150 Years of the Tube

British Pathé celebrates 150 years of the Tube.

London Underground, known colloquially as “the Tube”, is the oldest subway system in the world. Since the first service was launched 150 years ago, on 10th January 1863, it has carried an unbelievable number of passengers (now over 1 billion a year!) beneath the streets of The Big Smoke. By the time British Pathé was producing newsreels in the 1910s, there were already a number of different lines, which probably explains why so little footage of the Underground features in the archive until the Second World War, when its use as air raid shelters presumably made it newsworthy again. Indeed, prior to 1939, British Pathé often seemed more interested in the subways of other countries than in its own.

Eros is dismantled during the construction of the Piccadilly tube stations in 1925.
Eros is dismantled during the construction of the Piccadilly tube stations in 1925. Click the still to view the film.
Tube travel in 1946. Click the still to view "new" carriages contrasted with the old ones.
Tube travel in 1946. Click the still to view “new” carriages contrasted with the old ones.

British Pathé was mainly concerned with new construction. As early as 1925 the company released a newsreel on the removal of the statue of Eros necessitated by the building of a new Piccadilly station and the next year the creation of the world’s largest tube line – from Edgware to Hendon – also earned newsreel coverage (view it here). Following the war, Transport Minister Alfred Barnes could be seen in a newsreel from 1946 opening a 4-mile extension of the Underground to Stratford (which would prove vital for the 2012 Summer Olympics). The work cost £3.5 million, employing 2000 – “sizeable figures for 9 minutes travel”. In the film, we get glimpses of tube journeys in the 1940s, including some nice interior shots of the carriages. The next year, Barnes opened another extension in Essex on the Central Line and in the film documenting it, the cameras travel through the new stations from Wanstead to Gants Hill.

In the 1950s and 60s, there were interesting innovations in tube travel, with new trains, “travolators” and automatic ticket barriers. But the development which caught British Pathé’s attention the most was the building of the Victoria Line. The “first pictures” of this were released in 1964, construction reached the half-way mark in 1965, and new tube trains were given a test run in 1968. The first stage was opened later that year, before work on stage 2 commenced.

The Victoria Line under construction during the 1960s. Click the still to view a film celebrating the work reaching the half-way point.
The Victoria Line under construction during the 1960s. Click the still to view a film celebrating the work reaching the half-way point.
The Queen at the controls of the new automated tube trains that travel on the Victoria Line. Click the still to view the film.
The Queen at the controls of the new automated tube trains that travel on the Victoria Line. Click the still to view the film.

The opening ceremony for Stage 3 of the Victoria Line involved the Queen not only operating the vehicle from the driver’s cabin but taking her second-ever journey in a tube carriage. The newsreel, “Queen Opens New Victoria Line (1969)”, can be viewed here.

The Queen rides in a tube carriage during the opening ceremony of the Victoria Line's stage 3 in 1969. Click the still to view the film.
The Queen rides in a tube carriage during the opening ceremony of the Victoria Line’s stage 3 in 1969. Click the still to view the film.
A look at "Fluffies" who clean the Tube at night (1944). Click the still to view the film.
A look at “Fluffies” who clean the Tube at night (1944). Click the still to view the film.

Aside from construction work, British Pathé was preoccupied with the work of cleaning and maintaining the tunnels and stations. In 1944, we took an “exclusive” look at women war workers, known as “fluffies” or “fluffers”, who cleaned the Underground every night. An interesting reveal is the extraordinary amount of fluff created by people’s clothing during just one day. Other features on tube cleaners followed, such as on the “Rubber Man” Leonard Ware, who was responsible for erasing graffiti (the cinemagazine names “the moustache” as the most common form of it). We don’t know what was cut from this clip, but the graffiti certainly seems rather mild – and it’s all in pencil! If only Tube staff today were so lucky. You can see the light-hearted 1947 film here. There are also films from 1949 and 1950 documenting cleaning work after hours.

