16 August, 2008

Bakerloo Line: Kensal Green - Baker Street

After such an underwhelming and frankly lousy opening effort, I was really hoping the Bakerloo would raise its game. So far I had seen nothing to dissuade me of the view that it is the worst of all Underground lines. Its brown colour is hugely appropriate. The trains also have a smell - all fleets of Underground trains have their own distinctive smell, I'm sure other people will testify to this - that is suitably repulsive. I'd say it was a mixture of a battered cloth-seated iron chair being left too close to a three-bar fire, and a dozen wet anoraks sizzling on a radiator in a primary school classroom.

The first station south of Kensal Green, Queen's Park, did absolutely nothing to disabuse me of all these notions.

This bit of the Bakerloo was added in 1915, though as I mention below there'd already been tracks here - overland tracks - for decades and decades.

Queen's Park is the point where the Bakerloo leaves those tracks, the ones it has shared with mainline services, and dives underground. Atypically, as far as this blog is concerned, it is here that the quality of the stations improves. Usually I have found open-air stops more agreeable than those buried deep below. Instead I was caught off-guard by the pleasantness of Kilburn Park:

Denizens of the Underground will recognise this style of building. It's the work of Stanley Heaps, in the style of Leslie Green who was responsible for so many inner London stations and who popularised that dark-red terracotta glazed-brick motif.

Coming across this, a station with a bit of identity and thought behind its design, after so many desolate dumps, was fantastic. But there was more to come:

Another beautifully preserved exterior at Maida Vale.

Warwick Avenue, although boasting no surface buildings at all, is situated in a wonderfully quiet and relaxed corner of provincial suburbia, remarkably so when you think of how close it is to the city centre. It's quite a well-to-do area, or so it seemed, with the signs on the platforms bragging of how you should get off here for Little Venice.

The Bakerloo arrived at Paddington in 1913, with platforms built deep below the mainline station.

The Underground map gets very cluttered here. If you look, you'll see Paddington appears twice, as does Edgware Road. This is to try and denote the fact that these aren't interchanges, but whole separate stations. The platforms of the Hammersmith and City Paddington station, for instance, are utterly unconnected to those for the Bakerloo, District and Circle. To further mislead those unfamiliar with London, the building that houses the Bakerloo, District and Circle Paddington stops, advertises itself as the Metropolitan Railway:

At Edgware Road the two stations are on either side of the road. The Bakerloo version, which opened in 1907, was the terminus of the line until 1913; this was the handiwork of Green himself and almost didn't survive a redevelopment in the 1960s. Thankfully it persists, a lone outcrop of character in a rather faceless urban jumble of flyovers and road junctions.

Marylebone is situated within its mainline namesake; there was a stand-alone Green-designed entrance, once, but it was pulled down to be replaced by a budget hotel in 1971. Sigh.

Finally to Baker Street, where the Bakerloo first began on 10th March 1906, but where I've already called twice, and about which I can't think of anything more to say...

At least my estimation of the whole line has improved. Not really looking forward to the next, and last, stretch though.

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