Since it closed to passenger traffic in 1994, Aldwych station has been re-opened on a semi-regular basis: for film crews, for tours of 'lost London' enthusiasts (we've been), or most recently, for a preview of upcoming TfL projects in the ticket office.
But this is surely the most ambitious project yet. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, the station has been dressed the way it was in 1940, and for one weekend only, it opens for WW2-themed tours accompanied by actors playing period characters. Sadly, tickets for the event have sold out. If you managed to get one, then it's probably worth skipping this post and letting the experience be a surprise. But if you didn't, here's what you're missing.
London Transport Museum, who've organised the event, have gone all-out in recreating the look and feel of 1940s London. Contemporary posters adorn the ticket hall, and as we enter the station, an ARP warden is out to tell us what we can expect once we're below. Suddenly, the air raid siren is sounding, and we're being ushered down the steps to platform level.
Reaching the bottom, we're given a stiff talking to by a matronly Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) cadet, before being taken onto the platform, where London Underground's 1938-built Northern line train (which we've travelled on before) is waiting at the platform. Boarding the train, we meet and greet a few more characters, before suddenly the tunnel is filled with the deafening sound of the air raid siren and the rumble of bombs falling above.
London Transport Museum has clearly gone to a lot of effort for this event, and they've been rewarded by the popularity — tickets were swiftly snapped up when they went on sale last month. Hopefully the success will inspire TfL to open up more of London's hidden pieces of transport infrastructure in the future. In the meantime, we recommend a visit to the Museum's current show. Under Attack: London, Coventry, Dresden, which runs until 31st March 2011.