QUIRKY FACTS ABOUT THE LONDON UNDERGROUND
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