Camden Goods Depot Western Horse Tunnels - LON - July 2011

We first visited the Camden Catacombs back in 2009 when we punted our little boat up Dead Dog Hole to have a look around the "Catacombs" and horse tunnels under the old Interchange warehouses off Oval Road. I use speech marks here because whether they are catacombs or not really depends on your point of view. If you happen to be standing on the canal tow path you would be tempted to think of them as the "Camden Basements" as they are, in fact, level with the canal. If you wanted to you could even peer in through the grills in the wall to view them for yourself, but you might need to stand on something. Or someone.

Anyway, after we had navigated the Camden Catacombs I did a little bit more research on the area and found that there were another set of horse tunnels further to the West of the Catacombs. These tunnels were used to move the horses used in the goods yards between Allsops stables and the former goods shed (since demolished and replaced by a Morrison's and housing) under the WCML, but they also had a few other intriguing possibilities. I had been meaning to visit the site for a very long time, years even, but for various reasons it kept getting put off, what with me being a lightweight, half arsed part time explorer, though, having said that, we did try quite a few months back but unfortunately we just didn't get our timing right.

Luckily fate recently smiled on me as I would again be in the area (for reasons other than Urbex) so I though best to grasp this small window of opportunity by the balls and dive in for a quick explore which turned out to be OK in the end as there isn't a vast amount to see. So, after a fortifying drink or two, I'm off, a solo explore, just to make the experience a little more mettre en valeur.

On gaining access, this is about the first interesting thing you see. The view shows the bricked up tunnel that would have led to the demolished warehouse.

This view shows the tunnel that connects to another interesting feature down here. When Euston station was first built, it could only be accessed via a very steep incline. Steam engines in those days where just not beefy enough to be able haul the coaches up this incline so in 1837 the London and Birmingham Railway built a steam powered winding house buried directly under the main line. This used a continuous loop of rope running from Euston to the winding house which would haul the coaches up the incline ready to be "attached and dispatched" on to a waiting steam engine.

Unfortunately this view shows about all that can be seen of the winding house (now Grade II listed) as it is completely flooded. It's hard to know exactly what purpose this part of the winding house was used for but I can tell you that the main line goes directly overhead this tunnel. As can be seen, the flooding comes up to about a foot below the girders and my guess would be that the water is about 5 foot deep. To the right of this view is the winding house itself and it is also possible to see one of the coal vaults, also flooded. I do recall hearing some where that it's pumped out once a year but I could be wrong. It was closed four years later after more powerful engines were introduced with the steam engines being removed and sold on.

Back in the horse tunnels, the view a bit further down, more or less under the WCML.

Performing an about face from the above, this view shows would have been the entrance from Allsops Stables. There were horse stairs that lead down from street level which have long since been demolished. The cables mounted on the frame in the centre of the picture exit from a shaft that leads down to the next interesting feature of this site, the Up Empty Carriage Tunnel.

This is the view back up the shaft that the cables emerge from in the picture above. I haven't been able to find any information on why the shaft was built or what purpose it serves other than as a cable run or perhaps an emergency exit from the tunnel. What it does do though, and does it very well, is lead down to the Up Empty Carriage Tunnel.

This view shows the tunnel heading up towards Primrose Hill. Information on when it was built is a little sketchy though some archive diagrams I have seen would suggest it was some time in the early 1960's, as part of the Railway Modernisation Program. Again, it's a bit of a guess but it seem to have been closed some time during the 1990's re-modelling of the Euston Station throat as superfluous to needs. As it's on the WCML it's curious to note it was never electrified so I guess it was for steam and diesel use only. What I can tell you for sure is that it was known as the Rat Hole and in steam days engine men went to great lengths to ensure a clear run through this tunnel. I can see why, small and cramped, it must have got completely stunk out with engine fumes so you wouldn't want to stall in here. The tunnel was also only authorised to carry empty coaching stock as the limited clearance would not allow the passengers to open the carriage doors in case of an emergency.

It starts from the North of Euston Station, as per the view below where the portal can be just be scene, just a little further on from the Euston Downside Carriage Sidings, and emerges to the North of Primrose Hill where it converges with the NLL. It was used to convey (rather unsurprisingly) empty coaching stock between the Downside Carriage Sheds and Willesden depot. It runs completely underneath the main lines from Euston as a dive under so movements could be made without fouling the main line. I walked some of the length of the tunnel down towards Euston and some back up towards Primrose Hill but I did not see any significant change of features so the last two pictures could really be taken anywhere along it's route. It now seems it's only use is as a cable run. With that it's back up the ladder, out and home.