Category Archives: Environment

On the bottom of the world

Today marks one hundred years since Roald Amundsen’s expedition reached the South Pole, winning the Race to the Pole and achieving one of the major goals of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Look at this guy!

And heroic it was. There is no environment quite so barren and hostile to human life as the Antarctic. The name literally means “place where there are no polar bears,” so that’s one hazard you don’t have to worry about. There are penguins, though, which survive in the seas around the continent due to their evolutionary adaptations and the fact that they are funny. The continent itself, Antarctica, is the coldest and, perversely given the fact that it’s covered in ice and snow, the driest place on Earth. The phrase “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink” was never more apt. Despite many expeditions south, the continent wasn’t even seen until 1820 and it wasn’t until more than seventy years later that it was considered worth exploring.

The impetus for the Heroic Age of Antarctic Expedition came from London, specifically Professor John Murray of the Royal Geographical Society, who suggested that an exploration of the forbidding continent would be a great boon to science. His suggestion was taken up in 1895 at the Sixth International Geographical Congress, also in London (I have to justify this entry in a London blog somehow) and in 1897 the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under Adrien de Gerlache made the first serious attempt at achieving this.

The RRS Discovery, trapped in ice

Attempting a trip to the Pole with Victorian and Edwardian equipment was about the manliest thing you could do short of beating a bear to death with your penis (which, as mentioned earlier, was impossible in the Antarctic). So it’s a testament to human endeavour that there were so many expeditions over the following decades. Each one added a little more to the sum of human knowledge, both in terms of our understanding of this alien terrain and in terms of our ability to survive in such an environment. Meanwhile, they braved such hazards as hypothermia, extreme frostbite, starvation and the ever-present risk of being trapped by ice (several ships were lost in this fashion, and Captain Scott’s Discovery was frozen in for two years before being freed by dynamite and a fortunate thaw).

The Pole was one of the ultimate goals, and it came as a bit of a surprise when Roald Amundsen was the one to reach it. Not least because he hadn’t told anyone that was where he was going until he was well on his way. You see, Amundsen, for all he was brave and ingenious, was also something of a rogue. His original plan had been to reach the North Pole. However, his expedition had been held up by a lack of funds – at one point, he begged money from his own mother, claiming that it was for his studies (which makes me feel a bit less guilty about some of the things I spent my student loan on). By the time he had the money, the North Pole had already been reached.

Amundsen at the pole

Unfortunately, the South Pole wasn’t a viable goal either, for the simple reason that Captain Robert Falcon Scott of Britain was already planning such an expedition and a gentleman’s agreement was in place among the international geographic community to let him have his shot. No problem, thought Amundsen, and planned his expedition under the pretence of an Arctic voyage. Not even his men knew that they were aiming South until after they had departed, and he curtly informed Scott by telegram that the Norwegians were coming.

In Britain, we’re often taught about the heroic failure of Scott’s expedition. But the simple fact is that, having started the race, Amundsen was the most likely choice to win it. Whereas earlier expeditions were fortified by woollies and hampers from Fortnum and Mason, Amundsen copied the survival techniques used by natives of colder climes. Not a superstitious man, he planned his journey meticulously and left nothing to chance. Thus, while all the members of Scott’s expedition perished, Amundsen succeeded admirably.

While his voyage was a great acheivement for the newly-independent nation of Norway, his success was not universally celebrated back home. You see, he had broken a gentleman’s agreement, and that was Not the Done Thing.

Expeditions continued, and still do today. Modern equipment has revolutionised polar exploration, but let’s not forget the work of those early pioneers. Anyone for a brandy?

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Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Current events, Environment, Geography, History, Only loosely about London

Thomas Willson and the Pyramid of Death

As I think I’ve mentioned before, one of the problems London faced as it expanded in the nineteenth century was the issue of where to bury the dead. There were just too many stiffs for the earth to hold. One churchyard in Holborn had a ground level twelve feet above that of the surrounding area, due to the sheer number of corpses crammed therein (and “crammed” really is the word). While the transmission of disease was not yet fully understood, people did have a dim awareness that corpse-goo was leaking into London’s wells, and this was almost certainly a Bad Thing from a hygiene perspective.

