The 'secret' railway station beneath Leeds's modern platforms

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Leeds Station - one of the busiest in the country and a hub of the national rail network.

It's well known that the modern station was built on a series of arches spanning the River Aire. But did you know that the remains of a much earlier station are hidden underneath it?

Competition between Victorian railway companies meant that there were at one time two adjacent terminuses - the Wellington Station site, which opened permanently in 1850, and New Station, which was built in 1869. There was also a third site, Central Station, which was on Wellington Street.

Wellington and New were amalgamated in 1938 to form Leeds City Station, and Central remained separate until the 1960s, when it shut and was demolished.

Wellington was used for goods traffic, and during the 1960s was referred to as City North.

The original platforms, tunnels and offices - dating from the days when passengers would access trains via subways which ran under the lines - are still intact, 80 yards below the surface of the modern station, and are managed by Network Rail. The vaults were built at various times - New Station's tunnels were designed to link up with the existing Wellington network to form a vast labyrinth.

At one point, the tunnels were used as storerooms for local manufacturers. In 1892, a fire broke out in one, which was being used to store the raw materials used to make soap.The fierce blaze caused some of the supports beneath the platforms to collapse. Wagons caught alight and were shunted into the crater to prevent the fire spreading further.

Some of the rooms, which were also used for mail storage, were in use until the 1990s, but were abandoned when the station was remodelled and stairways replaced subways in 2002.

At one time, there was an accounts department, toilets and showers, a postroom and an area for staff to clock in.

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