The History of the Underground

London Underground

Dating back more than 150 years, London’s Underground is the hidden lifeblood of the city. 250 miles of track lie beneath the feet of residents and visitors, as it handles up to 4.8 million passenger journeys every single day . So no matter which hotels in London city you decide to stay in, you’ll never find yourself far from a Tube stop. But exactly how much do you know about this iconic piece of transportation history?

The London Underground began life in 1863 when the world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway, opened between Paddington and Farringdon. Serving six intermediate stations, it used gas-lit wooden carriages which were pulled by steam locomotives to carry travellers. An immediate success, it carried around 38,000 passengers on its first day alone.

As a result of its impressive opening, the Metropolitan District Railway – otherwise known as the District Railway – opened in December 1868. Operating between South Kensington and Westminster, it was part of a plan to create an underground "circle" that would connect London's main-line stations. Built using the cut and cover method, the Circle Line was completed in 1884 and was the start of the London Underground as we know it today.

The first electronic carriages weren’t introduced until 1890, when the first deep-level line, the City and South London Railway – which were made up of two 10 feet diameter circular tunnels between King William Street and Stockwell – were opened. Created under roads to avoid the need to get permission from owners of properties on the surface, the new, state of the art carriages boasted small opaque windows which were dubbed padded cells because of their tiny, dark nature.

From there, the underground gained momentum, with the Waterloo and City Railways opening shortly after, followed by the Central London Railway in 1900, affectionately referred to as the “twopenny tube”. With the momentum of the tube gaining speed, the early 20th century saw the District and Metropolitan railways brought into the modern age and electrified. With this came the addition of a DC system, after American investor, Charles Yerkes, helped fund the project.

The addition of Mr Yerkes really drove the project forward. He acquired control of the District Railway, and as a result, established the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) in 1902. He was to finance and operate three additional tube lines, the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway, the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, and the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. Opening in record time, the three were fully operational by 1907 and helped to connect the ever-expanding city of London together.

The Underground continued to serve the public, with lines being extended to reach further out of the heart of the city. However a lot of the construction was halted by World War l. Used as a shelter by the terrified public during bomb raids, the stations actually helped to save thousands of lives throughout the First World War (as they also did during World War ll). When the war ended, work started again, creating a larger web of tunnels under our feet. Mirroring what we now recognise as the London Underground, the tunnels were used daily by many residents, as well as visitors to the bustling city.

Nowadays, the Tube boasts 270 stations across 11 lines and stretches far and wide in and around the city. Now carrying passengers to and from Greater London, Hertfordshire, Essex, and Buckinghamshire, the Tube is an intrinsic part of city life. The project arguably wouldn’t have been possible without the vision, investment, sheer dedication and hard graft of some of the finest workers in the world.

If you’re looking for hotels in London city, we recommend familiarising yourself with the Tube routes and lines to make sure you can get to your destination quickly and easily.