Tag Archives: London Underground

Beneath the Grave – Ghosts of the Central Line

Good evening, fright-fans, it is I, Tom, your extravagantly-cleavaged Master of the Dark [picture inadmissable]. As Halloween approaches with the inevitability of death, I thought an appropriately-themed entry might be in order. As last year’s entry on the ghosts haunting the Northern Line was so popular, I figured I might continue the theme with the hauntings on the old Central London Railway or, as the kids call it nowadays, the Central Line. Mind the gap…


You’ve all heard of the Beast of Bodmin, but did you know there was a Beast of Northolt? In the early 1990s, there were several sightings of a big cat alongside the Central Line between Northolt and Greenford. Accounts vary as to the species of cat, although most seem to settle on “puma.” Whence it came and how it got to Northolt without being noticed remain to be explained.

Marble Arch

If you should find yourself leaving Marble Arch late at night, when the station is quiet, you may find yourself being followed up the escalator. Several people have reported a sinister man in 1940s clothing who they sense close behind them on the escalator and see out of the corner of their eye. Upon turning around completely, the man vanishes. Again, no explanation has been offered as to who this restless spirit might be.

British Museum

Perhaps the most unlikely ghost out of the many on the Underground was sighted at this now-closed station. The ghost would, so the story goes, appear at one end of the platform and walk to the other, wailing mournfully. What marked this particular spectre out, however, was the fact that he was dressed in the clobber of an Ancient Egyptian. Being the intelligent and probably very sexy reader that you are, you’ve no doubt figured out why there might be an Ancient Egyptian haunting British Museum Station. To be more specific, the Egyptian is said to have some sort of link to the so-called Unlucky Mummy (pictured right), a sarcophagus lid in the Museum that is said to be cursed. This is just one of many legends attached to it, the most interesting of which says that it was responsible for sinking the Titanic.

Even bearing in mind that I’m a sceptic, I’m inclined to take this one with a pinch of salt. The accounts are lacking in detail and only emerged shortly before the station was closed down. I’m inclined to believe it was the invention of a journalist looking for a spooky story. Nevertheless, the story persists, albeit with the ghost now haunting Holborn. Why Holborn and not the closer Russell Square or Tottenham Court Road stations? It is a mystery.

Chancery Lane

Chancery Lane has plenty of secrets of its own, but in the tunnels between here and Holborn, there’s said to be one more surprise. During the 1960s,drivers stopping at signals here would often be freaked out by the appearance of a man standing next to them in the cab. Apparently some sort of fellow crewman, he would be staring straight ahead, and would vanish as soon as the train pulled away.


I covered the manife-stations (see what I did there) at this stop in last year’s entry, but I thought I’d mention that it’s a haunted station on the Central Line for those pedants who’ll leave comments if I don’t.

Liverpool Street

This terminus is built on the site of a plague pit and one of the several incarnations of the notorious Bedlam. The building of this and neighbouring Broad Street Station involved the disturbance of many final resting places, so really it would be surprising if there were no hauntings here. Sure enough, Liverpool Street and environs are said to be haunted by the ghastly screams of a woman.

The most popular suggestion for the screamer is one Rebecca Griffiths, an inmate at Bedlam in the late 18th century whose illness included a compulsive need to hold on to a particular coin. Upon her death, one of the staff (who were not known for their selflessness) stole it from her lifeless fingers and Rebecca’s inconsolable spirit searches for it still.

More recently, in 2000, the Line Controller sighted a man in white overalls in the tunnels who should not have been there. He sent the Station Supervisor to investigate, who found nothing. What made this particularly peculiar was that the Supervisor found no man down there – even though the Controller could see the man on the CCTV screen right next to him.

