Underground Lines

Underground Lines

London's Underground system boasts the world's first urban underground line, the Metropolitan Railway. Its steam trains were first used by the public on 10 January 1863. This and all subsequent Victorian Underground lines were aimed at reaching the City of London, the central business district. By 1900, they had all been extended into the suburbs and a network of deep-level Tube lines was under construction.

These lines had a huge influence on the growth of London throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. There was no overall strategy for universal coverage, nor was there any state sponsorship. The early years were fraught with finding private finance for what was seen as a risky enterprise.

The early Underground lines were built using the 'cut and cover' method. A shallow cutting was dug along a road to take the tracks, and then roofed over to create a tunnel. Afterwards, the road was reinstated on top. These early lines of the Metropolitan and District, built in the 1860s and 70s, are all only just below ground level.

The Greathead shield, developed by James Henry Greathead, enabled deep-level Tubes to be safely built under London. The shield consists of an iron cylinder that protected miners while they dug a section of the tunnel and built the tunnel lining. The shield uses compressed air and hydraulic jacks to propel it forward. Similar technology is used today to build tunnels. These deep-level Tubes opened from 1890 onwards and were powered by electricity from the start.

Electrification of the older sections of the Underground was a great improvement.Steam polluted the air underground, even with surface ventsandcondensing apparatus, which fed the exhaust steam back into the engine's cold water tanks.

Between 1902 and 1914, the Underground Electric Railways of London (subsequently known as the Underground Group) took over all Underground lines apart from the Metropolitan and Waterloo and City lines. It proudly proclaimed that its lines used electric traction, powered by Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea.

In 1933, the London Passenger Transport Board took charge of all London's transport networks except the overground services of the mainline companies. It was commonly known as London Transport (L.T), and ran Underground lines, bus and tram networks.

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