10 London Underground Facts Every Commuter Needs to KnowNo Comments
In 1884 the Circle line opened and was described by The Times as ‘a form of mild torture, which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it’. Despite many changes to the London Underground network since, popular opinion remains the same. Considering this, we thought we’d look back at some of the most intriguing and interesting London Underground facts. Give thought to the 249 mile tube network, there’s more than meets the eye. If you’re more interested in having a moan, be sure to check out our list of the worst tube lines.
10. You Can Never Miss the Last Train
This is a rarely helpful fact that could actually change your last minute dash for the train. Once you’ve tapped in, there’s no need to race down the escalator to catch the last train home. Once you’re through the barriers the station staff will radio to the driver and ask them to wait. This is no excuse to stop for a chat on the way though, other passengers are waiting for you too.
9. Don’t Believe the Signs
Ever walked past a sign that tells you how many steps on a staircase in the Underground? Don’t believe what it tells you, it’s a complete fib. The number of steps on each staircase is different at most stations. Here’s a full list of the accused:
- Belsize Park – 189 steps (sign says 219)
- Russell Square – 171 steps (sign says 175)
- Elephant & Castle – 117 steps (sign says 124)
- Tottenham Court Road – 116 steps (sign says 99)
- Queensway – 126 steps (sign says 123)
- Kentish Town – 117 steps (sign says 121)
- Tufnell Park – 116 steps (sign says 110)
- Old Street – 109 steps (sign says 100)
- Holland Park – 93 steps (sign says 92 steps)
8. A Few Guineas for the Most Popular Image in London
The London Underground map is one of the most recognised images in the world of transport. It’s even inspired other nations to follow suit. Despite this, the image was met with doubt by transit authorities. Thankfully, the guide to the capital’s transport network was so popular with commuters it became the cornerstone of London culture. For his trouble, creator Harry Beck was given 10 guineas – that’s only about £5.25 to us.
7. War-Time Relics
London Underground has a deep history of involvement in World War Two. It’s common knowledge that many stations were air raid shelters but these tunnels offer more war-time secrets. In fact, it was from Goodge Street Underground Station that General Eisenhower broadcast the announcement of the invasion of France on 6th June 1944. It was also told that the British Museum stored some of it treasures in a branch of the Piccadilly line. The Central Line, specifically between Newbury Park and Leytonstone, was even the site of an aircraft factory.
6. Some Commuters Need Padded Cells
The original carriages of the Underground were not a pleasant place to be at all. Carriages were small and cramped with the only air coming from ventilators above. The coaches were nicknamed ‘padded cells’ due to the high backed bench seats and very small ceiling windows.
5. Ghost Stations Exist
You may have heard of the numerous ‘ghost stations’ which are no longer used today. These do in fact exist and some hide an intriguing past. First we have British Museum Station, between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, which hasn’t been used since 1932. Then we have Down Street which was once used as a bunker by Winston Churchill during the Second World War before the Cabinet War Rooms were built. Then we have a station set to be named North End, sitting between Hampstead and Golders Green which never opened. Aldwych Station, which closed in 1994, is now commonly used as a film set.
4. Nature’s Playground
It may surprise you to learn that over half the London Underground network is above ground. In fact, the 4,000 hectares of land that surround the Tube’s tracks are actually a safe haven to many forms of wildlife. From bats to badgers, reptiles to beetles and even water voles all take up permanent residency on your commute. There have even been sightings of deer, snakes, newts and woodpeckers on the tube lines. It’s also widely reported that a species of mosquito has evolved specifically to live in the London Underground network. Yes, you heard that right, TFL are responsible for the evolution of mosquitos.
3. Aldgate Station is Nothing but a Plague Pit
It is believed that Aldgate Station sits upon a massive plague pit where over a thousand bodies have been buried. These pits were used as mass graves for victims of the 1665 and 1666 Bubonic Plague. Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe wrote a piece titled ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’. In this he described the Aldgate pit; ‘it was about forty feet in length, and about fifteen or sixteen feet broad, and at the time I first looked at it, about nine feet deep; but it was said they dug it near twenty feet deep afterwards in one part, till they could go no deeper…’ It’s enough to make you shudder into your skinny chai latte.
2. Anyone Lost a Leg?
Lost Property is generally a boring topic of discussion. This isn’t the case when it comes to the London Underground. When an entire transport network opens its doors to roughly 1.34 billion people every year, there’s a lot of lost luggage. TFL’s Lost Property department is possibly one of the most intriguing hordes in the country. Here you can find everything from a prosthetic leg, judge’s wig, £15,000 in cash, urn of ashes, false teeth, a stuffed puffer fish, coffin, jar of bull sperm or even two human skulls. We wonder what you have to do to prove ownership of the £15,000 cash.
1. Eau De Underground
In 2001, London Underground attempted to integrate its very own fragrance. It began with three trial stations where its scent ‘Madeleine’ was applied to the floor and released by passengers’ footsteps. Described as ‘a fresh, watery floral bouquet of rose and jasmine, combined with citrus top notes, tiny touches of fruit and herbs, giving way to woody accents and a hint of sweetness in the base’. The scent lasted only a day after passengers complained of feeling nauseous.
So whether you’re a London Undergound aficionado or plague weary Aldgate commuter, you’ve got some intriguing facts to accompany your travels. If you’re looking to move house and want to find out more about your transport links, along with other handy info like noise pollution and crime stats, fill out a Property Detective report.