Visiting every London Underground station
When I arrived in London, I asked several of my London-born friends if they had visited every station on the London Underground. Once they finished laughing at me, they told me they hadn’t And that it was a ridiculous idea. Which only made me more determined to do it.
The world record for passing through each station (without getting off the train) is 16.5 hours. There are near weekly attempts to beat this record, so I couldn’t help but feel an attempt at the record was futile. Besides, the stations are what interested me.
I thought it would be far more interesting (and yet to be done), to get off at each platform, and get a photo taken next to the station name. This meant that I saw some fascinating things on my journey, and spotted interesting anomalies at each station. It also meant that I needed to get out at each stop, take a picture, and wait for the next train, which took a minimum of two minutes, and in some cases up to 40 minutes. In addition to this, my idea of creating a stop motion animation of my movements once the photos were placed in alphabetical order meant that I had to carry a fairly sophisticated spreadsheet with me – to tell me where I should be standing and what I needed to be wearing, holding, and doing at each station. Altogether it took about 50 hours to complete, spread over seven (non-consecutive!) days. You can view the finished video below.
My story has been featured as part of the London Underground’s 150th anniversary celebrations on the BBC, CNN, London’s Evening Standard, The New Zealand Herald, and Italian media.
Spending 50 hours on the London Underground meant that I experienced a lot. Some of the more memorable moments include:
- Being told over the loudspeaker at Clapham Common “Can the person taking pictures on the platform turn their flash off. It is distracting to our drivers” – even though a flash was never used.
- Having friendly Londoners (usually older people) spot me as a ‘tourist’ and tell me interesting facts about the underground (some of which I knew were incorrect but I enjoyed their stories nonetheless!)
- Realising that the Central line trains out in the far east loop come only every 20-40 minutes. That was not fun in the winter, especially when every station required taking off my scarf, jacket and gloves for the picture. I spent a lot of time in the heated waiting rooms – until they were locked at 9pm!
- Six of the underground stations (Barking, Gunnersbury, Kew Gardens, Richmond, Upminster and Wimbledon) don’t have the iconic roundel signs installed on the platforms. I had to compromise somehow so I held up the sign (underneath whatever signs they did have on the platform).
- Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road, Baker Street and Charing Cross for station art
- Canary Wharf and Westminster for station design
- Epping for its garden – with all the plant pots and tulips around it seemed like I’d popped up in someone’s garden
- Greenford Station was memorable because it has the last remaining wooden escalator in the underground system after the Kings Cross station fire.