10 truths: London Underground

London commuters are bracing themselves for travel disruption this evening, after talks failed to avert a 24-hour Tube strike. Here, we look back over the past 150 years of the Tube to bring you 10 Tube truths...

10 truths: London Underground © Getty Images
1

Campaigners

Charles Pearson, MP and City Solicitor, campaigned for many years for the construction of an underground railway in London. He did not live to see its opening, however, as he died in 1862, months before the Metropolitan Railway started running.

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2

Metropolitan line

The Metropolitan Railway was the world’s first underground line. On its opening day, 10 January 1863, it carried 38,000 passengers.

3

Cartography

Harry Beck, who created the iconic Tube map, was paid 10 guineas for the diagram. He drew it in his spare time while working as an engineering draughtsman at the London Underground Signals Office.

4

Women staffing

With men enlisting for military service in World War I, Maida Vale station became the first Tube station entirely staffed by women when it opened on 6 June 1915.

5

Vikings!

An early name for the new Victoria line was the Viking line.

6

Around and around

The opening of the Circle line in 1884 was met with criticism from The Times. It was described as “a form of mild torture, which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it.”

7

Out of sight, out of mind

Underneath Aldgate Station is a huge plague pit, containing over 1,000 victims of the 1665 bubonic plague.

8

Air-raid shelters

The Tube played several important roles in World War II. Many miles were used as air-raid shelters, part of the Piccadilly line stored treasures from the British Museum, and two miles of the Central line became an aircraft factory.

9

The American connection

Among the passengers on the inaugural journey on the Central line in 1900 was American author Mark Twain.

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10

Funeral processions

In its history, the Tube has been used twice to carry a coffin. In 1898, the body of Prime Minster William Gladstone travelled to Westminster for his state funeral. Dr Thomas Barnado, founder of several children’s homes, also spent his last journey on the Tube, being carried on the Central line in 1905.