Film: 7590

London | 1940 | Sound | B/W


The London Underground in the 1940's
St. Paul's Cathedral stand in the middle of the bombed City during World WarTwo. The Emblem of London Transport appears across this view. Then, as a train sweeps by, credits. A record of the opening of the Eastern Extension of London Transport's Central Line from Wanstead to Newbury Park.

The camera closely follows a railway line. Above it appear the names of the new Central Line stations opened shortly after the Second World War, each encased in its London Transport logo: Bethnal Green, Mile End, Stratford, Leyton, Leystonstone (in the East) and Hanger Lane, Perivale, Greenford (in the West). A middle-aged man in coat and spectacles reads a speech at a station opening - the Rt. Hon. Alfred J. Barnes, M.P., then Minister of Transport. He declares open the Newbury Park and Woodford extension of the Central Line. He inserts a key into a hole and 'Golden Gates' at the head of the railway line open up. There a train marked 'To Newbury Park' moves away, Around the keyhole a sign reads: 'Opening of the Line from Leystone to Newbury Park 12th December 1947'. The next sequence illustrates the problems and pressures on transport and railways that accentuated the extension of the line. Crowds in the 1930's wait on a very crowded platform. They are waiting for the Eastern railways and LNER trains of the time - then the 'most extensive network of suburban services ever known' (voice-over). A steam train pulls into the station as the packed crowd waits. As the steam train departs an 'electric train' runs alongside - a temporary solution to alleviating overcrowding, 'no more than a breathing space'. Workmen toil with picks and shovels to service the railway line as the voice-over explains the inadequacy of existing services to meet the demand. As he speaks another trains rushes past. When it is gone, pre-war semi-detached houses appear by the railway line.

The camera tracks a large estate of similar houses to show the rapid build-up of the area shortly before the war causing vast pressure on the railway system. Outside a suburban station a queue spills on to the pavement. In an office committee room a group of suited men meet to discuss the situation. It is 1935. The grey-haired chairman of the meeting rises from his chair and points at a large map on the wall. The map shows the routes of the planned extensions of the Central Line to the East and to the West. A station of the period in Arnos Grove style comes on screen. Another train sweeps by; superimposed; tickets are clipped and money changes hands at a ticket office. Advertisements for Bovril, clothes, opticians line an escalator. A controller presses the button to close the doors of a train. This is all intended to convey the hustle and bustle of a dynamic up-to-date railway system. A map of the Eastern extension to the Central Line appears - with two separate branches to Woodford and Newsbury Park. The former required electrification of existing LNER line, the latter the building of a completely new line, some of it in tube. The camera moves through a section of new tube tunnel. But construction was interrupted by the war and the tunnels were converted into 'a huge secret underground arsenal'. A couple of stills show women and men working there under the supervision of firemen. Then women work with hammers, a man uses a lathe, machinery twists round and round and man bashes at a panel with a hammer. Another machine pours out finished ammunition. The scene moves to an office post-war where draughtsmen work on the plans for the new line. On site a bulldozer pushes through mounds of earth. Construction work goes on with cranes lifting concrete, workmen digging, engineers studying plans. A cement mixer whirls around. An engineer peers through a theodolite. A bricklayer is at work. Other workmen hammer away on the electrification poles. Still others dig away on a platform. In the tunnels men work at fitting fireproof panels. The camera descends the fireproof panels. The camera descends the new empty escalator at Wanstead, one of the longest yet built, as far as the entry to the platforms. At Gants Hill the underground concourse 'enables passengers to enter the platforms along the whole of their length' (rather a nice shot of a gleaming, empty, new station). Out in the open new-style ('revolutionary') continuously welded. Rails are shown sliding into position. At a separate works a new carriage is being rolled through a factory yard. A gantry moves wheels along for fixing to its shells. Much additional rolling stock was required for the busier extended railway. Long rows of wheels are stored under cover at London Transport's Action works.

Welder work with another metal in its industrial furnaces. They handle a red hot slab with trugs. Having manoeuvred it into position, an automatic pump hammers up and down at the metal. Other men work at beaches on engine parts - servicing, overhauling, reconditioning. A carriage is cleaned and repainted, inside and out. A man using a screwdriver works on its electric cabling. A welder in goggles lights a gas flame and does soldering work on a metal panel. Various pieces of machinery move about in the works as an engineer turns a handle. All this is meant to suggest the great pressure of work which the Action depot faced in meeting the needs, as well as the 'unceasing flow of normal activity'. The sequence ends with a wild spray of fiery sparks issuing from a welder's blowtorch. A train enters one of the newly opened underground stations. The footsteps of the passengers move through the exit. Superimposed signs read: 'Central Line Platforms 1 & 2' and 'Way Out'. The rain rattles away into the tunnel, past contemporary advertisement. The camera focuses downwards on the railway line (as it did at the beginning). The names of the new stations on the extended line came up over it: Wanstead, Snaresbrook, South Woodford, Woodford, Redbridge, Gants Hill and Newbury Park.

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