London Underground has announced that Northern Line and Bakerloo Line trains wont be stopping at Embankment Station for most of next year (2014) due to a major overhaul of the escalators.

The Circle./District lines wont be affected.

The timing is interesting — as it will also be 100 years since the station as we know it today was opened to the public following  rebuilding work.

However, due to the rather elderly nature of the station design, they have to close the deep level platforms as the escalators were installed fairly early in the life of such things, and what today is obvious, was less so then.

The main problem is that the escalators run through single dedicated sloping tunnels, and there aren’t the usual steps beside them that we would expect today. So although the length of the escalator is not that great, the lack of alternatives means the decision to close the platforms.

Of course, platforms closed also means a chance to tart up the rest of the area.

However, what wasn’t mentioned in the press release from TfL is that the escalators here are not just unusual in being squeezed into dedicated tunnels — but also that they run at a different angle to modern day escalators (26º vs 30º ). Alas, that can’t really be changed — without rebuilding the station — and also adds to the complexity of the job as naturally off-the-shelf components are not so readily available.

An article in the The Times (Oct 15th 1913) also noted that due to the presence of water, the escalator machinery had to be installed in water-tight cast iron chambers.

The original escalators were later removed as they were of an early shunt design that was impractical for passengers, and the current ones installed during another station revamp in 1928. Apart from refurbished in the 1970s, they are largely the same escalators still running 80 years later.

As it happens, there is another slopping passenger tunnel linking the Bakerloo and Sub-Surface lines, but it was closed in 1914 when the station was rebuilt to accommodate the Northern Line extension. It’s still there, although used for services and facilities.


And finally…

Did you know that in theory at least, a single escalator has greater carrying capacity if people stand on both sides, rather than walking up the left hand side? No, I was surprised as well.

Interestingly, once there are enough people on a down escalator, the escalator actually starts to generate power back into the system. So stop walking on the down escalators!


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  1. Aktar says:

    It is true that “Old is Gold”. But changes are very important so its great to hear this.

  2. SteveP says:

    I’ve said this since the first time I was inconvenienced by a lengthy LU escalator repair – yes, we understand they are each unique works of art and that nothing is standard. But for heaven’s sake, when you rebuild one, have TWO of everything made and keep the spares in a warehouse somewhere. You can’t go on forever claiming “no spares” is the reason for such long disruptions – it’s like Groundhog Day

  3. Charles says:

    So you want them to pay twice as much so in 80 years time they will have spares for the next refurbishment?

    Would you be happy if the disruption today was using 80 year old parts recovered from a dusty store room. They’d be as old as half the preserved steam engines…

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