Regular readers of this blog will know that Ajit Chambers has a quest to try to re-open many of London's disused underground stations. He's been laughed at, told it was logistically impossible, a waste of money, a white elephant, a security nightmare and a 101 other things that people probably said to Tim Berners-Lee when he first tried to explain the idea of a World Wide Web to people.
Chambers has the dogged determination that I admire in people who try to think outside of the box. I like people who take an idea that is actually quite simple (yet others want to complicate) and find a way of making that idea happen. That sort determination takes a lot of late nights, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of knocking on doors, a lot of time scratching your head and thinking "what if?" and just a few willing people to buy into your idea and say "actually that might work if we do this"
This is basically what has happened with Brompton Road. The building is actually owned by the Ministry of Defence. They bought it from London Underground in 1934 when the station was closed to .... err .... lack of interest.
You get a great birds eye view of a Barclays Bike rank too.
We were then gradually taken down to the innards of the station, through stairways literally covered in dust and soot. The fact that the MoD used these underground chambers and rooms for secret stuff made our trip even more fascinating.
Everywhere you looked there were hidden rooms, with scary signs on doors telling you to keep out.
It was like being part of the TV set of Torchwood, or Dr Who or the film set of Tube "horror" films Creep or Death LineakaRaw Meat. There was also a distinct feeling there would be some undiscovered Steampunk geekery at every turn.
I still have no idea what half the rooms were used for, as I was sucking in the atmosphere of being in a hidden underground place that very few other people had stepped in. I had no idea what was ahead of me. I knew that we would be going to the old station platform soon and I knew that there were parts of Brompton Road where you could see Piccadilly Line trains running between South Kensington and Knightsbridge stations.
The closer to platform level we got the signs became less scary and more London Underground related. But many were still covered in thick soot. When we finally got to the part of station where the trains ran beneath our feet, we could feel the rush of air, the approaching rumble, the smell and heat from the trains.
At platform level we saw the familiar tiles still seen at some London Underground stations on the Piccadilly Line, except here they were covered in soot and dust.
It really is impossible to give a real sense of the tour in words and pictures alone. I've been on tours of underground caves in the French Pyrenees, in the Greek islands, in Bali and closer to home, tours of the Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole Caves. They all have that sense of stepping into the unknown, of slight claustrophobia, of worrying what you might bump into next and of sheer amazement and enjoyment. This was no different except it was only a short Tube ride from where I live.
I tried to use as little flash as possible when taking these pictures, to give you a feel of the darkness and mystery. Chambers and the Ministry of Defence are working together to open the venue for public tours before the Olympics and I imagine it will be a roaring success. I for one, will be up for doing it again.
The BBC were filming some of the tour while we were there and it was BBC London News on 7th September - you can view the video on the BBC's page on Brompton Road.
Thanks so much to Ajit for inviting me to this amazing tour and I wish him the best of luck with explaining the concept to Boris Johnson tomorrow. Watch this space to see whether he gets given the go ahead to for the re-opening of stations actually owned by London Underground themselves.