Light at the end of the tunnel with Subway exhibition

An exhibition to celebrate one of the area’s truly hidden gems, the Crystal Palace Subway, will open this weekend, marking the 60th anniversary since the closure of the high-level station it once served.

This weekend offers a rare chance to view the extraordinary Victorian architecture of the Crystal Palace Subway

This weekend offers a rare chance to view the extraordinary Victorian architecture of the Crystal Palace Subway

And there is also guided walk along some of the railway route which once served the station, as part of the 2014 Open House weekend.

“Inspired by the Subway” is a multimedia exhibition documenting the history of the stunning pedestrian subway which provided first-class passengers a route from the high-level station directly to the central transept of the vast Crystal Palace. The exhibition is being held on September 20 and 21 at the Concert Bowl in Crystal Palace Park (from 10am to 3pm each day).

The Crystal Palace itself burned down in 1936, but the high-level station (called that to distinguish it from the low-level station, which still operates Crystal Palace rail services today at the bottom of Anerley Hill), continued to operate at the top of Sydenham Hill until 1954.

The subway beneath Crystal Palace Parade was opened in 1865. The subway is a Grade II listed structure and is one of the last surviving elements of the Paxton-designed Palace, which was was originally used for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, before being dismantled and re-assembled in Sydenham.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, volunteers have conducted detailed history research on the subject of the Subway, producing short film clips, some of which are being used in the exhibition.

On the concert platform alongside the art exhibition, Southwark Model Railway Club’s model of the steam engine that pulled the last train will be running on their impressive 32ft model of the station and tracks at the Inspired by the Subway exhibition.

Construction of this 00 gauge model began in 1986 and has undergone redesign and improvements over the years.

Entry to the exhibition is free of charge and has full disabled access.

On Saturday (September 20) there will be the chance to walk the path of the Crystal Palace high-level railway. Meet at 10,10am for a 10.30am start from Nunhead Station. The walk will head through Brenchley Gardens to the Horniman Museum for a lunch break.

The walk will then head to Cox’s Walk, Sydenham Hill Wood, over Sydenham Hill to the Hillcrest Estate woodland (the Lewisham side of the Crescent Wood Tunnel) and on along the Green Chain to Crystal Palace Park for approximately 3.30pm – where the exhibit and railway model will be kept open, and tea will be available for the walkers.

Daniel Greenwood, conservation project officer with Sydenham Hill Wood for the London Wildlife Trust says: “We aim to underline how nature has reclaimed the old railway line (some of which was ancient woodland and mainly open land) with a string of thriving nature reserves and green spaces, as well as social housing.”

Walkers need to bring a packed lunch, to wear footwear suitable for a five or six-mile walk and clothing suitable for the conditions on the day. The walk, led by London Wildlife Trust’s Mathew Frith, is free, but donations are welcome.

  • For more information on the subway and the Inspired by the Subway project, visit or follow on Twitter @cpsubway

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