The Forgotten Tunnels of Euston

A brief of history of lines

While many of central London's Underground stations have tunnels, foot tunnels and passageways that are no longer in use for various reasons, Euston's Underground station has more such tunnels than most, some that even contain features that are unique to the network.

As traffic to Euston's mainline station increased, it became apparent that alternative transport was required to take passengers into the heart of London other than the existing surface methods. Around the turn of the 20th century, two competing railway companies were planning routes that would pass nearby Euston station as they ran from the suburbs to the centre of London.

The City & South London Railway (C&SLRCity & South London Railway) gained parliamentary permission to develop a railway that ran from Golder's Green to Charing Cross (with a branch north of Camden Town to Highgate). This would become London's first deep level Underground line to be built. Around the same time, the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway) were also planning a route that would also be close enough to serve Euston's mainline station.

The mainline station at the time served the London & North West Railway (L&NWR) and they also owned much the land around the station. It was agreed that both lines would serve the station but on the condition that they each had their own surface access and ticket offices. The C&SLRCity & South London Railway surface building was built on the corner of Seymour Street (which has since been renamed Eversholt Street) and Drummond Street to the south east of the mainline station while the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway surface access was located to the south west of the main station on the corner of Melton Street and Drummond Street. The C&SLRCity & South London Railway surface building was demolished in 1934, the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway with its distinctive Leslie Green designed look of ox-blood red tiles still stands, though is no longer in operation as a station building. Unlike many other examples of such buildings in the city centre, this one now appears to stand vacant - but this is not strictly the case as it is still owned and maintained by London Underground and still serves a purpose to this day.

Due to their close proximity, the two rivals agreed to build subterranean interconnection tunnels at track level and this was to include a ticket office between the two lines - a unique feature of a London Underground station. This interconnection tunnel proved to be very popular with travellers.

Both stations were originally served by lifts (two shafts for each surface access building that could serve a maximum of four lifts), however a third pair of lift shafts were provided as part of the interconnection tunnels which surfaced in the mainline station building itself. Here, three lifts were installed, with the space that would have been taken up by a fourth lift being used for an emergency staircase.

The two rivals eventually merged in 1914 forming what would eventually be known as the Bank Branch and Charing Cross Branch of the Northern Line. As a part of this, both surface stations were closed with the surface access now being via the shared lift shafts that ran into the mainline station.

In the 1960s, with the arrival of construction for the Victoria Line, the entire station's layout was changed. The interconnection tunnel was closed to public use on 29th April 1962 and with the introduction of escalator operation, all of the other lift shafts were closed on 8th March 1965 along with the tunnels that led to the lift concourse.

Here endeth the lesson. Now some facts, figures and MANY pictures about disused underground locations on the London underground!

The Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway surface building

Euston surface building

The original booking hall building for the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway

As already mentioned, the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway surface building still survives to this day, but it has long since been stripped of all of its original trappings. Long gone are the booking hall windows and lift machinery - in fact inside it's now almost a complete shell of its original design. Almost, but not quite. There are a couple of places where some original decoration can still be seen. There's a stairwell, which originally led to the station's spiral staircase, where some original faïence style tile work survives, typical of stair wells in Leslie Green designed booking halls (all be it now painted over in white). These tiles would have originally have been emerald green and this could be seen in a couple of places where the paint had peeled.

Original station tile detail

Some original faïence tile work inside the booking office building

The main bulk of the surface building now consists of air ventillation ducting and there's also a suction pump at this location to maintain air circulation at platform level. The surface building would have originally been two stories in height, with the ground floor being the booking hall and the first floor would have housed all the lift machinery.

Ventilation ducts inside booking hall building

Ventilation ducts inside booking hall building

The interchange & lift shaft tunnels

There were three original access points to the interchange tunnel and the central lift shaft. There was a joint access to both tunnels on the western end of the C&SLRCity & South London Railway platform and two separate, but co-located tunnel entrances on the eastern end of the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway platforms.

End of platform entrance to the abandoned tunnels

I used the singular correctly when describing the C&SLRCity & South London Railway platform. Many of the platforms on this line, when constructed, were central island platforms with tracks carrying trains in both directions on each side of the platform. This arrangement was done away with in the 1960s, and has been eliminated in many stations over the years as they were deemed dangerous in times of heavy crowding, however there are a few stations that still retain this layout, such as Clapham Common.

