Snow Hill tunnels – 30 years on #2

Snow Hill tunnels – 30 years on #2

The second part of this special feature on the route the old and new Snow Hill lines (Farringdon to Blackfriars) took before and after reconstruction.

We come to the first building south of Holborn Viaduct. This is 1-6 Farringdon Street and it was built alongside the Holborn Viaduct and Snow Hill lines. At this very point train passengers could look down upon the pedestrians and traffic in Farringdon Road. Today people can still do the same however that’s is from the top of the steps leading up to 10 Fleet Place. These steps are here for a purpose and that is to take the new pedestrian thoroughfare over the top of the City Thameslink station box.

The steps on top of the Thameslink lines leading down from 10 Fleet Street to Farringdon Street. The rear wall of 1-6 Farringdon Street marks the western side of the viaducts heading towards Ludgate Hill bridge.

Ludgate Hill was where the celebrated railway bridge once stood. In 1990 this was removed and Thameslink obtained a new sub-surface alignment that passes beneath Ludgate Hill itself.

The spot where Ludgate Hill bridge once stood. Leon’s was once the Old King Lud inn – right up against the bridge itself.

City Thameslink’s substantial ticket hall just off Ludgate Hill.

At this spot where the ticket hall now is was the commencement of the old Ludgate Hill station. This was sandwiched in between Holborn Viaduct and Blackfriars station. These three must have had some of the shortest distances between stations on the same stretch of line on Britain’s railway system.

The remains of Ludgate Hill station endured until Thameslink was built when the platforms were demolished. Two years later the whole structure itself came down when the viaduct was removed and the new lines through St. Paul’s (now City) Thameslink were built.

The map below shows where Thameslink currently passes under the footbridge at Aopthecary Street. This was once the site of the tracks leading to Holborn Viaduct. In the final years at this location the tracks were moved westwards (after the former station platforms were demolished) so Thameslink trains ran on that side. The tracks were then moved back to the original alignment after 1990 when the new route through City Thameslink had been built!

OS map of the southern end of Ludgate Hill station. The little red marker denotes a LEB sign discussed later.

Basically the original Ludgate station platforms were demolished in 1986 (shows how early the works for Thameslink began!) to enable new tracks to be built on the west side for both Holborn Viaduct and Thameslink services. The width of Ludgate Hill bridge was reduced.

The Holborn Viaduct trains then reached their destination by a spur off the Thameslink tracks north of the revetted Ludgate Hill bridge. In due course this work then enabled most of the Ludgate station site to be demolished in due course ready for the start of the construction of the new sub-surface Thameslink station.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, it was hoped to start the works to built the new Thameslink station during 1988, which is why this work was being done at such an early stage. However due to delays the work did not actually begin until 1990 hence the Ludgate Hill viaduct and bridge remained two years longer than had been planned.

The stairs up over Thameslink at Waithman Street (formerly the east side of Apothecary Street.)

The footbridge across the Thameslink lines between Waithman Street and Apothecary Streets is a bit odd. Its never felt right and that’s because it doesn’t really pass as a footbridge. Its actually much more of a hassle trying to pass from Blackfriars Road to Apothecary Street this way – quicker to walk along the nearby roads – and explains why hardly anyone uses this crossing. I think a pedestrian underpass would have served better.

Its the result of some dodgy 1990s architect who drew up the plans for the entire area with little insight into what was actually needed and also explains the rather hotch potch arrangement of the site above City Thameslink. The only merit this so-called footbridge has to offer are the splendid views of Thameslink’s lines as they ascend to Blackfriars station.

View from Apothecary Street footbridge of the Thameslink lines to Blackfriars station.

Whilst people argue about the crucial viewpoints towards St Paul’s, the fact is many of these viewpoints have been considerably eliminated over time. That formerly seen from Blackfriars is now impossible as the pictures below show. It used to be a good view and clearly some architect has plonked his building right at this location to make absolutely sure no-one can see the cathedral.

Great views of St Paul’s were once possible at Blackfriars….

This Google Street view shows the scene seven years later in 2008 – no more St Paul’s….

The above and below Google Street views show the older Blackfriars station which was sited underneath the bridge itself.

Although they built a new bridge at Blackfriars for the new Thameslink and remaining Holborn Viaduct services, when the latter was closed and Thameslink sent down onto the new St Paul’s Thameslink alignment, part of the closure in early 1990 involved dropping one end of the new bridge so it sloped downwards from Blackfriars station towards St Paul’s Thameslink. Its actually the one and only bridge built for the original Thameslink back in 1988.

Its also a bridge with the rare distinction of being moved and reused rather than replaced! But to most it does look like its actually been replaced. However I can assure you its actually the original. These three pictures derived from Google’s Street views shows the bridge itself as it morphs to a more modern appearance.

2008 view – notice the old Blackfriars station entrance.

2012 view – the new Blackfriars station entrance is partially in use. Notice the bridge’s new embellishments.

2014 view of Thameslink’s fantastic new bridge!

On the wall below the bridge itself and alongside Queen Victoria Street, the tracks to Ludgate Hill station once ran and the older crossing was much wider. A gap has been left and one can see that the Thameslink bridge runs along the easternmost alignment of the tracks that once led to Holborn Viaduct station. I found this LEB marker (pic below.) I am sure it was there perhaps forty years ago when all the tracks were complete and passed above the road at this point. Even though the brickwork has been re-pointed the bit behind the marker’s not been done – a clear sign it hasn’t been shifted ever since it was placed here!

The LEB plaque which once stood underneath the old Holborn Viaduct/Snow Hill bridges.

Here are some historic pictures of the Snow Hill lines & trains from other sources.

Down into the tunnels probably 1989. Holborn Viaduct station visible at upper left. (Source: Pinterest.)

Ludgate Hill bridge’s demolition 1990 (Source: Pinterest)

The new rail route and St. Paul’s Thameslink station under construction 1990. (Source: Pinterest.)

The above picture is quite interesting as it still shows the alignment of the wall on the west side of the tracks descending into the Snow Hill tunnels. One can see from this how both routes are still separate at this northernmost point. Thameslink on the east side and Snow Hill lines on the west side. The Snow Hill lines then passed over to the east side and Thameslink to the west side just before reaching Holborn Viaduct itself where they then merged completely.

Interesting picture of railtour descending into Snow Hill Tunnels before they were closed in the 1970s.