David Connor's Tribute to the Victoria Line

I made the mistake of suggesting that the entire Victoria Line was uninteresting. David Connor rose to the challenge...

Hey! I grew up on that line. It played a crucial role in making me the person I am today. It's part of me. Let's see:

BRIXTON - The sixth busiest station on the entire network - how did London manage without it for so long? Has the world's busiest scissors crossover.

STOCKWELL - Original southern terminus of the world's first electric tube railway. Access to the WW2 deep-level shelter had to be relocated when the Victoria Line was built.

VAUXHALL - Hmmmn. This is harder than I thought. :-(

PIMLICO - Originally, trains ran through non-stop, while the station was finished off. This was because this station was authorised some time after the Brixton extension itself.

VICTORIA - The busiest station on LUL. There are a couple of plaques about, including one celebrating the line's 21st birthday, and a station nameboard for Harburg Town Hall station in Germany, with which Victoria is twinned.

GREEN PARK - Victoria Line interchange passageway with the Piccadilly Line is/was really long, because it uses the original platform entrance stairways from the lifts, made redundant when they were replaced by escalators in the '30s. Although the Jubilee has served this station since 1979, it is being rebuilt to cope with the additional traffic generated by the Jubilee Line Extension.

OXFORD CIRCUS - Circular ticket hall beneath the road junction - this was responsible for the infamous Oxford Circus umbrella in the mid-60s. According to legend, an empty pipe surrounds the ticket hall - during utilities diversion works, they couldn't work out who it belonged to, but cut it anyway. It was seemingly empty - but they put a new section in, just in case! Original CLR and BSWR buildings retained as exits. Southbound Victoria platform was difficult to construct - it bears the load of a department store just above. The northbound platform was gutted by fire in 1984, and has been rebuilt in a totally different style to those on the rest of the line.

WARREN STREET - Portland stone 1930s entrance building, designed by Heaps and Holden. Wrong-line running here - and all the way to King's Cross.

EUSTON - Unique cross-platform interchange arrangements, where trains on the line "across the platform" run through the station in the opposite direction. These works caused the southbound Northern Line platform to take over the former northbound track - it is now extra-wide.

KING'S CROSS ST PANCRAS - A real maze of tunnels! A plaque at the top of the Victoria Line escalators commemorates the 31 people who lost their lives in the 1987 fire. Passage connecting the Victoria Line to Thameslink orders you to smile - overtones of big brother. One of the signs pointing to the northbound Victoria platform is 23 years out of date -
can you spot why? Lots of interest in other parts of the station, too.

HIGHBURY & ISLINGTON - Southbound Victoria platform opened in 1904 for the GNCR. Pre-1968 entrance building disused but still standing. The northbound WAGN platform and tunnel, constructed as part of the Victoria Line works, were built large enough to take main-line trains.

FINSBURY PARK - Uses former Edwardian GNPBR and GNCR platform tunnels - the ex-GNCR platforms are "humped". So shallow, only requires stairs to link it to surface level. Spiral stairs constructed in former lift shafts link the platforms with the main-line station high above.

SEVEN SISTERS - Unusual three-platform layout. Some terminating trains wait in the centre platform, because they form scheduled staff trains to Northumberland Park depot.

TOTTENHAM HALE - Surface buildings rebuilt in recent years, incorporating a multi-coloured illuminated tower. Special barriers are stored in the ticket hall, which can be installed quickly to prevent flood water running down the escalators, if the nearby River Lee (or Lea - both spellings are used) overflows.

BLACKHORSE ROAD - The only significant new structure on the original line. Includes a fine cast iron relief cast of a black horse on a blue mosaic background. The NR platforms were added in 1981, when the former separate BR station opposite closed.

WALTHAMSTOW CENTRAL - Unusually, access to the tube platforms is only possible by walking along a short stretch of the main-line platforms. Apparently, the architecture department of LT thought that this would be fun - contrasting the old station with the modern new line. Not on a cold wet winter's evening it isn't! The original 1870 station building survives on the south side - when the GER station opened, it only had a platform on this side, despite the fact that line was double track - IIRC, trains called in both directions, platform or no platform. Note that all Victoria Line trains from here are "southbound" but actually run northwest until they reach Tottenham Hale.

Platform decor throughout the line is dull, and the platforms were designed to be identical to each other as much as possible - now seen as a big mistake. But there are differences - stations between Victoria and King's Cross (inclusive) have illuminated roundels; stations beyond Tottenham Hale (inclusive) have "troughed" lighting, instead of a properly-finished ceiling, to save money. Each station also has a unique tiled motif in the seat recesses - all have an association with the station name or its locality, and
two have changed since the line opened.

You see - even a dull line like the Victoria Line has interesting features. Virtually every station on the LUL network is interesting in some way.

I asked David if the out-of-date signs at Kings Cross suggest that you can change to the Northern Line at Highbury & Islington. He replied...

Yep. It's at the bottom of the Victoria Line escalators, and actually points to both platforms. Strangely, although it wasn't updated in 1975 for Highbury & Islington (and there's no trace of a plate having been applied and later removed BTW), it was updated in 1979, as a plate over Green Park shows the Jubilee Line interchange.

I asked David which two tile motifs have changed since the line opened. He answered...

Oxford Circus and Green Park.

OXFORD CIRCUS originally had an abstract representation of the station itself. Light blue, red and brown dots met in a circle, symbolising the three lines serving the station. In the early 80s, the Central and Bakerloo platforms were modernised in contemporary styles. One line's platforms incorporated a "snakes and ladders" motif, and the other's a "people on escalators" motif (can't remember which line has which). In 1984, the northbound Victoria Line platform was destroyed by fire, and was rebuilt to a mid-80s style - very different to what was there before. The platform wall finishes include a motif combining the Bakerloo and Central Line schemes. The seat recess tiling on the southbound platform was changed to match.

GREEN PARK originally had a number of green circles, of various hues, on a light green background. This represented a bird's-eye view of trees in the park - the effect was not too dissimilar form the Pimlico dots motif. It was later changed to a leaf design, matching the Jubilee Line artwork here. I assume that this happened around 1979, when the Jubilee opened.

The original twelve station motifs were included on a poster, reproduced in the LT Golden Jubilee Book, published in 1983 by the Daily Telegraph in association with LT.

Thanks to David Connor for posting these words to uk.transport.london and allowing me to quote him wholesale on my website.

since 22nd December 1998. Home ©1998