Robert Hampton

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10th January 2013

Your Tube
Posted by at 8.46pm | Trains | No responses

On this day, a century and a half ago, a quiet revolution took place beneath the streets of London. A group of investors had spotted the potential for a link from Paddington station to the City of London, and on 10 January 1863 they saw the fruits of their endeavours, as the first paying passengers boarded the Metropolitan Railway.

There was nowhere in this crowded city for the railway to go, so the line and its stations were mostly underground. The choking atmosphere created by the steam trains did little to dissuade hordes of people from making the 4-mile journey to Farringdon, and the Metropolitan Railway Company was an instant success.

From those humble beginnings, the 250-mile London Underground network was born. It’s an idea that has been copied around the world; every city of note now has a metro system to call its own. Some rival London for size and speed. Many can claim to be more efficient and modern. But London can always proudly say that it was first. In any event, no city can match the sheer joy and excitement of traversing London’s system – its wonderful, quirky, occasionally infuriating network of criss-crossing railways burrowing beneath the capital, out of sight (but rarely out of mind).

Ingrained in the psyche of the city – and, to an extent, the country as a whole – the Underground simply is London. Look along its platforms and hallways to see people from every section of society, every walk of life, every race and religion, old and young, gay and straight – all human life is here, squashed together into a carriage.

Not surprising, then, that it has inspired generations of poets, artists, authors and even animators.

Happy birthday, London Underground.

Train in Euston Square Underground station

While you’re in an Underground frame of mind, check out my friend Ian’s blog: 150 Great Things About The Underground.