Last week, TFL announced their plans for London Underground’s upcoming 150th birthday. That’s 150 years of delayed trains, rat infested platforms and cylindrical claustrophobia. But you already know that bit of the Tube’s history. Here’s fifteen things you never knew about London’s glorious mass transit system to both amaze and bore your mates with next time you’re running the underground gauntlet.
P.S. One of these isn’t true – can you spot the red herring? Let us know in the comments below…
1.) Victorian Britain loved clubbing too:
The first underground route to be built was the Metropolitan Line, back in 1863. Bypassing the City of London, it ran from Paddington in the west to Farringdon in the east. Which goes to show that even the Victorians were more interested in getting to a night out at Fabric than getting to work.
2.) The Tube isn’t just for getting from A to B:
Ever wondered how long it’d take to traverse the whole of the Underground? The Tube Challenge was set up in 1959 to find out. The current record is held by Andi James and Steve Wilson, who passed through every stop in 16 hours, 29 minutes and 13 seconds.
3.) The trains are sweet enough, thanks:
In one of those ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ type situations, the powers that be introduced a fragrance called ‘Madeline’ to three tube stations back in 2001. The sickly smell was swiftly taken out of action the following day, after commuters complained the odour was making them nauseous.
4.) The voice on the tannoy belongs to a real woman:
Emma Clarke works in a curious profession. She is the owner of the stuttering, slightly patronising voice that tells you which stop your train is at, which stop your train will next visit and every other banal little detail of a typical tube journey. She also possesses a cracking sense of humour, as displayed by the sardonic audio snippets that cost her the job a few years ago.
5.) The Tube accidentally fuelled a class war:
When Tube operators decided to introduce a simple warning to passengers in 1969 to “mind the gap”, they had no idea they’d created one of the great pop culture phrases. Social theorists, theatre companies, musicians and film producers all jumped on the term, using it as a weapon to attack the class divide in British society.
6.) Biggest Queues? Waterloo:
Waterloo station has 82 million passengers a year, making it the busiest on the underground. Spend a whole rush hour here and all of your life’s problems will seem insignificant in comparison.
7.) If you’re really lost, call Harry:
For Harry Beck is the man who designed the famous tube map. Not only is Harry’s map still used on the underground today, it is also used as a template for mass transit graphics across the world.
8.) If Harry isn’t available, call Dumbledore:
Harry Potter’s favourite headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, has a scar on his left knee that resembles perfectly the London Underground map. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to it.
9.) A Queen may be beneath your feet:
1st Century AD Warrior Queen Boadicea’s grave is rumoured to be underneath Kings Cross station, in-between platforms 9 and 10. Now do you see where JK Rowling gets her ideas?
10.) Old burial grounds make for good tube stations:
Never mind Kings Cross, Aldgate station is built upon a mass grave of over one thousand plague victims. No wonder there’s plenty of ghost stories about the Underground.
11.) Paul Weller loves Lamb Madras:
The “takeaway curry” Paul Weller was planning to buy and bring home to his wife in The Jam’s iconic ode to the Underground, ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’, was a Lamb Madras. Clearly, the auditor at the BBC who banned the punky song from airplay at the time was more of a Korma kind of guy.
12.) Don’t go to the Mediterranean. Go to Camden station:
Temperatures on the tube regularly exceed 30 degrees Celsius, especially on the particularly sweaty Northern Line. A perfect antidote to London’s miserable weather.
13.) The Tube could cause cancer:
Please excuse the Daily Mail headline. Still, when spending 20 minutes on the Northern line has the same effect as smoking one cigarette, you can’t help but feel that the Tube aint all that good for your health.
14.) You’ve definitely been on the same train as a rockstar:
Celebrity spotters should keep an eye out on the Tube. Oasis’ Noel Gallagher is known to be a regular commuter, and when you think of all the other famous musicians who’ve gravitated to the nation’s capital, you’re probably never too far away from one of them. Just like the rats.
15.) The Tube has its very own species of Mosquito:
Regular commuters will be well versed in the unpleasantness of the Underground’s stagnant air. But whilst us humanoids turn our noses up, Mosquitos thrive in the humidity below London’s streets, evolving as rapidly in a century as most animals do in a thousand years. Culex Pipiens are the result.
Any Tube facts we’ve missed out on? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to spot the red herring!
By Ian Horrocks
Image credits from top to bottom: