Tuesday, January 08, 2002

I'll confess: I am a bit of a trainspotter. Just a little bit, mind. I am particularly infatuated with London Underground. I can't really explain just why I find the system so fascinating - perhaps it's because it seems both so modern and so antiquated, always on the verge of total collapse. To feed my obsession, Marcus bought me a brilliant book: Mind The Gap by Simon James.

Intrigued by those faraway-sounding, almost mythical, placenames in Tube tannoy announcements ["this train is for Hainault via Newbury Park"], James bought himself an all-zones Travelcard and photographed the stations at the ends of the tube lines. Surprisingly, some of these stations are not the tatty suburban backwaters you might expect. I am going to have to invent a reasons to go to Hillingdon and Cockfosters just so I can gawp at the architecture of their stations. And I simply have to see the Secret Nuclear Bunker at Ongar.

The book is littered with the kinds of trivial facts that turn me on:
  • The Metropolitan Railway - the world's first underground railway - opened between Paddington and Farringdon in 1863.
  • Until electrification in - wait for it - 1962, the Chesham and Amersham brances were powered by steam.
  • The Victoria Line is the only true "tube" line, submerged for the whole of its 22 kilometres.
  • Greenford is the only place on the network where you need to take an escalator up to the Underground.
  • The longest continuous journey on the Underground [excluding going round and round on the Circle] is the 54 kilometres from West Ruislip to Epping.
  • Watkin's Folly was begun in 1889, and was to be a tower which would dwarf the Eiffel Tower. Due to lack of funds and public indifference, it was never completed. A similar fate appears to await the structure which currently stands on this spot - Wembley Stadium.
  • Aldwych tube station closed down in 1994. The reason? Passenger numbers were not sufficient to justify spending the more than £3 million required to refurbish the lifts.
  • Amersham Underground station is the network's highest, at 150 metres above sea level.
  • Hampstead is the deepest below street level, at 58.5 metres. The deepest point below sea level occurs on the northern line, just south of Waterloo, at 21.3 metres.
  • The longest distance between two stations is 6.26 kms - from Chalfont & Latimer to Chesham on the Metropolitan.
  • The shortest distance is between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line - just 250 metres.
  • The Circle Line platforms at Aldgate are the only platforms on the network that belong exclusively to the Circle Line.
  • At full capacity, an eight-carriage Central Line train will carry 1,652 passengers through tunnels four metres wide.

    Loads more facts and figures can be found on this page. I'll get me anorak.
  • No comments: