When defining the Underground You might list some statistics, You might mention 249 miles of track, or 1.1 billion who ride, You might ride up the 426 escalators, and then back down again, You might stay on one Tube train, traveling 114 thousand miles one year, Might even mention the lifts, totaling 164 in all, or that there are 270 stations served, 260 stations managed, and 19,000 who help you manage When defining London’s Underground, it seems a traveler’s anthem has been a moan, and a groan, and maybe that’s where they are At the oft’ signal failure, it’s true Being packed like sardines at the peak of the day, but when defining London’s Underground, don’t forget to mention nearly 2.7 million journeys each, and every day.
The trains whiz by, and oftentimes screech, they jump, they jolt on many miles of track, but all 4,134 get you to the spot where you wish to be And, yes,
Waterloo is busiest in the a.m. when 57 thou’ hop on, and go, though nearly 82 million use it each year making it the liveliest of the lot. Though the Circle Line is said to be torture going slowly round, and round, The network goes under only 40% while the rest is on top of the ground, And, 29 stations placed south of the Thames, really not very many at all Regent’s Park, Hyde Park Corner, Bank, then Piccadilly have no buildings to mark their spot. The District Line serves sixty stations Piccadilly fifty-two, While the Northern and Central stop at fifty-one and forty-nine, respectively.
50 steps will take you up Chancery Lane for a short journey up the escalator, While a whopping 318 await at Angel for the longest western European glide. The first was at Earls Court in 1911, when a one-legged man took the first step. Bumper Harris taught us to stand right, and let the movers go on the left. 400 plus escalators to ride each, and every week will take you ‘round the world, and that is no small fete Up, down, moving around is what you see all day, Four flat moving conveyors make the walk ever so slight, but only Bank and Waterloo let you take this flight.
The temps are 10C warmer well down below, though buskers may jam to their music making you hum through the tunnels long after passing away.
The Underground name came to be in 1908, yet “Mind the Gap,” could not be heard till the year of ’68. You know the famous “roundel,” more than a hundred years old, and Henry Beck’s famous map is still in use today.
Love it, hate it, or be indifferent all the same, a nuisance, a god-send – whatever it means to you, the Underground is cracking it’s the way London made it be.
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.
The first escalator on the Underground was installed at Earl’s Court in 1911. A one-legged man, “Bumper” Harris, was employed to ride on it and demonstrate its safety. Unlike modern “comb” escalators, the original “shunt” mechanism ended with a diagonal so that the stairway finished sooner for the right foot than for the left.
Anyone not wishing to walk on the escalator was therefore asked to stand to the right to allow others to pass, leading to Britain’s unique flouting of escalator etiquette which dictates in most countries that escalators tend to match the rules of the road.
The first crash on the Tube occurred on the line in 1938 when two trains collided between Waterloo and Charing Cross, injuring 12 passengers.
The inaugural journey of the first Central line train in 1900 had the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain on board. The tunnels beneath the City curve dramatically because they follow its medieval street plan. The Central line also introduced the first flat fare: tuppence.
The tiles at Leicester Square depict film sprockets; Baker Street has Sherlock Holmes, Oval cricketers, while Eduardo Paolozzi’s abstract mosaics at Tottenham Court Road celebrate musical Denmark Street.
The recording of the phrase “Mind the gap” dates from 1968, and is voiced by Peter Lodge, who owned a recording company in Bayswater.
He stepped in apparently when the actor hired to record the lines insisted on royalties. There have been several books, a gameshow, two theatre companies, several films and lots of songs called Mind the Gap.
While Lodge’s recording is still in use, some lines use recordings by Manchester voice artist Emma Clarke, while commuters on the Piccadilly line hear the voice of Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer in The Archers.
On 7 July 2005 a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks during the morning rush hour killed 56 people and injured 700. Three bombs exploded within 50 seconds of each other at Edgware Road, Aldgate and King’s Cross and a fourth exploded an hour later on a bus in Tavistock Square.
Filming takes place in many places in the Underground system, but the most common locations are Aldwych, a disused tube station which was formerly on the Piccadilly Line, as well as at the non-operational Jubilee Line complex in Charing Cross.
One of the levels in “Tomb Raider 3” is set in the disused Aldwych tube station and sees Lara Croft killing rats!
In “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, the Headmaster at Hogwarts has a scar shaped just like the London Underground map on his knee.
