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Five different stations and five different lines for this year’s effort at celebrating International Womens Day on the tube. Even TfL changed its own social media accounts to depict the new style roundel as the picture below shows.

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TfL’s profile page with its International Womens Day roundel. Link to tweet.

The roundels are presented here in alphabetical order, except those on the Victoria Line which I grouped together for consistency. One of the huge bugbears with these decals is they’re sheets of plastic and have a lot of static electricity – which means they are considerably dirty. That at Upton Park wasn’t dirty but its probably because the atmospheric conditions at an open air station are different and there isn’t the huge amounts of dust as on the deep level tube.

On a different matter, normally one gets to see a fair number of pictures of special roundels and other commemorations on social media. This time there was very little. Understandably they were not as inspiring as for example the LGBT, World Childrens Day and other different attempts, but that’s because it on this occasion it was a somewhat poor attempt. Anyway here are the International Womens Day roundels – all five of them – reviewed!

Piccadilly line

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The Piccadilly Line has the first entry and as the station name says, its Covent Garden. The reason for this station’s choice is it was where the tube’s first female signaller, Susan Ayeto, worked.

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Sadly the signal cabin Susan Ayeto once worked in is no longer there. It was at the Holborn end of the westbound platform as this picture shows.

This roundel itself was in my view the second best presented of the five done. The reason for that is it was a clean installation and the decal fitted the space nicely. The only down side is it was dirty.

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In terms of now defunct signal cabins, should one ever have wondered why the Piccadilly line needs to be shut down between King’s Cross and Green Park/Hyde Park Corner rather than anywhere else – its because there isn’t a crossover in the middle section at Covent Garden anymore!

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Control of this was once the main purpose of the station’s signal cabin, and it allowed trains to be turned back easily right in the centre of London. Sadly like a lot of crossovers elsewhere on the system many have been seen as an unnecessary expense thus have been removed. In a lot of ways it is an operational convenience but when things go wrong it is no doubt a huge inconvenience to passengers.

Bakerloo line

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Maida Vale was an easy choice because of its strong history of having an all female staff to look after the station. The station opened in 1915 – this was war time and this necessitated an all all female compliment

This particular roundel was the only one of the five not placed in lieu of a normal roundel but added as an extra. That is why there are two roundels next to each other – one the normal large sized roundel and the other the special one.

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The reason for the roundel’s odd placement at Maida Vale is these wouldn’t have fitted well over the large ones Maida Vale station has. It would have looked unsightly. Clearly the TfL staff did the right thing and placed it on a spare wall above the seats on the southbound platform.

The only problem is it wasn’t placed centrally. I’d agree that wasn’t too crucial anyway because anyone just giving it an admiring glance would have not been bothered whether it was placed correctly or not.

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The fact it is placed off centre does shows up clearly in photographs such as that I took, above. It seems they decided to centre the whole lot (the roundel and the small descriptive panel) rather than centre the main piece then have the small descriptive panel at one side.

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Like the others on the deep level tube this one too was very dirty. One wonders why TfL bothers with this sort of commemorative stuff especially when these decals are going to attract so much dust compared to the other tube fittings.

BTW the Bakerloo line unusually has two stations with female connections – these are Maida Vale and Queen’s Park.

Victoria line

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The Victoria line is so far the only tube line to be named after a woman – but its not a queen! More of that later. The Victoria line thus gets the special honour of having two commemorative roundels.

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Alas the one at Seven Sisters is awful. The effort in to placing it at the station and commemorating the area’s seven sisters (several groups of them actually) is commendable, but the result was most disappointing. In fact I didn’t really want to include this one but I persevered for the sake of consistency.

It just doesn’t look right. Its extremely ill fitting – and what’s more they had to push it right up behind the light fitting to make it fit – and that was badly too! The result is the top bit isn’t visible at all to passengers – not unless one bends down low – or as I did – crouch quite low down on the platform in order to be able to point the camera upwards and photograph the whole thing! Even so the fluorescent light here makes the ‘International Womens’ Day March 2020′ wording difficult to see.

