Happy Birthday London Underground!

Today marks 150 years since the first train sallied forth on the then Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon (a stretch which is now part of the Hammersmith & City line). To celebrate that happy event, Google have created a special Doodle:

Fantastic use of the tube map, one of my favourite things about London.

Fantastic use of the tube map, one of my favourite things about London.

And TimeOut London have composed a list of their 30 favourite things about the tube which you can see here.

And so I thought I’d share 10 of my top reasons for loving the tube.

  1. The convenience. There’s a station five minutes from my house and it’s on the treasured Northern line which almost never breaks down, kept running through the interminable strikes of 2011 and serves almost the entirety of central London. Who could ask for better?!

    The wonderful Northern line

    The wonderful Northern line

  2. The people. Be they staff, commuters or tourists there’s always someone who can put a smile on your face. Ranging from the red-faced driver who after repeated requests for the “man with the bike” to get off the train had to admit that ‘he’ was in fact a she; to the platform announcer whose speech I can repeat word for word (including his wonderful pronunciation of the word ‘depart’); to the two boys whose ghetto speech was such that I honestly had no idea what they were saying; I’ve encountered a number of hilarious individuals in my travels and I love them all.
  3. The sleeping people. Definitely their own category, there’s nothing funnier than watching someone desperately try not to nod off on their way home. Unless it’s seeing them wake up at Morden and curse the lack of northbound trains (although that’s been me on more than one occasion)!

    Three sleeping people. A particularly amusing trip home!

    Three sleeping people. A particularly amusing trip home!

  4. The friendliness. The tube is known for its lack of human contact, there’s an unwritten rule which bans eye contact and all forms of interaction between passengers but it’s not always so. in the case of delays or if someone needs help tube passengers seem more friendly and willing to help than those on other methods of transportation. I had a lovely chat with someone who noticed I was upset one night not long after I moved here and I’ve witnessed countless other examples of people waking up other passengers, helping those a little bit worse for wear and generally just showing a bit of humanity. Not to mention the good-natured moaning that starts up when there’s any sign of a delay.

    A work of art like no other.

    A work of art like no other.

  5. The map. I love that map with its multicoloured lines snaking across the page in a pattern so familiar to Londoners and so confusing to outsiders. It’s like we have our own secret code. Which leads nicely on to:
  6. The insider knowledge. I love that every morning and evening I stand in the exact spot on the platform where I know the doors will stop and that I sit in the same seat for every trip. I also love seeing other people milling about in confusion and finding themselves stuck between two crowds with no chance of getting through the door on the next train. I can be ever so smug.

    Picture copyright: Peter Stubbs

    Picture copyright: Peter Stubbs

  7. The funny signs. Whether the work of ‘artists’, underground staff or just an accident, they can all brighten up the day.

    Sadly it's a bit blurred but the yellow poster says 'A little patience won't kill you' but the poster is upside down suggesting soemone was being ironically impatient.

    Sadly it’s a bit blurred but the yellow poster says ‘A little patience won’t kill you’ but the poster is upside down suggesting someone was being ironically impatient.

  8. The differences. Each of the lines has its own feel (if you don’t believe me try riding the beautiful new Victoria line service and then getting on an old, rattling District line train) and many of the stations have little quirks like the Sherlock Holmes motif at Baker Street or the ancient poster at South Wimbledon. It’s little things like that which make a journey interesting.
  9. The guilt-free reading. This is the most important of all, spending close to two hours a day underground gives me a perfect excuse to read. I can’t do work because there’s no internet (the slow WiFi provided at stations doesn’t count since by the time you’re logged on the train is moving again and you’ve lost signal), I can’t get in touch with other people because there’s no mobile signal so what else is there to do?! Which brings us to:
  10. This blog! if it wasn’t for all the time I spend on the tube I would have nothing to write about so hurray for the underground!!
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