals and tourists this station is so busy that even with four lifts crowding is commonplace. Although discouraged (because the distance between the upper and lower levels is equivalent to that of a 15 floor building) some people use the emergency spiral stairway instead.
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Nocturnal illumination of Warwick Road Entrance Earls Court station. . Historic Earls Court Road station entrance.
The Warwick Road entrance to Earl‘s Court station which was rebuilt in the mid 1930‘s to serve the new Earls Court Exhibition building. This image also shows the additional glass rotunda which in the 1960‘s was added above the 1930‘s entrance. . The Earls Court Road entrance to Earl‘s Court station which includes the railway company's names in a frieze near the top of the frontage. This was built in 1915, to a design by Harry Ford.
In sunny weather this is best photographed before midday.
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Acton Town station. . Nocturnal illumination of Warwick Road Entrance Earls Court station.
Acton Town station is typical of many of the 1930‘s Art Deco stations where the ticket hall is capped with a flat concrete slab roof and the brick walls are punctuated with panels of clerestory windows. This station was rebuilt prior to the District Line service to Rayners Lane & Uxbridge being replaced by the Piccadilly Line. . Because of the area‘s historic connection with shipping the mainline railway (SouthEastern) station building at Woolwich Arsenal follows a nautical theme with a lighthouse lamp on its top. This station is also served by the Docklands Light Railway, although its two station entrances are more traditional in format.
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Oakwood station at night. . Inside Oakwood station ticket hall at night.
Oakwood station on the Piccadilly Line is another 1930‘s Art Deco station and these views show the ticket hall as illuminated during the hours of darkness.
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Arnos Grove station and bus interchange. Inside Arnos Grove station Art Deco ticket hall. Telephones booths at Arnos Grove station.
Variations on a theme - some of the 1930‘s Art Deco stations were circular. An example of this is Arnos Grove on the Piccadilly Line.
The station frontage includes a bus interchange, albeit only for buses travelling in one direction (or terminating here). Buses travelling in the opposite direction call at traditional kerbside bus stops - as seen in the somewhat faded road markings.
The single concrete support column in the middle of the station building is another common architectural feature.
When this station was refurbished the telephone booths were restored too. At one time these all had twin leaf folding doors, unfortunately the doors were removed to deter people with ill-intent from leaving explosive devices where they could not be seen behind the closed doors.
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Historic station sign Ealing Broadway. . Historic station sign West Brompton.
Historic station name signs in the District Line trainsheds at Ealing Broadway (left) and West Brompton (right).
The solid disc sign at Ealing Broadway dates from before Edward Johnston designed the familiar roundel in 1919.
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Historic UndergrounD Map Temple Station. . Historic UndergrounD Map Temple Station.
Just outside Temple station (District & Circle Lines) there is an historic 1932 UndergrounD map. These images only show part of the map.
Note that not all the services shown on the map still operate and that the Bakerloo, East London and Piccadilly Lines have partially faded.
In those days the Moorgate - Finsbury Park Northern City Line was owned by the Metropolitan Railway.
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Historic lightbox style train describer at Barons Court. . Historic lightbox style train describer at Barons Court.
In addition to historic station buildings Barons Court still uses historic lightbox "next train" describers -
eastbound left (albeit only for Piccadilly Line trains) and right for westbound District and Piccadilly Line trains.



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This page last updated 9th January 2019
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