Leftovers in Bank Station

If you’re walking between the DLR and the Waterloo and City Line platforms at Bank Underground Station, at one point you’ll come across something that was left behind in 1898 and found 100 years later.

What could it be? A tool, some graffiti? Well, it’s this:

Greathead Tunnelling Shield at Bank Station

That red ring going around the tunnel is part of a ‘Greathead’ Tunnelling Shield, which was used in the construction of the Waterloo and City Line in the 1890s. It protected the construction workers by supporting the tunnel they were excavating. They would work in the shield, digging away the soil by hand. When they dug far enough, the shield was moved forward and the tunnel lined with metal plates.

The name Greathead comes from James Henry Greathead, who devised the shield building upon previous designs by Sir Marc Brunel and Peter W. Barlow. Brunel’s design, the first of its kind, was rectangular in shape. Barlow changed this to be round. The round shape was better at keeping the surrounding soil at bay, as the pressure was distributed all around the shield, rather than just the top and bottom as would be the case with Brunel’s shield.

When the Waterloo and City Line was completed in 1898, the tunnelling shield was left behind. It was found in 1987 during excavation work for the Bank extension of the Docklands Light Railway and later integrated into the foot tunnel when the DLR opened.

Greathead Tunnelling Shield at Bank Station

James Henry Greathead is commemorated in statue form outside Bank station.  Just along the south side of the Royal Exchange in Cornhill is a statue of Greathead, be-hatted and looking down at a set of plans.  Apparently the plinth the statue is on is hollow and acts as a ventilation shaft for the Underground.  Also on the plinth, you can see an engraving of a tunnelling shield in use.

The same general idea of a tunnelling shield is still in use today. The tunnel boring machines making their way across London, carving out the tunnels for Crossrail operate on the same principal.

A Thing About Underground Signage

So a few days ago I noticed a few things during my work-related Tube journeys throughout the day.

First was at Warren Street station. When it opened in 1907 it was called Euston Road but was changed just a year later (confusion with Euston maybe?). I’m on the south-bound Northern Line platform all the time, but I never wandered far down enough to the exit. I did this day and low and behold under my nose two days a week is this…

Former Euston Road Station

I’m guessing that’s original as it doesn’t look nearly as new as the surrounding tiles. Probably cleaned up a bit though when the new ones were put in.

A few stops south to Charing Cross. This time something I’ve always noticed and had been meaning to get photos of is gone. That would be the black ‘British Rail’ way out signs. They’ve been replace with new ‘Charing Cross’ signs. For shame! Here’s what it used to look like before (photo by s__i on Flickr):

Charing Cross Underground

And now in it’s place photographed from the opposite side:

Charing Cross New Signs

Embankment’s District and Circle line platforms (possibly others, I can’t recall) used to have the same ‘British Rail’ signs as well directing passengers to Charing Cross. Those ones have been changed as well…

Embankment New Signs

There are still some old signage knocking about at Charing Cross. The Northern Line platform maps haven’t been replaced just yet…

Charing Cross Existing Old Signs

192 Pages, Nothing but Tube Stations

I was having a look around Blackwell’s in Tottenham Court Road at lunch on Monday and spotted an impressive Londony book I had never seen before, London Underground Stations by Stephen Durin:

London Underground Stations Book

Just the cover photo grabbed my attention. I also dug the fact that my local Tube station was on the front, but even more I had a moment where I smiled to myself thinking ‘I have a local Tube station now’. Anyways, I ended up not getting it. As soon as I got back to work though I started thinking I should have treated myself to it.

I had a look for it on Amazon but there were no copies available. Likewise on eBay and a few other places. Hmm looks like it may be at least right now a bit on the rare side. There was just the one copy on the shelf at Blackwell’s as well.

Yesterday after work I cracked and made my way to the shop again to purchase it. Of course on my way there I got anxious thinking, oh no what if someone bought it. Luckily that didn’t happen and it’s now in my possession.

It’s brilliantly simple. Each page is a photo of the station exterior. Below it, in London Transport’s Johnson type face, is the station’s name, the year it was built and who built it be it the company name or the specific architect.

London Underground Stations Book

The most text heavy part of the book is the back cover describing the contents within:

London Underground Stations Book

It’s such an impressive tome my arm was a bit sore after holding it up long enough to go through each page. I’m glad I caved and picked it up.

Riding Trains Under The Ground

My first day in New York City included my first trip on the subway system. So first impression? It’s a bit dingy, makes me think of a dirtier version of the Berlin U-Bahn because of the squareness of the tunnels and that the Tube is far superior. That last one surely shouldn’t surprise anyone.

We took a number 1 train from 14th Street and 6th Avenue to Columbus Circle (I keep wanting to call it ‘circus’).  Well, we started at 14th and 6th but to get to the 1 platforms we had to walk to 7th Avenue. It was a bit like Bank for the tourist confusion factor. Along the journey there were several trash cans, some of them overflowing. Something you never see on the Underground for various reasons.


Once at platform level the ambiance didn’t improve much. The thing we really noticed was how filthy the tracks are. Sure it’s a bit sooty and mucky along the tracks but these look like they are never cleaned and are used as make shift garbage bins. The platforms in some cases can be quite narrow. I found the whole experience a bit claustrophobic.


Our silver train approached and we hopped on. The trains themselves are a bit like those airstream caravans on the outside. But with more American flags. Inside is quite minimalistic but at least was pretty well clean. As we made our way North you could see that there are stations in much better nick then the one we started at but they still all basically look the same. I’m keen to check out more stations to get a better feel for it all. For all the dingyness it still has a certainly quality to it. Not everything can be the same as London I suppose 😉

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