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150 Years of The London Underground

Oldest Subway in the World


150 Years of The London Underground
© TfL

2013 is the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, the world's first underground railway system.

On 9 January 2013, London Underground celebrated 150 years since the first underground journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway, on what is now the Circle Line.

On 9 January 1863 the world's first underground train pulled out of Paddington station to make the first passenger journey – 3.5 miles under the streets of London from Paddington to Farringdon and into the record books. The first train was open-top and the first trains were steam-powered so it was a very different experience compared to a trip on the clean underground system we now enjoy.

Even so, there were long queues to try this new form of transport at every station. The line was a huge success with an average 26,500 passengers using the railway each day in the first three months.

The original Underground line was built and financed by the Metropolitan Railway, a private company which had been formed in 1854 to undertake the project to link the mainline stations at Paddington, Euston and King's Cross with the City centre business district to the east.

History of the London Underground

Today around 3.5million journeys are made on the network each day, across 11 lines serving 270 stations.

Each line was built by a private company and did not have a governing body overseeing all of the work so we ended up with many stops near to another station on another line.

The Underground headquarters opened at 55 Broadway, St James's Park, SW1 in 1929 and Transport for London are still based there.

In 1933 Harry Beck's famous Underground map appears for the first time and is now used as a template for metro networks across the world.

By 1961 the entire network became electrified and the service became much cleaner.

The fare zones arrived in 1986 and the Oyster card has been here since 2003.

The story isn't over as the London Underground is undergoing a huge improvement program. A lot took place before the London 2012 Olympic Games but more is ongoing including adding air-conditioning where possible (40% of the network has air-conditioning so far) and more step-free access. You can find out more about the upgrade program at: tfl.gov.uk/tup.

2013 Celebrations

London Underground, in partnership with the London Transport Museum is celebrating 150 years of operation with a range of events and activities throughout 2013 including the recreation of the Tube's first journey, special events at disused stations and the publication of a series of books. The events will explore the Tube's history and look at the role it will play in the future - both in the lives of Londoners and the economy of the City and the UK.

On 13 & 20 January 2013 the first Tube passenger journey was recreated using specially restored trains including the 'Metropolitan Steam Locomotive No. 1' and the 'Metropolitan Railway Jubilee Carriage No 353' – the oldest operational underground carriage in existence. Throughout 2013 there will be a series of further heritage rail trips using steam trains, departing from other historic stations on the network.

The London Transport Museum will display 150 of the most iconic posters advertising London Underground in Poster Art 150: London Underground's Greatest Designs (Feb – Oct 2013). The exhibition will showcase the best designs since the Tube's first graphic poster commission in 1908, and visitors will have the chance to vote for their favourites with the most popular poster revealed at the end of the exhibition.

For further information on events and activities have a look at: www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/tube150.

Art on the Underground

The Art on the Underground program has been enjoyed since 2000 and sees high quality artworks produced in unexpected places on the Tube network, aimed at enhancing the millions of journeys made every day.

To celebrate the Tube's 150 years, Art of the Underground will present a special program which includes a major commission by an acclaimed, high profile British artist bringing artworks into every station on the network, as well as a special set of posters and limited edition prints by 15 leading contemporary artists.

Just as it inspires artists, the launch of 12 short stories by well-known authors will show how the Tube inspires writers too. Penguin Books will release the stories, each based on a different Tube line, in 2013.

As well as admiring the art and reading the books, fans of the Tube can attend screenings of London Underground themed films at a Tube station and theatrical performances at the disused Aldwych station.

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