Who's It For?
The tour takes in 150 years of the Tube's fascinating history, facts and stories, starting at London's first ever Underground station (Farringdon) to its most futuristic (Westminster).
What Will I See?
- Spotting the ghost station at the British Museum
- Discovering how the Victorians dug all those tunnels – by hand
- Traveling along the proposed 'Viking Line'
Book Online: www.insider-london.co.uk
The Guide I met was incredibly knowledgeable and, as she had researched the tour herself, was able to answer some tough questions.
The tour I did started at Farringdon, which is where the first ever Underground train departed. The first train ran on 10 January 1863 and had 28,000 passengers on the opening day for the relatively short journey to King's Cross. There were three standards of carriage and the short train ride continued to attract around 28-30,000 passengers daily. It was a popular idea and there were 20 trains an hour which is close to today's service, yet they also ran early morning and late night trains for workers (which we don't have anymore).
(2012 update: the tour now starts in Paddington so the route will not be the same).
We took the train to King's Cross and got off to discuss the next stage in London Underground's history, which boiled down to trying to get a circular line built. It wasn't easy but the Circle Line opened on Christmas Eve on 1884.
We travelled on to Oxford Circus where we did come up to street level to admire the Leslie Green designed station and to learn more about the tunneling process, before catching the Central Line to see the old British Museum station (between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn).
At Piccadilly Circus we found a clock telling the time around the world which I had never seen before, yet had walked past at least 10 times in the last month. We learned about the next stage in London Underground development and about the iconic Harry Beck designed map.
At Westminster and we talked about the new stations on the Jubilee Line and the future of the tube system. Did you know, Westminster station (created by Hopkins Architects) is designed to look like the inside of a clock?
And that's what made this tour fun. Finding out cool facts about what is essentially a transport system, but London Underground is a network with some great history as it was the first of it's kind. The tour guide said at the start she wanted the tour to be more like a conversation with a friend and she got that right as she was friendly and enthusiastic, and generally fun to be with.
Insider London tours are bespoke but they run regularly so don't be afraid. If you're visiting London, or if you're a Londoner, you'll enjoy this tour as you don't have to concentrate on just getting from A to B but can be led by the Guide and have time to properly enjoy our wonderful tube system.
You may also be interested in this book by David Long: London Underground - Architecture, Design & History.