Marvelling at the dedication of enthusiasts

Our human response to the dedication of enthusiasts to a subject, no matter how obscure, is to marvel, and admire. Occasionally, this response is ‘wow’, when the dedication is to a subject is way out of normal mainstream enthusiasms. It is a ‘wow’ response that I would like to tell you about.

I’ve mentioned HERE the 43rd series of Industrial Archaeology Lectures by the Surrey Industrial History Group. To date, I’ve attended the first and second lectures in the series, on Brunel, Scott Russell and the Great Eastern, and London Underground’s Edwardian Tile Patterns.

Douglas Rose, London Historian and information designer, gave the lecture on London Underground Edwardian tile patterns. Douglas began collecting details of station Edwardian tile patterns in the early 1980’s. In the mid 1980’s London Underground began a programme of station modernisation to keep pace with the increase in passenger numbers. New ticket barriers were added as were structural changes, in some cases, to fit escalators. These changes involved the removal of the old tiles, to be replaced by new tiles and new tile pattern designs. Douglas couldn’t have found a better time to begin his mammoth project.

To faithfully record the Edwardian tile patterns, running to around 300 feet of station platforms, Douglas evolved a way of capturing the patterns onto a survey grid. The tile patterns varied by station, and within a station the pattern was affected by passageways and equipment boxes. See below [click on image to expand] the survey form used by Douglas and his team of fellow enthusiast recorders.

Listening to Douglas talk about having often to remove grime, paint and posters to uncover the tile patterns, and all at night when the Underground power was switched off, increased my admiration of his efforts. One might even say his, and his team’s devotion, is heroic.

Douglas has been generous in allowing me to post some of his images, see below [click on image to expand]. These are Douglas’ words about the images.

The images are all from Regents Park. The top photograph is from inside an equipment room in the shield chamber on the northbound platform at the left-hand end. This gives a flavour of the difficulty of getting to much of the original tiling, being in a locked small room and with equipment fixed in the way. The second photo is of a pattern panel showing obscuring posters. The bottom photo is of a name panel and is of the earlier and heavier style used only on the Bakerloo stations. The realisation is of panels 1, 2 and 3 at the left-hand end of the northbound, showing a small section of the eventual realisation – there were 16 panels along the full length of the 292 ft platform (which was extended to about 350 ft much later on to take longer trains.

The project involved 2,000,000 tiles on over 90 platforms and after 26 years; truly a marvel at the dedication.