IMG 0375fi - The Piccadilly Line Extension: Cockfosters 3

The Piccadilly Line Extension: Cockfosters 3

This is the third and final post on Cockfosters station, at the eastern end of the Piccadilly Line, following the series that took us from Finsbury Park through Arnos Grove for the actual anniversary of opening on 19th September 2017, and then further instalments covering Southgate, Oakwood and finally Cockfosters. Here we take a look at the latter station’s main environs including the mini bus station, entrances, roundels, and briefly the depot and its sidings.

First of all we can ask how did Cockfosters get a bus station? The origin of this seems to be a desire by Holden to build upon both sides of Cockfosters Road thus making the new terminus a stupendous one which could not be missed. The original plans show no provision of any sort for bus facilities of any kind other than simple stops right outside the station entrances.

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Main station entrance/bus waiting area. Two flights of stairs lead from here down to the ticket hall

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The substantial subway from the tube station to bus station

Cockfosters Road actually runs through the centre of the terminus complex. Or rather, the station was built around the road itself. To the west side of the road a widened section was provided and next to this a substantial glazed shelter with seats was built. Holden therefore was able to build something that was essentially a small country bus station. It meets the needs of the local area adequately.

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Twin staircases lead from the subway up to the bus station. Notice the homage to country barns etc

At other places on the tube or sub-surface lines such as Morden or Hounslow West, and even at Arnos Grove/Oakwood, the space immediately in front of the station is a dedicated area for buses to pull up and collect passengers. At Cockfosters that space is on both sides of the road. On the opposite side of the road its an extra special designated area with its own building. This is in my view creates something a little more than just a simple bus exchange.

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All weather access from tube to local buses! Cockfosters bus station seen during a downpour.

Clearly the bus station is a delight. Its a fairly standard Holden design increased to much larger proportions, with substantial enhancements. The stairwell has cross plinths and members. These are obviously concrete but in my view they are there to evoke the image of perhaps a country farm or a mill, either of which would have used cross timbers in their lofty roofs. I mentioned that Cockfosters may have given a nod to Friends Meeting House in Hertford, especially the bus station no less.

When the station opened this was countryside. People looking out from the main station building could see the bus station which would aesthetically fit into the countryside beyond because it was designed to be like a building that was from the countryside! Sadly the construction of Metro Point has deflated the visual impact Holden desired.

In terms of the overall London underground system this arrangement is quite unusual, there isn’t anywhere else like it. Holden clearly performed a great number of architectural tricks which I am sure many don’t even notice.

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The waiting area inside the bus shelter

We might think Holden had a special preference for buses and looking after the bus passenger somewhat more so than the tube passenger. Well he did in a way it was part of his remit to make the passenger environment on the tube as comfortable and enjoyable as possible and this extended to the bus and tram services that fed the tube. Without this level of bus passenger comfort and convenience the tube would be seen as impervious to the needs of those who arrived at these stations. And that would be a big loss.

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Night time shot of the southern end of the main bus station building – even comes with a number!

We have seen how Cockfosters main station building was given great architectural styling. Holden extended that styling to the bus station building itself as these pictures show.

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The bus shelter’s plinths, clearly intended to revoke memories of a country barn

Again the country is is reflected in this barn-type atmosphere. The building’s supports and struts really do look like timbers considering they have ‘joints’ but they are in fact concrete.

For the motorist, whom I suspected Holden deemed at the time would be the new king of the road (how things have changed since with people wanting less cars and more public transport) things went a step further. Stations car parks have been provided at his other stations. Here the concept was given extra special treatment. Holden built these unique individual entrances/exists. The one on the north side is like a miniature tube station, no bigger than a small hut. And comes with roundels too!

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Three of Cockfosters’ prominent tube roundels. There are four of these, the other is at the bus station

There is nowhere else on London’s underground system where such instances exist.

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The smallest roundel building in London perhaps?