Covent Garden station on the Piccadilly Line is said to be haunted by a man dressed in evening wear who disappears very suddenly. Some staff members have refused to work at the station because of him.
The best places to spot the legendary underground mice running around the tracks are Waterloo Station and any platform at Oxford Circus. An estimated half a million mice live in the Underground system.
People who commit suicide by throwing themselves under tubes are nicknamed “one- unders” by London Underground staff.
It is estimated that around 100 tube suicides occur each year, the majority of these at Victoria and King’s Cross.
The most popular tube suicide time is 11 am.
Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasance starred in a 1970′s horror called “Death Line,” which tells the story of a cave-in while a station is being built at Russell Square in the 1890s. Several laborers are presumed dead and the bodies are left there when the construction company goes bankrupt. Of course these people are not really dead – instead they survive and reproduce… Years later, they start to find their food supply from the platform at Russell Square.
A fragrance call Madeleine was introduced at St. James Park, Euston, and Piccadilly stations in 2001 as an idea to make the tube more pleasant. It was supposedly a fresh, floral scent, but it was discontinued within two days after numerous complaints from people saying they felt ill.
In January 2005, the London Underground announced that it would play classical music at stations that had problems with loitering youths. A trial showed a 33% drop in abuse against tube staff.
In 2004 it was found that rubber mountings on carriages were collapsing on Piccadilly Line carriages due to excessive passenger weight! The estimated cost of replacing these defective mountings is in excess of twenty million pounds.
Is it because the Cadbury’s Whole Nut chocolate bar is by far the biggest seller in the dispensing machines at tube stations.
The nickname “tube” originally applied to the Central London Railway which was nicknamed the Twopenny Tube – because of the twopenny fare as well as its cylindrical tunnels. The “tube” part of the nickname eventually transferred to the entire London Underground system.
In terms of asphyxiation, traveling on the tube for 40 minutes is the equivalent to smoking two cigarettes.
The Underground is a good place to stumble on musicians busting out tuneful tunes to the delight of passers by. Following in this spirit, Julian Lloyd Webber is rumoured to have been the London Underground’s first official busker.
Bubonic plague swept through England in 1665, and was especially rife in urban areas. Aldgate Station, on the Circle and Metropolitan Lines, is built on a massive plague pit, where more than 1,000 bodies are buried.
Many tube stations were used as air-raid shelters during WWII, but the Central Line went one better and was actually converted into a massive aircraft factory that stretched for over two miles, with its own railway system. Its existence remained an official secret until the 1980s.
There are several unused stations down there. For instance, Down Street Station was used by Winston Churchill and his cabinet during the Second World War. The British Museum also has an abandoned tube station, lying on the Central Line between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn.
Next time you walk into a tube station, keep your eyes peeled for roguish fruit. Green grapes are particularly notorious offenders, causing more accidents on the London Underground than banana skins.
The mosquitoes inhabiting the tunnels of the London Tube have evolved into a completely different species to any that lives above the ground. Unlike their upstairs brethren, which bite only birds, the London Underground mosquitoes bite rats, mice and show a distinct affinity for human blood. Biologists named these voracious biters Culex pipiens molestus
A video with the familiar sights and sounds of a journey on the London Underground. This ride takes you from St James’s Park to Victoria on a District Line train.
There are many sounds you could remember from using the Underground. Who can forget the infamous “Mind the Gap?” There is also the announcement declaring the next stop, which in this case is Victoria Station. There is also a whizzing sound when the train gains speed after leaving a platform or the screeching metal on metal sound when trains negotiate a curve. On the sounds of travel page, you can listen and download the sound of the London Underground.
Years ago I rode the London Underground exclusively for anywhere I’d go in the city, yet when I hit the pavement above ground, I couldn’t navigate without a map. I’d be on the streets clueless about direction. The Underground might be convenient, except it doesn’t teach you London’s Point A to Point B to Point C.
When I began my London photography book project in earnest, there was no choice but to walk above ground. Only then did I put London’s boroughs into directional perspective. Moving around by foot made perfect sense and I learned how one area connected to another. I may not know the street names because I navigate by landmarks.
Today, I can walk around the city with ease and – AND – take the shortcuts when necessary. The map is now etched in my mind. I know London better than most Londoners. It really is liberating to know London. As much fun as riding a tube train might be, try to limit your use of it and see if you, too, can learn to explore London by foot.
