When A Tube Train Full Of Passengers Was Abandoned In The Tunnel

When A Tube Train Full Of Passengers Was Abandoned In The Tunnel

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A red tube train in a tunnel
Image: IAN RORY via creative commons

It's the stuff of nightmares.

You're rumbling along in a tube train late at night, when suddenly it comes to a jarring halt, the lights are cut, and you realise you've been forgotten about. This happened to one group of passengers back in 1926.

As midnight approached on 13 June, a Camden Town train bound for Hendon stopped just before Chalk Farm station. The lights went out, and no announcement was made. "The hour was late and the 50 prisoners began to grow uneasy," reported the Manchester Evening News. "They were a forgotten cargo," wrote the Daily News. They'd been, as the London Daily Chronicle put it, "left helpless in the labyrinth of London's Tube network".

What had happened? The stationmaster at Chalk Farm had assumed that the last train of the night had already passed through the station, and switched off the current. Simple as that. This was in the days before drivers made announcements over a tannoy, so the passengers were (quite literally) kept in the dark. What followed must have been the longest half-hour they ever endured, but finally the train — having been discovered by men working in the tunnels — started into life again, and rumbled into Chalk Farm, which must've been a sight for sore eyes.

People have occasionally been forgotten about by London Underground staff on other occaions: in 1971, for example, a group of passengers alighted from the last train to discover a totally empty Maida Vale station. It'd been locked up for the night.

Researched on the brilliant British Newspaper Archive.

Last Updated 06 December 2023

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