The well-to-do paid extra to ride in “first-class carriages,” while the rest of humanity sat in the cheap seats. Blue-collar folk bought low-cost “workmen’s fare” tickets to get to work and back.
Today, more than a century after electric trains were introduced, the Tube is the melting pot of a truly global city. You sit or stand amid executives, tourists, teenagers, parents with babies, old people and commuters of every imaginable race and ethnicity.
“London wouldn’t be London without the Underground,” Sam Mullins, director of the London Transport Museum, told the BBC. “It’s a lot more than moving people. It’s extraordinarily interleaved with the culture of the city and its self-identity.”
The system carries a billion passengers a year, and completes more than 3.5 million journeys each day. There are 275 stations, and 253 miles of track.
As songwriter Roger Miller would say, it’s as much a part of London as Westminster Abbey, the Tower of Big Ben, and “the rosy-red cheeks of the little children.”
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.