Though we take it for granted, and frequently curse it to high heaven, the London Underground is a real wonder. Yes, signal failures cause delays at the most inopportune times, we are sometimes packed in like sardines, stuck in tunnels – but, the Underground is indeed a working man-made miracle. The Tube network is the oldest and longest underground railway system serving a major city. Its history goes back to 1863, its conception even earlier. The Tube has driven engineering developments and creative design, and has featured in countless books, songs, films and poems. The Underground has been the site of births and deaths, and bombs planted by everyone from pre-war anarchists to suffragettes, the IRA to the Islamist suicide bombers of 2005. Yet this venerable railway system keeps going, keeps growing and keeps enabling more than one billion Londoners a year to make their daily commute.
While I am unashamedly obsessed with motion photography, what strikes me most at almost every station is the design deep in the bowels of London. From Canary Wharf to Southwark to Green Park, and well beyond, the creative design of London’s Underground stations inspires me, and sparks my imagination. It really is a must for an architectural detective, and there are nineteenth- and twentieth-century survivals everywhere, with arcaded embankments, cast iron columns, wooden platform canopies throughout the system.
At Baker Street, the Edwardian panelling is as good as in an ocean liner.; at Coven Garden glazed brick arches the color of toffee and canary yellow bands. They are della Robbia blue at Knightsbridge. Piccadilly Circus has a complete art deco feel, and circular. Tottenham Court Road is busily graced with mosaic murals by Eduardo Paolozzi, and at Canary Wharf one can find the remarkable Norman Foster’s beautiful station. And everywhere there is Edward Johnston’s sans serif lettering, the red, white, and blue symbol, and the colored map which is both a work of art and very clear.
Nearly everything needs cleaning, and no doubt a bit of mending, though more times than not we can overlook this on our way through the meandering tunnels. We hear live music, can be pushed or shoved, we mind the gap, and even our step, while making our way through the labyrinth well below the London streets. Volumes of photographs could be included from the twelve lines within the London Underground, but in this edition only the Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo, Piccadilly, District/Circle, Victoria, and Piccadilly are included. Enjoy the ride, and feel free to share your favorite Underground stations at any time.
BASIC UNDERGROUND FACTS
Number of miles/km traveled by each Tube train each year: 114,500 miles/184,269km
Total number of passengers carried each year: 1,107,000,000
The London Underground has 402km (249 miles) of track, making it the second largest metro system in the world in terms of route length, after the Shanghai Metro.
Average train speed: 33km per hour / 20.5 miles per hour
Proportion of the network that is in tunnels : 45 per cent
Longest continuous tunnel: East Finchley to Morden (via Bank) 27.8km / 17.25 miles
Total number of escalators throughout the network: 426
Station with the most escalators: Waterloo 23
Longest escalator: Angel – 60m/197 feet, with a vertical rise of 27.5m / 90 ft
Shortest escalator : Stratford, with a vertical rise of 4.1 m
Total number of lifts (elevators), including for stair lifts: 164
Four passenger moving conveyors: two at Waterloo, and two at Bank
Shortest lift shank: King’s Cross – 2.3m / 7.5 ft
Carriages in London Underground’s fleet: 4,134
Total number of stations served: 270
Total number of stations managed: 260
Total number of staff: approximately 19,000
Station with the most platforms: Baker Street – 10
Busiest stations: Morning peak – Waterloo with 57,000 people entering
Per year – Waterloo with 82 million passengers
The Underground name first appeared on stations in 1908
London Underground has been known as the Tube since 1890, when the first deep-level electric railway line was opened
The Tube’s world-famous logo, “the roundel” (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar), first appeared in 1908
An Average of 2.7 million tube journeys are made on the tube daily.
The deepest lift (elevator) shaft is at Hampstead on the Northern Line, and is 55.2m deep.
There are two tube station names that contain all 5 vowels – “Mansion House,” and South Ealing.
The oldest tube line in the world is the Metropolitan line, which opened on 10 January 1863.
The first escalator was introduced at Earls Court in 1911.
The shortest escalator on the tube system, with only 50 steps, is at Chancery Lane.
Almost 60% of the London Underground is actually above the ground, and not underground.
Only 29 stations are south of the river Thames, out of 287.
Edward Johnston designed the font for the London Underground in 1916, and it is still in use today.
Harry Beck designed the tube map in 1933, and was paid only five guineas for the job. His design still forms the basis of today’s tube map.
Each of the 400+ escalators do the equivalent of two round-trips around the world in kilometres every week.
Angel station has the third longest escalator in Western Europe, with a vertical rise of 27.5 meters (90 ft), and a length of 60 meters ( 197 ft ), which takes 80 seconds to carry passengers up, or down. It has a massive 318 steps.
Bank Station has the most escalators of any Tube station, with fifteen escalators, and two moving walkways.
Few stations do not have buildings above ground – these include Regent’s Park, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, and Bank.
The air in the underground is, on average, 10C degrees hotter than the air at street level.
The Jubilee Line was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, but did not open until two years later, but serves stations which originally opened over 100 years ago.
The District Line serves sixty different stations; Piccadilly Line serves fifty-two; and the Northern and Central Lines serve fifty-one and forty-nine stations respectively.
The Piccadilly Line was the first of the deep-level tube lines to be converted to a one-person operation, where the operator drives the train, and controls the operation of the doors. (August 1987)
The Circle Line, which opened in 1884, was described in The Times as “a form of mild torture which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it.”
The London Underground runs 24 hours a day only at New Years, and major events, such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The shortest distance between two adjacent stations is 260 meters ( 0.161 miles ) between Leicester Square, and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line. The journey takes approximately 20 seconds, but costs £4.30.
The phrase “Mind the Gap” originated on the Northern Line in 1968.