Did you know that Victoria Station has a beach? Can you find the Chicago Stairs or Sparrows Corner? Where is the Royal Entrance? And where can you find a different kind of throne — a bricked-up toilet, abandoned since the 1990s?
A while back, we were given a tour of Victoria Station’s vast roof. You can too this September, when it opens to members of the public for the first time. You can enter the ballot right now via Network Rail’s website.
In the meantime, we’ve been exploring other bits of the station that are normally off-limits (and will remain so during Open House). Click through the gallery to discover forgotten canals, disused catacombs and that old, abandoned toilet.
The secret geography of Victoria Station
Workers at Victoria Station have nicknames for just about every section.
The Beach. This is the currently closed-off area in front of the station where London Underground is constructing a new concourse. The name supposedly originates from the area being on the edge of the water of Pimlico Wharf/Grosvenor canal, while the ground material in this area was unusually sandy.
The Chicago stairs. A private staircase to the north-east of the station, thought to be named after the surfeit of Americans who once worked in the adjacent bank.
The Jungle Stairs (old historic name not in use). Near the current McDonald’s. These led to a large boiler room that had to be sealed off due to asbestos and other safety concerns. A photo of the ancient equipment is included in the gallery above. It gave off so much heat that the staircase was given its tropical nickname.
Sparrows Corner. The concourse serving Platforms 15-19. Nobody knows the origins of this one.
Picnic Area. This is the area adjacent to Platform 7 in front of Left Luggage.
Royal Waiting Room. Despite the grandiose name, this is now just a set of retail stock rooms. Originally, this is where the Royal Family would enter the station. You can see the outside entrance to this on Hudson’s Place – it is the entrance with the columns to either side (see gallery).
Pugs Hole. This is the area of the station right at the end of Platform 19, including a car park and some outlying track/signal maintenance buildings. Originally, this was a far more extensive area containing turntables, a signal box and sidings. A ‘pug’ was a nickname for an old type of train engine used in the area.
Chatham boiler house. An old basement boiler room underneath the main office building. The eastern part of the station (opened 1862) originally served the London, Chatham & Dover Railway, and the name lingers on in this boiler room.