A Victoria Line station's belated 50th anniversary

A Victoria Line station's belated 50th anniversary

Almost fifty & half years ago the first Victoria Line station opened – and that was actually one year early. The year was 1967! What? That can’t be possible, the line didn’t open until September 1968! This is no anniversary of any sort! Okay hold on… let it be said this new station’s real enough. The day it opened was Sunday 15 October 1967. The ticket hall, escalators, the new platforms, these were all part of the work to build the new line and came into use a year before the line itself opened.

The station in question was Euston. It was built to accommodate a diverted Northern Line from its original single island platform station in order to give direct interchange with the Victoria Line. This work was part of what would ultimately form the new Euston station, too destined for a Royal opening almost exactly a year later.

The 1967 station as it is today, with modern embellishments such as yellow lines and tactile edging.

The works at Euston had begun much earlier than the rest of the Victoria Line. This was due to the need to bring them forward in order to run sequentially with the reconstruction of the main line terminus. Contractors moved in on 29 April 1962 and began the long process of remodelling the tube station began. It also explains why the station ended up with Victoria Line infrastructure far earlier than the new line itself.

Looking up the escalators. Compare with that view (shown below) taken in 1967! Not much change!

The works to divert the Northern Line and build the new stations took quite a few years, entailing the construction of a lengthy new northbound tunnel for the trains. Finally on October 15th 1967 the new facility opened and it just happened to be the first complete station styled in the new Victoria Line look that was opened for public service. It was just the Victoria Line bit which could not be used by passengers until December 1968.

‘Here Is The Victoria Line Look.’ From the London Transport Magazine February 1968.

There is very little record of this event. It seems it opened without fanfare despite the obvious fact it was a brand new tube line station. The only record I can find is from the London Transport Magazine for February 1968, which carried a two page feature extolling the new station entitled ‘Here is the Victoria Line look.’ Pictures from that article depict the new Northern Line platform as well as both lines’ escalators. Note the latter and compare with the main picture – there’s barely been any change since 1967!

Here’s a series of extracted passages from the LT article printed fifty years ago this month:

Passengers using Euston Underground have been given a foretaste of the decor to be used at stations on the new Victoria Line – the first section of which is due to open later this year…. It has clean and simple lines. Extensive use has been made of light grey tiling for the walls and white melamine sheeting for the tunnel roof lining…. For the first time the bull’s-eye station names have been illuminated from behind. Made of opaque glass, the signs should not only aid passengers to recognise them from the trains but add to the general brightness of the platform.

Picture showing construction of the new Euston tube station in the mid sixties on the very spot the famous arch once stood! Source: BBC Four.

It seemed a bit of a cheek for the new station to celebrate the famous arch as a series of murals – especially as it had so controversially been knocked down! The old Leslie Green tube station can be seen in the distance.

Our reporter asked several passengers for their opinion of the illuminated displays. All thought them a good idea…. ‘It makes the maps easier to read,’ said student nurse Gillian Price, who was travelling from her home in Rugby to University CollegeHospital. ‘The displays will certainly be welcomed by visitors to London.’

Despite the passengers’ apparent liking of the new station architecture, the Observer later slated the Victoria Line stations as ‘extraordinarily bleak,’  having as much charm as a sixties tower block and decorated profusely with 6 x 6 bathroom tiles!

Bench type seats, moulded from a hard laminate, are recessed into the platform walls…. Even the platform surface has changed. In place of the familiar tarmacdam there are large paving stones…. The invert beneath the running tracks has been redesigned. It is now deeper and roomier, and water will drain away more quickly.

Below is a picture from the LT article showing one of the new back-lit roundels:

A disused tunnel at Aldwych on the Piccadilly Line was the scene of early experiments in Victoria line station decor. But Euston is first to have the standardised design on public view…. The new look platform is part of a £3 million reconstruction scheme at Euston Underground station. It is a project that has been carefully phased to dovetail with British Rail’s rebuilding of the Main Line terminus overhead…. But it is not only the platform that gives a glimpse of the future. So, too, do the escalators leading to the City branch platforms of the Northern Line.

For the record the Victoria platforms at Euston opened on Sunday 1st December 1968 as part of the line’s stage two extension between Highbury and Warren Street. Thus passengers had been enjoying the full use of one of its stations for at least a year and two months before Victoria Line trains actually began services!

A 2018 view of the 1967 architecture. Just the early stage Victoria Line stations had this particular style.

The original back-lit roundels were replaced by plain ones a good number of years ago, presumably the glass ones were quite susceptible to vandalism. The litter bins were taken out of use just ten years or so after the station’s opening due to fears of IRA terrorist attack. However the stainless steel panelling from 1967 remains in both its fully fledged and the more economic styling at every Victoria Line station – except Oxford Circus where only one platform retains these.

Both platforms do have differences. Generally the destination indicators, line colours and route maps are the most obvious.

Besides that there’s a couple of major differences. The Northern Line platform has six benches (three pairs) whilst the Victoria’s only has two pairs and a single, making a total of five. It somehow reflects the anticipation in those far-off days when no-one would need to wait long for a Victoria Line train compared to one on the Northern Line – something that’s still relevant today!

Another difference is the Northern platform is on the level, whilst the Victoria’s rises slightly in the northbound direction. Both are level to start with, the latter ends with perhaps a difference of 24 inches in elevation and the cross passage at the furthest end has a discernible rise up to the Victoria’s.

Current view of the 1967 design with its benches and the famous arch as a tiled mural.

Elements of Victoria Line styling were later used at Jubilee line stations such as Bond Street, Green Park and its now closed Charing Cross terminus – however these sport some major differences also and so not really of the same calibre as at Euston.