Obviously, there was only so much that could be done with the existing burial grounds. Cremation was out of the question, due to the Christian belief that the body had to be whole for the Day of Judgment (no heaven for you, amputees!). Christopher Wren had proposed the establishment of cemeteries outside of the city – one of a number of modernising improvements that were turned down by the Corporation of London following the Great Fire in 1666.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the attitude was starting to shift. After all, other countries had successfully built cemeteries on the outskirts of cities, and London really was getting very smelly. While most ideas proposed were along the lines of a sort of landscape garden – basically our modern idea of a cemetery – the architect Thomas Willson had a slightly more ambitious plan, which he put forward in 1829.

To understand the background to this, you need to know a bit about the fashion for Egyptiana that came about in the 1820s. It began in 1821, with an exhibition of Egyptiana by an archaeologist named Giovanni Battista Belzoni.

Belzoni was, in scholarly terms, a crap archaeologist. Even in the 19th century, many historians didn’t hold him in high regard. His methods of excavation consisted of going into a place, grabbing all the treasure he could and then buggering off. He was sort of the Indiana Jones of his day. Nevertheless, many of his treasures ended up in the British Museum.

His exhibition of Egyptian finds in Piccadilly created a sensation. This was the era when Gothic fiction was still very popular, and the macabre fascination with death among the Londoners of the time fitted in well with the burial culture of Ancient Egypt. As a result, a kind of Egypt-mania arose in the city.

So in a sense, it wasn’t at all surprising that Willson should suggest the construction of a pyramid to house the dead. The location he suggested was atop Primrose Hill, now a well-known beauty spot a short distance from Chalk Farm.

This would have been a truly spectacular landmark, had it actually been built. The base would have been the size of Russell Square and it would have been taller than St Paul’s Cathedral. There would have been 94 storeys and capacity to hold up to five million corpses. Steam-powered lifts would have been used to access the many, many catacombs therein, although construction would have been of suitably ancient-looking granite over a brick shell.

Such was Willson’s optimism that he formed a Pyramid General Cemetery Company in which people could invest. His profit projections were optimistic – the projected cost would have been £2,500 (which, in modern money and adjusting for inflation, is quite a lot) and the ultimate profit, he estimated, would be £10,764,000. Furthermore, he thought it would not only be a practical way of dealing with the problems of the big city, but he also saw it as a tourist attraction for the morbid folk of the time – more profit to the Company, one assumes.

Sadly (perhaps), the scheme didn’t go ahead. Perhaps it was too radical. Perhaps people got the wrong end of the stick when Willson asked them to invest in a “pyramid scheme.” In any case, the concept was turned down in favour of more conventional cemetery schemes. All was not lost for Willson, however, and he later found himself on the Board of Directors for the General Cemetery Company, which would construct the burial grounds at Kensal Green. 

Frankly, I don’t think I’d have liked such a monument. If you look at the photo above, you can see how high above the city Primrose Hill is, and I think a giant granite memento mori looming over the West End would be a little offputting. But then, I’m not a nineteenth century emo.

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Filed under 19th century, Buildings and architecture, Camden, Environment, Fashion and trends, History, London, Notable Londoners, tourism

Why I Am Not A Motorist

 

It goes without saying that this never happens.

A question I get asked a lot is why I don’t drive. This seems like a bit of an odd thing to ask me, as even the most casual acquaintance knows the obvious answer to be “because I’m a drunken psychopath reprobate.” At this point, the person laughs and asks what the real reason is. Then I stab them up good for suggesting that I’m a liar. Well, I did warn them.

But anyway, because the truth hurts (literally), I’ve come up with some more “believable” reasons for why I, as someone who lives in London, do not drive.

1. Public transport is actually pretty good

I’ll admit that I have been known to complain about public transport now and again. But the fact is that if you live in London, you are very fortunate in terms of getting around. As you may already know, I live in Colliers Wood. I’m on the Northern Line. Within half an hour’s walk are Wimbledon, Haydons Road, South Wimbledon, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Bec and Tooting stations. I’m also within walking distance of the Tramlink and there are several buses passing through. There are night and 24-hour buses, and I’m just off the main road, so I am never ever stranded as long as I’m in London (although there are also 24-hour services to Oxford and St Albans, other familiar haunts of mine). Everywhere I need to go on a regular basis, I can get to without a car.

