Given that London has few sunny and warm weekends, especially in September, most Londoners make the most of them when they do happen. I, on the other hand, chose to ride the tube from Brixton to Walthamstow Central along the Victoria line.
The Victoria line is an interesting one for a few reasons: it was the first deep level underground line to be built across central London since 1907, it is the longest line entirely underground (at least for the travelling public), and almost every station has tiled artwork relating to the station itself, or the surrounding area.
I visited each of the 16 stations on the line over the course of approximately 3 hours on the very sunny 8th of September. Here are my impressions and a random fact about each station:
Impressions: Brixton is among the more interesting areas of London. It has reputation for being somewhat dodgy and dangerous, but in my opinion this view is increasingly outdated. While Brixton remains at present a mixed area, all signs point to rapid gentrification. The most noticeable feature about Brixton station, to my mind, is the huge London Underground roundel over the entrance. It was also extremely busy on the day I visited.
Random Fact: Brixton station opened in 1971, 3 years after the first section of the Victoria line. Tweet This
Impressions: If Brixton is one of the most interesting areas of London, Stockwell feels like one of the most bland. Stockwell station is one of the ugliest stations on the whole network. The view is not much improved once you leave, as you're immediately thrust onto busy Clapham Road. The one interesting thing I did notice about the station is that there is no up escalator from the northbound Victoria line platform. I guess not many people go from Brixton to Stockwell by tube. It was also far less busy than Brixton.
Random Fact: Stockwell is the southernmost London underground station that serves more than one line. Tweet This
Impressions: Vauxhall station feels a bit like a rabbit warren when you leave the ticket hall, as there are exits and entrances in all directions. Once you manage to get yourself outside, you're again confronted with a series of busy roads. Not the most beautiful area of London. There are, however, two notable sights. The first is the conspicuous MI6 headquarters, which I've always found a little bizarre. Surely the point of the SIS is to remain secret? The second is the Vauxhall bus station, whose roof looks like a ramp to the sky.
Impressions: Just the other side of the river from Vauxhall, Pimlico has an entirely different feel. When you leave Vauxhall underground station you're confronted with a series of busy roads, but when you leave Pimlico station you feel right in the heart of residential London. Pimlico was designed as an extension of Belgravia, yet I've always felt it has far more of an edge to it.
This is of course only relative to the most expensive area of London. In the station itself, the thing that really stood out to me was the fact that most of the original signage and maps are still in use from when the station first opened in 1972. This is the only station I came across where this is the case, and hence, it is my favourite station along the line.
Random Fact #1: Pimlico station is the only station on the Victoria line not to have an interchange with any other tube/rail line. Tweet This
Random Fact #2: Pimlico station opened in 1972, the last station to open on the Victoria line. Tweet This
Impressions: I travel through Victoria almost every day for work and it's always incredibly busy. If possible, it's even worse at the weekend. There are tourists everywhere who have no idea where they're going. It's a bit of shame, because Victoria Rail Station is an impressive building but I always find myself wanting to leave as quickly as possible.
Random Fact: Victoria station is the second busiest on the network after Waterloo. Tweet This
Impressions: Green Park tube station is another popular station with tourists at the weekend, due to its proximity to Buckingham Palace. The station has recently undergone refurbishment, which gives it a nice modern feel. It also means you can now enter/exit directly from Green Park along a 'living' green wall.
Random Fact: Green Park is one of three Victoria line stations that intersect with the Piccadilly line. Tweet This
Impressions: I tend to follow the old saying, 'a true Londoner never walks along Oxford Street, only across it.' Thus, I do my utmost to avoid the area at all times since it's another area completely mobbed by tourists. Due to my rather strong feelings, I found that Oxford Circus station is my least favourite. It doesn't even follow the tiled artwork designs of all other Victoria Line stations, hence the pictures above.
Impressions: I travel through Warren Street station almost every day, but have never formed a strong feeling about it one way or another before. Few people get on or off here. My station visit does little to change my initial impressions. The main highlight for me at this point is that after visiting Warren Street station, I'm halfway done the Victoria line.
Random fact: The doors for trains on all four platforms at Warren Street open on the left hand-side. Tweet This
Impressions: Euston is normally where I leave the Victoria line in the morning and where I rejoin it in the evening. From a commuting point of view, the station is great because you can transfer directly between the Northern line and the Victoria line across the platform. This makes transfers very quick. However, Euston National Rail station is easily the ugliest station in London. Designed in typical Brutalist style, the station is a crime against architecture.
