Posted by: hiddenlondon | January 8, 2013

150 years of London Underground


The London Underground is an unavoidable feature of life in London, just try and imagine getting around without it!  The tube was the world’s first underground railway and opened in January 1863, when it was called the Metropolitan Railway and ran between Paddington and Farringdon Street.  This year sees the Underground celebrate 150 years of getting Londoners to their destinations.

Some facts about the Underground:

  • Today there are over 408km (253 miles) of track, 275 stations and three million passenger journeys made every day!
  • After that first line, building continued apace.  By 1884 the Circle Line had been completed and in 1890 the network’s first deep-level line went beneath the Thames to Stockwell.
  • The Underground wasn’t called the Underground until 1908 and it was 1913 before the famous roundel symbol (the circle with the horizontal bar) first appeared.
  •  By 1933 the system had become so complicated that a new map was needed and electrical draughtsman Harry Beck produced the beautifully simple design for the world renowned map which is still used today.
  •  And once the design was in place, calligrapher Edward Johnston collaborated with Eric Gill to design the Johnston Underground Font, used for all maps, posters and other materials right up to the present day.  Another instantly recognisable part of the tube!
  •  Once the Second World War started, Londoners had another reason to use and be grateful to the Underground.  It became the perfect place to hide out during German air raids on the city, and a whole new underground life developed.  Refreshements were served to this new community, bunks were provided, and even libraries were created to provide diversion!  Mini schools and day care centres sprung up, and given the public appetite for news during war time, perhaps it’s not surprising that tube stations started their own newspapers, such as the ‘Swiss Cottager’!
  • A feature worth keeping your eyes peeled for on the tube are the nearly 40 ‘ghost’ stations which litter the lines.  These are stations which have closed and remain unused.  Several of them are still visible if you know where to look.

LU and the London Transport Museum have organised a range of events and activities between now and the end of the year to celebrate this unique achievement, including:


Steam and Heritage Outings

On Sunday 13 and 20 January 2013, the Met Locomotive No. 1 will make a special journey to celebrate the inaugural public passenger underground journey, bringing steam back to the line. Met Locomotive No. 1 will pull the Metropolitan Railway ‘Jubilee’ carriage No. 353 (which was built in 1892 and is being restored thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the London Transport Museum Friends) and the Chesham set of coaches which will be on loan from the Bluebell Railway. The No. 12 Sarah Siddons will also form part of this train.

Met Locomotive No. 1, the Metropolitan Railway ‘Jubilee’ carriage No. 353 and Sarah Siddons will take part in a number of heritage runs across the network throughout 2013. Carriages will be made up of a variety of rolling stock.

Tickets are available, but limited and will be sold on a first come, first served basis by telephoning the Booking office on 020 7565 7298.


Poster Art

February to October 2013, Covent Garden
Since its first graphic poster commission in 1908, London Underground has developed a worldwide reputation for commissioning outstanding poster designs, becoming a pioneering patron of poster art – a legacy that continues today. Poster Art 150 will showcase 150 of the best designs which have been chosen by an independent panel. Visitors will be invited to vote for their favourites and the most popular poster will be revealed at the end of the exhibition. Well-known posters, including the surrealist photographer Man Ray’s ‘Keeps London Going’ pair, will feature alongside lesser-known gems. The exhibition will also offer a rare chance to view letter-press posters from the late nineteenth century.

There’s a lovely article on the history of the  Tube on the BBC site here.



  1. It’s incredible. Thanks for sharing those facts.

    • It was fun researching the tube, and it’s good to appreciate it rather than just being grumpy about it at rush hour!

  2. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! I wonder if any of the events will include tours of the ghost stations? I would enjoy that.

    • I haven’t noticed any tours of the ghost stations, but you’re right that it would be a great thing to do!

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