The Piccadilly Line Extension: Cockfosters 2

This is the second part of the Cockfosters article. The first briefly looked at the station’s design and Holden’s intentions with regards to how the station was actually going to be designed.
Here we look at the station itself as it is today, the possible reasons for the design that was finally implemented and the many different variations in style. Plus a look around the station area and exits.
In the next installment we will look outside the station, the bus parade, and the many station entrances ( which are between six and nine altogether depending on how they are counted!)
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73 tube stock in the centre platform at Cockfosters station.
The first impression upon a traveller arriving at Cockfosters is of course seeing the large overall roof. It is in many ways evocative of country stations that had, or still have, these. One could be easily arriving at Ashburton, Banbury, Buxton or Thurso.
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Night shot of the train shed at Cockfosters during summer 2017
Its clear the station is very different from any other seen on the tube system, even that at Uxbridge, built in similar style.
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There are the seats, the station roundels, the lawn area (this is recent however it adds to the station’s character) the ticket barriers clocks and the now defunct train indicators.
DSC 0973 - The Piccadilly Line Extension: Cockfosters 2The impressive architecture, which shares similarities with Uxbridge station.
The entrance hall with its pointed roof is like a ship’s prow as some say. Here we see early examples of using the wood slats as a pattern maker for the concrete beams. Previously what would have happened is that these would have been smoothed out. That indeed was on some parts of the station however the beams and supports were left unsmoothed.
This bit is what makes Cockfosters different from Uxbridge. Similar design but employed in different ways. Here we have this unusual arrangement (like a prow as has been said.) At Uxbridge there was just a flat, plain, end above the ticket hall area. The now noted stained glass windows improved on that.
DSC 0077 - The Piccadilly Line Extension: Cockfosters 2The end of the train shed above the ticket hall, said to be shaped like a ship’s prow.
Concrete formwork was employed at Holden’s other stations, but by the time work reached Oakwood, the brutalist straight lines and aright angles were being replaced by supports and canopies with a certain amount of angular work, which again, shows Holden’s desire to move away from the brick box/concrete lid style.
It was also used at Oakwood and Turnpike Lane, but not in such a way that detracted from the spectacular ticket halls. The concrete at both Wood Green and Southgate is totally smoothed, whilst the ticket hall at Bounds Green ticket hall had its exposed concrete simply tiled over!
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Brass station name on notice board that’s partially obscured by a TfL Help Point.
Conversely, at Arnos Grove, formed concrete was employed to highlight the one vertical pillar holding the circular roof up. These vertical lines make it much more dramatic.
By the time the construction of Cockfosters station was actually begun, its likely they realised just how much work/cost would be involved in smoothing the huge structure out, and so mostly was left untreated.
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Driver about to resume work after a staff break at Cockfosters station.
One could say Cockfosters station was possibly the very first structure on London’s tube to fully employ this kind of styling, yet it wasn’t employed to any great extent at that other twin station, Uxbridge.
DSC 0523 - The Piccadilly Line Extension: Cockfosters 2Old telephone booths at the station, preserved for prosperity with exits either side.
The many kiosks, telephone kiosks, the different entrances (five lead off from here) that go to either the main bus station area, or the car parks, as well as the main station entrance on Cockfosters Road. This is a very unusual touch. Most tube stations have at the most only two or three exits. Those such as King’s Cross have many however these are incremental.
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The amazing thing about these exits is from the ticket hall they all look more or less the same style (apart from the one leading underneath the road.) At their far ends where they finally emerge into the open, each one is almost totally different to how they started out! Although Holden had dropped his original plans for a huge terminus building, he made up for it in other ways, and quite well within the constraints of the budget ultimately permitted for the construction of the station.
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Five exits can be seen here. Some of these split up into further exits.
One aspect of interest at Cockfosters compared to other stations is the judicious use of roundels. They are everywhere so to say. On flag posts, on the walls and between the pillars. Well presented in various forms within the station itself as if to say to both passengers and the simply curious,“Hey I’m the tube station come and see me and play with my trains!”
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One of the typical station roundels set in a concrete relief plinth. Note the apparent illusion.

The roundels’ illusion…

Were some of these roundels meant to have a protruded appearance? Certainly whichever way one looks at them, either daytime or night time, they seem to convey an illusion of sorts.
Close investigation of the roundels show they are indeed straight, flat as a ruler. I’m aware that a photo of any tube roundel up quite close does produce a distorted effect, those at Cockfosters strangely produce the effect even if one takes a picture some distance away, such as that shown in the picture below.
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A roundel at Cockfosters. This picture is taken at dusk and the effect is still apparent.
Even if one looks at the image of the seat between the pillars (third picture down from top of this page) the roundel visible on the other side of the platforms clearly displays this distortion effect.
The examples above that were originally on plinths but are now on the backs of the cleaners kiosks show absolutely no sign of this illusion, which seems to indicate that the patterned lines on the walls of the kiosks must cancel the illusion. Thats my theory anyway.
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Roundel seen on the rear of kiosks belonging to the train cleaners. These were originally on plinths.
Going back to those on the plinths, its clear there is an illusion no matter which way one looks at them. I am not aware of this happening at any other tube stations, besides those examples on the Jubilee Line between Westminster and London Bridge where the effect is much less obvious.
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The effect is clearly nothing to do with day light coming from the train shed windows as it can also be observed at night when the station is artificially lit. It seems the plinths’ square shape somehow enhance the illusion. In other words they seem to give depth behind the roundels when there is none. Its rather like the optical effect that can be seen when one looks at straight lines across curves, one sees these lines curve. Such as this.
The twin station at Uxbridge also has roundels that convey this illusion. Thoese are not so apparent however. The reason for that seems to be those at Cockfosters are on plinths that have painted edges thus increasing the level of illusion.
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They are indeed absolutely straight as a ruler!
Incidentally the two roundels that are to be found on the huts came from a pair of plinths that once stood at this location. These roundels show no trace of distortion. The plinths were removed in order to build these kiosks. Originally there were sixteen of these roundels on eight plinths (four to each platform) but there are now only twelve on six plinths.
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I have mentioned both Oakwood and Cockfosters are unique in using black station name boards at the main entrances and above the stair entrances. I don’t know why that is. Cockfosters certainly had these when it first opened so it may have been some mistake by glaziers that has been accepted as part of both stations’ make up ever since. Yet some other tube stations have black way out indicators in the same exact style, even Arnos Grove has these.
On the other hand I notice too the new Cannon Street station also had white on black background to begin with although that has now reverted to the usual white on blue background. Definitely an identity crisis! Perhaps the recent second edition of TfL’s Station Idiom Design Guide will go some way to ensuring there is less confusion on the use of signs.
Next: The station exterior and bus parade.

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