Funny how a ride on the London Underground led me to this post. I appreciate the engineering marvel deep below London, but it doesn’t help when you really want to know how to get around.
Included below are images are taken from inside a London Underground train (old and new) ::
I’d start at the beginning of a line then at each stop I’d get out at each stop to explore the station. At first, I thought what an exhausting task, On a train, off the train, on the train, etc… By the end of the project, I grew to love every minute. Each Underground station is unique in its own way. There is intricate tile work arranged in interesting designs at almost all stations. The arrangement of the subway tiles cleverly leads the way for commuters – traffic control if you will.
Many of the Underground stations in Central London are works of art. I especially love Tottenham Court Road station, the blue and white checked tunnel at Green Park station, as well as the whimsical green and red lines at Piccadilly Circus. Outside of Zone 1, the designs at Hampstead Station on the Northern Line are mesmerizing. I always feel as if I’m on a roller coaster when I’m in the tunnels of Hampstead. The swooping lines on the ceramic tiles underground are brilliant.
During my photographic adventures in the London Underground, I received police citations for pointing my camera at an Underground station entrance and was escorted out of the largest station by the manager. If you are going to get kicked out of somewhere, it is best to have it done by the one at the top. If you scroll down just a bit, you’ll see one of the police citations I received.
During off-peak hours, there is plenty of time to explore and time to appreciate the brilliant designs. Photography is not encouraged but the London Underground really is a photographer’s playground. Be discrete, avoid rush hour and don’t linger in one place for too long and you should be perfectly unbothered. What’s more is you’ll have splendid photos when you are finished.
I’m not a huge fan of public transportation, especially during rush hour, but I do recommend a journey through the London Underground at least once (or twice). The underbelly of London is fascinating, to say the least. It is almost as if there is an entirely different world or London, many escalators rides below the surface.
Temple Station on the District/Circle Line is one of my favourite Underground Stations. I feel as if it’s 1899 all over again when the train stops. The station exterior hasn’t changed save for today’s dress and advertisements. It is also quite possible the news stall outside the entrance has passed generationally since the late 1800’s. I wouldn’t doubt this ponder of an idea and I’d love it even more if the idea were true.
What’s more, I can hop off a train, sit on a bench on the platform and take in the station if I’m so inclined. I’ve done this and I always see unique elements in the design of the station I wouldn’t see by simply passing through. The ornate iron posts stand along the shiny concrete platform and are painted with soft creme paint and accented with a deep maroon hue.
The station is not often used during off-peak travel times making public transportation almost delightful. In fact, I’m often the only soul on the platform when I alight from the train. Rarely is there a piece of rubbish anywhere to be seen as if no one at all had been in the station before me. Could it be a ghost station?
No, during working hours, and especially during rush hour, Temple station bustles with people like any other Central London Underground Station.
Everyone says I should think and act with disdain toward the District/Circle Line because chronic signal failures make the train schedule unreliable. Since I don’t seem to experience the issues I hear about, the Circle/District Line remains the route I choose when using the London Underground. The line is easy and especially convenient with Victoria Station being my home base. In the video, you’ll see how I entertain myself when I pop off a Tube train and sit on a bench before the next train arrives to take me away.
Love it, or loathe it, the London Underground is an engineering marvel. For the most part, the system works efficiently. Given that the London Underground is the oldest in the world it really is brilliant. How will it cope with the continued population growth, who knows?
Station to station, platform to platform. The Northern Line, Jubilee Line, District, and Bakerloo Lines on the London Underground condensed into sixty seconds in this fast-paced video…
What’s interesting are the deliberate lines within the designs of each station that lead commuters in the right direction. Left, right, forward, don’t cross the line and mind the gap. Stand on the left unless you’re at Holborn, never jump the queue except when rushing the train before passengers alight. Herd-like sheep during rush hour, then stand nose to nose, eye to eye as the train burrows itself to the next platform. Only six more stops to go. A mad dash through a labyrinth of tunnels to escalator maintenance. The London Underground is an engineering marvel with organised madness.
Engineering works, signal failures, strikes because no one can agree who opens the doors. We release a huge sigh of relief departing a station only to return for a repeat the very next day. We love to hate it. We hate to love it. Ultimately, the London Underground takes us where we want to go.
