Friday, May 17, 2013

What I'm watching: The Tube: A History of the London Underground

For those not following UK news, 2013 is a very important year. Not just because of the royal spud, but because the London Underground is celebrating it's 150th anniversary. There's been royal visits from the Queen, Charles and Camilla and much more interesting IMHO, original steam locomotives have pulled refurbished first class carriage cars from the time of Queen Victoria through the tunnels of the Metropolitan line. . BBC TV have done their part in the celebrations by commissioning an hour documentary celebrating the history of the Underground. It aired last night on BBC2 and is as much about celebrating the little known staff and proponents of the Tube as spouting out the history.

While there are some interesting facts, for example did you know that the tiles on the platforms were originally designed so illiterate people could know which stations to alit? Also that before 1933 all lines were run by different companies and if two different lines used the same station a person would have to come out of the station and then go back in and pay at the different train's entrance? However, the more interesting feature of the documentary for me were the individuals-most of whom worked for London Transport- that were interested and knew odd facts about the Tube. My favorite had to be Dylan, the train driver, who had collected over 8,000 station tiles. One wonders if he tiled his house in different station tiles.

All in all it was a fascinating if brief look at the complicated history of an iconic London institution. As a subway aficionado, the peeks at secret stations in Highgate and the old tunneling equipment left in a disused area of Moorgate station was new to me. If you have any interest in the Tube-whether or not you're a Londoner, you should really see this show.

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