London Underground at 150

underground logo2

Special note: it wasn’t until after I’d finished writing up everything that I looked into exactly when the Underground began operations and discovered this post is a bit late. The anniversary/birthday was in 2013. I decided to leave things as they are with this note added. My apologies!!!

Unfortunately, I live in a city which has no underground to speak of; even our houses have no basements. This is because digging down to the required depth for either a subway or a basement would be met with standing water. I live in New Orleans and a good portion of the city is built on swampy land. That’s also why we do not bury our loved ones in the ground, but that’s another story. 🙂

While I have been on the subway in Washington D.C. and ridden on part of the BART in California which goes under the bay, I’ve not had the privilege of riding the famous London Underground. In fact, I’ve never even been to London.

(cue the horrified gasps)

I’ve been to England three times, but never once anywhere near London. Perhaps sometime in the future I will once again visit the land I love and travel to London just to ride the Underground.

Although the famous phrase “Mind the Gap” is seen at train stations around the country, the warning to passengers originated with the Underground and started in 1968.

I managed to scrounge up some mighty interesting trivia about the Underground:

  1. 1. Over 1,000 bodies lie beneath Aldgate station. It was built over a plague pit. (I can’t help but wonder if it’s haunted…)
  2. There is a ghost station between Tottenham Court Road and Holburn. It’s called British Museum and hasn’t been used since 1932.
  3. Another ghost station – Down Street – was used as a World War 2 bunker by Winston Churchill until the cabinet war rooms were built.
  4. A third ghost station lies between Hampstead and Golders Green on the Northern Line. It was due to be called North End, but never opened.
  5. Victoria Line was originally going to be called the Viking Line.
  6. In 2001, the Underground introduced a fragrance called ‘Madeline’ to three stations. It was discontinued the next day, after passengers complained of feeling ill.
  7. It was from an underground shelter in Goodge Street station that General Eisenhower broadcast the announcement of the invasion of France on the 6th of June 1944.
  8. When the Circle line opened in 1884, the Times described it as ‘a form of mild torture, which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it’.
  9. Things left behind on the Underground include: a samurai sword, a stuffed puffer fish, a human skull and a coffin
  10. The Tube travels 43 million miles every 12 months. That’s almost half way to the sun.
  11. The Russian word for railway station is вокзал (vokzal). The inspiration supposedly comes from a 19th century visit by a Russian delegation to the newly-built Vauxhall station.
  12. Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch to take the tube. She rode on the Victoria Line for its opening in 1969.
  13. One of the first passengers on the Central Line was Mark Twain, in 1900.
  14. Harry Beck, who designed the Underground map, received just 10 guineas for the design. (this would be about £639.10 in today’s money)
  15. Aldwych Station closed in 1994, and is now used as a film set. The video for the Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ was filmed in one of its tunnels.
  16. During WW2, the British Museum stored its treasures in a branch of the Picadilly line – including the Elgin Marbles.
  17. During WW2, people were discouraged from sleeping on the tube, but later 22,000 bunks were supplied, as well as toilets and food.
  18. During WW2, the Underground helped over 200,000 children to escape London to the countryside and sheltered 177,500 people.
  19. During Christmas 1940, the Underground handed out over 11,000 toys to children sheltering on the platforms.
  20. During WW2, the Central Line housed an aircraft factory, based between Newbury Park and Leytonstone.
  21. Tube carriages originally had no windows and were nicknamed ‘padded cells’.
  22. Deer, bats, snakes, newts and mosquitoes have all been spotted on the Underground network.
  23. In 1909, Selfridges campaigned to change the name of Bond Street Station to ‘Selfridges’. They were unsuccessful.
  24. The Underground scenes for ‘Skyfall’ were filmed at night at Charing Cross station, over several months.
  25. West Ashfield is a fake District line station, mocked up for staff training. It’s based in a building in West Kensington.
  26. On average, 50 people a year kill themselves on the Underground. The peak hour for suicides is 11 AM.
  27. The Northbound Northern Line platform at Embankment station is the only place you can hear the original “Mind the Gap” announcement. The recording was revived after a letter came from the announcer’s window – she wanted to hear his voice again.

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