GLC Subways and Vaults  - LON - 2010


Running just below the London streets there are a collection of non-connected service tunnels built mostly by the Victorians so as to avoid having to dig up the road at a later date. They carry gas and electricity and are often no more than half a mile long. Most of the original gas pipes are still in situ (a testimony to Victorian engineering) but the electric cables have long since been updated and the more recent additions of the ubiquitous comms cables bring us right up to date.


Set One.


At the start of the run.



View down tunnel.



Opposite direction.



About half way down the run there is an elevated section that bridges the railway beneath.



On the elevated section.



Further on.



End of the run. The entrance to the right leads to...



... a stairway up to the surface.



Off the main tunnel is a single branch on a gently downward sloping curve. This is the view at the start of the run. There were quite a few of the mystery cylinder things in the bottom right of the picture dotted about.



A bit further down.



About half way along the branch, the tunnels have to be elevated to pass over another railway line with the line being just beyond the dead end. The roof has changed to steel as we are much closer to road level.



Just before the elevated section.



In the elevated section.



The view from the other side.



End of the line.



Set two.


At the start, a more modern section.




Which joins onto the Victorian section.



The view back to the modern section.



Then, turning through 180 degrees, the tunnels split in three.



Heading of to the tunnels to the right in the picture above, a long part of the run in darkness.



Things start to get busier, with cables joining.



Some of the access manholes.



A third mains pipe joins.



Light at the end of the tunnel.



Things start to get less busy towards the far end of the tunnels.



With more cables leaving the system.



At the very end of the run, a ladder.



Leads to an entrance door, locked.





Back at the start of the run, the junction to the right leads to another set of more modern tunnels.



The rest of which will remain for another time.



Set Three. More of the same really just some where else.














Set Four.


Once yer in, here are the four tunnels leading off N, S, E and W...with one behind the camera.



Heading West you eventually get to this intersection, where the brick lined tunnel carries on for a short section above to a dead end, to what looks like a later addition, a "dive under" section, dropping away from the original tunnel.



There is a slight kink toward the right, noticeable in the steps, and the construction of the tunnel changes to lined cast iron. Strangely the support structure for the cables in made from scaffolding and isn't even really fixed to the walls or floor. Once your down the steps you enter a low level section.



This whole sections goes around in a circle but in the shape of a square with varying levels as it goes up or down to avoid other subterranean obstructions. As far as I can tell anyway the square encompasses what would be Piccadilly Circus above.


I'm not sure what the black shit all over the pipes is but it looked like quite a recent addition. It was very fresh, almost like anti-climb paint, but who would want to climb them? At each corner of the "square" there is access to the surface, either by a set of stairs...


...or by these rather beautiful, almost architectural vent shafts.



You could spend hours down here taking snaps, eventually disappearing up your own f stopped rectum...



Anyway, once yer done with that part it's time to schlep it all the way back up to the Leicester Square area and sample the heady delights therein. It's much the same thing, a dive-under section carved out from the floor of the surface tunnel down to a deep level section, much deeper than the first part, some areas reaching down to tube level. It's also the far more visually appealing cast iron construction.


It is quite difficult to get your head around the maze of tunnels that make up this area but they seem to be on a sort of split level, with the first tunnel running under Charing Cross Road.



The cable support structure here seems much more robust than the section under Piccadilly Circus. But that's not to say water ingress hasn't rusted sections of it ta fuck. As you enter the section there is a short tunnel, complete with some kind of water valve...


...that leads to this incredibly deep sump shaft. By now I didn't know if I was looking left ways, right ways, upside ways or downside ways...



Then there is another short tunnel leading down to a similar set of tunnels to the ones below Shaftsbury Avenue that run under Cranbourn Street.




Now the really weird thing that I had a lot of trouble with is that the two sets of tunnels some how manage to intersect each other. Man I loved this bit of it so much I thought I would lay a stride of dogs eggs in my pants! The only down side is that it was quite hard to get a picture that sort of shows how it works as there were so many cables, pipes 'n' shit in the way. Anyway, here is the view from above.



You can see the tunnel below, note how the red ring main cable drops down into it. Then you've got the view looking back up...


You can see the walkway I took the first picture from with the same cable dropping away to the right. How cool is that? And finally, each end of the Cranbourn Street section had a set of steps that leading up the the surface, with plenty of water to slip up on...