In Pictures: A Walk On The Widened Lines

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The next station we will visit at as part of our series on London’s major mainline stations will be Farringdon. Farringdon is a deceptively complex station, one with both a long history and a bright future. It’s surrounds contain an enormous amount of railway infrastructure, both with regards to passengers and goods, both past, present and future.

If the extensive goods yards beneath the likes of Smithfields market are the past, and the new Thameslink station is the present, then the future is most definitely Crossrail – for which Farringdon will prove a key station. As with the Connaught Tunnel (photos of which you can find here), Crossrail’s presence at Farringdon meant a potential opportunity to get a closer look at some railway infrastructure that is normally inaccessible to the public. In this case that infrastructure was the City Widened Lines, east of Farringdon where they pass beneath Smithfield Market, which were closed in 2009 to allow the platforms at Farringdon to be extended. These will eventually be reworked into much-needed city sidings for London Underground’s S7 and S8 stock on the subsurface lines, for which current stabling in the area is too short. There are currently occupied by Crossrail, however, who will shortly begin subsurface ground stabilisation work there ahead of their TBMs passing beneath on their way to Liverpool Street.

As with the Connaught Tunnel, Crossrail were kind enough to grant us the opportunity to take a look at the Widened Lines before work begins there in earnest, and so ahead of our more detailed look at Farringdon itself, you can find some photos of the Widened Lines below.

The image below shows the view back from above the Widened Lines looking back east towards Barbican. Barbican itself, and the path the lines previously took, is clearly visible through the arch.

Looking back at Barbican

Looking back at Barbican

Beginning our journey (on which we will be heading east to west) we start on the down line. Blocked up on the left is the down access to the extensive Smithfield Market goods depot, which has now been largely reworked into multi-level car park space for the market. For context, this photo was taken in the left hand tunnel of this earlier photo by fridgemonkey.

The down line

The Down line

Looking back towards Barbican after entering, the ramp on the the left wall of the arch is a short extension from Barbican Up platform. Two sidings between the current Metropolitan Line and the Widened Lines are out of shot to the left (the entrance to which is visible in fridgemonkey’s photo above).

Looking east

Looking east

Heading below ground proper, the remains of a small office can be found to the north away from the Crossrail works. It seems possible this is the remains of the sidings staff office, although the level of debris present unfortunately prevented much in the way of exploration.

This photo highlights the lack of light available

This photo highlights the lack of light available

Debris in the office, with flash

Debris in the office, with flash

Looking through into a narrow work space

Looking through into a narrow work space

Beyond the workspace the sidings appear to be accessible

Beyond the workspace the sidings appear to be accessible

One thing that the set of photos below should hopefully convey is the sheer amount of space present within these tunnels. A DLR extension to Farringdon is something not infrequently mentioned within London railway circles, and it is easy to see why the Widened Lines often feature prominently in such discussions. Indeed the space would have originally been even more open – the wall visible in the distance in the first photo is a relatively new addition, behind which lies the old Smithfield Depot.

The Market in the distance

The Market in the distance

Looking back towards Barbican

Looking back towards Barbican

Looking south west, the pillars have been reinforced and fireproofed

Looking south west, the pillars have been reinforced and fireproofed

Looking west, possibly in part of the siding

Looking west, possibly in part of the siding

Looking north west from the Up line

Looking north from the Up line

Heading onwards, we follow the curve of the Up line. The ironwork is a temporary addition. Gradient posts mark the route.

Looking west along the Up line

Looking west along the Up line

A gradient post

A gradient post

Looking back east, having moved to the Down line

Looking back east, having moved to the Down line

Further in, we reach the junction with Junction with the East Curve to Snow Hill (the wall on right shows the alignment widening). No track (or lighting) remains on the curve, and the surface is in a far worse condition. Additional support pillars also dot the area that would previously have held track. Following the course of the curve as far as possible, we reach a bricked in arch. This is either the blocked up portal to the East Curve down to Snow Hill, or possibly a view south onto the portal of the westbound road from GW Smithfield goods depot.

The curve begins

The curve begins

looking back east, the rough surface is clearer

looking back east, the rough surface is clearer

Additional pillar works

Additional pillar works

The bricked up arch

The bricked up arch

As we near the Farringdon end of the line, the conical nature of the tunnel at this point is because this is the western junction with the GW Smithfield Goods depot, the track to which disappears off the the left and crossed the East Curve to Snow Hill on the level. The photographer is standing on the site of the Down from Moorgate. The presence of the Farringdon ramp in the final picture should hopefully help anyone unfamiliar with the location of this section of line get their bearings.

The Down line
Connecting passage between Down and Up lines - complete with spooky disembodied deer head

Connecting passage between Down and Up lines – complete with spooky disembodied deer head

Looking back east along the Up line
Looking west along the Up

Looking west along the Up

North lies the Met siding

North lies the Met siding

Looking out from the Widened Lines, with Farringdon ramp on the left

Looking out from the Widened Lines, with Farringdon ramp on the left

We will look at Farringdon proper in more detail shortly.

Written by John Bull