Bethnal Green

I’ll finish with the Easternmost of the haunted Central Line stations that I’m aware of, and one of the most frightening hauntings. This one is traceable to a specific incident that took place on 3rd March 1943. As often happened in the East End at that time, when the air raid siren sounded, the local people made for the Tube station. Unfortunately, on this night it had been decided to carry out a test-firing of an experimental new type of rocket in nearby Victoria Park. Panicked by what sounded like a very nearby explosion, the crowds surged forward. A woman on the stairs lost her footing and fell, taking several others with her and causing further panic, which in turn worsened the stampede and the crush inside the station. 173 people were killed in the disaster, crushed or asphyxiated. For reasons of morale, the Bethnal Green incident was covered up until 1946.

From 1981 onwards, however, there were reports of an extremely unnerving nature from the station. Staff working late at night spoke of hearing screams – at first one or two, then more and more, clearly identifiable as women and children. These screams would go on for up to fifteen minutes before dying down.

There you have it, readers. I hope you enjoy your Halloween this year and whatever you do, don’t have nightmares…


Filed under 18th century, 19th century, 20th Century, Bloomsbury, Disasters, East End and Docklands, Flora and Fauna, Hackney, History, London, London Underground, Museums, Occult, Paranormal, Suburbia, The City, Transport, West End

I get a roundel

Now here’s a London icon for ya.

This is the old London Underground roundel. If you’ve spent any time at all in the city, you’ve come across it. Hell, these days it’s practically a symbol of the city itself.

It’s one of those designs that’s just so simple and effective that you find yourself thinking, “Golly gee, anyone could have come up with that.” I mean, red circle, blue bar, the word “UNDERGROUND,” hardly rocket science amirite?

Actually, it’s been a long evolutionary process to get this far. The roundel, or “bullseye” or “target” as it used to be known (maybe these earlier titles are seen as too confrontational in the modern age?) is believed to date back ultimately to the 19th century. The London General Omnibus Company’s logo consisted of a spoked wheel with a crossbar (see above right).

In those days, simplicity doesn’t appear to have been a thing that corporate image-makers did, and for a long time the Underground railways (not that London Underground existed as a unified concept back then) went for more elaborate symbols. The one on the left, for instance, was used in 1908 by London Underground Electric Railways, the direct ancestor of the modern Underground system. You can see elements of the roundel concept in this, but it lacks a certain “oomph” to my mind.

The true London Underground roundel appeared that very same year as a handy and eyecatching means of identifying stations belonging to London Underground Electric Railways (or “The Combine,” as it was nicknamed). The original roundels consisted of a red circle with a blue bar across it, and you can still see these at a few locations – Ealing Broadway springs to mind. As stations featured colourful advertising and complex tiling schemes (to enable illiterate travellers to identify their destination), the sign had to stand out.

The next big development for the roundel took place a few years later, in 1917. This was during the reign of Frank Pick as the Combine’s Publicity Manager. Pick, as I’ve mentioned in other entries, basically set the design standards that London Underground follows to this day. Part of this was the introduction of the Johnston typeface in which all Underground-produced written material is written. Edward Johnston, who devised the typeface (duh) also redesigned the roundel to work with his new alphabet.

This roundel was in use during the Underground’s greatest period of expansion, and consequently architect Charles Holden used it extensively in his station designs. He even came up with a rather natty 3D version, as well as a stained glass variant.

Meanwhile, in the 1930s, more changes were afoot. In 1933, all of London’s Underground lines, together with all of its bus companies, tramlines and coach services, were united under the London Passenger Transport Board – better known to you and me as London Transport. Variants of the Roundel were introduced across the board to emphasise the unity of the transport network.

In 1947, the roundel was reworked again. Following the Second World War, the prevailing design aesthetic was far simpler – partly due to Austerity period economy measures. To this end, Harold Hutchison (then Publicity Manager) eliminated the dashes above and below the word “UNDERGROUND.” This is basically the version still in use to this day.

In recent years, the scope of its use has expanded even further, with variants being devised for the DLR, Overground, riverboats, Dial-a-Ride and even streets.

In fact, its (unauthorised) use has spread yet further afield. On the left you can see it in use on the Darjeeling Himalaya Railway, which is a narrow gauge steam railway in India (not yet covered by Oyster). It even crops up in fiction – the subway in the film Dark City uses it, and in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, the dwarfish rune for a mine is… a circle with a line across it.

