Amazing & Extraordinary London Underground Facts – Book Review

INTRODUCTION

I spotted this book in King’s Lynn library and of course had to take it out. Here is the front cover:

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OVERALL IMPRESSION

The book is crammed with interesting information, ¬†and covers every line in detail as well as going over the history and some of pre-history of London Underground. I am very glad that I did borrow it, and have enjoyed dipping into it on a regular basis while it is in my possession. However, I have some…

QUIBBLES

I am going to start with the coverage of the East London line (which was still part of London Underground when the book was published although it is not now). In covering this line Mr Halliday states tat the Brunel tunnel under the Thames is the oldest object on the system having opened as a pedestrian tunnel in 1843. I have no quibble with his dating of the tunnel, but the stations that now form the northern end of the High Barnet branch of the Northern line opened as main-line railway in 1842, one year earlier than the pedestrian tunnel.

When covering the Central line Mr Halliday fails to mention that original eastern extension of that line beyond Liverpool Street did not end as it does today at Epping, but continued to Ongar (this is another former main line railway incorporated into London Underground, and opened in that guise in 1856). This leads me to another minor area of disappointment:

OVER-ORTHODOXY

In talking about the early history of the Metropolitan Mr Halliday mentions the Brill branch and the envisaged extension of this branch to Oxford but does not seem to consider that by opening up connections at both ends this could actually have boosted the use of the line. Similarly, when mentioning the former Aldwych branch of the Piccadilly line he does not consider the possible use of this under-used branch as a starting point for an extension into southeast London and west Kent. As mentioned above I regard the failure to even mention the stations beyind Epping on the Central line as inexcusable, and this too could be a discussion point – in my own post on the Central line I have advocated an extension to Chelmsford and another connection to mainline railways. Nevertheless, for all these issues I conclude this post (apart from some more pictures) by restating that this is a very useful and interesting little book.

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