16 September, 2008

District Line: Barking - Aldgate East

West of Barking the District Line ages by around 20 years. Electric services first came this way in 1908, along tracks that had been around since - incredibly - 1854.

East Ham was added to the Underground in 1902, but if you look carefully while on its platforms you can find evidence of its original owners, the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. There are ornate LTSR logos still in evidence on some of the canopy supports and posts. Sadly I only read about this after my visit, and hence all I have to show for the place is this photo shared with a bus:

You can see vague traces of Victorian designs all along this stretch of the line, Upton Park (original buildings dating from 1877) being a good example.

Wikipedia takes time to supply the following details about this station: "In total there are six separate food and beverage machines, two chilled beverage machines (750ml bottles), two chocolate machines (that vend a variety of Cadbury products), and two miscellaneous snack machines. Upton Park tube station is surrounded by several late night kebab and chicken and chip shops for a more nourishing meal."

Now that's the kind of information this blog needs more of.

Plaistow is a listed building, replete - like Upton Park - with LTSR livery. And, like Upton Park, I didn't get it on camera.

The construction of the original West Ham station was sponsored by Arnold F Hills, owner of the Thames Ironworks and Football Club which played at the Memorial Grounds from 1897. The club was renamed West Ham United three years later, the station opened in 1901, and the District Line arrived 12 months after that. However because it was in the middle of nowhere, passenger (and crowd) numbers were woeful. The club subsequently moved to Upton Park in 1904.

If you ever catch a glimpse of an Underground map in EastEnders, you'll see that Bromley-by-Bow doesn't exist. In its place is the famously fictional Walford East. This photo captures the news of the hour, which at the time of writing seems hopelessly inappropriate: Shares Bounce Back.

There's a bit more character to Bow Road than its neighbouring namesake. The place was opened in 1902 by the Whitechapel & Bow Railway (later swallowed up by the District Line) and the booking hall is now a Grade II listed building.

This alone is worth preserving:

It's here that services running westwards from Upminster and Barking dive underground via a tunnel to the east of the station that's apparently the steepest on the entire network.

I confess I was fairly impressed with the frequency and the upkeep of the trains during this leg of the journey; then again I was travelling during rush hour and I imagine the service is much reduced off-peak. There was no shortage of passengers either. This portion of the District Line is extremely popular. Mile End is especially busy, the interchange with the Central Line prompting mass movements of bodies in either direction. For those taking notes, this is the only subterranean Underground station that offers a cross-platform interchange between so-called 'deep' and 'cut and cover' lines. I'm sure I've mentioned that before.

On the westbound platform at Stepney Green you'll find your usual electronic noticeboard. On the eastbound platform, however, there's still one of those old illuminated displays which merely indicates the planned destination of the next train. It gives no clue as to when it might arrive. Once, all stations were like this and we lived with it because we knew no different.

I've been to Whitechapel already.

The District Line, in its original guise as the Metropolitan District Railway, struck out this way in 1884, forming an interchange with the existing East London Railway. Things get a little confusing now, as the District station was given a different name to its East London brother: Whitechapel (Mile End). Then it was closed for rebuilding, reopening in 1902 with its present name when the Whitechapel and Bow Railway came into existence (the company which, together with the London Tilbury & Southend Railway, laid tracks all the way to Southend-on-Sea).

Then there came a whole lot more business involving the Metropolitan Railway (not the Metropolitan District Railway) which is now the Hammersmith and City Line, and which I'll talk about another time. Moreover there used to be another station near here, St Mary's (Whitechapel Road), which sat between Whitechapel and Aldgate East. It existed from 1884 up until 1938, when Aldgate East's platforms were moved, er, east and given a new entrance a few hundred yards from that of St Mary's.

If you followed all that you'll be relieved to know it's the end of this entry.

Aldgate East is a relic from when rival companies thought nothing of building rival stations on rival lines a few streets apart. It's about five minutes from Aldgate on the Metropolitan and Circle lines. But it does boast this lovely antique Underground roundel...

...so it's not entirely to be sniffed at.

1 comment:

Steve Williams said...

The discussion on Upton Park tube station's Wikipedia must break all known records for the quickest breakdown in etiquette of any online discussion.