You can dis the Tube all you like (I know I do), but there’s one thing you can’t deny – when they come up with a good design, they really come up with a good design.


Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Arts, Buildings and architecture, Fashion and trends, History, London, London Underground, Transport

If it’s red, it’s Green

As I’ve mentioned before, the London Underground has always had a strong sense of design. In fact, it pretty well introduced the concept of corporate identity to the city. However, one of the most distinctive early shapers of this corporate identity is perhaps the least known. Take a look at this station:

This is the abandoned Piccadilly Line stop at York Road (just a short distance from King’s Cross if you want to look it out for yourself). But the architectural style will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in London, for there are simply dozens of buildings like these dotted along the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and Northern Lines. Many of them are still in use, some have been converted to other purposes and some, like our friend York Road and the old entrance at Euston, are simply abandoned. This is the house style devised by Leslie Green for the stations of the Underground Electric Railway Company of London Limited.

The UERL, as it is commonly known, was the result of American transport tycoon Charles Yerkes buying out several Underground railway schemes that had run into financial difficulty, the railways that would eventually become the Bakerloo, Piccadilly, District and Northern lines (albeit only the Charing Cross branch of the latter). Whatever you might think of Yerkes as a person- certainly he served some time in the US for dodgy dealings – it can’t be denied that he knew a little something about corporate identity.

Therefore, Yerkes hired the young Leslie Green in 1903 to create a unified style for the above-ground buildings of the UERL. Green was not very well-known at the time, although he had had a number of commissions in Central London. The brief was that the stations he designed had to be adaptable to any location,  cheap to build and – this factor was very important given that construction of the lines were well underway – quick to erect.

Green devised a building style not dissimilar to that used on American skyscrapers. The stations would be built around a sturdy frame of steel girders, with the walls effectively “hanging” from this (I know, architecture students, it’s more complex than that) and a flat roof. The distinctive oxblood tiles were a time- and cost-cutting measure – architectural fanciness, very much the style in the early twentieth century, could be cast into the tiles which could be stuck on to the frontage like Lego bricks (or Bayko – anyone remember Bayko?).

The skyscraper-style construction wasn’t just modernist whimsy on Green’s part – Yerkes was savvy enough to figure out that his stations would be occupying prime sites in the city, and so they should be built in such a way that extra storeys of flats or offices could be plonked on top. For all Yerkes was a visionary, his vision, like that of Zephram Cochrane, was inspired by the profit motive.

Despite the similarities between the buildings, Green was able to incorporate various differences from station to station. Compare the compact front of Aldwych to the sharp curves of Chalk Farm, for instance. For Holborn, he even abandoned the oxblood tiles altogether in favour of granite. There are plenty of less obvious detail differences if you’re prepared to examine closely.

Inside, where refurbishment hasn’t obliterated the original decor, you’ll notice that the platform-level tiling can be quite colourful, forming interesting patterns that differ between stations. The detail differences in this case served a very practical purpose, in that the Underground was an inexpensive form of transport and, in those early days, it was assumed that a large proportion of those using the trains would be illiterate. Having different patterns would allow such folk to recognise their stops with ease.

Tragically, Green died at thirty-three. However, no less than twenty-nine of his  stations survive in recognisable condition, the great majority still in everyday use and all unmistakable. In terms of an architectural legacy, that’s hard to beat.


Filed under 20th Century, Buildings and architecture, History, London, London Underground, Notable Londoners, Transport

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.


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

Sell out and stay classy

There are a number of stereotypes attached to railway enthusiasts – socially inept, anorak-wearing, middle-aged loners with NHS spectacles and plastic lunchboxes. While undoubtedly this stereotype is vastly exaggerated and largely inaccurate, it is fair to say that there are certain qualities which might fairly be attributed to the average rail nut. The majority of active rail enthusiasts (not all of them, before you leave angry comments) tend to be middle-aged, politically conservative, technically-minded, musically retro, male and white.

