The Last Train
ExternalThe station didn't look too different from a normal working day externally except that the front was now draped with black bunting to "celebrate" the closure. One extra detail I noticed too was that the station's enamel name sign, originally blue lettering on a white background that graced the door had been replaced by a temporary foam backed sign. This is normal practice as London's Transport Museum now collect all redundant signs and people have been known to come to station closures with spanners and screw drivers in order to secure "souvenirs"...
Despite arriving early, the booking hall was crowded throughout the evening. There were several signs announcing the closure in the hall - they'd been there since the closure was announced a few months previously. These days it's not possible to buy a ticket from the ticket windows and in Shoreditch they're often closed. Today however, they were open and were issuing special commemorative platform tickets and Tube maps with the station's name stamped on its cover.
The police presence was there not because they were expecting trouble but because they were expecting a lot of people being there later and because there would be quite a few dignitaries for the closing ceremony later on in the evening.
At one end of the booking hall, a set of loudspeakers had been set up. This was for the ceremonial closure that would take place after the last passenger train had left.
Despite the availability of the commemorative ticket, I also bought a real last day ticket from the ticket machine. I wondered, with the electronic Oyster Cards now being heavily promoted over tickets, is this the last station closure where a true last day ticket to travel could be bought from the closing station on the Underground?
Notice that the commemorative ticket is printed on Systems Development paper. This paper is normally used when testing ticket machines to ensure that false tickets aren't issued. The date stamp suggests that they were printed in bulk that morning before services started on the line.
The PlatformThe platform was quite crowded all day. Some people had come early so that they could be in the right spot for the last train while others were milling up and down the platform, taking in the atmosphere. There was quite a buzz to the place.
Because I was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Underground History logo, quite a few people introduced themselves. I used to work with Eugene Sully, runner up in Big Brother 6. I still keep in touch occasionally and he said that it was a very strange experience at first where complete strangers would come and talk to him on the street. I think I now know how he feels ;)
That's not to say the only people using the station were there for the event - every train that came in that evening brought a trickle of commuters who wound their way, some looking bewildered, through the gathering throng. I heard one couple describe them as "the normal people". Hmm...
Each train that arrived brought more people and by the time the last train was due, the platform was a mass of expectant people. Of course, the train was late!
At 18:43, eleven minutes later than it was scheduled to leave, the final train slowly trundled into the station to cheers from the platform and whistles from the train (Underground trains still have whistles that sound like steam whistles).
The Last Train
The platform was crowded before the train arrived, but the train itself was also full of people eager to be on the last train into the station - who also wanted to leave the train, take pictures and then be on the last train to leave Shoreditch! For about 3 minutes, the platform was a scene of organised chaos!
It is customary for last trains to have commemorative headboards. I was disappointed to see that this train didn't appear to have such adornment. Soon it was announced that the train was about to leave and there was an almighty squeeze as a vast majority of the people on the platform boarded the train and it was off - there it went, the last passenger train to leave Shoreditch.
The platform had considerably fewer people on it than when the train had arrived! Soon, we were ushered off the platform so that the ceremonial closure of the station could take place. Outside the station, the doors were closed for the last time - to the public at least.
Those of us who waited outside the station for a while after it had closed then heard a strange sound - the sound of a train whistle and that of a train entering the station! This was the real last train - a staff special for the dignitaries. The ceremonial closing of the station took place behind closed doors in the station's booking hall.
Those who elected to go on the last passenger train saw the special train as it left on its final journey to Shoreditch.
Picture: Alastair Hooley
And guess what? It had a headboard! Granted, it looked suspiciously like 2 A4 printouts showing the opening and closure years, but it's the thought that counts, right? ;)
As it seemed that there was nothing else to do at Shoreditch, we then walked to Whitechapel down Brick Lane (being invited into every other restaurant along the way by over-eager proprietors!). On arriving at Whitechapel, we were just in time to see the last special train from Shoreditch arrive at the platform carrying a small number of people - mostly London Underground staff.
