A 40-minute television show from 1989 shows 48 hours in the life of Angel tube station, as it struggled with faulty lifts, an overcrowded platform and staff coping with changing times.

The acclaimed observational documentary by BAFTA award-winning director Molly Dineen was filmed in 1989, three years before the station’s desperately needed renovation. Anyone who isn’t aware of its history might be surprised to see what state it was in in the last 1980s, when it still had the narrow central platform still in use in the Clapham stations.

Today the southbound platform swallows up the entire station as it was at the time, when they dug a new railway tunnel to one side and installed escalators to replace the ageing lifts.

The fluffers are there, ladies who aren’t of the night, but work at night cleaning the tunnels.

The topless men working to maintain the railways in safety standards that would horrify workers today.

Language that would be very inappropriate today, not to mention the topless lady calendar in a workplace.

To witness 40 minutes of a strange world, of tube times past, put up your feet and go to the BBC’s iPlayer


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  1. Melvyn says:

    One feature of the old Angel Station was the island platform with trains approaching in opposite directions and if both arrived together the crowds had real difficulties in exiting the station via the Single stairs at the end of the platform.

    The other features were the old style lifts which passengers entered within the station with little boxes which rose and fell to show where the lift was and which direction it was travelling. The station also had a very long set of spiral stairs which began just below the booking hall and ended at same level as the lifts .

    As kids we used to try and race the lifts !

    While Angel island platform has gone there are still several stations in Clapham section of Northern Line which should surely be removed before the inevitable happens !

  2. Joe says:

    Wow! This is like a different world! I was 11 then and it seems like it was 50 years ago!

  3. Geraldine Moyle says:

    Oh, brilliant, Ian. Any publicity for Molly Dineen’s doc is a Good Thing. When I was a trainee teacher back in 1969, I was assigned to a primary school in Islington for a one month practice session. I bought a Return to Angel at my local tube station, Baker Street, on my first day. I’ve never forgotten the ticket seller’s response, spoken in broad Cockney: “What you want to go there for?” After week after week of using those lifts, I could see his point.

  4. Nigel says:

    Thanks Ian for reminding me of this brilliant programme. A piece of London’s history.

  5. Lofty Holloway says:

    I was 32 at the time in 1989, undertook a six week office skills course at the former Toynbeee Training Centre at Aldgate, always used the old station before and after they put in those ticket machines under that extension on the pavement.

    I can recall those lifts being out of operation, and using that shaft to descend, kind of remember that lift operator, Mr Simms, but it’s such a long time ago now, whatever happened to him?.

    Darren was the name of the dark haired LU man seen with lifts and his boss, I’m told that he still works in the tube – somewhere. But where?.

    And that old island plaftform of yesterday, I remembered it clearly, it was heaving at rush hour, local business called for it be felt with, and the westbound platform was built, opened in 1992.

    I enjoyed very much that documentary, it’s important to recall the past,those three lifts, those two pensioners, my husbands88, and I’m 85, probably bioth dead of course.

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