Random Fact: Euston Victoria line platforms have tiles of the 'Euston Arch'. Ironically it was knocked down before the line opened. Tweet This
King's Cross-St. Pancras
Impressions: This is the heart of the tube. Over half of London's underground lines come through the station. On top of that, it serves two National rail stations (from where it gets its rather unwieldy name). Both stations have undergone major refurbishment in the last few years and are each worth a visit.
Unfortunately, the area immediately surrounding the stations is still a little rough around the edges, although I gather from talking to a friend of mine who grew up in the area, that it's much better than it was in the late 80s and early 90s. The Victoria line platforms are rather unremarkable, but it is the only stop along my whole visit where my train is delayed.
Random Fact: King's Cross-St. Pancras station is the most connected London Underground station with connections to 6 lines. Tweet This
Highbury & Islington
Impressions: Highbury & Islington station is interesting because it's tucked away beside The Famous Cock Tavern. Unlike most other stations on the Victoria line, the entrance to Highbury & Islington almost feels like a secret. However, while the station itself is well connected, it isn't really that remarkable.
Random Fact: Highbury & Islington was briefly the southern terminus for the Victoria line when it first opened. Tweet This
Impressions: Finsbury Park station is odd because there are no Oyster/ticket gateways when you leave the tube. It also doesn't have any escalators or lifts, only stairs to ground level. The area around the station feels very mixed, with expensive coffee shops such as Costa next to bordered up buildings. I get the sense I'm now on my way out of central London.
Random Fact: The first station at Finsbury Park opened on 1 July, 1861 and was originally named Seven Sisters Road (Holloway). Tweet This
Impressions: I have friends who used to live in Seven Sisters, so I'm vaguely familiar with the area. While it's by no means the suburbs, it's also not central London. It's one of those areas that's stuck in between. Like Finsbury Park, the area has a very mixed feeling to it, although fewer signs of gentrification. The station also has a disused platform you can visit, if you're into that sort of thing.
Random Fact: The distance between Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park is the longest between adjacent stations in deep level tunnels. Tweet This
Impressions: Tottenham Hale really does not feel like London any more. In fact it could be almost anywhere in the UK. The area outside the station is nothing more than a parking lot with a bunch of big box chain shops.
Random fact: Tottenham Hale was originally called just Tottenham and opened in 1840. It was renamed when it became a Victoria line station. Tweet This
Impressions: Blackhorse Road station is another relatively nondescript station (similar to Stockwell). The area outside is not glamorous, but it's a very small improvement over Tottenham Hale. However, the Standard Music venue and Waltham Forest Business Centre both look like they've seen better days,
Random Fact: Blackhorse Road is the least used station on the Victoria Line. Tweet This
Impressions: Finally after 15 other stations, I arrive at my final destination of Walthamstow Central. Like many of the preceding stations, the area feels decidedly mixed. The exit from the station is not the most obvious as there are several ways to go, and I end up on the National Rail platforms.
However, once you get out of the station, there are crowds of people enjoying the adjacent park. It's not an altogether bad place to end up at the end of a journey, but I still have to make the trek back south to my neck of the woods.
Random fact: Walthamstow Central was originally known as Hoe Street before the Victoria line arrived. Tweet This
Many of my impressions of the Victoria line are clouded by the fact that I use it every day to get to and from work. Overall, it's the tube's workhorse; it serves a vital role in helping to keep the whole network running. It's also the second shortest line and doesn't venture too far from central London.
Other positives about the line include the fact that it has among the most modern carriages on the network and the fact that, at rush hour, trains run every 2 minutes or less. While in theory this should mean you almost never have to wait for a train in the morning, in practice it means that you often have to wait for several to go by before finding one with enough space to cram yourself in.
10 Victoria Line Facts:
- Track Length: 13.25 miles (21km) – The second shortest tube line. Tweet This
- Opened: 1968-72. Tweet This
- Journeys made per year: 200 million. Tweet This
- Number of stations: 16. Tweet This
- Journey time from Brixton to Walthamstow Central (if you don't get off at each station): 32 minutes. Tweet This
- Random Fact #1: Only line entirely underground, besides the Waterloo & City line. Tweet This
- Random Fact #2: Most intensively used line based on average number of journeys per mile. Tweet This
- Random Fact #3: One of only two lines built after the war (The other is the Jubilee line) Tweet This
- Random Fact #4: The Victoria line allows trains to store gravitational potential energy as they slow down and release it when they leave a station. Tweet This
- Random Fact #5: Other proposed names for the line included the "Walvic line" (Walthamstow – Victoria) and "Viking line" (Victoria – King's Cross). Tweet This
Favourite Station: Pimlico, because it feels like a secret staion right in the heart of London.
Least Favourite Station: Oxford Circus, mostly because I hate Oxford Street and the station is always overrun with tourists.
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