Many Underground stations are also a work of art. The patterned and coloured tiles create interesting designs down below. Baker Street features Sherlock Holmes. Tottenham Court Road featured wild mosaics until a recent refurbishment. One of my favourite stations is Hampstead where the design is simple, yet the large swirls and lines make you feel as if you’re on a roller coaster. Piccadilly Circus reminds me of – well, a circus and Green Park has a great tunnel if you love vanishing points.
For many years I thought about going station to station and getting off the subway train at every stop. My initial thought was to exit the station to see what was above ground. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see various London neighbourhoods from one end of an Underground line to another? I have never ticked this idea off of my things to do in London list, though one day I shall. What I did do, and is very evident in the London Underground video, I departed the train at each station. I would then explore the platforms, the ways to exit the stations and the stations themselves.
The project took weeks to complete. I avoided rush hour by riding the train during the week and mostly at night. Often times I was the only one in a station so there were no issues being in the way of commuters. The Underground staff didn’t bother me for the most part, though you know I was captured via CCTV everywhere I went. Security was probably thinking – “there’s that guy again!” It was only in larger stations, such as Waterloo, where the station manager hunted me down and called the police. Thank goodness when I calmly volunteered to leave the station, nothing came of the drama. Do be aware if you decide to take photos of any London Underground Station as you may run into a grumpy station manager like I did.
Is the London Underground an easy way to travel London? The answer is yes. London’s subway system is easy to navigate even for a beginner. If you really want to learn London, however, I suggest walking and getting lost on the streets.
It’s not easy to be a gentleman on the London Underground during rush hour. A true test for a well-mannered gentleman.
The video runs rather fast, so included below are a few of my favourite London Underground photos ::
It is no secret I am easily entertained. It is also no secret I am fascinated with London at night. Marry the two and you’ll find me stuck in the middle of the road capturing London light streams and everything in motion. It all began when I learned photography and my penchant for photographing light streams (lights from cars as they drive by) never diminished. Thanks, Rupert Truman for teaching this little trick to me.
From Piccadilly Circus to St Paul’s Cathedral, Haymarket Street and onto Trafalgar Square, then Battersea Power Station. You’ll find everything moves fast in the city. The video also takes you to London Underground then back up to Oxford Street.
No wonder everyone in London is tired, but can you really be tired of London?
I will be offering a London in Motion photography workshop soon. If you are interested, please sign up for my mailing list and I’ll notify you of dates and pricing.
Included below are a few London light stream photos ::
Love and Loathe – two words that come to mind when I think of Victoria Station. Rush hour, I loathe. I’m also not fond of the construction mess around the station. Everything is torn up and it seems the construction is a perpetual project weaving the old with the new.
I do love everything else including rush hour when I’m perched high above the fray inside the train station. There is an elevated area where I’ll retreat to and just watch. It’s amazing to watch the commuters zig, then zag, on the station floor. How does no one run into the other, I wonder? Victoria is also what you could call my home station as it is a hop, skip and a jump from home. The station is convenient.
Victoria Station has a great history. For me, it’s like stepping off the wild streets of London and into another world. The ticket windows and shops are modern, but when I look up, I’m taken back a hundred years.
Once you walk toward the Circle/District part of the Underground station, the feeling of being in a time warp amplifies. The ceilings are low; the lighting is dimmer and space is far too small to accommodate the myriad of commuters using the station. Strangely, I love the scruffy ambience despite not having an affinity for crowds. Once you’re down below on the Victoria Station platform, the conditions don’t improve. The platform is not nearly large enough. My best suggestion is to “move along the platform” to the far end where few people go. I do have to admit avoiding rush hour, so the experience isn’t so bad.
Unlike other Londoners, the District/Circle Line is my favourite. Apparently, these underground lines are slow and unreliable. Why do I love this particular line the most? Timeliness is far from the reason to be passionate about this Underground line. I’m never in a rush to go anywhere, so I’m perfectly fine if a train runs late. I don’t wear a watch. How would I ever know if a train runs behind schedule? The nostalgia of days gone by is the reason the District/Circle Line receives top billing from me. Each station along the line is an eclectic mix of nostalgic London with a few attempts to cosmetically mask the flaws. The stations tend to be older and have more London character. This ambience of “Old London” is what keeps me in love with her.
During winter, and when it snows, you can see the snowflakes descend on the track from the opening up above. For some reason this fascinates me, tho’ it is safe to say I’m easily entertained. In the video, you’ll see a train approaching on the District/Circle Line at Victoria Station in London. If you look close enough, you can see the snowfall. I especially love the brick arch above the train tunnel.