Saturday, September 25, 2010

Aldwych Station Blitz Experience Tour

Mike and I were luck enough to be able to go on one of the tours of Aldwych station that are currently being run as part of a series of commemorative events taking place in London to mark the 70th anniversary of the Blitz. We've both always wanted to have a look around Aldwych station - I moved to London just after it closed in September 1994 so was never able to actually experience it as a working station.

The tours sold out pretty quickly, but some persistence by Mark and Mike in staying on the phones for hours meant we got some tickets. Mark wasn't able to come in the end, but I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures and thanks for getting the tickets!

The queue point
We arrived and queued up with 78 others to go into the station, where we were greeted and had the tour explained to us. We also got the opportunity to visit the toilets (unusual for a tube station to have them!!) and I rather enjoyed this poster:

268/365 Begin Early Shave Yourself!

Air Raid Warden

We were then given our instructions by the air raid warden, who told us off for forgetting to bring our gas masks!

Shelter Manager

It was then on down the 160-step staircase to platform level where the shelter warden explained how we could find a spot on the platform (or the track!) to settle down for the night. Once onto the platform, we moved along four different carriages of a 1938-stock tube train, where actors played out different characters chatting to us about life in the Blitz.

It was all fascinating stuff, and would be brilliant for children, apart from the 160-step spiral staircase down and up. Aldwych has no working lifts so that's the only way in and out, apart from walking up the tracks to Holborn station. I must admit I quite fancied the idea of that, but we didn't need to be evacuated, so walking up the spiral steps it was!

The whole station was decked out in authentic posters - I particularly liked Doctor Carrot and Potato Pete. My only gripe was I would have liked longer to simply wander around at my own pace and really take the station in, but I guess that wasn't really what this was about.

Mike spoke to one of the museum staff afterwards and we got the impression that perhaps there would be more of this sort of event in future, let's hope so!

Once outside we got to look round a restored RT8 bus, which you can see on the picture above. This was a precursor to the Routemaster and remarkably similar all round. All in all a fascinating event, well worth going along to. (Thanks to Mum and Dad for babysitting so we could actually go - definitely not an event suitable for pre-school age children, even though I'm sure James would have loved to sit on the RT8).