London Underground’s transparent escalator

Of the many oddities that can be found on the London Underground, one of the more curious has to be the see-through escalator.

Almost hidden away at the end of the platforms at Embankment station and overlooked by most, this is I think the only one of its kind on the entire network.

I say see-through — what they have actually done is cute three large windows into the side panel so you can watch the industrial mechanism working within. And barely at that, as the lights, if there were any have long since stopped working, and the plastic/glass covers are exceptionally dirty.

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But, you can just about make out the movement working away within as belts and rollers descend down to the lower levels to emerge and elevate passengers once more.

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There is a busy staircase down from the ticket hall right next to the viewing area, and just one person seemed to take any notice of my photographic efforts and pointed out the workings within to an instantly excited young child.

Not as visible as say the huge expanse of workings revealed within the Lloyds Building, and yet in a way that makes them all the more interesting. At the Lloyds Building, everything is visible, and in such vast quantities that it has become almost mundane. Here, a small patch of glass has been opened up to reveal otherwise hidden workings within.

The small window, and the rarity makes it all the more captivating to see. It is the lure of the mysterious and the chance to just peek a little bit through a small window that makes it more interesting that seeing the entire thing gutted and lain open as Lloyds have done.

You can find this little spot of delight at the far eastern end of the Westbound platform on the Circle/District lines.

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Being at Embankment though — you have just a few days left to admire this curious little relic as the escalators are about to be sealed off and their innards replaced.

From this coming Wednesday, Northern and Bakerloo line trains wont stop at Embankment until later this year as the ancient escalators are torn out and modern replacements installed.

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As I noted before, the escalators were installed in the early years of such products, and in very narrow tunnels before the engineers realised what a damn nuisance that would be for maintenance.

It does mean that the escalators here, and at a few other old stations have a curious charm about them as you proceed around in narrow corridors that are really not ideal for modern life, yet are all the more appealing for it.

Although I doubt the maintenance staff look upon them with such favour.

Some photos of the old escalators

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4 Comments

  1. Ian N

    I think the Trocadero still has a few escalators with clear glass sides, if any excited children still want to go and see inside them. Although like the rest of the building, the last time I saw them they were covered in scandalous amounts of dust and debris. The big escalator that once led up to Segaworld is of course long gone.

  2. Craig

    I went there with a friend today and we spent about half an hour searching for this. Having looked high and low for it we think you meant to say it is on the western end of the eastbound Circle/District platform. If so unfortunately it is already hidden behind a blue hoarding!

  3. Gerry

    Yes, this escalator did have internal lighting but it fell into disuse many moons ago.

    When it was Charing Cross this was one of the quirky little features that made it an interesting station, the other being the mercury arc rectifier whose ghostly flickering light could be glimpsed at night…

  4. Tom Rainbow

    Let’s see if the little windows survive the refurbishment….

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