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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Photos & Review of Christian Wolmar Talk - "How the Tube Created London"

Last night
The Westminster Society hosted a fascinating talk "How The Tube Created London" given by leading transport expert @Christian Wolmar. Using over 50 images Christian gave the story of the London Underground and its importance to creating the London we know today.

Christian Wolmar - How the Tube created London - Westminster Society Talk

I'd never seen Christian talk before and considering I have his classic book The Subterranean Railway, it was a great opportunity to hear from someone so clearly knowledgeable about railways and thier relationship to how we live.  I didn't take a lot of notes but the pictures below will give you a flavour of what went on.

Christian Wolmar on James Forbes - How the Tube created London - Westminster Society Talk

Christian opened the talk with some of the founders of the London Underground. James Forbes is pictured above, was the guys responsible for the early Circle Line. The other was Edward Watkin. One responsible for trains going clockwise, the other anti clockwise. Their constant bickering meant the Circle Line took twenty years to complete, a lot longer than the construction of many other early Tube lines.

Hammersmith was the first area to have two Tube stations back in 1873 and as we all know still has two now - on the District & Hammersmith & City Line. Both conveniently called Hammersmith and neither connected well with each other. You have to cross a very busy road to change from one to the other.

Christian Wolmar - Early South Kensington Tube - Westminster Society Talk

When South Kensington Tube was first opened, there was a charge for using the underground subway that helped people reach the many museums on the Cromwell Road easily.

Christian Wolmar - Gillespie Road Tube - Westminster Society Talk

Like many people Christian seemed to be a fan of Leslie Green's distinctive red brick stations. Gillespie Road Tube (now Arsenal) pictured above was opened in 1906 and a classic example of Green's stations. Green designed 63 London Underground stations, many on the Piccadilly Line.

Christian Wolmar - How the Tube created London - Circular Escalator - Westminster Society Talk

Pictured above is the London Underground's only circular or spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road in early 1900's. It was a rather weird experiment and quickly dismantled as the idea never took off. Parts of the escalator now live at the London Transport Museum's Depot at Acton.

Christian Wolmar - How the Tube created London - York Road Tube - Westminster Society Talk

Christian also featured the nearby disused York Road Tube (the talk was held at The London Canal Museum in King's Cross) and mentioned there were now attempts to re-open the staiton.  Ajit Chambers from The Old London Underground Company is making the most headway on that mission to try to re-open abandoned London Underground stations.

Christian Wolmar - How the Tube created London - Monorail - Westminster Society Talk

I loved the fact that early designers of the Tube network were very experimental and this rather futurist monorail by Australian, Elfric Wells Chalmers Kearney, was patented in 1911. He founded the High Speed Tube Railway Company. Proposals included the construction of a Kearney Tube system which would run across London from Cricklewood to Crystal Palace. Sadly his ideas never made it past the drawing board in London and no-one was prepared to run the risk of taking up his ideas.

Christian Wolmar - How the Tube created London - Stuffed Animals at Charing Cross Tube - Westminster Society Talk

Another fascinating fact from Christian was that there used be a display of animals killed by trains at Charing Cross Tube. Someone had the bright yet rather morbid idea of collecting the wildlife from the tracks and stuffing them for all to see.

Christian Wolmar - How the Tube created London - Piccadilly Circus 3D illustration - Westminster Society Talk

Christian ended his talk with a much loved illustration of the a 3D cutaway of the many tunnels and interchanges beneath Piccadilly Circus Tube. My full set of photos from this How The Tube Created London talk are here.

After a break, with more wine, there was an audience Q & A with Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers. A number of questions mainly focussing on Crossrail were put to her. But also questions on the lack of accessibility of most of the London Underground to people with disabilities or those needing more step free stations.

I went along to the talk with IanVisits & TheLondoneer and am sure that both will be blogging about the event and will probably have more on some of the issues in the Q & A.

I'd like to thank The Westminister Society for hosting such a great evening. It was also a chance for me to see inside the rather cute & quirky London Canal Museum, a place that I'd never visited before. Also thanks to Christian Wolmar for being an excellent speaker - I'd certainly go to hear him again.

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