Yet there is a subsection of rail enthusiasm to which these stereotypes are not generally attached. I refer to the Tubeheads – enthusiasts of the London Underground. While there are plenty of technically-minded Tube enthusiasts, there are seemingly just as many if not more who are not – perhaps the best-known Tubehead is the esteemed Annie Mole of Going Underground.

I came to reflect on this phenomenon on Saturday, when I visited the Museum Depot at Acton, where the London Transport Museum keeps its reserve collection. Twice a year it’s opened to the public. While I have reported on this before, today I saw some exciting new things that gave me an insight into the Tubehead phenomenon.

You see, I think the reason there isn’t a Tubehead stereotype comparable to the trainspotter one is because there is a lot more to being a tube enthusiast than just the trains. The sign on the right depicts the Roundel, which has become a symbol for the entire city. Similarly, the Underground itself has come to represent London. One of the iconic images of the Blitz is Londoners taking shelter in the stations. It was no accident that the 7/7 bombers chose to hit London’s transport, so dependent is the city on its network. Indeed, Christian Wolmar argues that the Underground was instrumental in the shaping of modern London – it encouraged the development of the suburbs and enabled commuting as we know it today. The Underground is the city.

Hey, look! The names are all different!Actually, Christian Wolmar was there at the event, and I saw his lecture based on his book The Subterranean Railway. Wolmar claims not to be able to tell one end of a locomotive from the other, being more interested in the social aspects of railways. However, his enthusiasm for the subject shines through and the talk was Most Enjoyable. I recommend his books for railway nuts and anyone with a passing interest in the subject.

Yet even the social aspect of the Underground doesn’t cover the full spectrum of Tubeheadedry, as was brought home to me by another of the Things To Do on Saturday. You see, the Underground has always had a very strong design aesthetic.

This was the case right from the days of Charles Yerkes, the American magnate who bought up the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Hampstead and District lines to create Underground Electric Railways Limited. He engaged architect Leslie Green to create a distinctive unifying style for the company to make it instantly identifiable. Green came up with the distinctive oxblood station frontages still visible throughout Central London.

However, the Underground’s image as a kind of corporate style icon really came about when Frank Pick became Managing Director of the Underground Group in 1928. He hired Charles Holden to create up-to-date art deco stations, Edward Johnston to devise a special alphabet and some of the brightest new stars in graphic design to come up with posters. Pick was not really an engineer, but he understood well that good design is good publicity, and his legacy is felt right up to the present day.

So when it was announced at the Depot that there would be a tour of the poster art collection, I leapt at the chance (not literally, that would be stupid).

The collection is nothing short of spectacular. According to the chap giving the tour (the Head of Collections, no less), the London Transport Museum can only put approximately 2% of its collection on public display at any time, although they do try to rotate the exhibits (again, not literally). The rest is kept at the Depot. “The rest” consists of almost every poster that London Transport has ever produced.

So in this back room in an industrial depot building in suburban Acton is perhaps the most impressive display of commercial artwork in London. It’s utterly spectacular, and I’m presenting here just a few of the photos I took. Posters line every wall, they’re on every table, they are literally all over the place.

I noticed a few art students among our party, and that’s not entirely surprising. Some of the names hired by Pick and his successors include Jacob Epstein, Man Ray and Edward McKnight Kauffer, often when they were fresh out of art school.

Consequently, original poster prints can be worth tens of thousands of pounds each.

You can therefore only imagine how jaw-dropping it was for us when we were taken through to the room where the original artworks were kept.

The original artwork of John Hassall's 'No Need To Ask a P'liceman,' the first Tube poster.

Here, on wire racks, are the original paintings from which some of the most highly-regarded images in the history of graphic design are taken. The experience is utterly surreal. By rights, these should be housed in some airy, purpose-built art gallery. But in fact, they’re just stored in a back room. Utterly bizarre. It’s like rummaging in Grandmother’s attic, if Grandmother was a multi-multi-multi millionaire.

One of these days I’m going to have to get around to robbing the place. [NOTE TO SELF: Don’t leave this in the finished entry.]

