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Acton Lane Power Station

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Acton Lane Power Station in December 1969.[1]

Acton Lane Power Station was a coal-fired power station near Wembley in west London. The station was located to the south of the Grand Union Canal and west of the Dudding Hill railway line. It was notably used as the filming location for the Atmosphere Processing Plant and Xenomorph Hive in Aliens.[2]


The first station was built by the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company Limited (METESCo) and commissioned in 1899. It was taken over by the London Power Company Limited in 1924. It was one of four stations (the others being Bow, Deptford East and Grove Road, Saint John's Wood) which continued following the formation of the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority in 1925, which resulted in closure of many smaller stations in central London.[3]

The later Acton Lane 'B' station had three concrete cooling towers and dominated the eastern end of North Acton trading estate at Park Royal. Work on this began in 1950, initially for 56 MW.[4] Coal was supplied by rail to sidings from the Midland railway to the north. Other power stations nearby included Neasden and Taylors Lane.

The station closed on October 31, 1983 with a generating capacity of 150 MW.[5] It has since been demolished. A large substation remains on the north bank of the canal.

Film SetEdit

In 1985, the disused power station was used as a filming location for Aliens, where it stood in for the interior of the Hadley's Hope Atmosphere Processing Plant; director James Cameron selected the site because of its appropriately industrial appearance, and because it featured numerous raised catwalks made from metal grates that made it possible to see through the full height of the structure.[2]

After the location was selected, it was discovered that there were significant problems with asbestos in the atmosphere within the building, and as a result the production had to spend a significant sum of money having the entire plant cleared of the substance before filming could begin. After this process was completed, the quality of the atmosphere inside the plant was actually found to be better than that in the sound stages at Pinewood Studios.[2] Despite this, many crew members continued to wear masks as a precaution, wary that traces of the carcinogenic substance may remain.[6] Once the location was cleaned, the interior was sprayed silver to match the futuristic aesthetic Cameron wanted.[7] Another problem encountered at the location surrounded the use of the Colonial Marines's APC; the aircraft tug used as the basis for the APC was initially so heavy that it would have fallen through the floor of the power station and into its basement. Even after a significant amount of weight was removed from the vehicle, the building's floor had to be reinforced to support it.[2]

After filming ceased, the set was essentially abandoned as it was; when the power station was later chosen as a filming location for 1989's Batman, where it stood in for the Axis Chemicals works, the crew discovered most of the Aliens set still intact inside.[2] Indeed, at several points in Batman, elements of the Atmosphere Processing Plant from Aliens are easy to make out, most notably during the shootout inside Axis Chemicals near the beginning of the film. In particular, the stairways that Ripley has to negotiate while searching for Newt are used by Jack Nicholson's character Jack Napier in Batman.





  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Stan Winston, Simon AthertonSuperior Firepower: The Making of 'Aliens' (2003), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
  3. PRE-VESTING UNDERTAKINGS (1882 - 1948), LMA/4278/01 1883 - 2003, National Archives, [1]
  4. New Power Stations,Hansard,1950-11-06,[2]
  5. Mr. Redmond (16 January 1984). "Coal-fired Power Stations". Hansard. Retrieved on 1 September 2009.
  6. Jody Duncan. The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio, p. 88 (2006), Titan Books.
  7. Mark Salisbury. Alien: The Archive, p. 108 (2014), Titan Books.

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