Tunnel-philes, mole people and spelunkers, we’ve got some good news for you. For the first time in 100 years, some secret subways of London Underground will be open to the public. You’ll be able to travel through a subterranean labyrinth and explore the shadowy, dingy tube of the good old days.
In a new tour, part of London Transport Museum’s ‘Hidden London’ series, visitors can explore the original Shepherd’s Bush Underground station, which opened in 1900. It’s been off-limits to the public since it closed in 1924 and its network of shut-off tunnels and platforms is preserved beneath the modern Shepherd’s Bush station, concealed behind locked doors and gates.
Back in the day, Shepherd’s Bush on the Central line was west London’s most important link into the city and a trailblazing station. It was a huge commercial success, allowing massive numbers of new commuters to travel from the suburbs into central London and the City every day. Unlike earlier tube lines, the Central was bored through the earth, not dug and then covered over, so much more of it was completely underground.
Although riding the red line is still a pretty unpleasant experience today, a century ago it was even worse. Siddy Holloway, presenter of Secrets of the Underground, told the Telegraph: ‘Pretty soon after the Central Line opened in 1900, it started to get a reputation for being stuffy and smelly.
‘That has always been a problem with the deep-level lines. It’s nothing new, and they tried everything to stop it. Shepherd’s Bush was really the first bustling commuter station from the suburbs, and that certainly played a part.’
On the tour, you’ll learn about the gritty workings of tube travel, like how engineers cooled down passengers in the sweaty depths of the Central line, and how they introduced the first tickets that could be used on a variety of different transports – the precursor to the trusty Oyster card.
‘Shepherd’s Bush: Suburbs to the City’, selected dates, Oct 5-22. £44 per person, £39 concs.