So, to wrap up, it seems to me that the reason Underground enthusiasts are not limited to the technical types is simply because the Tube was very good at achieving its publicity aims – it’s not just a means of getting from A to B, it’s an integral aspect of London life. For all we may complain about engineering works and suchlike negative aspects, it’s a vital part of our historic, geographical, cultural and aesthetic identity as Londoners.

God, I do go on.

Further Reading
The London Transport poster collection is now online. Explore it for yourself, why not?


Filed under 20th Century, Arts, Buildings and architecture, Fashion and trends, History, London, London Underground, Museums, Notable Londoners, Photos, tourism, Transport, West End

An Idiot’s Guide to Using the Underground

I think, one way or another, I must use the London Underground more-or-less every day. I use it to get to work, to go shopping, to visit friends, to explore the city and blah blah blah you-get-the-idea. If I could get an Oyster card permanently implanted in my hand, I probably would.

So I feel that I’m reasonably qualified to say that there are certain people who just don’t get it. Who have difficulties. Who, to put it bluntly, can make a real hash of a simple thing like getting on a train.

What I initially thought was needed was a sort of ‘Idiot’s Guide to the Underground.’ The problem with “For Dummies”-type books and their many imitators is that they’re inherently self-defeating. If someone is intelligent enough to realise they have a problem, pick the relevant book up and apply its advice then they must, ipso facto, not be an idiot. A real idiot would simply do nothing about it and continue in their brain-wasting ways unto death. Therefore, I’m going to just collect together all the ways people manage to ruin Tube travel for the rest of humanity and suggest that they just continue doing exactly that.

I call it…

You am idiot, want on tube

The London Underground can be very bewildering. It has, oh, lots of stations – more than seven, at least. And the lines are all pretty colours, which can be distracting. Fortunately, help is at hand.

To the platform

I’m afraid you’re going to have to buy a ticket – most if not all stations have automatic barriers, which are a form of robot that can read your ticket (not literally). They do not respond to verbal arguments or physical violence.

Having bought your ticket, approach the barriers carefully. They may appear superficially similar, but this is actually incorrect – some are further to the left than others. To save time, you might want to make your decision as you approach the barrier, wavering from left to right as you approach. If you have large bags with you, there is a gate to allow you through more easily, but this is by no means compulsory.

Now you will come to the escalator. This is a device that can save a lot of time. Therefore, you can afford to approach it slowly, particularly as you come close to its beginning – perhaps you would like to practise wavering from side-to-side a little more?

It is commonly suggested that you stand on the right. However, the left is far less congested, and therefore is an ideal place for you, your friend or your luggage to rest. If you are with a friend, you may wish to turn around and attempt to walk up the down escalator. This is highly risible to all concerned. If you do have luggage, remember that to get the maximum benefit from the convenience of the escalator, you should not attempt to pick it up until you are approximately three inches from the lower end. You should then pause immediately after stepping off in order to take stock.

On the platform

You have come on to the Underground because you do not wish to walk – that goes without saying. Therefore, to get on to the platform and then start walking along it is counter-productive. Far more sensible is to stand immediately in front of the entrance. The more of you there are, the more energy is saved overall. You’re practically an environmentalist!

When trying to determine where your train is going, there are electronic indicators on the platform and announcements over the PA system, and each train carries an indicator of its destination on the front. However, you should not eliminate the possibility that this is all an elaborate conspiracy against you personally, and therefore should check with as many passengers as possible that the next train is, in fact, going where you want it to go. They may be privy to secret knowledge that they would like to share with a lost soul like yourself.

Getting on the train

Having firmly established that TfL is not conspiring to send you unwittingly to Mill Hill East for some nefarious purpose, when the train arrives, you can get on board. Remember, though, that the train does not stay in any station for a very long time. To ensure that you can actually get on, you should stand as close as possible to the doors when they open, and immediately force your way in. Other people may try to get off the train first, making said forcefulness difficult, but they must be forgiven – they do not comprehend the importance of your journey.