Access to both the interchange tunnel and lift shaft tunnel on the C&SLRCity & South London Railway side is still provided today through a door that's always now kept locked on the western end of the eastbound line's platform.

Just inside the tunnel entrance

The moment I walked through the doorway, it was like taking a step back in time. You won't find the original Leslie Green style tile patterns anywhere in the modern station as they were eradicated/covered over in the 1960s redesign of Euston Underground station but they were immediately apparent here, all be it covered in a layer of dust! Here, the blue and cream tile colours of the original C&SLRCity & South London Railway Euston Underground station could be seen linking a short staircase to a junction in the tunnel.

Looking back down towards the tunnel entrance

Tunnel junction, looking down towards the platform entrance (just beyond the white duct)

The short staircase was the only shared section where both the interchange and tunnels to the lift shaft were shared. The above image looks down towards the platform, with the lift shaft tunnel leading to the left. More about that tunnel later - I first walked down the southern small interchange tunnel, which was the first of the two to close.

The southern interchange tunnel

Shortly into the southern interchange tunnel, an original contemporaneous notice of closure was still in place on the wall, and still perfectly readable even though some more recent infrastructure had been since installed over it. The notice made it clear that subterranean interchange was still possible (for a short while anyway) and that passengers should use the nearby tunnel that passed through the lift concourse instead.

Original notice of closure

Original notice of closure

Poster for the 1960 film Spartacus

Poster for the 1960 film Spartacus

The southern interchange tunnel ticket office

One of the more interesting things to see on this visit was a small ticket office that allowed passengers to buy tickets as they interconnected between the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway and C&SLRCity & South London Railway lines without having to traverse to the surface to do so. This is believed to have been the only such ticket office in existence on the Underground network and would have closed many years before these tunnels were finally closed for public use.

Platform level ticket office
Platform level ticket office window

Platform level interchange ticket office

Interestingly, there are two tile colours represented here. Two parallel lines of blue, which is seen throughout the interchange tunnels and at the ticket office, another two lines of black tiles. I wonder if this was to represent the fact that the ticket office originally represented the interchange between two separate lines with their own unique tile identity colours?

I've been told that the "IN" and "OUT" signage on the side of the booking window were a means of denoting the direction in which people should queue. There may also have been a small barrier in line and just behind the window to enhance this request.

Continuing down the south interchange tunnel

As I walked down the rest of the tunnel towards what would then have been the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway platforms, it became obvious how prolific the amount of advertising there was on the walls of Underground stations in the 1950s. If you thought that the amount of advertising on today's tube was excessive, it seems that every square inch seemed to have been used, then with bill poster style advertising! Over the years, these posters have deteriorated and there was plenty of evidence of attempts to remove some of, or parts of posters - but there were enough fully intact posters to give an idea what sort of things were being advertised during that era - so much so that at times it almost felt like entering a time capsule into the 1950s!

Southern interchange tunnel
Posters in the southern interchange tunnel
Poster detail in the southern interchange tunnel
Theosophy poster
The end of the southern interchange tunnel

There was advertising for all sorts of things - cinematic releases of the '50s, West End productions of the time (such as West Side Story), religious groups and even a number of posters for hair products with models showing contemporaneous hair styles.

After a short stretch, the passageway turned a corner and went up some steps to what is now a dead end. Just beyond the dead end, would have been the entrance to the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway platform and today the Northern line (Charing Cross branch) still use these platforms to this day.

Having reached a dead end, it was time to walk back down the south tunnel almost to the entrance to the tunnel junction mentioned at the beginning of the visit...

The north interchange tunnel and lower lift concourse

Branch, staircase with cryptive numbers

At the branch, a short staircase led up to another stretch of straight tunnel. Some may wonder what the strange lettering that could be found here stuck to the wall represent - and indeed this was seen elsewhere too in these foot tunnels. Well, some may be surprised to learn that these are everywhere on the London Underground throughout every subterranean station - except perhaps a little less conspicuous, usually appearing as very small white tiles with the lettering written on them. They are in fact markings for fire fighters and other emergency responders, should they find themselves trying to find their way through these tunnels and the marks correspond to identical markings on each station's official plans which would be made available to fire fighting teams when needed.