It transpired that, had we waited at Shoreditch, after the ceremonial closure of the station had completed, a few people who had waited at the station were invited to see the last special train and to ride it to Whitechapel.
Moments to remember
A few moments stand out in the evening apart from the actual train departure.
One person, an American (I didn't make a note of his name) just visiting London who is a regular visitor of this web site introduced himself to me. He told me that he was in London for a few days and was using the Web to find out something to do. He happened to look at my page and noticed that on the top of the front page, the closure of Shoreditch was actually taking place at that moment, so he decided to come along!
Another surreal moment was just as we were being vacated from the station, a foreign gent stopped me and asked when the next train was due... At first I thought he was having a laugh and a few people responded with "never!" but it transpired he was told that someone was coming to meet him on a train and he genuinely wanted to know when the next train would come!
It was good to meet so many people who came along on that day. I think it'll be quite a while before there'll be another station closure on the Underground - and this was my first.
Site visit, November 15th, 2010
Since I was re-visiting London for a few days towards the end of 2010 and had an hour or so to spare before I could check into my hotel, I decided to re-visit the location of the old Shoreditch station, now superseded by Shorditch High Street on the now London Overground Line. On approaching Shoreditch High Street it was immediately apparent, looking through the train window that a substantial part of the station buildings - probably all of the original buildings were still in place.
Having arrived at the original station's location, it was apparent that little had changed of the building itself and to anything directly north of the original station building. Windows had been covered by green wood hoardings as had the door, but to all intents and purposes, the actual structure of Shoreditch disused station building is still there and remains intact.
It was obvious however that over the years since London Underground had been taking daily care of the building that graffiti artist and poster billers were now making their own use of this space. My biggest surprise of the visit however was that the black bunting that had been put in place for the station's closure on its final day was largely intact and still in place!
Some things haven't changed though. It's obvious from the modern and obviously recently slung shoes, now over the station's original external light rather than telephone wires that one individual is still up to his old tricks with regards to sending shoe missiles into spaces where presumably the shoes owners would find it difficult and frustrating to reach.
I must admit it was sad to see the neglect of this building since its closure but equally surprised to see it still in place, almost a blocked off reminder of the past use of this bit of land. South of the station the entire space that was once taken up by the platform area had been filled in and it was also equally apparent why as the extensive new structure for the new London Overground line could be seen and it was now obvious why it would have been impossible to use the original station as part of the new scheme.
I've no idea what actually exists now under the seemingly preserved station building - I'd like to think that there's a small stub of platform still there - a reminder of the location's not too distant past... and perhaps the ticket office still exists just beyond the green hoarding, vainly awaiting perhaps just one other passenger asking for a ticket from Shoreditch...
Postscript, 4 years on
One further memory of the day that I haven't recorded on this web site until over 5 years after the event happened as, at the time I had friends working in London Underground (and all now have left the organisation) - but this happened on the day too. Early on in the afternoon I explained who I was and about this web site and asked if I could stay for the ceremonial closing ceremony to photograph, record and document the event - and after some discussion among people who seemed in charge, I was told that I would be welcome to be a part of this ceremony.
As it turns out, the message didn't get through to whoever was in charge of moving crowds and I was unceremoniously pushed towards the exit door while explaining I'd been given permission to stay. I tried to let them know I had permission but was told to p** off (or words to that effect).
So I only got photos from outside the green door being closed from the outside and could listen to the muffled sounds from the loudspeakers within. I still wonder if London Underground would have better helped their publicity machine at the time in allowing me to stay and fully document and photograph Shoreditch's closure rather than kicking me out on my arse, with everyone else....
Water under the bridge now I guess, but at the time one of the contributary factors for taking a more "hands off" approach to adding to and maintaining this web site.
And also time to welcome the new Shoreditch - Shoreditch High Street station!
Last modified: November 15th, 2010
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