You may have heard that today marks 150 years since the first ever train travelled under the streets of London. The staple of city life has been chugging along longer than film, longer than the modern Olympics and it’s even older than the oldest person in the world. To celebrate this incredible innovation and how it transformed our lives, we’ve put together a list of our favourite things about the tube, from the practical to the silly (and in no particular order). Carly-Ann Clements
With 11 tube lines and 83 stops in zone 1 alone, the tube is one of the most convenient forms of transport in the city. Imagine if everyone chose to roam above ground during rush hour; nothing would ever get done.
2. We came first
The Underground was the first transport system of its kind meaning that not only is it the best (obvs) but that London is a world key innovator – though we knew that already.
3. Not owning a car
We moan about the cost of the tube but could you imagine how much tax, insurance, congestion charges, parking, petrol AND the cost of the physical car would add up to each year? Let alone sitting in traffic for half your day. No thank you.
Just want to slip into the background and feel like a normal human being for an hour? Head down to the tube and take part in the social experiment that is urban solitude. No matter how many people surround you, you can become invisible and sink into a world of you for a change.
After many iterations, Harry Beck was commissioned in 1933 to design the map that we all know and love today. His innovative grid system made reading the map a lot simpler for everyone, including first time tube-goers – and you do get a childish rush of superiority when you help someone who is baffled by it which is always pretty awesome.
6. Tube-inspired art
Everyone’s had a crack at it. From engineers and sculptors to internet ‘funny men’, the tube and its correlating map has been bent and sculpted into images that boggle the mind, tickle the funny bone and sometimes even make you realise how beautiful the underground really is.
Between the smiles on the concourse, the helpful hands at the ticket machine and the dry wit of the disembodied tannoy voices, your day just wouldn’t be the same without one of the 19,000 tube staff. Better still, if you’re lucky enough, you may use one of the stations that feature daily quotes on the white board to make you smile – thanks guys, you rock.
Love them or hate them, buskers give the tube character. Need a conversation filler? How about talking about that vocally challenged Elvis singer or the busker with a cat called Bob?
They may be vermin when they’re living in your kitchen but stick them in the tube and you’ve got an urban pet for everyone. There’s something about the tiny, furry beasts that instantly make the edges of your mouth quiver into a smile (unless you have a mouse phobia. If so just ignore this one!). If they can survive the day down there, you can definitely get through your journey to work.
10. Time to read
We don’t know about you but we think that our daily commute is the perfect time to catch up on a bit of reading. Whether it’s that novel you’ve been meaning to read since uni or grabbing your weekly copy of Time Out every Tuesday, it’s time to get in the zone and speed read your way through your journey.
The newest addition to our underground life line, the wifi has saved us from boredom and many drawn out arguments through a simple click of your smartphone. Forgot your book? No problem. Download the digital copy and carry on where you left off. Need to know who won the winning goal in the 1994 World Cup? Hold that thought. Need to send that urgent email that could mean losing your job? Let’s hope your train’s slightly delayed at Oxford Street.
12. You can find your true love
Did you do a James Blunt and fall in love with a stranger in a crowded tube? Then you can hit up Tube Cupid or the ‘Rush Hour Crush’ pages in your local paper to try and reach out to that special someone. Either that or you can just perve on Tube Crush – both are good with us.
13. It’s warm
On cold, dark winter evenings, there’s nothing better than bounding down those steps into a cosy tube station especially when the alternative is standing outside in the rain waiting for a bus. Yes, we will admit it is less fun in the summer though.
14. It’s great for a nap
Gonna have a heavy night? Then catch 40 winks on your way to meet your friends. That extra 20 minutes could mean an extra hour on the dance floor and you’d just be wasting the time anyway. Just don’t sleep too long and wake up in Morden.
15. Good deed for the day
If you’re a gent, you have the opportunity to practice the dying art of chivalry by offering your seat to a lady or for the general public.
16. A place to vent
Got some pent up aggression from a discussion at work or an argument with your partner? Then why not take it out on the idiot on the platform? We’re not talking about violence here, but if someone pushes in front of the pregnant woman or blocks the door for people leaving the train, speak up (politely!) and feel a bit of that anger ebb away.
17. An empty carriage
There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you see a row of empty seats on a tube car. Not only will you get a seat but you have your pick of the bunch. Commuting bliss.
18. Someone’s always having a worse day than you
We’ve all had those days where your self pity is going through the ceiling, but get on the tube and you will always see someone who is having a slightly worse day than you. Whether it’s that they were splashed by a puddle, ripped clothes, a bloody nose or goodness knows what else, someone will definitely look worse for wear than you.
19. Extended bedroom
Now, people don’t really seem to be that keen on people doing their makeup on the tube but if you’re running late to your best mate’s wedding or a really important interview, the tube can be a saving grace. A quick slick of lipstick or time to do your tie could be the difference between a job of a life time and another missed opportunity.
20. The hair swoosh
Want to feel like Beyoncé or catch someone’s eye? Then why not stand at the end of the carriage, open the window let your hair go wild.
Want to be a complete show off? Tube surf (riding with no hands) or use the hand rails as a stripper pole or parallel bars. You’re bound to impress someone… even if it is the police.
Similar to the mice, animals on the tube can put a massive smile on your face. From pugs to pigeons to foxes, there are a whole menagerie of animals to keep you entertained on the tube. Even in the map.
23. Inside knowledge
Isn’t it great when you learn exactly where to board to ensure the exit lines up with the doors perfectly? Getting to the lift first really does give you a sense of accomplishment.
24. The smell
No, not the stench of someone’s armpit when you’re squashed in rush hour. We’re talking about the comforting hot musty smell when you walk down into a tube station (just try not to think that you are probably inhaling a million people’s dead skin cells).
A branded mug is usually naff but anything with a tube map on it is a-okay.
26. Getting to the airport on time
So, there’s three of you travelling with six suit cases between you and your flight is at 11am from Heathrow. Fancy getting a couple of cabs at £50 a pop and run the risk of getting stuck in morning traffic or want the convenience of a leisurely tube ride? Yeah, we thought we knew the answer to that one.
27. British queuing
There’s no greater example of British properness than witnessing a queue at a tube station. At the front of the queue during rush hour at Canary Wharf? No need to worry about being pushed out of the way, and if you are, there will be a volley of people speaking up for you.
28. The Cinderella syndrome
Need to make sure you’re tucked up in bed before midnight (or the modern day equivalent – 1am)? Then keep the last tube home in mind and you’ll never stay out longer than you want to.
29. Quirky features
Who doesn’t love the Sherlock Holmes mosaic at Baker Street or the underground tunnels at London Bridge? These are the brilliant things that give the underground style, character and life.
You know who they are. The guy with the crazy eyes who shouts at everyone who walks past. The woman with a full beard who knits all day long. Everyone loves the locals that entertain you in the morning.
Obviously with 150 years of the tube, there are even more reasons to love the tube, so what’s yours?