12 Secrets of the London tube

It isn’t just expensive and subject to delays. There’s more to the London Underground system that meets the eye. It is is one of the oldest and biggest metro systems in the world, with lots of quirks and even its own commuter etiquette. So naturally, it’s become a place of intrigue, mystery and secrets. To this day, we are still learning new or lost things about it, including ghost stations. Here are other secrets and little known things about our beloved London Underground.

There are two houses on Leinster Gardens that are dummies.

Leinster-Gardens-dummies-houses

On the outside, they look like two quite beautiful houses in Bayswater. But 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens are just facades. And the significance of this, we hear you ask? It relates to the early days of the London Underground when steam locomotives were used. This was a section of the Circle and District Lines exposed to the surface, so the tunnels were kept free of smoke. The fronts were built to hide it from residents so it wouldn’t look unsightly. The location was used in an episode of Sherlock in 2014. From the other side, the ‘house’ looks a lot different:

back-of-dummies-houses-in-Leinster-gardens

There is a false wall passenger don’t know about at Elephant and Castle.

Engineering works at Elephant and Castle were abandoned, leaving a sealed tunnel

Lots of well-used Tube carriages spend the night at rest down a long, apparently dead-ended tunnel at Elephant and Castle Tube station.

But the dead-end is a false brick wall, and the tunnel actually continues for quite a while, according to our inside source.

Engineering works were begun and then abandoned – and the tunnel is now sealed.

Most fights seem to happen on the relatively glamorous Metropolitan line between “wealthy drunk people”.

An experienced Tube drivers’ words.

Bakerloo is the slowest line, and Central is the fastest.

There you have it. But the Central is worst for overcrowding as a result, apparently.

Drivers live in almost complete darkness.

There is no little side lamp or overhead lamp inside a cabin – only the tiny dashboard and a few bleeping sensors.

Every new station is like a rush of brightness as their lonely office whizzes out of the pitch-black again.

Tube drivers have no light with them in the cabin and are often in complete darkness.

Many Tube stations are haunted Or, well, rumoured to be. 

Someone even made a map of the most haunted Tube stations around Halloween. Some stations have indeed been sites of death and tragedy. It is said that piercing screams have been heard around Bethnal Green station where 173 people were crushed in death in 1943 during a panic to get into the station after a bomb-siren had gone off.

Winston Churchill used one as a war bunker.

Down Street, one of the ghost stations that TfL wants to turn into an entertainment venue was a station on the Piccadilly Line that was closed in 1932 due to lack of use and proximity to other stations such as Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. Winston Churchill and his war cabinet, however, made use of it during the Second World War during raids. You can still see it now, though part of the outside has been made into a shop.

down-st-tube-station

Did you know that more of the Underground is above ground than under it?

Less than 50 per cent of it is underground Yep; you’ve read that right. It’s on TfL’s website and everything. Only 45 per cent of the network actually tunnels. Which makes sense really if you think about it since some stations are well above ground. Amersham, for example, is 147 metres above sea level. The one deepest below the Street? That’s Hampstead on the Northern line. You’re 58.5 metres below the Street by the time you board a train.

Four lines are entirely automated, which bores some drivers.

Four Tube lines are entirely automated, except when there’s a problem, and the driver takes control back.

Otherwise, they mainly man the doors. These intelligent tubes are the Jubilee, Northern, Central and Victoria trains.

This moquette, from 2010, is called ‘Barman’ or ‘Landmark’ and features four iconic London landmarks. Can you spot them all?

‘Barman’ or ‘Landmark’ design, by Wallace Sewell, 2010

This Moquette is called ‘Barman’ or ‘Landmark’, designed by Wallace Sewell, 2010. Sample of cut and uncut wool moquette with a repeating pattern of London landmarks in light blue, red and light grey on a dark blue background.

The design incorporates London landmarks including the London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s.

The yellow lines

They’re not just to keep you from the edge of platform Look carefully and you’ll be able to see where the doors from the incoming tube will be as the paint will have worn away from passengers walking on it to board a train. One useful hack, particularly for older stations, if you want to make sure you’re first on the train.

You can never miss the last train.

With the crucial caveat that you must already be through the barriers before the scheduled departure time, your underground journey home is a sealed deal.

Once you’ve tapped in with your Oyster, station staff will be radioing down to the Tube driver telling them to wait.

So there’s no need to career three steps at a time down the escalator, about to break your neck, to make the 11.59 pm.