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London Underground: Secrets From The Backstory

Ten things you probably didn't know about your morning commute

Written by . Published on October 26th 2011.


London Underground: Secrets From The Backstory

FOR some, a trip on the London Underground is nothing but a menial journey connecting you from home to work and friends. A journey in which you’re wedged into a rectangular-shaped, carriage like tinned sardines, with the odorous smell of London’s workforce lingering around you like an invisible, malevolent rash. But for some, beyond this unflattering exterior lies a fascinating history of development, closure, war, entrepreneurial construction and political intervention. What you’re about to read is an insight into the history of the London Underground using ten facts that you might not have come across before:

1)     The London Underground has a total length of over 400 miles (the distance from London to Glasgow), of which only half is actually underground. This is due to the fact that in the ’30s and ’40s much of the London Underground network extended to the branch lines of the mainland railway.

2)     The busiest line on the underground is the District Line carrying over 180 million journeys a year on its 40 mile length. However, the Victoria Line is, essentially, the busiest as it carries around 175 million journeys a year on its 13.25 mile length.

3)     There are two types of lines; deep level lines (Victoria, Northern, Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Bakerloo Line) and cut and cover lines (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City and District). The former involved digging very deep underground and the latter digging beneath the path of a main road with the road being re-laid on top of the tunnel afterwards.

4)     The Tower Subway was London’s first underground railway ever to be built in 1870, between the two banks of the Thames but was an immediate flop due to a shortage in funding, closing three months after its inception.  The tunnel was then used as a foot tunnel, but with the completion of Tower Bridge in 1894 which ran parallel to the tunnel a few hundred metres away, the subway closed permanently to the public and is now used as a conduit for water mains pipes and also for the transmission for computer networks across the Thames.

5)     There are 40 abandoned stations, or, ghost stations, on the London Underground network. Stations that once existed, but now remain completely redundant. One of these was South Kentish Town on the Northern Line. The stop was closed in 1924 due to its close proximity to the nearby Kentish and Camden Town. A short story was inspired by someone who accidentally got off the train at the derelict station. He managed to get back on the carriage before it set off but was so affected by the saga that he wrote a story about someone who got stranded at the station for four days. The character escaped by lighting up scrunched up advertisement posters to gain the attention of drivers passing by.

6)     Many people tend to refer to the whole of the London Underground as the tube. However, historically and officially the tube only denotes deep level lines like the Northern Line. Lines such as the Metropolitan Line were labelled as ‘other’ in a 1929 map of London.

1929 Railway Map1929 Railway Map

7)     Green Park, on the Piccadilly Line, used to be named Dover Street when it was first opened in 1907. However, it was soon closed due to low usage and remained derelict until the Second World War. Winston Churchill reportedly nicknamed it ‘The Burrow’ – a fond description for a location himself and the War Time Cabinet used as a bomb shelter when the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall were full. Churchill liked the serene quiet the station provided.

8)     After the closure of British Museum station on the Central Line in 1933, a national newspaper offered a cash sum to anyone willing to spend a night in the abandoned station as it was supposedly haunted. No one took up the offer.

9)     Contrary to popular belief, Walford East, the tube stop of our beloved soap Eastenders, is, dare I say it, purely fictional. Officially, Walford East is on the District Line between West Ham and Bow Road Station, replacing Bromley-by-Bow. The fictitious stop is equipped with barriers, train times etc provided for by Transport for London. Outside of Eastenders, the stop is used as storage for lights, cables and other filming equipment.

10)  The highest point on the London Underground is at Amersham on the Metropolitan line reaching 500 feet above sea level. The deepest point on the network is on the Northern Line below Hampstead at 220 feet below the ground.     

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AnonymousOctober 28th 2011.

Green Park used to be called Dover Street, not Down Street. Down Street is a completely separate station that was between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.

Joshua LearnerOctober 30th 2011.

Anon, well spotted, you're right (after consulting my details) Would you like my job?

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