London’s Victoria Line celebrates 50 years in service
On 7th March 2019 London’s Victoria tube line celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The line, coloured light blue on the tube map, stretches from Walthamstow Central in the north east to Brixton in the south. It was first planned shortly after WW2, authorised in 1959 and constructed in stages between 1962 and 1971.
Victorian Pub Crawl
I decided to use the anniversary as an excuse to plan a bit of a pub crawl. I managed to find some excellent hostelries in the vicinity of each of the 16 stations and then spent a few weekends visiting them all. I also managed to find two breweries, one near each termini, and added them into the mix as well.
Although the connection between the line and Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) is a pretty loose one, just to make it a little more interesting, I also decided to seek out something suitably “Victorian” near each station.
Details of my journeys along the Victoria line can be found below. Click on any station to begin. Each visit starts with an explanation of the platform-level murals.
Walthamstow Central – A Victorian Thinker
Blackhorse Road – A Victorian Reservoir
Tottenham Hale – A Victorian Steam Engine
Seven Sisters – A Victorian Market
Finsbury Park – A Victorian Park
Highbury & Islington – A Victorian War
Kings Cross – St Pancras – A Victorian Hotel
Euston – A Victorian Loss
Warren Street – A Victorian Toy Shop
Oxford Circus – A Victorian Theatre Architect
Green Park – A Victorian Mansion
Victoria – A Victorian Cathedral
Pimlico – A Victorian Art Gallery
Vauxhall – A Victorian Street
Stockwell – A Victorian Tube / Bandstand
Brixton – A Victorian Department Store
West End Express
Retro Posters on display at Blackhorse Rd
The line was opened in 4 sections. Walthamstow to Highbury was the first part to see trains in September 1968 and this was quickly followed by the next section to Warren St in December 1968. The line was then officially opened in March 1969 by the Queen when the section to Victoria was completed. The extension on to Brixton, finally authorised in 1967, was opened in July 1971. Pimlico, only approved later, was the very last station to open in 1972.
The name of the line comes from its first permanent southern terminus; Victoria, but a lot of other names were considered during planning including Viking (Victoria to Kings Cross) and Walvic (Walthamstow to Victoria). Personally, I think “Victoria” is a good choice.
If you look at a tube map, the Victoria line appears just like any other line, differentiated only by its line colour. Yet there is one key difference that sets it apart from the other lines and this makes it such a vital part of London’s transport infrastructure; the Victoria line is fast !
The line was constructed to enable the trains to accelerate from stations quicker and to travel between them at higher speeds. The distance between stations is usually longer too. The line was also constructed with several cross-platform interchanges with other pre-existing lines. These connections help to speed up end-to-end journeys across the system even more.
The Victoria Line was also the world’s first major driverless railway. There are staff to supervise the doors, but the trains are automatically controlled and they have been since 1968. This automation enables the line to have the most frequent service on the underground, with trains every 90 seconds.
But not so pretty
If the Victoria Line has one flaw though, it is that it lacks the aesthetic beauty of many of the earlier and later Underground Lines. It was built in the 1960s when budget constraints for London transport meant that corridors and platforms were built to slightly smaller dimensions and decoration was not prioritised.
The stations were finished in a rather austere two tone grey tiling. They lacked any of the beauty of earlier Art Deco stations of the 1930s or the splendour of the later Jubilee extension stations of the 1990s.
The platforms do have one redeeming feature though. In order to break up the monotonous grey and also to aid passengers in knowing they had arrived at the correct station, London Transport commissioned a series of themed tiled murals for each stop. The murals are repeated 3 or 4 times along each platform. They have quite a following and there are even sites on the internet that feature and explain them all.