The north interchange tunnel leading to the lift concourse

Looking down this tunnel, a lot more cables could be seen running along ductwork. Of course Euston, being a functional railway station needs a lot of electrical and communications infrastructure. In most stations these are hidden away from public view due to their unsightly appearance... and of course as they are here as the public rarely get to see this part of Euston. These abandoned tunnels are a perfect place to route these cables - and no need for hiding them inside costly duct work either!

The north interchange tunnel leading to the lift concourse

Underneath the cables, the remains of many more advertising posters could be seen, though here, in the majority of cases, they had become illedgible.

Lift Concourse

At the end of a short straight stretch of tunnel, the lift concourse presented itself to me. Ignoring the dust and grime (and the odd cable!), this would be a familiar sight to anyone who has travelled on some of the outer sections of the Underground, where lifts are still in operation.

So, were these the lifts whose shafts I'd had stood above earlier in the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway surface building? Nope! Nor were they the lifts that would have originally served the C&SLRCity & South London Railway surface building either - these were the lifts that would originally have surfaced in the mainline railway station itself, however you'll find no surface evidence of these lifts there today.

The lift concourse

Lift portals, foot passageway side

The lift concourse

Lift portals, foot passageway side, looking back down the tunnel

To the right there were four portals that were designed to house the entrances to the lifts. There was also another portal for a short foot tunnel to the other side of the lift concourse where there would have been four more such portals - one side served as an entrance to the lift, the other side an exit so that the lifts and passages could cope with higher levels of passenger traffic.

The lift concourse (other side)

Lift portals, the other side

I mentioned above that there were four portals for lifts. In this location however, there were only three lifts fitted, with the space that would have been used by the fourth fitted with an emergency staircase to the surface (in this case, not a spiral staircase like in so many other locations on the Underground).

Both lift shafts have since been capped at the surface with no access available via the surface any more to the subterranean levels. The shafts are still there though and it was possible to look directly up one of them... which was quite an unnerving experience for some as it induced a sense of inverse vertigo as they are quite tall!

The lift shaft

Looking up a lift shaft

The sound of machinery could be heard above and there was a strong draft running up the shaft. This was because, although seemingly "abandoned", these shafts are still vital to the London Underground network to this day... providing ventilation to the tunnels below the ground. The observant may have spotted the "external" units for some air conditioning units near the portal entrances (on both sides) - a perfect place to site such units where the air was constantly being circulated and sucked above taking the warm air away from the air conditioner heat sinks.

Before briefly investigating a more mysterious looking tunnel that branched off the rear part of the lift concourse, I'd carried on the main foot tunnel. Again, this would have eventually reached the CCE&HRCharing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway platforms but once again, I'd quickly reached a dead end with a locked door - which would presumably have opened up near to the platforms today. Before reaching the end though there were a number of intriguing advertising posters found here - some with a distinct period rail theme.

The rail posters

Railway advertising of the 1950s

Around the corner...

Just around the corner from the lift concourse - dead end!

Victoria Line tunneling work

Back to the other side of the lift concourse and the "mysterious" tunnel I mentioned earlier. Mysterious, because it bore little resemblance to the tunnels I'd been walking through previously (apart from the obvious - still being a tunnel!). Unlike elsewhere, this tunnel was sparsely lit and undecorated - obviously no passengers had ever used this tunnel as a walk way - and it was never intended to be used as such.

Victoria tunnel
Victoria tunnel

These tunnels looked far more like railway running tunnels. In fact, on close inspection of the inscriptions on the metal rings, that is precisely what they were constructed out of - the same circular rings used for the construction of the Victoria Line in the 1960s. Obviously though, with their steep gradients and sharp corners, no train would ever be able to travese this tunnel. The mystery thickened...

Victoria tunnel

At the top of a short incline, the tunnel suddenly turned 90 degrees into a rather strange chamber.

