Marble Arch is a poky gateway to a noisy, musty warren of platforms and corridors and subways. As with most stations on Oxford Street, it's flanked by innumerable (well, not quite) currency exchanges.
Lancaster Gate is where you start to lose the tourists and idle travellers. The station has nothing whatsoever to commend itself, other than some fairly efficient lifts. It sits underneath a hotel, the original building (opened in 1900) long demolished.
Queensway hails from the same year, and at least bears some traces of its original construction. A few years ago it was closed for over 12 months while its creakly lifts were replaced and a new lick of paint applied. There's a great quote from Transport For London which was issued when the renovation work, being carried out by Metronet (before it went into administration and got taken over by TFL), overran for something like the 56th time: "This is a further, and one hopes final, pathetic delay on a project that Metronet has failed to manage to time."
At Notting Hill Gate you originally had to reach the Central Line through a separate building instead of, as now, the same one you use for the Circle and District lines. Nowadays the interchange is entirely underground, hence this picture of some steps (replete with cheery passengers).
Pedants might be interested to know Notting Hill Gate was the first station to have escalators with metal side panels rather than wooden ones.
Stepping out of Holland Park you can, ahem, smell the affluence. The building itself seems to exude a certain well-to-do mentality. It's eerie to emerge here just one stop on from the pell-mell patchwork of communities that is Notting Hill. And you can forget your currency exchanges or taxi cab firms sheltering next to the station; here they have a nutrition clinic:
Shepherd's Bush is next, but I couldn't get off as the platforms have been stripped and gutted and left for dead. It's depressing to associate such an iconic name with such (temporarily) reduced circumstances. White City is not much better:
Apparently the architectural design of the station won an award at the Festival of Britain and a commemorative plaque testifying to this is on the left of the main entrance. Good luck trying to find it. At least there's the glory of Television Centre directly opposite to compensate. Plus there's this, on the platform itself:
In particular, the half-hearted attempt to cover up the old Epping-Ongar branch line:
There's a disused station lurking in these parts, called Wood Lane. It was built for the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908; fittingly a brand new station, with the same name, is opening later this year, exactly a century since its forerunner.
Before the 1908 exhibition, the Central Line terminated at Shepherd's Bush. After the exhibition it was decided to keep Wood Lane open to service places such as the White City stadium. Once the line as a whole was extended through to Ealing Broadway in 1920, Wood Lane had to be rebuilt to accommodate through-running trains, a convoluted exercise which it seems left the station resembling a lop-sided triangle. Nobody was very satisfied with the arrangement and the whole placed closed in 1947 when White City was opened. There's nothing left of the station today.
East Acton is one of those stops that's seemingly tucked away on an ordinary residential street. It's in the open air, the first Central Line station to be above ground since Stratford. As such, and because of its suburban credentials, I like it a lot:
Here's the sun setting over one of its platforms:
North Acton, complete with hanging baskets:
The line divides here, with one branch heading north westwards towards West Ruislip. The other, shorter, branch, calls at West Acton...
...before limping into the multi-platform maze that is Ealing Broadway.
It felt like it took an age to walk out of this station. The fact the District Line terminates here, but mainline services pass on through, compounds the sense of slight confusion. The faces of everyone I saw were tightened into a rictus of grim resolution. The place is a horrible design, done up in the 1970s to incorporate loads of shops and a huge high rise office building. It's best to just get the hell out of Ealing Broadway and not look back.