Generally speaking, when standing on a tube station platform, the only thing that should move is the tube train as it arrives, but there was once a tube station with a platform that also moved.

When the Central line opened in June 1900, it ran from Bank to Shepherd’s Bush, and had a large depot in Wood Lane, just to the north-west of Shepherd’s Bush.

In 1905, the government announced plans for a large Franco-British Exhibiton, and as it was close to Shephards Bush station, the Central line, spying a chance for more passegers, built a loop railway around its depot, with a new tube station at Wood Lane built on the loop, which opened just a few days ahead of the exhibiton opening, in May 1908.

Incidentally, the reason this part of London is now called White City is that so many of the buildings for the exhibition were covered in white stucco, and the nickname, well, it stuck.

Now, the tube station being built on a curve wasn’t a problem — initially — due to the way tube trains were designed at the time. Early tube train carriages had doors at the ends of the carriages, not along the length of them as we have today.

This design changed in 1927 when new carriages were delivered with doors along the length of the carriage as we have today, and they found that the curve was too, for want of a better phrase, too curvey.

The implications for Wood Lane were serious – the platforms were long enough for the old design of trains, as the back of the last carrage didn’t need to be in the station for passengers to use it — a bit like selective door opening at some stations today.

However, with doors running along the full length of the carriage, they needed to lengthen the platforms. Which seems simple – but, there’s always a but — this station was right next to a curve for the railway depot. Lengthen the platform, and trains can’t get out of the depot to the station.

An ingenious solution was needed, and they created a platform that could move out of the way when needed.

In normal use, the platform looked as you would expect it to, but if they needed to get trains in or out of the depot, the platform could pivot to one side with a hinge at one end, and underneath the platform, wheels that rolled over a concrete support.

National Archives: RAIL 1017/2/22

Moving the platform to one side left enough space for the trains to curve as they once had, around the side and into the depot. A clever solution, and the only tube platform on the London Underground that could move.

This carried on for twenty years, when in 1947, they finally closed the station entirely, to be replaced by a new station nearby, at White City.

The last remaing parts of the old station were demolished in 2003-5 as the depot was rebuilt and the Westfield Shopping Centre built above it.

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8 comments
  1. Keith Barber says:

    An idea that would be frowned upon today by health and safety- even if it was operated safely for all the years it was in use

  2. Vincent Osborne says:

    I seem to recall there being something similar mentioned in the early days of Baker Street, to allow Country services from the Metropolitan Line to enter the joint Circle tracks?

  3. Tom Rainbow says:

    I don’t really understand how this works: I assume the pivot point is nearest the camera, but there doesn’t seem to be any room for the platform to swing into, as its hard up against the railings.
    Can anyone explain it to me?

    • Jim says:

      Zooming into the picture above, I believe that the the wood on the right of the railings is a fillet.
      It looks like the point at which it meets the railings is slotted rather than holes, and the angled supports appear to be attached to the fillet but just resting against the railings.
      This would allow that section to be removed and the platform section to swing over to the right, whilst keeping the gap covered when the swing function is not required.
      Just my best guess.

  4. harry says:

    The railings seem to be fixed *to* the platform. Then there are some tapered sections that look as if they may get wider as it goes further away, where the railings do a good job of hiding what’s happening there. But my guess is that the tapered bits (I expect somebody will have a technical term for them) are only covers for the gap that would otherwise be there.

  5. Chris Rogers says:

    There is a metal flay running between the inner edge of the wooden bit and the concrete platform; I think the former slides under that.

    I had a tour of the station well before Westfield; the overground bit was just metal structure, all the steps had rotted etc amongst the weeds. I didn’t have great camera gear so not many good pics but the underground bit was good, pitch black and with 40 year old posters etc. Shame it’s all gone

  6. Simon says:

    I get it…they could pull the far away corner on the right, inwards. This made the platform angle to the right, letting the trains pass. The curved section near the front of this photo is the bit it pivots on.

  7. Stephan says:

    Seems to be correct. Right underneath the railings are small metal sheets covering a structure with a small angle visible behind the second and third opening of the railings. The wooden structure swings to the right with the metal sheets sliding over the mentioned understructure and thus covering it.

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