Zone 2

Colour me smittenWhen the balloon goes up and it’s time to head down to the air-raid shelter beneath Clapham South station, one of the last things we’ll see are colours. Rows and rows of gleaming colours, snaking along the walls of the platforms, full of a lustre that is unexpected for something so deep underground. The choice of colours is particularly affecting: nothing gaudy, or luminous, or poorly co-ordinated. Instead, stoical RGB basics that even the vaguely colour-blind can tell apart. And I should know.

Tiles of wonderIf the tiles are originals, then they date from 1926 and are in very fine condition. Clapham South was the curtain-raiser for the extension of the Northern line and then, as now, is the first treat for passengers venturing towards Balham, Gateway to the South.

If they aren’t originals, they don’t look it. The taste and the elegance feels authentically inter-war. It’s like walking through Balfour or Baldwin’s bathroom. For me their linear design beats the more scattergun styles you can see at stations along the Piccadilly line. These tiles radiate refinement, neatness, and above all order. If, apocalypse pending, they were to be my last glimpses of the artistry of human race, I wouldn’t mind.

The Common touch

Through the roundel windowI really haven’t done enough on this blog to commemorate people who – at the time of writing – are still alive. Mike Ashworth is one such person, as it’s thanks to him visitors to Wood Lane station can admire a thousand or so chunks of history that might otherwise have been left to rot.

It’s a London Underground roundel that hails from the original Wood Lane – a previous incarnation of the present station that used to be on the Central line and which closed in 1959. The roundel was rescued from the wreckage on the specific request of Ashworth, LU’s design and heritage manager, who then oversaw its gorgeous restoration and rebirth here, in the all-new Wood Lane.

There’s one drawback, however. It’s behind protective glass, which means it doesn’t photograph that well. My reflection-wracked pictures don’t do it full justice.

One thousand slices of charmIt’d be wonderful were it to be open display, even if it meant it had to be mounted higher up, out of the reach of hands with hammers or light-fingered loons.

It also looks a bit eerie, not to say fragile, divorced from any kind of solid surface. But this is nitpicking. I’m just glad it’s still with us – unlike the institution that once made this station’s name famous the world over.

Shedding followersJust north of Queen’s Park station on the Bakerloo line, you experience something I’m pretty sure you can’t do anywhere else on the Underground.

You get to pass through a carriage shed.

That might not sound particularly tremulous, and I grant you it’s not on a par with the kind of sensory overload you endure on a ghost train or enjoy on a seaside tram. But it shares the same novelty value. And if you’re in the mood, there’s a tingle of excitement to be had from peeping inside somewhere it feels you’re not meant to go.

She said, there's something in the train shedIf you’re heading north, you trundle through entrance 21, past a very old (but still perfectly legible) 10 MILES AN HOUR warning sign. Once you’re inside, look out of the right-hand windows and you’ll probably see a couple of trains sitting in berths 22 and 23, not really doing much. You’ll possibly spend a minute or so doing the same, before your train is given a green signal to carry on up the line to Kensal Green: nemesis of all connoisseurs of The London Game.

If you’re heading south you’ll probably come through number 24. Whichever track you end up on, however, the effect is the same: a moment of anxiety as you conclude you’re sitting in a train that’s been sent to the sidings, followed by a longer moment of embarrassment when you realise your mistake.

Two little ducksWhen you pass through the shed, I wonder under whose jurisdiction you fall. I can imagine there are issues over “conveyance”, with unions and management holding urgent negotiations to agree terms of safe passage. I hope there are “lucky” entrances, and that superstitions have built up around particular numbers. In bingo lingo, would you prefer two little ducks or a knock on the door?

For shed followers, you probably can’t beat arguing about something like this. For shedding followers, you certainly can’t beat writing about something like this.