The Tube has been getting us around since 1863 and, unsurprisingly, it has some weird and wonderful stories to tell.
Here are some fun, freaky and frankly quite interesting Tube facts that make our beloved London Underground one of the best transport networks around!
1. Liverpool Street station is built upon an ancient burial site and in 2015, archaeologists unearthed 3,000 skeletons. That’s possibly why it’s one of London’s most haunted Tube stations…
2. Aldgate Station is also built above a huge plague pit that holds over 1,000 bodies.
5. So dirty that 20 minutes on the Northern line is said to be the equivalent of smoking a cigarette.
6. The Tube travels 43 million miles every year. That’s halfway to the sun.
7. At first, the Underground had no windows and the carriages were nicknamed “padded cells”.
8. One of the voices you may have heard warning you to “please mind the gap” is actually from up north, despite the ‘proper’ English accent.
9. The auditions and testing processes for the different voices and scripts were taken very seriously, and it took over 18 months for them to choose.
10. They couldn’t decide how they wanted ‘Marylebone’ to be pronounced on the announcements.
11. One announcer was later sacked for uploading a spoof video to Youtube, which supposedly “insulted” the London Underground.
12. Another famous announcement is at Embankment station, the last place you can hear Oswald Laurence saying ‘Mind The Gap’ – there’s actually an incredibly heartwarming story behind that, which you can read here.
13. Nearly 60% of the tube is actually overground. (And before you say it, that’s not including the actual Overground).
14. There’s technically a station called ‘British Museum‘ between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, but it hasn’t been used 1932.
15. Down Street is another ‘ghost’ station, which Winston Churchill used as a bunker during WW2.
16. There are approximately 49 abandoned Tube stations – you can read about eleven of them here.
17. The Victoria line was going to be called the Viking line (oh, that we could turn back time and choose that instead!).
18. The Jubilee line was going to be called the Fleet line.
19. London Underground tried to introduce a floral fragrance that was triggered by commuters feet. Following a trial, it turned out people hated it and they stopped it the next day.
20. The shortest distance between two adjacent stations is 260 metres (Leicester Square to Covent Garden). Yep, it’s London’s most pointless Tube journey.
21. The longest distance is 6.3km, between Chesham and Chalfont and Latimer at the upper end of the Metropolitan line.
22. In 1909, Selfridges campaigned to change the name of ‘Bond Street’ station to ‘Selfridges’. It didn’t happen. Obviously.
23. Plenty of stations have been renamed though! Green Park station used to be called Dover Street – the name was changed in 1933.
24. Arsenal station was known as Gillespie Road until 1932.
25. The proposed name for Clapham South was ‘Nightingale Lane’. Can’t help but think that’s prettier, to be honest!
26. In 2007, then-Mayor Ken Livingstone proposed the renaming of four Tube stations. They were Shepherd’s Bush (on the Hammersmith & City line) to Shepherd’s Bush Market, Aldgate East to Brick Lane, Edgware Road (Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City line) to Chapel Street, and Edgware Road (Bakerloo line) to Church Street Market. As of 2020, only Shepherd’s Bush was renamed.
27. Less than 10% of tube stations are south of the Thames. Outrageous!
28. Every week, the Underground’s escalators travel the equivalent distance of twice around the world.
29. The first escalator was installed at Earl’s Court in 1911.
30. They tried a spiral escalator at Holloway Road, but abandoned the idea pretty quickly.
31. You’ll find the longest escalator at Angel – it’s a 60 metre ride from end to end!
32. Three babies have been born on the tube.
33. Rumour once had it that the first baby to be born on the tube was named Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor (so her initials read, er, t-u-b-e). Shame that turned out to be a big fat lie and her name was actually Marie Cordery.
34. American talk show host, Jerry Springer, was born at East Finchley station while his mum was taking shelter during the war.
35. Andi James and Steve Wilson are the current record holders for the Tube Challenge. They visited every single tube station in just 15 hours, 45 minutes and 38 seconds in May 2015.
36. In cockney rhyming slang, the tube is known as ‘the Oxo’. As in Oxo cube (tube).
37. The Metropolitan line is the oldest tube line, having opened on January 10, 1863.
38. It’s also the fastest, reaching speeds of up to 60mph at some points.
39. Sweaty humans aren’t the only animals to have travelled on the tube. Others include woodpeckers, newts and grass snakes.
40. The London Underground is the third busiest metro system in Europe, after Moscow and Paris.
41. The Central line used to be called the ‘Twopenny Tube’ because it cost a tuppence a ride – it’s also the reason we still call it the Tube these days.
42. Sticking with the Central line, the reason it twists and turns so much because it follows the curves of the city’s Medieval street plans.
43. The London Underground Film Office handles over 200 requests a month.
44. Queen Elizabeth II became the first royal to take the Tube, when she caught the inaugural Victoria line train from Green Park.
45. Maida Vale was staffed entirely by women when it opened on June 6, 1915.
46. In 1978, Hannah Dadds made history as the first female Tube driver. She was a District line driver, and became part of the Undeground’s first all-female crew when her sister Edna joined the team.
47. Harry Beck, the man who designed the Tube map, was paid £10.50 for the privilege.
48. The Tube map isn’t entirely truthful though – here are several places where it completely lies to us…
49. For the deepest Underground station, head to Hampstead, which is 58.5m underground.
50. Modern-day Charing Cross was created in 1979 from the merger of two old stations, Trafalgar Square on the Bakerloo line, and Strand on the Northern line.
Feature Image: Alexandra Stevenson (Flickr)