Geography of the London Tube 1863–1977


Map Code: Ax01988

Construction of an underground railway in London started in 1863 and was financed by the Metropolitan Railway. It was an engineering feat, initially using ‘cut and cover’ shallow tunnels, and eventually involving the construction of deep tunnels. The first line connected the City to railway termini at Paddington, Euston and King’s Cross and was later absorbed into the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines. Using funding from further Railway companies, more lines were introduced, including the District (1868), which, together with the Circle, was electrified in 1905. By the late 19th century the Metropolitan line extended more than 50 miles (80 km), deep into rural Buckinghamshire. Housing followed the railway and the suburban idyll became known as ‘Metroland’. In 1890, the Northern Line opened; the first section, constructed between Stockwell and Borough, is the oldest stretch of deep-level tube line on the network. The Central Line (1900), Bakerloo line (1906) and Piccadilly line (1906) were added to the growing network, with the Victoria Line (1968) and Jubilee line (1979) as later additions. The curving, sinuous lines, constructed to navigate London’s complex physical and human geography, were stylized into geometric regularity in the world-famous London tube map, designed by Harry Beck in 1931.

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