Going Underground

January 9th 2013 sees the London Underground celebrating its 150th anniversary. Shortly after 1 pm on January 9th 1863 the inaugural train of the world’s first underground railway left Paddington station for the three and a quarter mile journey. Queen Victoria had just celebrated her silver jubilee, and Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister. Imagine men in top hats waving stout walking sticks and you get the idea.

Powered by steam locomotion until 1905 the journey in newly dug tunnels beneath London’s northern suburbs would not have been particularly clean. Riding in gas-lit wooden wagons behind the locomotive the passengers of the first journey would have come away covered in a thin film of soot.


That first day the ‘Metropolitan railway’ carried 38,000 people. Today the network will transport over three million. That’s the entire population of Uruguay moving about an underground city.

The Metropolitan railway as of 9th January 1863. Image courtesy Edgepedia.

The first short journey, before the line was extended, transported Londoners from Bishop’s Road (now Paddington Station) to Farringdon via King’s Cross. The Metropolitan railway eventually became the Metropolitan line of the London Underground. New lines were added as early as five years later, after the success of the first underground route in the world. From the original seven stations, there are now 350. The original seven stations of the Underground system are still in service (with modern station names in brackets): Bishop’s Road (Paddington), Edgeware Road, Baker Street, Portland Road (Great Portland Street), Gower Street (Euston Square), King’s Cross, and Farringdon Street (Farringdon).
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