Just over a week ago I published a feature on the new pictures at Oxford Circus tube which featured the history of escalators on London’s underground. One curiosity was the fact all the pictures were in chronological order other than the final three which were set out as 1976, 1950 and 2014 (that’s in the direction one walks from the bottom of the escalator.)
Since I published my article, TfL staff have clearly made efforts to correct the somewhat clumsy sequence – thus it now reads as 1950, 1976 and 2014. Its definitely a lot better than it was before!
How the arrangement looked – eg from right to left – photographs from 1976, 1950 and then the one from 2014!
How the arrangement looks now! From right to left – 1950, 1976 and 2014!
There’s still a quirk in the sequence which I didn’t mention before but its not critical in any sense. The first two pictures (1906 and 1914) are at the top of the escalator then there is a gap of at least two pictures before these recommence. I’m not fussed about those it was the three at the bottom that had their order transposed!
One thing not mentioned on the information panels at Oxford Circus is the fact the station was essentially one of the first to receive escalators. I wonder if there had been an intent to fill in this gap I’ve just mentioned with pictures showing the early escalators at Oxford Circus. Perhaps it turned out there weren’t any (the LT Museum doesn’t seem to have any but then I’m not Chris Nix!) It could explain why there’s a gap where it seems there should have been more panels!
Anyway here’s a quick recap of what happened at the station in those early days. A pair of escalators were built from the Bakerloo Line to the ticket hall in 1914 and these were exactly the same style as those at Liverpool Street (Central London Railway 1912) plus Earl’s Court but also those seen in the picture below at Charing Cross/Embankment in 1914.
The Charing Cross escalators (the station hadn’t quite yet been renamed Embankment at that time) showing the barrier that forced passengers to step off the moving stairs because this curious early design didn’t allow the steps to descend out of sight seamlessly.
The early Bakerloo escalators at Oxford Circus were built in the same style as those in the picture above. At Oxford Circus it was that on the left hand going up and the other on the right side going down – much the same as at Embankment for example. Clearly the Bakerloo’s lifts were taken out of use around this time (1914) because the top of these new escalators emerged almost where the lifts passed through from street level to the platform areas. What they did was they removed the lifts and constructed a steel platform over the top of the redundant shaft.
What it means is passengers (sorry, customers) coming off the escalators from both the Bakerloo and Victoria Lines will quite likely walk across the ticket barrier floor totally unaware there is a huge disused lift shaft which descends perhaps fifty feet or so into the depths of the station!
Oxford Circus tube station where the former Bakerloo lifts were once sited. The location of the old lift shaft is quite evident but these passengers emerging from the barriers won’t know that!
The Central London Railway’s lifts stayed in use until the late 1920s when a new escalator was built to its platforms.