2. Money

I have an Oyster Travelcard which costs me just over £150 a month. Now, that’s quite a lot, but as I work in Central London it works out cheaper than paying a fare every time I use public transport. And as it’s a work expense, what that means is that everything time I use that other than for work, I’m effectively getting free travel.

If I had a car, I’d have to pay for petrol, maintenance, road tax, parking and the Congestion Charge. That’s before the start-up costs of learning to drive and buying the damn car in the first place. This leads me on to…

3. Even if I did get a car, I’d have to use public transport anyway.

This man would totally drink and drive.

As regular readers will be aware, I like to party. Quite often, when I go out, booze is involved. As a responsible adult (har har), I could not possibly drive after such libation, so I would have to either not take my car out or not drink. Few things are more tiresome than being the one sober individual at a wild party, so I’d have to use public transport anyway.

That’s before we’ve got on to the fact that in Central London, traffic and parking are bastards anyway. Coupled with the congestion charge, it would be a rare occasion when driving into London would actually be easier than taking the Tube. I know an awful lot of people who have cars but commute by public transport anyway. So if I’m going to shell out for the Oyster, might as well save my money on a car I won’t use.

4. Walking is awesome

I love to walk. I walk all over the place. Often with no plan or end goal, just walking around the city, seeing what I can see. I’ll take random and illogical routes. I’ll explore places that are probably best left unexplored. When I set out on my own, I rarely know exactly where I’m going to end up. This is an experience that you can’t replicate in a car. You just don’t have that flexibility, and if you’re going slowly enough to appreciate the backstreets you’ll probably get done for kerb crawling.

And walking is a great way to stay in shape, too. I find exercise boring as all hell, so if I can maintain my shape doing something I love, then so much the better. If I over-indulge one night, well, the next day I’ll take the long route home instead to compensate.

5. Everything is nearby

Even if I didn’t have excellent public transport, Colliers Wood is not badly located for shops. As I mentioned, I’m within walking distance of Wimbledon and Tooting Broadway, which are excellent places to shop. Everything I actually need, I can get from there. What’s more, there is a massive, massive Sainsbury’s and a similarly huge Marks and Spencer about five minutes from me.

“But Tom, you handsome bastard,” I hear you cry, “isn’t it a hassle when you’re doing your weekly shop, having to carry all those bags? I mean, even ten minutes on foot with heavy shopping can be a Herculean task.” Firstly, it’s a bit weird that you all used those exact same words, but secondly I should point out that I’m a bachelor with no need to plan ahead shopping-wise. I don’t really do a “weekly shop” per se. More a “today and possibly tomorrow if there’s anything left over, and oh damn I’ve forgotten something, well, let’s stop at the Tesco petrol station on the way back” shop.

6. Think about the environment!

Actually, I don’t, but the fact that I don’t drive a car does make me a bit more environmentally friendly now you come to mention it. Smug!

To conclude

I don’t drive because I don’t need to. I appreciate this doesn’t apply to everyone, and that there are perfectly sound reasons for owning a car if you’re not in my circumstances. I also admit that there are circumstances where even I would find a car useful, but these arise so rarely as to not be worth worrying about.

Plus I’ve seen that film Cars, set in a post-apocalyptic world where vehicles have risen up and slaughtered their human masters in a bid to create an automobiles-only society. Let’s not let that come to pass.

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Filed under Environment, London, Shopping, Suburbia, Transport

Captain Planet, you jerk.

There are certain topics of conversation that are perennial favourites around the office. What’s in the news, what books people are reading, why the tea tastes strangely chemical when I make it, you know the sort of thing. One that often comes up is nostalgia for kids’ TV from Back In The Day. A show everyone remembers from around the time Yr. Humble Chronicler was growing up is Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Pause for the recognition/reminiscence to kick in. Ah yeah, there you go.

If you aren’t familiar with the premise, basically it was that Gaia assembles a team of young people from around the world to fight pollution with the help of rings that gave them elemental powers in what would appear to be a rather literal interpretation of the Gaia Hypothesis. When things got too hot for our heroes, they could combine their powers and summon a superhero named Captain Planet, whose only weakness was pollution (following the lead of Spider-Man’s arachnophobia and Superman’s crippling vertigo). The message at the end of every episode was that, when it comes to stopping pollution, “the power is YOURS!” Although in practice, most pollution in Captain Planet’s world seemed to be caused by a few asshole supervillains, so really the power belongs to whoever has a gun.

