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7 Secrets of the London Underground

by People! Just say Something! 10 months ago in guide
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The various secrets of the London Tube that even Londoners are not aware of!

The London Tube

The London Underground has served Londoners since 1863. Since its opening, up to 2 million people ride the tubes every single day on their daily commute. It is no secret that it has become part of London’s identity and an invaluable part of its people’s daily lives. I personally use the Underground at least 10 times per week for various journeys around the Capital and with the joys of the 16-25 Railcard, it becomes the cheapest method of transport in London by far, even beating the London Bus in price and speed, but I think I will save that for another post.

It came as a surprise to me that when talking to the typical Londoner many could not really give any unique information about the Underground apart from its odd odours, lack of ventilation and the odd mouse or rat scuttling on the train tracks. This got me thinking, “what secrets does this behemoth hold that the typical Londoner is not aware of?” And to no surprise the information I stumbled upon was not only interesting but has drastically changed my daily commutes on the tube forever.

1) The fake houses of Leinster Gardens

Starting the list off strong are the two dummy houses located on 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens in West London. When walking along the pavement many would not even notice that these two properties have been built with the sole purpose to hide the train tracks behind the skeleton. The houses contain 18 blackened windows (because for some reason this is more acceptable to see than train tracks, not suspicious at all…) and is decorated in the same way as its neighbours.

Front view of 23/24 Leinster Gardens

It is crazy to think that these houses are here to hide the tracks due to them not being pretty on the eye. I personally love to stand on various bridges and look at passing trains (trainspotting is more popular than you think). Also, another question comes to mind, “If they hid the train tracks, how do they hide the sound?” I ask this as the tracks behind the house are in open air view so there is nothing to contain the sounds of the passing train. I guess that posh people are okay with the sounds of the common folk commuting but cannot stand the sight of them. I guess that is what you get when you live in West London.

Open-Air train tracks behind the properties.

2) The London Underground Map

We cannot talk about the London Underground without mentioning the Map of the Tube. There is so much interesting information about the map that I instead of doing various different points on each I have decided to compress them all into one quick bite-size post. The iconic colours of each tube line can be recognised by millions in the capital, with each Londoner having their own local Tube Line they travel on most. I reckon it is the only way drunken Londoners know how to get back home after a night out in the Centre.

The London Underground Map

The design has been in use for the past 80 years and even came second in a BBC competition to find the countries favourite logo. In 2009 the river Thames was briefly removed from the map before an outcry from the public forced the city to reimplement it. Rightfully so, we all need to know where the north and south divides, one does not cross to the other side without careful planning. You are either North or South, pick your side.

When it was designed in 1931 by Harry Beck, he was paid 10 guineas, the equivalent of a mere £10.50! To make matters worse in 1959 his name was removed from the map until the 1990’s where his name reappeared on the large format station maps. To this day many Londoners are still unaware of the designer that created one of the most iconic, and vitally practical for the commutes of millions, design this country has ever seen. Harry Beck, we thank you for your service to this country.

3) London Underground: The WW2 Air-Raid Shelter

The Underground is not only known for its commutes. During the London bombings of WW2, the Tube served its purpose by sheltering thousands of families from the horrors that took place above. Each night, families would go 180 stairs below ground to seek refuge from the German bombings above. Each station served its own borough, and many would visit various stations if one would get stranded on the other side of London during an attack. At one-point Clapham South Station shelter had the capacity to hold 8,000 Londoners with each being assigned their own bed. There are accounts of dancing, music and laughter to keep morale up during these hard times which does show you the strength of the human morale during the worst of times.

Life during bomb raids in London

While many stations held civilians, other were used as Head Quarters for military generals and other government staff. Down street Station in Mayfair, West London had phone lines installed and was ready to host a meeting of the war cabinet in 20 minutes. Other uses of the Underground included storage space, signalling schools and to study time-delay bombs.

(Former) Brompton Road Station

The most notable station during this period was Brompton Road Station where it was transformed into a four-story operations centre for the 1st Anti-Aircraft Division. This huge project helped to coordinate the city’s air defences as well as provide a base that is still used by the Ministry of Defence to this day!

4) Beware of the Mutant Mosquitos

Here is one that many would probably like to stay unaware of. The species of mosquitos found in the London Underground are completely different than their cousins above ground. This is due to them adapting to an isolated environment with a lack of plantation and other environmental factors. Does this change anything? Not really. Apart from the Underground will bite everything and anything, so that is not traumatising at all…

I Really hate mosquitos...

5) The Famous Aldwych Station

The London Underground is home to Aldwych Station. Aldwych is famous for starring as the set for various famous movies and TV series. From 2008-2013, it generated over £1.5 million in revenue for TFL (Transport for London). Since its closing in 1994 it has appeared in Atonement, V for Vendetta, 28 Weeks Later, Fast & Furious 6, Sherlock and the infamous music video for The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’!

Aldwych Tube Station (Strand)

However, Aldwych is not the only station with a growing IMDB page. Westminster Station was used in the filming of Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix while Charing Cross was used in Skyfall!

6) The Perfect Bat Habitat

While the Underground houses thousands (maybe even millions) of mice and rats, alongside our mutant mosquitoes, it also has become the perfect habitat for various bat species! The abandoned Highgate station closed in 1970 and since has become a protected bat habitat since 1999. Many tests have been done since 1996 to see the Underground importance for bats and results found that in the autumn the tunnels become important swarming sites, especially for Natterer’s bats.

A Natterer Bat

Due to this, one tunnel was left as it is and another tunnel was modified in 2001 to support a more favourable environment for the bats that hibernate inside. Since then, various teams survey the tunnels three times a year to monitor bat roosting activity.

To this day the Underground tunnels have proven to serve as sanctuaries for the long-eared Natterer and Daubenton bat species. Every now and again I do see a bat or two flying at night and knowing that these bats are as much of a Londoner as I am, it is great to see so many species deciding to choose the Tube as their home.

7) You will NEVER miss the last Train

To finish off the list, here is one that every Londoner will not forget any time soon. You will never miss the last train on the underground!

London Underground Card Reader Gates

Yes, you read that correct! Once you tap into the station with your Oyster card, station staff will radio down to the Tube Drive informing them that you have entered the station which then will make them wait until you get down and board the train! Once again, the Tube is here to make sure that nobody is left behind!

I really hope that you enjoyed this post! If you want to find more quirky, informative posts then why not check out our profile for more! We upload a new post every day from Monday to Saturday!

See you next time!

- David

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People! Just say Something!

Quirky articles on various subjects to pass the time! Don't stay quiet people, Just say something!

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