There’s a lot of hidden history associated with London’s Underground stations.
That includes the ones that we still use today which have many fascinating stories attached to them and the ones that lie disused hidden away in the tunnels, or buried underneath some new building.
But not many stories are as nasty as the one that happened at the original – now abandoned – Swiss Cottage station.
In fact you might say the station never really recovered from the disaster.
READ MORE: The lost London Underground station where you bought your tickets at a cricket ground
Flash back to 1868 and St John’s Wood was the tiny station just opened at the end of the single-track Metropolitan and St John’s Wood railway.
This was a time when the fledgling London Underground was being set up by lots of different and competing companies.
The little station had two platforms made of wood and a signal box and was not far from Baker Street station.
But disaster soon struck. On April 26, 1868, two trains collided head-on at the station. This was the result of a signaller’s error, which caused an arriving train to be mis-routed to the platform where another train stood awaiting departure. Three people were injured.
It showed the difficulties facing the early railways where single tracks were used to save money but could lead to disaster.
But things did recover. The line from here was eventually opened to West Hampstead in 1879 and later Willesden Green.
It was soon taken over by the bigger Metropolitan Railway company and the single-track sections of lines were thankfully doubled.
But the station was clearly not making a lot of money as already in 1914 inspectors were recommending the station master should be removed.
An inspector also complained about the ticket office staff grumbling that they were “not fully conversant with season ticket arrangements”.
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In 1925 railway bosses were already saying the station would need rebuilding as it was in a “very obscure position” and that the entrances needed to be in a more prominent place.
Plans were soon made to replace the existing station with an arcade which would contain shops that could be rented out to generate money for the railway.
In an unusual move a three-storey block of flats was also to be constructed above the station allowing them to be rented out to raise cash. This all shows just how much the early railways needed to generate income.
In an interesting insight into local life at the time, a local grocer began writing letters of complaint to the railway about the noise created by the building of the new station.
The platforms were extended to take the new eight-car trains and the finished new station opened in September 1929.
But the future of the station was not to be a long one.
When a new subway was built linking Swiss Cottage to a new Bakerloo Line station on the other side of Finchley Road, the old Met station was soon being overlooked.
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In August 1940 it was closed in favour of the Bakerloo Line station building and never reopened. This was of course partly due to savings that needed to be made to fund the war efforts.
The arcade at street level remained open and still provided an extra entrance to the Bakerloo Line station but it too was demolished – as so many things were – in the 1960s.
But if you look carefully from passing trains through Swiss cottage you can still see the remains of the two old platforms to this day if you know what to look for.
The full story of this station is told in JE Connor’s excellent book, ‘London’s Disused Underground Stations’.
You can book virtual tours of some of the disused stations with the London Transport Museum here.
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