Victoria tunnel

The tunnel suddenly turns 90 degrees to the right

Victoria tunnel

The strange chamber

Spaced regularly along this chamber were grilles in the floor, fenced off by girders to prevent engineers from stepping on the grilles and through the grilles, completely oblivious of me being up there - was today's Euston Victoria Line Platform with people milling about on the platform itself and the occasional train passing through directly below my feet!

Victoria ventilation chamber

The view of the platform beneath

The reason for this strange, newer tunnel had become apparent. When the VIctoria Line was being built in the 1960s, ventilation was required for the new platforms. Instead of creating a new, costly ventilation shaft to the surface, this tunnel was built to provide ventilation from the original lift shaft's ventilation fans.

It was quite a strange experience standing up there being able to look down and see people going about their every day lives, completely oblivious to my presence up above!

Epilogue

This was the end of the visit, having exhaustively (pretty much anyway) visited all the abandoned interconnection tunnels at Euston. All there was to do now was to backtrack my steps back to the modern day Euston platforms (Bank branch).
The way back

Backtracking steps

The way back

Euston platform - Bank Branch, Eastbound

Back onto the modern platform, it was easy to see how unusually wide the east bound platform is. As mentioned previously, this was once a narrow central platform that served both the east bound (to the left) and west bound (to the right) railway lines of the C&SLRCity & South London Railway. Once again, as mentioned previously, see how wide the modern eastbound Northern Line (Bank Branch) platform is... That would have been a pretty narrow platform in some of the crowding I've experienced on the London Underground in the past!













And finally...

Thankyou, London Transport Museum!!! You're the BEST!

Almost all my previous write-ups for Underground History have documented privately arranged visits to disused locations on the London Underground, possibly incorporating facts also gleaned on public tours (not one has included photography from a public tour as this wasn't allowed in previous years).

This visit was very different. London Transport Museum have recently had a change of heart with regards to visiting disused locations on the London Underground and now even have a vibrant department dedicated to the cause called Hidden London Tours.

Hidden London Logo

Compared to previous tours (which were excellent I hasten to add), these are now organised on an almost industrial scale. Now catering for the huge curiosity people have for these locations in a well-oiled, dare I say it slick and ultra-professional manner. This was the best LT Museum tour I've been on and despite the photography hardly showing anyone else (something I felt was important to make you, my web reader's experience feel like a personal visit), there were about 20 of us on this tour as well as a number of knowledgable, proffessional tour guides who fully understood why people want to see these locations in person and facilitated in so many ways I couldn't even begin to document!

Don't just read about it here or look at my images. If you get the chance to go on any of the tours they're now organising on a regular basis, do so. This web tour is a pale comparison to visiting these locations yourself and I'm so pleased that people can now do this. Back when Underground History was started, tours were infrequent / nonexistant to these places but now there's a concerted effort by LT Museum to make these abandoned places "alive" for many visitors.

If you think the tours are pricey, bear this in mind. At the time of my visit, I lived in Ireland and paid for a flight to and from London and also overnight accomodation just to be on this tour as well as of course pay admission as a regular punter. And felt it worth every penny!

Another aside... If I'm ever with others when I take pictures for Underground History as a policy I try not to include any images of people I was with. I'd like to make a break from this exception if I may. This next image I hope captures the atmosphere of going on one of these exceptional tours. Everyone I spoke to hugely enjoyed the visit and said that they'd either been on previous Hidden London tours or would plan to go on others.

The ATMOSPHERE!

The ATMOSPHERE of a Hidden London tour!

Speaking of photography, permission was granted for me to use these images on Underground History by London Transport Museum / Hidden London Tours. As part of this permission, reuse of any images from this web page MUST be sought from me in the first place, as the copyright holder and will probably also need additional clearance from London Transport Museum.

No request was made to endorse Hidden London Tours ;) but if this tour was anything to go by I'll endorse whatever tours they do (including their Down Street tour of which I've heard glowing reports).

Published: September 15th 2016

Last modified: October 22nd 2016 (with minor corrections last made on October 31st 2016)

< Back to Underground History main page


Subterranean and exterior photographs taken on 29th May 2016.

All material on this page is © 2016 Hywel Williams unless otherwise noted.
The copyright of the Hidden London logo and its incorporation of the London Underground roundell is acknowledged as that of London Transport Museum and London Underground, respectively.

Site MapContact the Author