20. The wooden escalator at Greenford
I was chased out of Greenford station while taking these photographs. A member of staff objected to me using my camera, even though I was, as I protested, pointing it “merely at an escalator”.
This was a slightly underhand remark, as it clearly wasn’t “merely” an escalator.
Indeed, I’d come to the station precisely because it wasn’t “merely” an escalator, and was instead the only one of its kind still in service on the entire network.
Why it’s the only one of its kind still to be found in use on the Underground I’ve no idea. I’m guessing it’s retained for its novelty value.
It’s around 100 years old and is certainly a charming oddity. All of its cousins across the network were scrapped in the wake of the King’s Cross fire in 1987.
Whenever I’m chased out of stations for taking photographs – which is not often, admittedly – I find myself nursing a grudge against from wherever it is I’ve been evicted.
By all means take the effort to visit Greenford and experience this unique chunk of motorised history. Just remember to secrete your camera in a specially-designed satchel, or within a ring like the one Roger Moore had in A View to a Kill.
Oh, and don’t, whatever you do, behave as if you’re there to admire something.
(A different Ian has a different, and better, set of photos.)
It is also, I believe, the only escalator on the Underground that you have to go up to get to the trains
I had no idea that our local Underground escalator is that old because I thought the station dates from the 1940s. The earlier comment by Stuart is correct, You usually have to descend by escalator to the trains in other stations. We heard recently that a new escalator/lift is going to be installed after the original plan to install a lift was ditched because it cost too much. At the moment it’s escalator up, walk down. The survival of a wooden escalator has everything to do with the cost of installing a new one. It breaks down for weeks at a time which is a nightmare for the elderly and infirm. I’m surprised that the staff gave you a hard time over taking photos. I think there may be some regulations regarding photography on the TfL network and I was a bit wary of getting the camera out myself but have now posted four times this year about the station – with photos. I was told today that I could photograph the fish in a local pet shop but not cats,dogs or birds. I have no idea if this is true. Thanks for posting this and come back to Greenford soon, there’s lots to see here!
I’ve used that escalator a fair few times. Hadn’t realised that the wooden step were anything that special.
As far as I am aware, the only reason it has survived was because it’s above ground. As you mentioned, the King’s Cross fire ensured that all of the underground escalators were replaced with less-flammable metal ones, along with a smoking ban.
Interestingly, there was definitely a wooden escalator at Bethnal Green station in the early 2000s, when I was at university. No more – that too has been replaced – but they didn’t all disappear immediately following 1987.
Work has now begun to install Londons first incline lift at Greenford Station.
The first stage is to install a new escalator followed by a new starcase after which the wooden escalator will be replaced by the new incline lift to given Greenford Station full step free access .
So this escalator will soon be history!
It broke down in 1989 and took months to be repaired.