The London Underground – you know the one, the world’s first mass-transit system – is one of the things London can be very proud of. It came a bit over 150 years ago – long before New York and Paris’ variants, - and it transports millions of passengers annually. And besides that, like any underground, it has its secrets and interesting facts which might pique your curiosity. If you have had enough of the house cleaning for today, put down the mop and clear your conscience about the unfinished room. You can get the house clean another day, right now you can learn some of those obscure facts about your favourite Underground.
1. One of the world’s first public escalators
Funny or not, once escalators were a feared technology. And once Earls Court got its first public escalator, people were very sceptic about it. In fact, everybody was so afraid to try it, that the railway operators had to make open demonstrations to show how harmless and practical escalators can be. And even then there was a string of accidents before people finally got the knack of it.
2. People had their first birthdays there
Three babies are officially registered as being born in the London Underground. And yes, that is just the official number – there might be a multitude of other cases, especially when the Underground was used as a shelter during World War II.
3. A variety of nicknames
If you don’t know London Underground by its official name, then you surely have heard one of its many nicknames that still echo in conversations concerning the travelling in England. The Metropolitan, the Met, the Central, the Tube, and its oldest name, the Central London Railroad. As you can guess, the Tube is the most popular one, often used even today, and the rest lost their popularity once the Tube got its official name, the Underground, in 1908.
4. One of the most expensive lines in the world
One of the tourists’ most favourite lines – the Piccadilly Line can cost about £25 per mile, which is more expensive than the tickets offered for a ride on the famous Orient Express. This line covers the Underground’s shortest distance and it is basically an incredibly impractical half minute ride which is nevertheless enjoyed by thousands of tourists every year.
5. Still one of the biggest transit systems
10 million is the number of passengers registered on the Underground after its first year of operation. This number has kept growing year after year and the Underground has kept setting new records for itself. In 2012 the number of passengers reached over 1.5 billion thanks to the Summer Olympics. And the size of the railway is gigantic as well – third in the world, right after Shanghai and Beijing, with 249 miles of railway.
6. All thanks to an American
Ironically, it was the American Charles Yerkes who is responsible for the eventual merging of all the private rail lines which existed way back. He was a financier and a transportation magnate who developed Chicago’s elevated railway system and later came to England to take over some of London’s private lines. He then soon after that unified the mass transit system so that now the British public can enjoy the glory of the London Underground.
Did you enjoy the history lesson? It all goes to show that everything can happen in the Underground. Births, funerals, expensive short rides, cheap long rides, strikes at a nation’s pride, etc. – it is all part of London Underground history which shows that it is a rich part of London’s life which should not be neglected.