This post was most recently updated on June 27th, 2018
London Underground: History And Use
The London Tube Opens
The London Underground, or ‘Tube’ as it came to be known, officially opened its doors to the public in 1863. London was the largest city in the world in the 1800’s, and in the early years, London’s transportation was based on horse-drawn trams and carriages. The Traffic Congestion Commission in 1855 decided they needed an underground route to help alleviate traffic.
At the end of the Crimean War, Parliament voted to open a new sewer system to help reduce the cities waste problem. Because of this, British engineers became very advanced in tunneling. Initially, the railway circled the city but wasn’t running directly into the city’s core, so it wasn’t very good at reducing traffic congestion; it meant more people were coming into the city, and this increased traffic delays.
The first tunnel was built using a cut and cover technique. This style of tunnel building requires you to cut deep into the ground and then build a tunnel. Once you have built the tunnel, you then cover the channel back up. Building the tunnel was an expensive endeavor.
Once the tunnel design was agreed upon, the next issue was to figure out how to ventilate the trains while in the tunnel. It was decided that a special condensed steam engine would be the new form of transportation. This was the first underground railroad in the world, and it was very popular from the first day it opened. It quickly expanded from this point.
The success led to the opening of the District Railway in 1868. The concept was a success, but the building technique was too expensive and too destructive for London’s center where real estate was worth millions. The invention of the tunneling shield allowed miners to work safer and more efficiently. This greatly reduced the time spent on tunneling. In 1887, electric tramways became popular and were a solution to the ventilation problem. The Americans financially backed three new tubes built in London. Tube railways were the first railway system that did not have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd class. This meant people from all walks of life traveled together.
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