The Tube Turns 150 Today; Is It Something to Be Proud Of?

By Chris Mills on at

Much as I might gripe about the Tube (and boy, do I love to gripe), it's still an awesome machine and an incredible achievement -- 270 stations, 402 kilometres of track and an insane 1.2 billion journeys per year. And today it turns 150! Do you think trains like birthday cake?

Here's a brief history of the big old brute:

- First line was the Metropolitan, running between Farringdon and King's Cross. Opened for business 9th January 1863.

- First truly Underground (not "cut and cover" like the current-day District lines) branch was the City and South London Railway, linking Monument Station and Stockwell.

- All the competing railway lines were bought up, unified and electrified by an American in the early 1900s.

- The first TfL-style organisation was created in 1933 to organise all the buses, trams and tubes (and 80 years later, they still haven't managed to do this...).

- Famously, the stations were used as giant bomb shelters during WWII (though they weren't always bomb-proof, sadly).

- London Transport, including all the tubes, buses and trams in London, was nationalised in 1948.

- Electrification was finished only in 1961, with the Metropolitan line being the last to have steam locomotives running passenger services.

- Jubilee line opened in 1979, with the largest stations on the Underground -- North Greenwich station is apparently big enough to hold an ocean liner or 3,000 double-decker buses.

- WiFi was introduced into the network in June 2012, just in time for the Olympics.

All in all, it's a pretty damn impressive achievement by anyone's measure. What do you reckon though: is the Tube a national treasure, or a woefully terrible, over-priced source of embarrassment for the whole country? Let us know below.