London's Famous 'Tube' Turns 150-Years-Old This Week

Category: Media & Culture / Jan 08, 2013 3:49PM EDT
London's underground rail network, known as the "Tube" turns 150-years-old this week. On January 9, 1863, London Underground opened the world's first underground railway in central London. It opened to the public a day later on January 10. Heavily overcrowded streets prompted Victorian engineers to dig underground rail tunnels in a feat of engineering which would eventually be copied around the world. "London was very crowded in the 19th century, there were market stalls on the street....So the idea came to try to unblock the London streets with an underground railway," said railway historian Christian Wolmar. Without the Tube London would never have turned into the metropolis it is today. "Literally without the Tube London could not have grown to the size it is. Two hundred years ago there were only about a million people in London and you went to eight million. But you had to have a really high intense underground railway in order to be able to do that, that's why all the world's cities, like Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, are all now putting in tube systems," said former London Mayor Ken Livingstone. During World War II and the German bombing of London during the Blitz, the Tube's tunnels and platforms provided safe haven for those hiding from Adolf Hitler's bombs. More than half a century later, in July 2005, the Tube became a place of terror, when Islamic fundamentalists blew themselves up on three trains and a bus in central London, killing fifty two civilians. Today Londoners rely heavily on the tube and it carries more passengers in one day that the whole of the UK's other rail networks. This week London Underground will recreate the first Tube passenger journey on Sunday January 13.