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Celebrating 150 Years of the London Underground

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by Lionel (subscribe)
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The world's oldest subway turns 150
Photo by Boris Tylevich of Flickr

9 January 2013 marked 150 years since the very first London Underground or Tube journey was made between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway. As part of the anniversary celebrations, a vintage steam train which carried passengers in the 19th century ran on 13 January, with another scheduled for 20 January. Hundreds of rail enthusiasts, Londoners and curious spectators took up positions at stations and on bridges to catch a glimpse of the train, as it travelled between Earl's Court, Edgware Road and Moorgate.

Metropolitan Railway No. 1 at Barbican / Photo by interbeat of Flickr

Ticker holders travelled in coaches pulled by Met Locomotive No 1, a 1898-built and restored steam engine that commenced from its shed near Earl's Court, west London, to start a journey from Kensington Olympia to Moorgate.

Metropolitan Railway No. 1 at Great Portland Street / Photo by interbeat of Flickr

The coaches included the Metropolitan Railway Jubilee Carriage 353, the oldest surviving operational Tube carriage built in 1892. Attached to the Jubilee carriage was a set of 4 carriages known as the Chesham carriages that dated back to 1898.

Carriage 353 / Photo by interbeat of Flickr

Completing the commemorative train was No. 12 Sarah Siddons, one of the world's oldest electric locomotives in service. Passengers including London Mayor Boris Johnson were able to experience the thick clouds of white steam and bits of soot that accompanied the steam engine.

Sarah Siddon / Photo by interbeat of Flickr

The same trip that 40,000 Londoners made on 9 January 1863 transformed the history of public transport by establishing the world's first underground system. By 1880, it accomplished 115 million trips a year. Since then the London Underground had featured regularly in UK's history. Its tunnels were air raid shelters for thousands of Londoners during World War II. The expansion of the Tube impacted the city's design and housing by encouraging residents to move away from the inner city to new housing areas while enjoying access to work and social activities in the metropolis. In 2005, a terrorist attack left 52 people dead in the tunnels. However the entire system was up and running in less than 12 hours.

Photo by Annie Mole of Flickr

While much has changed over time, the congestion of the world's first subway system described by London newspapers in 1863 remained a constant. London's arteries never stops and the Tube continues to play an important role in the lives of Londoners, connecting people and places across the capital. Today the Metropolitan Line is a 249-mile system carrying 1.2 billion passenger journeys each year. It is being upgraded to provide 30 percent more capacity in order to cope with a growing population and to support the economic growth of London and the UK. It is also impossible to envisage London without the Tube due to the recognition of its iconic logo around the world.

Photo by interbeat of Flickr

With the support of Cubic Transportation Systems, Siemens, CBS Outdoor, Canary Wharf Group, Costain and Invensys and Virgin Media, special events and activities are being organised by London Underground throughout the year to mark this historic 150-year anniversary of the Tube. They will feature the Tube's rich heritage and history and the vital role the London Underground has played, and will continue to play, in the economic success of London. More information is available at and

Some of the highlights for 2013 include:

A series of heritage rail trips for the public to experience the 19th century steam train journey.

A new book entitled 'Underground - How the Tube shaped London 1863 to 2013' comprising of 12 short stories by well-known authors on each Tube line is available from Penguin Books at 25.00. The book can be ordered from London Transport Museum's online shop at

Limited edition Oyster card for 150th London Underground Anniversary / Photo by Annie Mole of Flickr

A limited edition souvenir Oyster card features the new Underground 150th anniversary logo and vintage Tube logos or 'roundels' from the early beginnings of the network to the present day. The cards are available at LU stations and TfL Travel Information Centres and passengers can use this souvenir Oyster card across the Tube network as they usually do

Behind the scenes events and open weekends at the London Transport Museum's store at Acton.

Art on the Underground will bring artworks into every station on the Underground through a major commission by an acclaimed British artist. 15 leading contemporary artists will also be commissioned to create an image as one in a set of 15 artworks as a lasting visual legacy for the 150th anniversary. There will also be screenings of London Underground themed films from the BFI archive at Canary Wharf station, two new Tube map cover commissions and a new project at Gloucester Road station to round off 2013.

Poems on the Underground.

150 Londoners share their personal stories on the London Evening Standard which demonstrate the history of the Tube and how it has positively affected their lives. Their stories can be read a

London Transport Museum / Photo by Annie Mole of Flickr

An LU 150 poster art exhibition at London Transport Museum.

An exclusive collection of gifts and souvenirs inspired by imagery of the London Underground logos and poster archive including Underground Line cufflinks, Blueprint ceramics, limited edition linocut prints and posters and Metropolitan glassware can be purchased online in the London Transport Museum shop.

* A new book entitled 'London Underground by Design' by Mark Ovenden.
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Why? The London Underground celebrates 150 years in 2013
When: Refer to event websites for specific dates, times and costs
Phone: 0843 222 1234
Where: London
Your Comment
This anniversary was going to pass me by without notice, but you've made it really interesting! A very enjoyable article.
by Midlands & More (score: 2|560) 3407 days ago
Brilliant and in depth article that just about says everything. Did you actually ride on a steam train last weekend? I didn't enter the ballot because the cost was so high, but there might be an opportunity to make up for it later in the year when they announce more surface train rides.
by Sandra Lawson (score: 3|1280) 3407 days ago
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