The original plans for the station included additional entrances with roundels mounted on poles placed on top of these entrances. It seems to me the idea of separate entrances for the car parks seem to have be delineated from the original plans but instead made as miniature versions of the original.

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The southern car park’s station entrance/exit

One major difference to Cockfosters station’s setting these days is there are now three large office blocks, the western one is Metro Point and the southern are Holbrook and Churchwood Houses. These were built in the 1960s as typical open plan offices. These later additions do serve to give the station and the locality considerably more importance, however they have intruded somewhat on the station’s delicate connections with the countryside.

Cockfosters church once could be seen across the fields directly ahead of the main station entrance. Now Metro Point stands in the way and one has to stand by the northern car park entrance to be able to see the church.

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Now you see it! Cockfosters parish church from the side of the station as opposed to the front

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Information for the London Loop – Cockfosters is a popular destination for country rambles

Beyond the platforms is the signal box. Its very much standard fayre like most others found on the tube system. It does have one special thing for me however. My uncle used to work here on night shift a couple of times a month maintaining the box and its equipment, making sure it was all in good working order. As I have explained elsewhere, for many years he was one of LT’s signal engineers. Often he would get one of the last trains to wherever he was allocated and an early one back home to Kings Cross the next morning.

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Cockfosters signal box with Holbrook House behind

Cockfosters depot: I have discussed this in part under Oakwood, however it is sufficient to mention access for trains to the depot from the station is limited due to track rationalisation. Most trains enter service at Oakwood instead.

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1930s cable trunking bridge – usually these are steel

When one approaches Cockfosters by train it will be pretty obvious there has been much track rationalisation in the area. In fact the station area, the nearby depot and stabling sidings were once spread over a much larger area. A number of stabling sidings have been left to nature between the main depot buildings and the rear of gardens on Westpole Avenue, whilst those that existed on the east side of the running tracks have also been abandoned to nature.

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Presumably defunct sign. Just here for prosperity!

There is still a number of signals that are on these now defunct lengths of track, for example the eastern siding still comes complete with indicators and shunt signals. When were these last used? On Europe’s railways every bit of track is used, accessed, maintained and ready to be used. In the UK we just let things become overgrown, abandoned etc. Its so hugely interesting how we treat our railways compared to Europe. Clearly they don’t want to import the ideas we have here!

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Defunct gap indicators, ground signals and trip cocks – oh the excitement of disused rail sidings!

If one looks at some of the tracks that lead into Cockfosters depot it seems some of the original insulators and even conductor rails from the 1930s are still in use! The disused siding on the east side is the most visible example that can be seen from passing trains. I believe there are still sections of this old conductor rail used at Ealing Depot, certainly the old Wood Lane depot had examples along with some from Central London Days too!

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Original 1930s conductor rails with unusual pots. Notice also the twin hole fishplates. Rarities!

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1930s sand drag with merged headboard/buffers

At least this sort of abandonment leaves us curios and oddities related to the past and inadvertently retains a link to the history of railway construction or change. On that very same section of siding there’s an unusual length of conductor rail with extra place holders (or whatever they call these.) It seems this may have been designed to hold wooden rail protectors to prevent workers or staff inadvertently getting electrocuted (some sections of the Southern rail network still have these.) Its not common to see these on the tube – there are examples too at Northfields and Morden depots however its most definitely not employed in the newer tube depots such as Northumberland Park or Stratford Market.

Postscript:

A Daily Mail report for Saturday 2 December 1989 details a series of mishaps and delays, with trains taken out of service. The fire brigade was called out four times to Cockfosters Station during that day too. The paper reports that passengers had become exasperated and were almost mutinious. The paper’s final sentence in the article only sought to add disbelief and incredulity to the whole article: “The last straw: no escalators were working at Cockfosters.”

Escalators? Clearly I’ve failed to cover every single architectural aspect of the station!

Though this is the final installment regarding the stations themselves on the 1932/33 tube extension from Finsbury Park to Cockfosters, there are a couple of other related posts in the pipeline.

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