London Underground FAQ

50 Things you never knew about the London Underground

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Sit back and get ready to bore your friends in pubs, win at Trivial Pursuit games and generally be a trainspotting smart Alec.

50 things you never knew about the London Underground:

  1. There is only one tube station name which does not have any letters of the word “mackerel” in it – St John’s Wood.
  2. There are only two tube stations which have all five vowels in them – Mansion House and South Ealing.
  3. Considering there are 287 tube stations, things 1 and 2 are quite surprising.
  4. Chancery Lane has the shortest escalator on the system – 50 steps.
  5. Travelling on the tube for 40 minutes is the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes – so save yourself a packet, all you smokers and get on the tube more often.
  6. The shortest distance between tube stations is Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line – 0.16 miles.
  7. The most popular route for tourists is Leicester Square to Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line. It is quicker to walk this distance than travel on the tube.
  8. The only tube station which shares the name of a well known pop group is All Saints (yeah I know it’s on the Docklands Light Railway – but it’s still on the tube map).
  9. The phrase “Mind the Gap” originated on the Northern line.
  10. The Jubilee line was originally going to be called the Fleet line.
  11. Northfields station on the Piccadilly line was the first to use kestrels and hawks to kill pigeons and stop them setting up homes in stations.
  12. The Central line covers the longest route – from West Ruislip to Epping you will travel 34 miles without changing.
  13. The Waterloo and City line covers the shortest route – 2 kilometres, but considering it only covers two stations – Waterloo and Bank, it doesn’t take Stephen Hawkins to work that one out.
  14. The oldest tube line in the world is the Metropolitan line. It opened on the 10th January 1863.
  15. Tube carriages originally had no windows and buttoned upholstery and were nicknamed “padded cells”. No change there then.
  16. Men have to sit with their legs apart when travelling on the tube. This is due to special magnetic fibres on the upholstery of the seats which interacts with testosterone to provide an antimagnetic outward force.
  17. Julian Lloyd Webber was London Underground’s first official busker – I didn’t know he needed the money that badly.
  18. More of the London Underground is open than in a tunnel. Tell yourself this fact if you suffer from claustrophobia.
  19. Bank has more escalators than any other station on the tube – 15 plus two moving walkways – count em!
  20. Out of the 287 stations, only 29 are south of the river Thames.
  21. One of the female automated voice announcers is called Sonia – because her voice “gets on yer nerves”.
  22. Fish and Parcels is the slang name for the District Line. It should be Pony and Trap.
  23. Edward Johnston designed the font for the London Underground in 1916.
  24. The peak hour for tube suicides is 11am.
  25. The Jubilee Line Extension was the most expensive railway line ever built. It cost USD 330 million per kilometre. Shame they didn’t make the platforms and the trains bigger though.
  26. All 409 escalators do the equivalent of two round the world trips every week.
  27. Amersham is not only the most westerly station on the tube it is also the highest – 150 metres above sea level.
  28. People were smaller when the carriages were built in the 1860’s – which is one of the reasons why you’ll find your journey so uncomfortable today.
  29. Harry Beck, designer of the tube map in 1933, was only paid five guineas for his original job. His design is still the basis of today’s tube map.
  30. The first escalator was introduced at Earls Court in 1911.
  31. Gladstone and Dr Barnado were the only people to ever have their coffins transported by tube.
  32. Not only were the early escalators made of wood, but also the legs of the people who demonstrated them. Wooden legged Bumper Harris was employed to travel up and down the tube’s first escalator to prove that it was safe.
  33. Angel has Western Europe’s longest escalator – 318 steps.
  34. Mosquitoes that live in the underground have evolved into a completely different species, one that appears separated from the above ground mozzie by over a thousand years.
  35. Regent’s Park, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner and Bank are some of the few stations which do not have an above ground surface building.
  36. The air in the underground is on average 10°C hotter than the air on the surface.
  37. People who commit suicide by throwing themselves under tube are called “one-unders”. In New York they are known as “track pizza”. Choose your preference.
  38. Pigeons regularly travel from West Ham in east London to central London on the tube in order to get more food.
  39. The best places to spot mice running around the tracks of the underground are Waterloo station (northbound on the Bakerloo line) and any platform at Oxford Circus.
  40. Green grapes cause more accidents on the London Underground than banana skins.
  41. Anthea Turner and her sister Wendy have written a series of children’s books about mice living on the London Underground. An estimated half a million mice live in the Underground system so that should keep them both busy for a while.
  42. Only one person was ever born in a tube carriage and her name is Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor – check out her initials. She was born in 1924 on a Bakerloo line train at Elephant & Castle.
  43. The Gappe is a little known bird/bat like creature, which only tube announcers can see and we are often told to mind them.
  44. Victoria and King’s Cross record the highest number of tube suicides each year. This isn’t surprising as Victoria is the tube’s busiest station with 85 million passengers each year and King’s Cross has 70 million passengers each year.
  45. Aldwych station (now closed) is featured on level 12 in the Tomb Raider game with Lara Croft killing rats.
  46. Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasance starred in a 1970s horror film called Death Line (a.k.a Raw Meat), where man eating troglodytes terrorised people on the London Underground.
  47. The Cadbury’s Whole Nut chocolate bar is the biggest seller in the chocolate machines at tube stations.
  48. A fragrance called “Madeleine” was introduced at St James Park, Euston and Piccadilly station in an effort to make the tube smell better on 23rd March 2001. It was taken out of action on 24th March 2001 as it was making people feel sick.
  49. The sexiest film scene featuring the London Underground is The Wings of the Dove. Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache travel in a 19th century carriage together, then get off and make love in a lift. Who said there’s no romance on the tube?
  50. Speaking of doves, buskers cannot sing.

More fascinating facts about the life on the London Underground can be found on

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