Tube trivia

Here is some trivia I found on the internet and in Peter Ackroyd’s book London Under:

The London Underground currently has 270 stations and 402km of track. It carries 1,107 million passengers each year.

There is only one one-syllable station – Bank. Two stations have six consecutive consonants Knightsbridge and Aldwych.

Mark Twain, who was living in London at the time, was one of the passengers on the inaugural journey of the Central Line in 1900.

The building of these tunnels deep beneath the earth had dangers of its own; by the early years of the twentieth century they were bored by a rotary excavator that had knives at its front digging out the earth and depositing it onto a conveyor belt. Yet the atmospheric pressure at these depths was very high, and a report written in 1908 informed the Institution of Civil Engineers that “a great deal of illness resulted among the men, but there were not many fatal cases.” The workmen were suffering from the disorder known to deep-sea divers as “the bends.” On one occasion the air escaped through the bed of the Thames and boiled 3 feet high above the surface, overturning a boat.

The first fatality occurred in the autumn of 1864. A railway guard at Portland Road station noticed a couple at the top of the stairs. He told them to hurry as the train was approaching. “Come on, Kate,” the man said. The couple hurried down the steps. A short while later the body of the dying woman was found on the rails. She had been drinking with her companion, and had apparently fallen onto the line.

The Bakerloo line was opened in 1906, after parliamentary permission was given (it is rumoured) because MPs wanted a quick route up to the cricket at Lord’s.

The mosquitoes in the London underground are genetically different to their cousins on the surface. Tube mosquitoes – or Culex pipiens f. molestus – will bite mice, rats, dogs and, as regular passengers will have noticed, humans. Hence “molestus”.

1 in 300m: Chance of any given tube journey resulting in a fatal accident.

In 1911 the first escalator was introduced at Earls Court station, to unite the platforms of the District and Piccadilly Lines. The promotional literature promised that the passenger “can step on to the stairlift at once, and be gently carried to his train. A boon that the mere man will also appreciate is the fact that he will not be prohibited from smoking, as in the lift, for the stairlift is made entirely of fireproof material.” A porter was employed to shout out, through a device known as a stentorphone, “This way to the moving staircase! The only one of its kind in London! NOW running! The world’s wonder!” Some travellers screamed at the prospect of alighting from the moving steps, and placards invited them to “step off with the left foot.” A man with a wooden leg was employed to ride up and down the escalator to instil confidence in the nervous passengers. It was, according to a contemporary report, “as good as a joy-wheel.” An experimental spiral escalator was Holloway Road tube station by an American company, but it was never used

The Victoria line was opened by the Queen (under whose garden it runs) in 1969. It’s one of only two lines (the other being Waterloo and City) where you’re completely underground as you travel from one end to the other.

33km per hour: Average speed of a tube train, including stops.

The locomotives themselves were given the names of tyrants—Czar, Kaiser and Mogul—or of voracious insects such as Locust, Hornet and Mosquito. This was a tribute to their power. One of them was named Pluto, the god of the underworld.

300m: The shortest distance between two adjacent stations, from Leicester Square to Covent Garden.

6.3km: The longest distance between two adjacent stations, from Chesham to Chalfont & Latimer.

The US talk show host Jerry Springer is the most famous person to have come into the world in a London underground station. He was born at Highgate station on 13 February 1944, where his mother had taken shelter from a Luftwaffe bombing raid.

The longest line is the Central Line, which runs 74 kilometres and serves 49 stations. Just 45 percent of the entire network is actually underground.


One Response to Tube trivia

  1. Alberto says:

    I miss a reference to Sherlock Holmes’s “The Bruce-Partington Plans”…

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