When news filtered quickly that a glitch had been identified at Down St station, 5 of us made our way down quickly to inspect.
Initially bemused by the lack of an obvious point of access, we crawled through a tiny gap left by an awkwardly situated missing cover, the fan roaring with approval. We descended the initial vent shaft via the ladders and stooped down towards the 25 foot bolted vertical section, which was descended freely but with great care. The bolted rings of the ventilation shaft provided a convenient ladder, in place of the rope technique has been used in the past.
[Having spent time at the local climbing centre using both top-rope, leads and on the more technically orientated bouldering wall, Neb noted that it was good to have a practical application for the skills that we’d developed. I feel that personal mobility is an important skill to have in our practice. If you can’t climb, learn!]
The station itself consisted of the usual passages between lift and stair shafts, followed by several rooms from when the building was utilised during the war.
The station closed to regular traffic in 1932 and was converted to become the base of the Emergency Railway Committee, a wartime organisation. Winston Churchill used the sub-surface sections as his war rooms on occasions, nicknaming them “The Burrow”. It’s an appropriate name; rooms appear where you wouldn’t expect (half way up a staircase) and the location and direction of the passageways could get confusing if you’re not paying attention
Trains both roared and trickled past at times, clicking and clacking on the rails echoing down the narrow passageways made from the bricked off platforms. You can never truly relax when you’re in the tube, there’s usually only one way in other than a suicidal tunnel run, and the knowledge that this being sealed off would result in a stay of an undetermined durations makes one’s activities a lot more urgent, perhaps.
After service the lights come on and the tracks are lit by fluorescent lighting. The sidings fork off to the space between the running tunnels as they separate. Watching the tube tunnels from a train only provides you with a display of cables, twisting in and out of the tunnels and voids that you don’t glimpse for long enough to identify. All topside geography is lost down here, the subterranean geography taking over and removing any idea of location on ‘the other side’ other than the stations, the portals.
Retrospectively, it’s a bit ‘mental’ that we’ve managed to get away with what we have, but providing stations are checked regularly, and assuming that we meet the window of any discrepancies to the security, this is proof that eventually the whole system could be achieved.