LONDON'S DISUSED UNDERGROUND STATIONS is a glossy, photo-rich, reference book more apt to be found in the home of Tube obsessives. The esoteric nature of the knowledge it contains is reminiscent of the recently reviewed What's in a Name?: Origins of Station Names on the London Underground
Author J.C. Connor describes the life histories of 21 Tube stations that have been taken off-line since 1900: King William Street, North End, Hounslow Town, City Road, South Kentish Town, Park Royal & Twyford Abbey, Down Street, York Road, British Museum, Brompton Road, Osterley Park & Spring Grove, St. Mary's (Whitechapel Road), Uxbridge, Lords, Malborough Road, Swiss Cottage (Metropolitan Line), Wood Lane, South Acton, White City, Aldwych, and Charing Cross (Jubilee Line). The twenty-one appear in chronological order based on the year of closure; King William Street, closed in 1900, comes first, and Charing Cross, closed in 1999, comes last. Ten of the twenty-one shut their doors in the 1930s.
Connor's narrative style is bone-dry and relatively unembellished with anything other than hard facts. A small sampling of text concerning York Road (closed 1932) is representative of the book's tone:
"The street level building was sited on the corner of York Road (now York Way) and Bingfield Street, and was designed by the architect Leslie William Green. It was built by the firm of Ford & Walton Ltd. at a cost of (pounds sterling) 8,176 and was clad in (pounds sterling) 1,022.5.9d's worth of glazed ruby-red tiling by the Leeds Fireclay Company."
And, regarding this station's remnants:
" ... until the 1960s, it was still possible to clearly see the grimy (platform) tiling from a passing train ... The vast majority of tiling has been painted out, although a few small sections have not been touched. The signal box also survives, with its windows blackened after years of disuse."
Only rarely does Connor touch on a defunct station's local color: the ghost said to inhabit an old tunnel, the movie shot on-site, or the apocryphal story of the commuter who mistakenly detrained on an old platform and was stranded overnight. Otherwise, the story of each station is one of tunnel widths, booking hall layout, tile color scheme, track additions, platform extensions, street-level remodelings, war use as an air-raid shelter, level of commuter traffic, etc.
LONDON'S DISUSED UNDERGROUND STATIONS contains many photographs of the under-ground (or above-ground) platforms and street-level facades, mostly black and white prints from the late 19th century and the first 30 years of the 20th when the stations were in their working prime. Perhaps most interesting to readers who are fascinated by "then" and "now" pictures are the contemporary color shots of still extant street-level facades that can be compared to earlier views.
The book's final pages include narrative summaries about a further 13 stations that have been re-sited rather than shuttered-up, and text about other disused street-level buildings associated with the Central, District, East London, Northern, and Piccadilly Lines.
As I assume the true Tube obsessive would go out of his/her way to catch a glimpse of the occasional abandoned station while being whisked along in the modern London Underground, I was puzzled to note that this volume contains no map of the modern system with the locations of the ghost stations marked. To imprecisely find them, I was forced to peer through a magnifying glass at the small type of a compact LONDON A-Z street and Tube guide - behavior that, admittedly, my wife thought aberrant. In my defense, I must state that I've not left Connor's book out on the living room coffee table where it might serve as solid evidence of an eccentric fixation.
Finally, the author must have some surveying experience as he makes frequent use of a unit of distance measure called the "chain (ch)", i.e. 66 feet, the definition of which I had to look-up on the Web.