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The bottom part simply looks awful. Notice how it has extended off the roundel’s white board onto the stainless steel panel below (which originally housed waste bins until about the late 1980s.) Surely they should have found some spare wall space and placed it there instead – as was done at Maida Vale?

There’s one other thing about the particular roundel and this is why on earth the ‘Seven Sisters’ name was made quite small? Compare this to that at Covent Garden which has the same number of characters. The character spacing too has tighter tracking and the font weight is also reduced – which makes this one roundel a complete oddity among the five made – especially when one looks at Seven Sisters’ other roundels and notices how much nicer the station name looks.

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Judging from the above picture, its obvious the commemorative roundel is considerably unsightly – and doesn’t do International Womens Day any justice.

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Victoria tube station is a sort of bastardised concept in terms of any historic value it may once have had. The Victoria line tile motifs are not original and not even the colour they were meant to be. Over the years it too has lost half of its original stainless steel framed roundels, and the upgrade work has given it a number of new, and very ill fitting, roundel boards which stretch from top to bottom of the platform side walls – some of which have been stuck on the walls at short notice or so it seems.

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Nevertheless compared to Seven Sisters, that at Victoria was a rather much better one. True it didn’t fit the panel it was placed on, but then again, TfL staff didn’t place it over one of the station roundels because it would have ended up looking much like that at Seven Sisters – and that would have been a really awful thing to do.

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Anyway, unlike Seven Sisters, Victoria tube station at least had a large flat area over which to place one of these special Womens Day roundels. But again it doesn’t look right. That’s because its on one of those extremely large panels.

Thus it didn’t look terribly commemorative in my view when compared with say, the World Childrens Day roundels – those at least looked miles better and were consistent across the board – and that made a huge difference!

Here’s a straight on view of the station’s special roundel – and yes, I know I made it look better simply for the sake of wanting to see it looking nicer than it could ever be!

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Upon reading the description at the side of the roundel, unfortunately the reason why Victoria station is named is just wrong – it implies Victoria station is named after the 19th century queen. Its popular opinion of course but its not a fact.

They got the idea ever so wrong because for a start, the original tile motif designed for use at Victoria was going to be so very different!

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When the Victoria line was being built, the designer who drew up some of the famous tiled motifs had never planned any images of Queen Victoria. The original concept for the motif at Victoria tube station was intended by artist Edward Bawden to represent a gold sovereign – and in fact the persons depicted on either side of the coin would have been Saint George and Queen Elizabeth!

Ultimately Misha Black, the Victoria line’s design consultant and the London Transport Design Panel rejected Edward Bawden’s original concept. So a simple solution was found and that was to use Queen Victoria! However like the other Victoria line tile motifs (including the gold sovereign concept) they were all but a play on words.

That’s how the station got Queen Victoria! Ever since people have been on a drum roll saying “this station is most definitely named after Queen Victoria!”

District/Hammersmith & City lines

Upton Park most definitely had the best presented roundel of the lot. The cleanest and the nicest of all and no doubt the best effort of the five International Womens Day 2020 roundels.

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Rather oddly its the only one at a station out in the open. Its not even technically a sub surface station because it was built by the London Tilbury and Southend Railway. Not only that, its the only one shared by two different sub surface lines!

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Upton Park was chosen because it is where the tube’s first ever female driver, Hannah Dadds, first began her career on the underground. She is commemorated on quite a few tube stations especially on TfL’s heritage posters. As a matter of fact there’s also a special plaque on the other platform at Upton Park.

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The roundel is on the London bound platform. Its seen here with a Hammersmith train just leaving the station.

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The commemorative plaque at Upton Park for Hannah Dadds. This was installed in May 2019.

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A view of Upton Park’s roundel from the eastbound platform. This roundel is in my view the best of the lot. Its nice, its square, its clean, it fits in that environment very well. And along with the station platform, canopies and track, it makes a great night time photograph too!

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