If you’ve visited or are moving to London, you know that the Tube will become an essential part of your daily commute. As you ride this subterranean serpent, you will note the string of advertisements lining its walls for our entertainment as we work oh-so hard to avert eye contact with all other passengers. Among these adverts is sometimes the miscellaneous poem or Underground fun-fact. I’ve accordingly decided to go spelunking through the Transport for London and other websites today to share some of this trivia with you:
- London Underground has been known as the Tube since 1890, when the first deep-level electric railway line was opened
- The Underground name first appeared on stations in 1908
- LU’s world-famous logo, ‘the roundel’ (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar), first appeared in 1908
- Total number of stations served: 270
- Total number of escalators: 412
- Length of network: 402km/249 miles
- Proportion of the network in tunnels: 45 per cent
- Number of miles/km travelled by each Tube train each year: 76,800 miles/123,600km
- Number of passengers carried on the Tube each year: 1,073 million
- Busiest stations: During the three-hour morning peak, London’s busiest Tube station is Waterloo, with 51,100 people entering. The busiest station in terms of passengers each year is Victoria with 76 million.
Trivia (from uktv.co.uk/dave)
- You’re never alone at Aldgate station on the London Underground. It’s built on one of the biggest plague pits from 1665, where more than 1,000 bodies were buried in the space of two weeks.
- In March 2001 a “fresh, watery, floral” fragrance called “Madeleine” was introduced at a number of stations in a touching attempt to make the Underground a pleasanter place to be. It was taken out of action the very next day as people reported feeling sick.
- In a twist worthy of a horror film, a new species of mosquito has evolved in the dank, closed-off world of the Tube. Descended from bird-biting mosquitoes that colonised the tunnels when they were being dug, these bugs dine on rats, mice and humans – and have evolved as rapidly in a century as most animals do in thousands of years.
- If you think the Tube can be uncomfortable today, spare a thought for the Victorians who travelled in the first trains. These original, cramped carriages had tiny slits for windows and were popularly (or unpopularly) known as “padded cells”.
- 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 80s.
- One recurring myth I keep seeing in cyberspace surrounds the sole Tube birth that occurred in 1924. The infant’s name was allegedly Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor, but, as cute and/or demented as that would be if those were really her initials, it was actually Mary Ashfield Eleanor.
- And since this city can’t get enough of its ghosts, I would be remiss not to share that Farringdon, Covent Garden, and Kennington stations are said to be haunted…wooOOOOoooo… (from Train Spotting World)