Just over 80 years ago, a tube station closed to the public due there being insufficient public interested in using it. Now it could open again, as a tourist attraction.
Down Street station is one of the great disused stations of tube lore, opened, hardly used, closed, turned into a bunker for Churchill while the Cabinet War Rooms were being prepared, used during the war by the Railway Executive Committee as offices, and barely changed to this day.
TfL is now looking for outsiders to come up with some way of doing something interesting with the disused station. Not all of it, but about half is being released for development of some sort.
That could be boring office box storage, or it could be a full fledged tourist attraction showing off its military heritage.
Down Street Tube station, is located on a quiet residential street off Piccadilly. It opened on the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway on 15 March 1907 and closed on 22 May 1932 due to low passenger usage because of its close proximity to Hyde Park Corner and Green Park (formerly Dover Street) stations.
Graeme Craig, TfL’s Director of Commercial Development, said: “The combination of space, history, and location, makes this a unique opportunity.”
“Adjoining parts of the station are still required for running the Tube, but we will work with interested parties to ensure the commercial and operational activities can happily coexist.”
Earlier was a chance to go down and see the station as it is today, with its original wartime signs and partitions still intact in many places.
Access is currently via a narrow door and staircase, and if you think of breaking in, the CCTV inside the door sets off a lot of alarms at the nearby tube station.
The station is typical of its time, with a huge round shaft which would have contained two lifts down to two corridors which run towards the platforms, and steps down to the platform level.
Following its closure to the public, the lifts were removed, and the shaft turned into a ventilation facility, so when Churchill took over, they needed to put in a new lift for the staff. Fortunately, with the old lift shaft being used for air supply, the centre of the emergency staircase, which was usually used for ventilation could be reused for a small lift.
About half way down is a side door leading to toilets and baths, and the first sign of a worn poster from the wartime era.
Remembering that this was a functioning station at one time, down at the bottom of the lift is a fully fitted out passenger tunnel. Now covered in the dirt of ages, the tiles still remain, alone with damage caused when office walls were slotted into the tiles and ceilings.
A few bits of heritage from the wartime use of the station are dotted around the place, such as these signs.
Two corridors run from the lift shaft and staircase, over the tracks to the steps down to the platform level, and any tube user will be familiar with these semi-circular insets where the tracks run below.
The staircase we used today will remain part of TfL’s operational side of the station, while the lift shaft will be emptied and offered to the new user — maybe it will be turned into floors as at Brompton Road, or opened up for a dramatic decent down to the tunnels?
This is the ventilation grill at the bottom of the lift shaft.
A small metal walkway gets from one side to the other. Originally there would have been two lifts, as at Aldwich station, and people catching trains would have left by one exit, and people leaving the station entering the other side.
On the other side, there is the other passenger corridor which lead down to the platforms. This side was in pitch darkness, so torches for illumination.
At the end, a short staircase down to the platform levels, which are infilled with offices from the wartime, but on this occasion, not accessible to visit. It’s also down here that access to the railway track exists, for use by tube staff, and in an emergency, as an exit for passengers.
They still use the industry standard sign for a train – even though no steam train has ever been down here.
Time to leave.
Via another set of steps, which lead up to another infilled corridor, this time with toilets, and even some baths.
And finally, some original wartime graffiti?
The consultation for what to do with the station opens today, and there will be a presentation to bidders in the middle of May. Depending on the viability of the plans, something could be announced towards the end of this year.
Commercial licensing for the photos available here.
Some more photos.
Modern pumping equipment.