Earl's Court tube station is a London Underground station in Earls Court. The station is located between Earls Court Road and Warwick Road (both A3220). It is on the boundary of Travelcard Zone 1 and Zone 2 and is in both zones.
On the Piccadilly Line the station is between Barons Court and Gloucester Road. It is the major junction of the District Line, with West Brompton, Kensington (Olympia) and West Kensington to the west, High Street Kensington to the north and Gloucester Road to the east.
On 12 April 1869, the Metropolitan District Railway (MDR, now the District Line) opened tracks through Earl's Court as part of a south-westward extension from its station at Gloucester Road to West Brompton where the MDR opened an interchange with the West London Extension Joint Railway (WLEJR, now the West London Line). At its opening, the extension had no intermediate station.
The 1870s was a busy decade for the MDR. On 3 July 1871 the MDR opened a northward link from the West Brompton branch which connected to the Inner Circle (now the Circle Line) south of High Street Kensington. Shortly afterwards, on 30 October 1871, the MDR opened its first station at Earl's Court.
The original station was on the east side of Earls Court Road rather than the west. On 1 February 1872, the MDR opened a northbound branch west of Earl's Court station to the WLEJR which it connected to at Addison Road (now Kensington (Olympia)). From that date the "Outer Circle" service began running over the MDR's tracks. The service was run by the North London Railway (NLR) from its terminus at Broad Street (now demolished) in the City of London via the North London Line to Willesden Junction, then the West London Line to Addison Road and the MDR to Mansion House - at that time the eastern terminus of the MDR.
From 1 August 1872, the "Middle Circle" service also began operations through Earl's Court running from Moorgate along the Metropolitan Railway's (MR's) tracks on the north side of the Inner Circle to Paddington then over the Hammersmith & City Railway (H&CR) track to Latimer Road then, via a now demolished link, to the West London Line to Addison Road and the MDR to Mansion House. The service was operated jointly by the H&CR and the MDR.
On 9 September 1874 another extension was opened which took the MDR west from Earl's Court to West Kensington and Hammersmith. Trains from Earl's Court could then travel via five different routes and the station's efficient operation was central to the MDR's success. Unfortunately, the location of the station close to the eastern junction meant that the original station was congested. A fire on 30 November 1875 damaged the station and a more substantial replacement was built to the west of Earls Court Road. It was opened on 1 February 1878.
On 5 May 1878 The Midland Railway began running a circuitous service known as the "Super Outer Circle" from St Pancras to Earl's Court via Cricklewood and South Acton. It operated over a now disused connection between the NLR and the London & South Western Railway's branch to Richmond (now part of the District Line). The service was not a success and was ended on 30 September 1880.
By the start of the 20th century competition from buses and the new electric trams was eroding passenger numbers and to make itself more competitive the MDR began planning for the electrification of its services. An experimental service was operated for six months in 1900 when electric trains were tested over the section of track between Earl's Court and High Street Kensington. Following protracted negotiations with the MR over the method of electrification to be used the first electrified section of the MDR was opened in 1903. Electric services through Earl's Court were begun on 1 July 1905.
The first decade of the 20th century saw other developments at Earl's Court station. On 30 June 1900 The Middle Circle service was withdrawn east of Earl's Court which became the terminus of the service until 31 January 1905 when the service was cut back again to terminate at Addison Road. On 15 December 1906 The Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (GNP&BR, now the Piccadilly Line) opened between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park serving Earl's Court from platforms in deep tube tunnels constructed beneath the surface station. Unlike at Gloucester Road and South Kensington, other stations served by both the District and Piccadilly Lines, a new building to house the lifts to the deep level platforms was not required. Instead space was provided within the existing station shed and the lifts descended directly to platform level without the need for intermediate stairs below ground.
On 31 December 1908, Earl's Court became the terminus of the Outer Circle service when services east of the station to Mansion House ended. By this date the service was operated by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR, successor to the NLR). It was reduced again in 1912 to a shuttle service operating between Willesden Junction and Earl's Court only.
The lift access was supplemented in 1911 by the London Underground's first escalators. These operated from new passageways beneath the surface platforms down to the GNP&BR platforms. Stories of a one-legged man named "Bumper Harris" travelling all day on the escalator to demonstrate its safety appear to be apocryphal as no evidence of this has been found by the London's Transport Museum. A new station building on Earls Court Road was constructed to a design by Harry Ford in 1915.
The Warwick Road entrance was rebuilt in between 1936 and 1937 in the modern brick and glass style being employed by London Underground at the time .
During World War II, bomb damage to the West London Line caused the closure of the line and the Willesden to Earl's Court shuttle last ran on 2 October 1940. The section to Kensington (Olympia) was reopened on 20 December 1946 but ran only when exhibitions were open at Olympia.
An additional glass rotunda was built on top of the Warwick Court entrance in the 1960s to house the station's operation room.
Between 1986 and 2011, the Kensington (Olympia) service was operated full-time throughout the week, running regardless of whether an exhibition was open. From December 2011 onwards, it reverted to operating only during exhibitions.
In the 1990s additional lifts for the mobility impaired were added from the District Line platforms to a new overbridge which was connected to the high level walkway which joins the two station entrances.
Although it is theoretically possible for a train to be routed from any one of Earl's Court's five adjacent District Line stations to any other, operations are currently simplified by limiting the number of operational routes as follows:
- Kensington (Olympia) to High Street Kensington
- West Brompton to High Street Kensington
- West Brompton to Gloucester Road
- West Kensington to Gloucester Road
Since the early 1950s, the station name has been spelled with an apostrophe on the tube map although the name of the local area is generally spelled without. Prior to the 1950s tube and rail maps show the station name without the apostrophe and on the station buildings the name has variously appeared with and without the apostrophe. Oddly, the name of the local area has always been shown with an apostrophe on Ordnance Survey maps although A-Z and other mapmakers do not use one.