If, by some chance, you have arrived just as your train is about to leave, you should attempt to force the door open. They can’t leave while you’re holding it open, and their attempts to prevent your party of five people from waiting two whole minutes until the next train are frankly inconsiderate.

On the train

Take a seat, although if you are feeling sociable, you may wish to get up, run up and down the carriage or swing from the bars. If, as mentioned before, you have large bags with you, the seat next to you makes a convenient receptacle, particularly in rush hour when putting it on the floor will get it jostled.

On the other hand, you may prefer to stand, particularly on short journeys. The best way to demonstrate this intention is to stand next to an empty seat in such a way that nobody else can get to it. However, it is worth noting that if your journey is that short, you should stand as near to the doors as you can and stay there. Sure, there may be more room further down the carriage, but logic dictates that if space is at a premium, you should be where you can get off and thus create space as quickly as you can.

If you think you’re likely to get hungry, you may wish to bring a delicious kebab or box of fried chicken to consume along the way. Note that there are no bins on the train, but TfL does employ a lot of cleaners and so you can safely leave the packaging behind.

Leaving the train

Having ascertained that you are at your destination, step off the train and wander aimlessly around the platform to get your bearings. When there are so many people about, it can be difficult to develop a full spatial awareness. Other commuters may bump into you, perhaps even swear at you, but who’s going to be laughing when, through a lack of spatial awareness, they wander on to the track? Not them. Because they’d be dead.

Uh-oh! Another escalator! Fortunately, the same etiquette applies for the “up” escalator as for the “down” escalator.

When you reach the barrier, either put your Oyster card on the reader or insert your ticket into the “in” slot on the machine. This is normally located on the front of the barrier, but you may wish to try inserting the ticket into the top slot just in case.

If your ticket or Oyster card will not let you out, correct procedure is to keep trying up to twenty times. If the barrier still won’t open, take a couple of smart side-steps in front of the line of people next to you and try the next one, then the next, and so on until you reach one that opens.

You may consider trying one of the barriers that has a red cross on its display. This represents the cross of St Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, who is said to guard the entrance to Heaven. Therefore, it may be possible that this is a Da Vinci Code-style test of wit, and the crossed barriers actually represent a way to the “world above.”

You’re out

Congratulations! Try not to get run over as you cross the road.


Filed under London, London Underground, Randomness, tourism, Transport


Now, I know you’re all worried about the Tube strike tomorrow. No doubt you’ve come here looking for reassurance, perhaps even leadership. Don’t worry, my droogs, there is a Problem and I have a Solution. Check this out.

Let’s say you need to get around the Tube, it’s late at night, the power’s switched off, what do you do? Well, these bicycle things (I suppose technically it’s a quad) were the solution London Transport used in the 1940s. Probably a pretty nifty way to get about – the rails, I would imagine, are easier to ride on than a road.

Truth be told, I’ve always rather fancied one of those pump trolleys. You know the things, a couple of handles like a seesaw, a pair of guys working it.

That’s the lad. Also known as a handcart or a gandy dancer. I had a go on one of these years ago in Bideford. I think it would be just the thing for my morning exercises. Incidentally, I love the way people always look so guilty in early photographs. “What, us? No, we were just… looking at the handcart.”

Failing that, on the right – just in front of the pump trolley – is a vehicle known as a velocipede. You’d sit on the saddle and rock the handle back and forth to move the thing. I suppose it was a sort of early rowing machine.

Perhaps, though, you just use the Tube to commute above ground, in which case you can safely add an engine. Should this be the case, might I recommend one of these?

You’ll be the envy of all your friends! It is, I should point out, petrol-powered. I don’t know how that works out with the congestion charge. Boris won’t return my calls.

Anyway, I hope this has given you lots of ideas for dealing with those striking  Commie bastards tomorrow, and I wish you a pleasant journey.

Further reading

http://london-underground.blogspot.com/2010/11/3rd-tube-strike-begins-this-evening.html – Annie Mole’s take on events.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/8042165/London-Underground-strike-the-webs-best-jokes.html – Strike jokes! Yaaaay!

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Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Current events, History, London, London Underground, Photos, Politics, Transport