But like so many of these cartoons that seemed wicked-awesome at the time, there are certain aspects of Captain Planet that in retrospect seem a little, how can I put this, embarrassing today. And Captain Planet had an unfortunate tendency to punch above its weight in terms of the issues it dealt with, making it extra-cringeworthy today. Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

Case Study 1: Captain Planet versus the Goiânia accident

Reality: The Goiânia accident took place in 1987 in Brazil. Two men broke into an abandoned hospital in Goiânia and took, among other things, an X-ray machine containing highly radioactive caesium. This was sold to a local scrap dealer, Devair Alves Ferreira. Ferreira, fascinated by the eerie blue glow and ignorant of the danger, took the caesium home and showed it to a number of friends and relatives. Four people, including Ferreira’s wife and six-year-old daughter, died of radiation sickness and an estimated 250 people were contaminated.

Captain Planet’s take: The episode ‘A Deadly Glow.’ In this episode, a couple of kids steal a radioactive source from, yes, a hospital. The cartoon adds a giant radioactive rock monster in a Hawaiian shirt who wants the radiation for himself for reasons I don’t quite recall. Does he eat radiation? Something like that. Also the American kid takes the piss out of a child undergoing chemotherapy.

The Message: The real enemies are negligence and ignorance. And radioactive rock monsters.

Case Study 2: Captain Planet versus The Troubles

Reality: The Troubles was a period in Northern Ireland lasting approximately from the late 1960s to the late 1990s during which there was extensive violence arising over tensions between the Catholic and Protestant communities and the question of whether Ulster should remain part of Britain or join the Republic of Ireland. The roots of the conflict go back to the early 17th century and although the Troubles are generally considered to have ended with 1998’s Good Friday Agreement, violence and tension between the communities remains.

Captain Planet’s Take: A weird rat-mutant who goes around spreading hate, again for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, is selling nuclear weapons in troubled areas of the world, including the Middle East, South Africa and Belfast. Because everyone is so blinded by hatred, they don’t realise that a nuclear bomb would actually destroy the whole of Belfast. Also their rage causes their accents to leap all over Ireland and sometimes as far as Scotland. With the help of the cancer-patient-hating American kid, however, they are able to put their differences aside and work together to stop the bomb and live in perfect har-mo-ny. At the end, the Planeteers are satisfied with the fact that they have brought about the beginning of the end of the Troubles. Look, the relevant parts of the episode can be seen here.

The Message: American money may have funded the Troubles, but American know-how will resolve them. And Catholic, Protestant and Scotsman alike can find peace and understanding.

Case Study 3: Captain Planet versus the AIDS epidemic

The reality: HIV is a disease that attacks the human immune system, transmitted via blood, semen, breast milk and vaginal fluid, which causes the condition known as AIDS. Although treatable, there is no cure and it is estimated to have killed tens of millions of people worldwide.

Captain Planet’s Take: A school’s star basketball player learns that he has been infected with HIV, probably due to the heinous amounts of needle-sharing and unprotected anal intercourse he’s been having lately (I forget whether they specified the reason, actually). That fucking rat mutant thing decides to use this to spread hate, which is a bit rich coming from something that looks like it came off a Nazi propaganda poster. Somehow, telling a bunch of kids that they can get AIDS from touching a basketball player means that the rat-man can take over the world. Fortunately, the Planeteers are able to educate everyone as to the truth, and presumably they halt the AIDS epidemic.

The Message: Too much Captain Planet makes you lose the will to live.

Case Study 4: Captain Planet vs Hitler

The Reality: If you don’t already know about Adolf Hitler, then I don’t think I can help you.

Captain Planet’s Take: A mad scientist voiced by Meg Ryan travels back in time and tries to sell an atomic weapon to a Teutonic gentleman who is basically Hitler but not quite. Having established our villain as a moustachioed German dictator of the 1940s, I don’t know why they’re so squeamish about saying “and it’s Hitler.” Anyway, the Planeteers also travel back in time and, with the help of the Allied forces and Captain Mullet, they save the day. On the way back to the present day, the mad scientist drops her notebook. Captain Planet doesn’t return for it and one of the soldiers comments that it might contain useful information.

