There we were, quietly perched in a dark crawlspace, slithers of light sneaking in from the station below. Supported by thin pieces of wire and screws, the panel on which we stood was clearly not designed to support human weight, our every movement causing the flimsy metal to creak, stretch and bang, threatening to fall. Nevertheless we remained on the edge, our eyes transfixed on the station and stairs, listening for each and every sound no matter how insignificant. Impatience at this point was not an option, if our timing was wrong or we had miscalculated something the result would mean arrest, injury or worse.
It had taken months before we were even able to reach this stage, constant progression with the TFL upgrade works at Holborn and Covent Garden had meant a steady flow of heavy fisted workers were always on hand to thwart our advances. Every night, every attempt, foiled by a human element.
Even before we accessed the station we had agreed one thing, if the track lights were off, so was the trip. Unlike Christmas Day, if the lights were off and the lines were powered there is an incredibly high to almost certain chance a train would be somewhere on the line, and in zero clearance tunnels, its a no brainer.
For several years we had successfully infiltrated over a dozen of London’s abandoned tube stations, some harder than others, but this was in a whole new league. It just felt, wrong. Our minds raced, there were so many potential hazards, outcomes, variable and situations in which this journey could fall apart, cameras, cleaners, workers, trains, the track being live, doors being locked, running the wrong way. The worst part being that many, if not all of these were only check-able on route, there was no way to know for sure, no way of telling if the coast was clear until it was too late.
We knew we were not alone, somewhere within the station workers and cleaners resided, casually congratulating each other on another job well done, or at least that what I guess they were saying, their voices muffled, our minds more focused on the descent.
With the start of service fast approaching, the time for discussion over we arrived at the crossroads, fight or flight. To return now held no shame, we had come further then before, the daunting task ahead of us enough to put even the most hardened of explorers off. If it wasn’t to be, then so be it, I would still hold my head high.
Looking at Gary, we knew we had to at least try. Tonight was the closest we had come and who are we to deny a chance. We rolled the dice, jumped from our hideout and ran, a maze of passage, stairs and cameras awaiting us at every turn. My half ass attempts to conceal my face failed as i leapt a staircase, crashing into the wall opposite. I had never been here, I had no idea where I was going, my only instruction from those who had being aim for the first portal you see.
The tunnel was lit, the power to the third presumably off, a dusty switchboard on route confirming we were going in the right direction, so far so good. Only three minutes in and I was already out of breath, my mouth dry as the Sahara and body returning the punishment for months of pizza’s, jalapenos and cheap alcohol. We had to push on, at any moment the track in which we stood could go live, its guest of honor a 40mph mass of iron and steel singing out last goodbyes.
For ten minutes solid we ran, stopping only once to catch our breath, eventually reaching our final obstacle, Holborn. Given we required access to the disused Piccadilly branch on which Aldwych resided, we had no choice but to pass through Holborn, the fact we had approached from the south unfortunately put us the wrong side of the station for this.
We darted from corner to corner, reaching the platform and leaping into the portal, sprinting as fast as we could before the lights behind began to fade. Had we been seen or heard? There was no way of knowing, we were running too fast, our minds focused on getting out of the stations grasp.
With the gates to the connecting disused platform firmly shut, we had no choice but to traverse the active platform, cut back at the junction with the branch line and run back along the disused. Yet again we had to run in front of the cameras, hoping they weren’t monitored, more importantly, praying those potentially watching weren’t looking for us. Considering the antics at Covent Garden, this was tame, our obstacles mapped, planned and partially avoided, a brief sprint soon finding us on the disused branch, running once more, our goal in sight.
The track was rusty, partly removed, debris, flyer’s and rubbish piled in the corners of the tunnel, if a train was to come down here, it wouldn’t be going fast. We relaxed, the difficult part was over, all that awaited was to claim the reward, hoping a welcoming party was not there to greet us.
As we took the final steps, the station came into view, its light on, the green tiles in the distances glowing subtly. With a final leap we stepped onto the platform, we had made it. The tightness in my chest loosened as I congratulated Gary, a manly hug seeming appropriate at the time. A few choice words were spoken, congratulating the research of our accomplice Patch, who unfortunately was unable to be present at the final hurdle.
Aldwych, originally opened on the Piccadilly branch line on the 30th of November, 1907 as Strand. It was later named Aldwych as a result of Charing Cross being renamed Strand. The station was eventually shut in 1994 as a result of the branch line being closed. If your interested more in the history aspect, then there is another website that will cater to those needs (One I will no longer mention given the amount of jealous, whiny old man, hate mail i received from them recently) .
The station’s ticket hall, well, for me was disappointing. It was beautiful don’t get me wrong, but all signs of decay, damage and disuse you would expect from an abandoned station had been prevented due to its infrequent use as a museum / movie location. Either way it still offered a glimpse into its past life as an operational station, something I didn’t take for granted snapping as many pictures as I could before the battery on my camera let me know it was time to leave.
We had been in the system for well over four hours, the morning commuter trains had started and life had been restored to the slumbering giant. With one final look we exited the building, daylight and fresh air welcoming us as we left.