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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Fascinating Facts! The Underground

Things We Found Out Using The Web In Under An Hour

Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one! But not as long as the underground itself, he said in a breezily showbiz way, as the total track length is around 244 miles. If you laid it as a single track, it goes from London to Manchester with still around 44 miles to turn into a rollercoaster at the Arndale centre should you wish.

The Underground was opened in 1863 with a single track between Paddington and Farringdon, and was a world first. The term “Underground” didn’t appear until 1908. Until then I like to speculate it was called Edison’s All-Electric Population Shunter.

Two tube personalities you may have heard of on your tubey travels: one is Inspector Samms, who - bless him - doesn’t actually exist. The announcement “Will Inspector Samms please report to the operations room” means a single fire alarm has been tripped on the station, and should be checked out before station evacuation. The other personality is one of the female automated voice announcers, who is named Sonia - because her voice “gets on yer nerves”.

A skeleton was once reported as a lost item on the London underground.

The shortest distance to travel on the tube is between Covent Garden and Leicester Square, a mere 26 meters away. With all the stairs and lifts at either end, it’s actually quicker to walk, you lazy bastard.

The peak hour for tube suicides is 11am.

Escalators! The first ones were installed in 1911 at Earl’s Court. The public were initially sceptical of the installation and didn’t want to travel on the new-fangled contraption, so London Underground employed the one-legged clerk of works “Bumper” Harris to ride up and down it to show how easy they were to use. Nevertheless some people remained skeptical, thinking they knew how he had lost his other leg. On the other hand, the newspapers reported that some passengers were breaking their journey at Earl’s Court just to ride the escalator.

As you know I love a happy ending, I’m pleased to report that Harris was subsequently to make considerable wealth and retire to Gloucester to make cider and violins.

Waterloo has the most escalators - 25 in all, and the longest one on the entire system is at Angel. At a staggering 27.43m long, it’s possible for Kylie to have at least three comebacks before you get to the top.

It’s been discovered that pigeons regularly travel from West Ham in East London to central London on the tube in order to get more food - and I’ve seen it to corroborate this. It’s true to say that the Tube isn’t the most hygienic of places, and it’s possible to find traces of urine and semen on the seats - moreso if Neil’s been to one of his Zone 2 orgies. Upon one train that was examined, a previously unheard-of fungus was discovered under the seat. It is estimated that it is generally healthier to smoke five cigarettes a day than to travel for one hour a day on the London Underground.

There is an underground system which runs along side the London Underground which carries small trains for Royal Mail post. Most people in London have no idea it exists, but now you do.

The Jubilee line is the only one that interconnects with every other line on the tube network.

In 1924, there was a delightful accident when the first and only baby to be born on the underground came into this world on a Bakerloo train at Elephant and Castle. She was named Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor (check out the initials). That train, with its splattermarks, is probably still in service.

Tube drivers are a rum bunch, and there’s a lot of inter-line rivalry. In the canteen, different line drivers won’t sit with the other ones. But being down a hole for your entire day can drive you a little potty: this is what one driver on the Waterloo and City line was heard to have been saying - ‘Well good morning everyone and welcome to your Waterloo and City Line service on this lovely, yummy, lemon-scummy day. This is your Waterloo....’ then realising that he had already said Waterloo and City Line service, ‘train...service...thingy’. Then they approached Bank, he started with ‘Well ladies and gentlemen. I can see a light in front of me which I think is probably Bank station, so that’s good isn’t it? But I personally was hoping for Calais. Perhaps next time, eh?”. Bless him.

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