The Message: Through his negligence, Captain Planet is responsible for the creation of the atom bomb. Every night, when he goes to sleep, he sees the faces of every Hiroshima victim burned into his soul.

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Filed under 20th Century, Environment, Film and TV, History, Not even trying to be on-topic, Plants and animals, Politics

Shirley Bassey ain’t singing about this one.

Yesterday I found myself in West London, White City to be precise, in the shadow of the Westway. It is, if I’m quite honest, not the most beautiful area of the city – the Westway itself has become synonymous with psychogeographical hostility, due to the way it cuts across West London like an infected wound.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though, although it’s not entirely unrelated, thematically speaking. From here, and indeed from many, many vantage points on this side of the city, there’s a landmark even more visible and only slightly prettier.

The rather rubbish photo to the right depicts it- the Trellick Tower. The Tower is notoriously brutal in its design and, indeed, is one of the most famous examples of Brutalist architecture in the city.

Brutalism is perhaps the ultimate expression of architectural arrogance. It is a spin-off from Modernism, which, for all its high-falutin’ idealism concerning the revolutionising of living space, has rarely worked in the real world. The architect Erno Goldfinger, who designed the Trellick Tower, summed up the aims of Modernism thus:

Whenever space is enclosed, a spatial sensation will automatically result for persons who happen to be within it.

At this point, I think I speak for us all when I say “No shit, Sherlock.” Goldfinger then adds,

It is the artist who comprehends the social requirements of his time and is able to integrate the technical potentialities in order to shape the spaces of the future.

Thus, Goldfinger (and the other Modernists) saw their duty as something more than simply to produce places for people to live and work. Their goal was nothing less than the reshaping of society through their harnessing of space. However, at this point, I would like to retort with the Da’s opinion on architecture, which he quotes from a builder he once did some work for.

For centuries, houses have been built with four walls and a pointy roof, and there’s a good reason for that.

You see, the problem with Modernist architecture is that while it was very high-minded in its conception, it was often ill-thought-out and badly-executed. I don’t think I’ll be contradicted when I say that the result, in the 1950s-70s, was the most hated architectural movement in Britain’s history. Cutting corners during construction resulted in unsafe buildings that aged poorly. In one notorious case – pictured left – the side of Ronan Point tower block in Newham collapsed following a gas explosion. Even when the buildings stayed up, they were ugly and depressing. Concrete grew damp and grimy, corridors admitted little light and sharp corners gathered dust and litter. The psychogeographical effects are summed up by Lynsey Hanley in her excellent Estates: An Intimate History:

You can’t drift easily this way around many council estates… They are too channelled, too labyrinthine to make wandering an enjoyable experience.

Indeed. If Goldfinger and co. intended to shape people, it’s not entirely clear what they intended to shape them into. Modernist housing became synonymous with crime, poverty and hopelessness.

The Trellick Tower opened for business in 1972, and within a few years had become as notorious as any other high rise council block – indeed, its prominence made it perhaps more notorious than most. It stood out for miles, compromising not one jot with its surroundings. Tales abounded of poor maintenance, robbery and rape. Goldfinger was utterly unrepentant, observing, “I built skyscrapers for people to live in there and now they messed them up – disgusting.” What a prick.

For many people, the ugly-bastardry of Trellick Tower demanded retribution, and a popular urban legend arose that Goldfinger was actually utterly guilt-ridden by what he had unleashed on the residents of West London and jumped to his death from the Tower’s roof. Nothing but wishful thinking.

Ian Fleming, however, took things a step further. Fleming, of course, was the author of the James Bond novels, and no fan of Brutalism. If you know the Bond canon at all, you’ll no doubt have figured what happened – Fleming decided to give Bond a greedy, cheating enemy by the name of Goldfinger. Goldfinger – the real one – was a man without humour, as you may have guessed (for instance, he was known to fire assistants for cracking jokes), and Fleming’s publishers baulked at the possibility of being sued by the architect. Fleming furiously suggested that the character be renamed “Goldprick,” and the publishers figured maybe they should just go ahead and what the hell.

