Anyone who has lived in or visited London has no doubt used the London Underground service. As someone who has lived and worked in London for 10 years now, I have used the underground more times than I could possibly count.
Whether you’re curious about London’s history or want to brush up on your London trivia for the next pub quiz, these facts will make you go “wow”.
30 Fun and Crazy Facts about the London Underground
The London Underground dates back to 1863
Becoming the world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan line opened between Paddington and Farrington, serving six intermediate stations.
More than 1 billion journeys are made per year
That’s a huge amount of people using the Underground every year! In fact, there’s more than 5 million journeys made every day.
The majority of the Underground is not underground
There are 270 stations on the Underground but only 45% of them are actually underground.
The average train speed is 20.5 miles per hour
Of course, each journey is different depending on the route. Trains in central London move more slowly as they are deeper underground and stations are closer together.
The fastest train reaches speeds of over 60 miles per hour
Not only is the Metropolitan line the oldest line, it’s also the fastest. At the northern tip of the line, around Chesham and Amersham, the trains reach a top speed of 62mph.
The iconic map was inspired by a circuit board
Designed by Harry Beck, the classic tube map was once considered too radical. Rather than emphasising distance accurately like other maps, Beck was inspired by a circuit board and created a diagram of coloured, criss crossing lines.
Queen Elizabeth II was the first royal to take the tube
In 1969, Queen Elizabeth II became the first royal to take the tube when she opened the Victoria Line. She has actually taken the tube a few times. She had a front seat on the DLR when it opened in 1987 and rode the tube again in 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.
Penalty fares weren’t introduced until 1994
Fare dodging still happens now but before the penalty fares were introduced it was common practice for thousands. To combat this, penalty fares were introduced and those caught were fined £10 on the spot.
Part of the Underground track is hidden by a fake house
When the district line opened in 1868, 23-24 Leinster Gardens had to be demolished so the trains could realise steam. The neighbours of the high end area were not happy about the gap left in the street, so a facade was made to match the rest of the terrace houses.
Read Also: The Secret at Leinster Gardens
The shortest distance between two adjacent stations is only 260 metes
The distance between Covent Garden and Leicester Square on the Piccadilly line is only 260 metres and takes less than 30 seconds. Despite this, it is still a popular journey amongst visitors.
The longest distance between two adjacent stations is 6.3 kilometres
On the Metropolitan Line is where you’ll find the stations furthest apart. The distance between Chalfont & Latimer and Chesham is 6.3km (3.9 miles).
The first escalator was installed at Earl’s Court in 1911
The public were so scared of this new moving staircase and didn’t trust its safety. It is believed that a man with a wooden leg named William ‘Bumper’ Harris was hired to ride the escalator all day to prove its safety. There are some doubts to whether this is true but the London Transport Museum does have a tiny statue of him.
The longest escalator can be found at Angel station
Angel station has the longest escalator on the London Underground at 60m (197ft)
The shortest escalator can be found at Stratford station
On the other end of the scale, Stratford station has the shortest escalator at 4.1 metres.
People have left a lot of weird things on the tube
You’d be surprised what’s been left behind on these trains over the years. There’s been a judge’s wig, a prosthetic leg, a life sized Spider Man doll, an envelope containing £15,000, a drum kit and even an urn of ashes that took almost seven years to be claimed.
There are 4 moving walkways on the Underground
You might expect to find more but there are only 2 at Waterloo station and 2 at Bank station.
The deepest Underground station is 58.5 metres underground
Hampstead station on the Northern Line is the deepest station at 58.5 metres underground.
The Underground trains used to have no windows
It was thought that because there was nothing for passengers to see, windows weren’t needed. Because of this the trains were nicknamed ‘padded cells’ and you can see examples of the old train carriages at the London Transport Museum.
The longest journey on one train is 34 miles
Without changing trains, the longest possible journey you can travel is 34 miles. This is on the Central Line between West Ruislip and Epping.
Mile End has a very literal name
Mile End station is named so because it is exactly one mile from the eastern boundary of The City of London.
Alcohol was banned on the Tube from June 2008
In May 2008, the recently elected Mayor London announced that from 1st June 2008 alcohol would be banned on the tube. But London decided that alcohol was going to leave the underground in style. A party was thrown on the Circle Line (the only continuous line) to celebrate the last night of legal drinking.
Baker Street Station has the most platforms
Baker Street Station has 10 platforms making it the underground station with the most platforms. Moorgate does also have 10 platforms but only 6 of these are for tube trains.
Only one station does not contain any of the letters from ‘underground’
Balham is the only station on the network that has none of the letters from the word ‘underground’.
Abbey Road station is not near Abbey Road
Many Beatles fans want to take a picture at the infamous Abbey Road but for that you would need to head to St John’s Wood. To help confused tourists, Abbey Road station, on the DLR line, has a sign up with the correct station details.
The Victoria line was going to be called the Viking line
One proposed name for the line was ‘Viking Line’ because the service goes between Victoria and King’s Cross. Another name suggestion was ‘Walvic Line’ for the same reason that the line starts at Walthamstow and heads to Victoria.
The Russell Square stair sign is lying to you
There is a sign at Russel Square that states the station has 175 stairs. In fact, there are only 171.
The first baby born on the underground didn’t happen until 1924
Considering the tube has been open since 1863, it’s surprising it took so long for a baby to be born there. It was once rumoured the baby was named Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor (T.U.B.E) but that turned out to be false.
Jerry Springer was born on the underground
During World War II Highgate station was used as a bomb shelter. In February 1944 a woman gave birth whilst using the shelter and that baby went on to become the talk show host we know as Jerry Springer.
Selfridges tried to change the name of Bond Street
The department store founder once tried to change the name of ‘Bond Street’ to ‘Selfridges’ as the station is practically opposite the department store.
London Underground tried to introduce a floral fragrance
To try and make the underground smell a little nicer, a trial was done where fragrance was applied to the station floor and released by commuters footsteps. As it turned out, Londoners hated this, claiming it smelt cheap.
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