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Ghost Stations and Gas Lighting: A Brief History of London Underground

Vintage London Underground Tube Poster

Oops, I’m slightly late to the party (the best people always are)!  London Underground turned 150 last year. Admittedly this passed me by at the time, my excuse being that I haven’t lived in London for 10 years now. Having said that I’ve kept a real fascination for the history of the Tube.

When I was growing up in a little village and having exciting day-trips to London, the London Underground symbolized everything that I loved about this big, dirty, glamorous city. It was just so different from anything else I’d ever known. And the more I found out about this strange subterranean world the more fascinating it became.

It was a mixture of lots of little historical titbits. I was captivated by the poor families who sheltered from the bombs falling on London by sleeping between the electrified rails of the tube stations during the Blitz (check out this photo).

I also loved the idea of all the ‘lost’ tube stations which lie underground unused and forgotten, ghost stations which are hidden monuments to bygone decades.

Lots of stations have been closed and abandoned, many of which are still lie hidden underground today. Aldwych tube station (on the Piccadilly line) was closed in the 1990s and has been used in various movies (I think it was the one used in the James Bond movie Die Another Day but nobody seems to know for sure).

Blake Hall station on the Central line was made into a private residence. Other stations which were sit disused underground include Down Street which was between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly line, Shoreditch, South Kentish Town and York Road (you can still glimpse the old platforms of this station if you travel between King’s Cross and Kentish Town).

Ghost Station London Underground

St Mary’s Tube Station which was closed in 1938

I was also amazed at just how long the Tube had been around. I still find it amazing that they were running underground trains below London as early as the 1860s. The photo below is one of the earliest photos I’ve found of the London Underground. Check out those wooden floorboards! What a great combination with the gas-lit steam trains of the time. Fire hazard anyone? Actually 1890 was the year they introduced electrified trains, but that was only on a few lines, and judging by the smoke/steam which seems to be in the air I’m guessing this while steam trains were still running.

Oh, and before I forget, the posters (top and bottom) are London Underground adverts from the 1920s. It looks like the Tube was a fabulous Gatsby-esque riot of colour in the 1920s doesn’t it?

Vintage London Underground Tube Photo

A tube station photographed in 1890

Old London Underground tube map

This is what the London Underground map looked like in 1908 before it became the Art Deco masterpiece it is today

Vintage London Underground Tube Poster

Images source 1, 2 and copyright: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired., 3: copyright: This UK artistic work, of which the author is unknown and cannot be ascertained by reasonable enquiry, is in the public domain, 4This work is in the public domain in the European Union and non-EU countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or less. 5This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain.


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