Oddly enough, the Trellick Tower has had something of a revival in its reputation in recent years. Following the formation of a Residents’ Association and a number of improvements, it’s become a more desirable place to live, with flats selling for an amount reported to be “heinously large” by sources (well, Wikipedia). Its distinctive shape has given it something of an iconic stature, and it’s become weirdly accepted as part of the skyline, like an old scar. It’s even been given Grade II* listing, which I don’t think anyone saw coming back in 1972. Apart from Goldfinger, perhaps.

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Filed under 20th Century, Buildings and architecture, Environment, Fashion and trends, Geography, History, Kensington, London, Notable Londoners, Psychogeography, Suburbia

Thank You For Not Smoking

Much has been made by the Mayor’s office about the great age of the Underground system in order to justify the current heinous amounts of engineering work. Not that I disagree, mark you, I appreciate that the system is very, very old. Ironic, really, given that when it was built it was actually slightly ahead of its time.

Sometimes, you see, technology gets a bit ahead of itself. In the case of the Underground in the 1860s, the problem was that while they could dig a tunnel just fine, they couldn’t find a clean way to send a train through it. Steam engines, as you are no doubt aware, produce the Dickens of a lot of smoke and steam. A number of solutions were tried. Those pipes you see on the front of the engine above left, the ones running from the cylinders up, you see those? Those are condensers, which collect the waste steam and, yes, condense it for re-use. Every so often, the tunnels were fitted with large ventilation shafts – including one that was ingeniously disguised as a pair of fake houses. The Metropolitan, unusually for a Victorian railway, allowed its drivers and firemen to grow enormous ZZ Top-style beards in the hope that said shrubbery would act as a kind of air filter. They even tried brazening it out, claiming that the smoky air was actually really good for bronchial complaints (although at least one chemist sold “Metropolitan Mixture,” a cough medicine targeting regular Underground users).

The only known photo of Fowlers Ghost.

One solution was proposed by John Fowler – remove the fire altogether. He suggested an engine with an “egg-ended boiler” – in reality a storage receptacle for steam produced by a stationary boiler. This engine was never built, but what was eventually produced was a strange locomotive known as “Fowler’s Ghost,” and I can give no better explanation of it than that offered by the Museum of Retrotech.

Clockwork powered Underground loco. I think I may have made a mistake.

On the same site, I came across an interesting little snippet about a concept tested at the Metropolitan District Railway’s Lillie Bridge Depot (that’s the District Line to you) in 1875. The idea was a clockwork tram. I know, right? Now, I’d heard a vague rumour that such a thing was tried, but no more than that. Was this trial carried out in the hope of finding a smokeless alternative to steam on the Underground? Sadly, the indices of the various Underground histories I have list “clockwork tram” under “piss, taking the” and offer little further information.

There were various other possibilities, none of them all that great. Isambard Kingdom Brunel had been something of a champion of the atmospheric railway – as seen left, this was powered by a piston in a vaccuum pipe. I’ve not come across any evidence that this was ever suggested for the Tube, though see the Pneumatic Dispatch for a similar idea that actually was tried. Ironically, Brunel himself, when consulted early on about the proposed Metropolitan, suggested that there was no need to worry, as the smoke from a steam engine would surely not be a problem in the first place.

Another was cable haulage. This was employed on the Glasgow Subway and, less successfully, on the London and Blackwall Railway in its early days. When it came to constructing the City and South London Railway (now roughly the City Branch of the Northern Line) in the 1880s, this was the favoured choice. Unlike the earlier Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways, the C&SLR was constructed entirely below ground in very narrow tunnels rather than being built by the cut-and-cover method (this, incidentally, is also why the former lines today have much larger trains than the latter). You can make excuses about a few coughing passengers, but full asphyxiation was generally frowned upon even back then.

However, by 1886, train technology had caught up with the Underground and the cable concept was dropped in favour of more flexible and easier to maintain electric trains, hauled by dinky little locomotives like that one there. However, there was still a little work to do – one of the early problems the system had was that the power plant wasn’t able to generate enough electricity to get trains up the gradient at Stockwell, which was a bit embarrassing. Nevertheless, once these teething troubles were ironed out, it was clear that finally there was a clean solution to the Underground problem, and the other lines soon followed in the adoption of electric power.

You know what’s ironic in all of this? The Metropolitan was one of the only railways not to ban smoking in its carriages. Was this a wangle to avoid taking responsibility for bronchial irritation? It is a mystery.

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Filed under 19th century, Environment, History, London, London Underground, Transport