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Getting Around on The Underground
An Overview & Brief History of the Tube
It´s Old. End of Story.
Ok, not really the end of story, but it really is old. If you´re a trivia/history buff, then impress the pants (which in England means UNDERpants) off your friends with this one: London has the oldest underground train system in the world, Baker Street being the oldest tube station still in use. Like you cared.... The Metropolitan line, (the oldest) started working back in 1863, and if you´re lucky, you can ride in one of the original cars on the Northern Line (just kidding, but the Northern has some pretty old cars....)
The original trains had steam locomotives, so the original tunnels weren´t very deep and had holes every now and then to let the smoke out. Nowadays, the whole system is electrified, so if your kids are acting up, you can always accidentally drop the stuffed bear on the electrified rail.... nothing calms the little rugrats down like seeing Teddy on a couple of million volts.
The Underground (hereafter called The Tube) is the backbone of London´s transport system. Unlike Los Angeles or some other American cities, driving a car in London is restricted to the criminally insane, taxi cabs and Members of Parliament (there´s a lot of blurring between these categories mind you...)
A typical stretch of road in London changes names every 1/4 mile or so, bends like a contortionist on Robaxin and is probably one-way in the wrong direction anyway. Since they all drive on the left here anyway, why would you possibly want to risk ruining a perfectly good holiday this way? Let the rain do that for you - then you can say you had a traditional London vacation! But back to the point: people here actually use the Tube. Real people, with real jobs, with real money. It´s not the working-class-only thing you find in the states, so don´t worry about being on it - it´s really quite safe, and it beats the pants off of driving.
The system runs throughout the inner city, near all the tourist destinations and hotels, to Heathrow Airport, as well as out into the suburbs and even into the countryside. It carries over two million people each day, but is never as busy as those pictures you see of Tokyo subways where they cram all those people into those tiny cars. Ouch!
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