Central Line: beyond Caxton Road

Central Line: beyond Caxton Road

A minor update of the article posted two years ago featuring the Central Line around Wood Lane/White City showing how the area’s changed. Previous overground sections of the Central Line are now underground. The header image shows the Central Line tracks as they approach Ariel Way. This section was the original route of the Central London Railway (the Twopenny tube) giving access to the line’s depot and sidings at Wood Lane.

The section west of Shepherd’s Bush features the tube system’s sharpest curves of all beneath Caxton Road, hence the title of the post.

The Caxton Road street sign in Shepherd’s Bush W12.

The first tube line across the centre of London was opened in 1901 and known as the two penny tube. It ran between Shepherd’s Bush and Bank and was entirely underground. It had a depot above ground at White City however to get there trains had to negotiate a 1 in 44 incline and a sharp turn north before reaching the open. This section soon earned the name of Caxton Curve – after the road above – and this is the tightest bend on the whole of London’s tube system.

The top end of Caxton Road once led to the Central Line’s depot and complicated track layout. The line emerged from the tunnel just a short distance to the right and trains briefly headed in a north east direction – straight towards Epping! 🙂

TfL sign on wall that once formed part of the White City depot entrance gates.

The Central Line ended up having lots of bendy bits beyond Shepherd’s Bush due to quirks of construction and trying to meet up with all the lines running in various directions after Caxton Road. Essentially trains turn through a total of 180 degrees in order to fit in with the track layout further on at Wood Lane.

The following photographs were taken by Ariel Way by the old powerhouses (known as the Dimco buildings) which once supplied electricity for the Central London Railway. This is where the loop leading to Wood Lane station began. The direct tracks to the depot went via this loop.

Coming down the other way were the outward tracks from the depot and passenger trains for Ealing/West Ruislip had to negotiate a series of quite complicated junctions.

Emerging from the tunnel – this location is now right underneath the Westfield’s Southern Terrace.

In the fifties and early sixties I used the Central Line to get to school and was fascinated each time our train burst out of the tunnel beyond Caxton Road then negotiate the many curves and points through this strange landscape of rail depots, derelict stations, and elevated walkways which were remnants of the old White City exhibition complex.

The line as it traversed the old White City station junctions just before Ariel Way bridge.

There was once two separate lines diverging from this point. The one at extreme right (going up the ramp) led to the old Wood Lane station and this line formed a return loop back to Shepherd’s Bush. The tracks in the centre split off to the right also and these led through the old subterranean Wood Lane station. This latter one was the original route built for the extension to Ealing Broadway in the 1920s. The tracks on the left (i.e. those still in use) were built to serve the new White City station.

Despite Wood Lane acquiring new underground platforms, the old loop line platform was kept as a turn-back facility for trains terminating here. Through trains for Ealing used the newer platforms. It was an awkward arrangement which eventually prompted the building of nearby White City station. This needed a new and more direct tunnel (eg the tracks on the left.)

The layout is quite confusing which is why I have drawn the rough example below. (This doesn’t include the tracks to/from the now demolished train depot.) As can be seen from this diagram the tracks diverge where the former Ariel Way bridge was sited.

A quite rough superimposition over the present scene at Wood Lane (Ariel Way) showing the approximate layout of the tracks. The new below ground White City train depot extends across the centre of the picture.

These various works, confusing as they may be, forced the Central London Railway to adopt the rare British practice of right hand running. Its not the only tube that does it however both the Northern and Victoria Lines have sections of right hand running too.

Over the years this landscape leftover from the old White City has gradually disappeared. Parts of the overhead walkways remained until the 1980s, whilst Wood Lane station itself very derelict, struggled on until the early 21st Century, almost reaching a century of existence.

At least there was Ariel Way to tell us where everything once stood. Now that’s gone too and we’re left just with the CLR’s Dimco buildings, abandoned in the middle of an alien landscape of modern shopping centres that can’t tell us anything about the history of White City.

The Central Line at Ariel Way bridge, approximately where the roundabout was. The Caxton Road – Ariel Way section was built over in 2006 prior to construction of the Westfield Centre.

White City depot from Ariel Way in 1986. Part of the old White City can be seen far left.

The same spot in Oct 2015. This scene has now disappeared under the Westfield extension! Source: Google maps.

Wood lane station in 2002 with its Maida Vale style of LT roundel, painted over of course.

The old station in 2002 with the Hammersmith & City line bridge in the background.

From photos taken in the 80s I can see the old station at Wood Lane was run as a business unit and numbered 32-36 Wood Lane. The station once had the type of mosaic roundel as seen at Maida Vale station and the larger example of this unique roundel can be seen at the new Wood Lane (Hammersmith line) station.

The different levels of track now in an overgrown state (2004) with the old Wood Lane  station hidden in the foliage. The Hammersmith & City line bridge across Wood Lane can be seen in the distance.

The old Wood lane entrance is now just a wide pavement on the corner of Ariel Way/Wood Lane. The old platforms are filled in and the original Westfield centre bus station was built on top of these, with the new tube sidings underneath.

The Wood Lane platforms barely discernible in 2004. This is where the moving platform was.

At this very spot (middle of picture) was a moveable platform. This accommodated longer trains in use from 1928, plus it could be moved to allow trains to access the depot.

Wood Lane (from my archives.) 18 Feb 1939. The train has terminated here rather than continue to Ealing.

The above picture shows the moving platform section at Wood Lane. My 2004 photo would have been taken from a point just behind the rear of this Central London Railway carriage.

Peering over a wall trains could be seen heading south. The loop joined at left. Compare with that below.

The wall has gone and the southbound Central Line trains now run beneath this pavement.

The Wood Lane station scene today with the Dimco buildings at extreme left. The advert and green foliage straight ahead hides a ventilation shaft – once the site of Wood Lane’s station buildings.

The White City approach tracks in 2004. The centre tracks once led to the old depot and have now been removed.

Compare the above view with that below taken in April 2017. The old depot tracks are replaced by a direct connection to the new depot underneath the Westfield bus station.

2017 view of the Central Line just south of White City station.

This article was been compiled because its clear any remaining clues regarding the track layouts and depots at Wood Lane (including Ariel Way) are now being eradicated to make way for the Westfield shopping centre’s extension.

Update January 2019: The area has changed all beyond recognition. There are two new bridges over the Central Line and a new park on its east side – with a new, as yet incomplete, residential development rising billed as ‘White City Living.’