150 years ago on 10th January 1863 the first London Underground train ran between Paddington and Farringdon Street. In fact it was the first underground train in the world. Unbelievably it was a steam engine that pulled the carriages, hard to imagine such a thing these days. The sulphurous fug in the stations and tunnels caused quite a problem. It wasn’t until 1933, 60 years later that Harry Beck devised his iconic diagram of the London Underground creating the map we all know and use today. During the Second World War the Underground was used as air raid shelters and also stored some of the British Museum’s treasures. It is one of the busiest undergrounds in the world and last year carried over one billion passengers. Only three times have passenger numbers increased in situ with babies being born the most recent in 2009.
People have been having fun with all things London Underground for years but one of those I have found that I like best is a series of animal shapes highlighted in the map, first discovered by Paul Middlewick in 1988. They’re created using the tube lines, stations and junctions.
To celebrate, the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden has organised events and exhibitions throughout the year. For steam lovers there is even an opportunity to ride on an original steam train.
The Post Office have brought out a series of commemorative stamps – my favourite is the 2nd class ‘Tunnelling Below London Streets’.
Not to be left out of all of the fun The Casket of Fictional Delights has launched the Tube-Flash project. I have matched some of my brooches to London Underground stations and I am asking writers to write Flash Fiction stories for each of the stations. So for Chalk Farm on the Northern Line there is mournful moo cow and Vauxhall on the Victoria Line a sleek limousine. The stories will be published soon.