What is the origin of the announcement: "Mind the gap"?
In this, the third post on my exploration of the area around Bank station, London, I focus on some startling facts about the history of the underground.
My day out in
|The Bank of England -|
neighbouring Bank Tube station.
|The Royal Exchange - across the road from Bank tube station.|
Work on the tube network began in 1860 and the stretch of the Metropolitan line between Paddington and Farringdon, was opened on 9 January 1863 to become the world's first underground railway.
To minimise costs and because no one had ever undertaken such a thing before, the initial method of construction was to dig a deep trench, lay down the track, then build a brick arch over it to form a tunnel and then cover everything over. This worked well when the proposed route lay parallel to road, but between Paddington and Bayswater, houses were orientated the wrong way, at ninety degrees to the direction of the track. In addition, on
|Leinster Gardens - the fake facade is behind the silver car -|
note the blocked out ground floor windows.
|Leinster Gardens from the air (courtesy of Bing maps)|
Note the fake facade and tube lines beyond.
|The Tower subway carriage of 'Tube'-|
Claustrophobic, hot, gloomy and smelly.
The section of the network was, by all accounts, not a good place for a claustrophobe to visit as recorded by Charles Dickens, jr:
"..there is not much head-room left, and it is not advisable for any but the very briefest of Her Majesty's lieges to attempt the passage in high-heeled boots, or with a hat to which he attaches any particular value."
Traversing this section sounds deeply unpleasant: the tube was hot, humid, the cable mechanism very noisy, the travelling compartment windowless with gloomy gas-lights and to top it all - the carriage frequently got jammed in a dip in the middle of the route. After just three months the train was scrapped and the tunnel converted to pedestrian use.
I went down and down between two dingy walls until I found myself at the round opening of the gigantic iron tube, which seems to undulate like a great intestine in the enormous belly of the river.
|Statue of J H Greathead, near Bank station.|
James Henry Greathead along with another engineer, Peter Barlow, developed a device that successfully drilled much larger bore tunnels. Their device consisted of an iron cylinder, just over 7 ft in diameter, fitted with screw jacks that allowed it to be inched forward. As the labourers excavated beneath the safety of the shield, so the device was advanced and a permanent lining of cast iron segments fitted in place behind them. Over time Greathead refined the device to include the use of compressed air and hydraulic jacks, which are now standard features of tunnel construction.
|Widget says: "Does this lead to a tunnel - and are there|
cat biscuits at the end of it?"