British Pathé always liked to show things it believed to be unknown or unusual, so as well as “fluffies”, the company had a look at less mundane uses for the Tube. These included the Post Office’s own underground railway, the telephone exchange within an unused Tube tunnel and, of course, as air raid shelters during the Blitz.

Aldwych Station is used as an air raid shelter during the Blitz. Click the still to view the film.
Aldwych Station is used as an air raid shelter during the Blitz. Click the still to view the film.
"From now on that man can do his worst. London's tube railways are safe." Watertight doors are added to tube tunnels to protect them from air raids in 1939.
“From now on that man can do his worst. London’s tube railways are safe.” Watertight doors are added to tube tunnels to protect them from air raids in 1939. Click the still to view the film.

British Pathé also documented some of the tragedies which occurred on London Underground during its long history. In 1939, a terrorist attack forced two damaged stations, Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road, to be shut temporarily. Only two days after the maiden service on the Stratford extension discussed above, two people were killed when a train collided with a second, thankfully empty, carriage. Any footage of the aftermath is currently missing, but the newsreel announcing the incident is here. 1953 saw another tube crash near Stratford in which 8 adults and 1 child were killed, with 49 others injured. The newsreel shows the damaged interiors of the carriages, as well as rescue workers bringing out the dead. Luckily, the fire on the unfinished Victoria Line in 1966 claimed no lives. And while the British Pathé footage ends with the Victoria Line in 1969, apart from a few silent clips from the 1970s, an episode of A Day That Shook The World documents the horrific events of the July 2005 London bombings. An interesting look at safety on the Underground is provided by a film from 1955 showing new recruits in training, which involved miniature railways and mock-ups of various safety devices.

Finally, British Pathé’s extensive collection of strike footage also includes the 1962 Tube Strike, which made people realise “how London depends on the Underground”.

And indeed it does. This 150th anniversary is one worth celebrating.

For British Pathé’s collection of clips on London Underground, click here.

British Pathé Picks: Early Jan 2013

Twice a month we blog about footage in the archive relevant to upcoming events or important anniversaries. There are always plenty, so we can only present a selection and you can search the archive for more at www.britishpathe.com

Here are our picks for the next two weeks:

Hillary reaches South Pole  

(4 January)

55 years ago, Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole over land, the first to do so since Captain Scott. View the 1958 newsreel here.

HILLARY_REACHES_POLE_1515_07_2

Richard Nixon Born

(9 January)

It will have been 100 years since the birth of Richard Nixon on 9th January 1913. The American President, who was disgraced by the Watergate scandal, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.

1969_-_A_ROYAL_YEAR_2237_21_302

Heart of Thomas Hardy Buried  

(11 January)

85 years ago, the great writer Thomas Hardy died and his heart was buried separately from his body. British Pathé has footage of the burial of the heart in Dorset in 1928. Click here to view the newsreel.

THOMAS_HARDY_FUNERAL_712_32_33

Flying Scotsman retired  

(14 January)

50th Anniversary: On 14th January 1963, the Flying Scotsman made its last run. A collection of clips on that famous train can be found here.

EXTRA_!_FLYING_SCOTSMAN_LEAVES_FOR_USA_2227_32_71

And, of course…

150th Anniversary of London Underground

We’ll be publishing a blog post all about this shortly, but we can’t miss it off this list of important anniversaries! British Pathé celebrates 150 years of the Tube with a collection of clips featuring construction footage dating from 1922. You can also see the tunnels used as air raid shelters during the Second World War, extensions of the lines in the late 1940s, and the work of cleaners and technicians after-hours. The innovations of the 1950s also get a look-in, while there is extensive coverage of the building of the Victoria Line, as well as its opening by the Queen. Click here to explore the collection.

VICTORIA_LINE_OPENED_2071_12_1

Check back in two weeks for our next installment. In the meantime, you can visit www.britishpathe.com for more vintage films.

There is a Luxurious Cinema Attached to this Train! (PATHE GAZETTE EXTRAVAGANZA)

Who knew there used to be cinema carriages on trains? Or “saloons” as they were called…

Today we came across this exciting poster on the National Archives’ Flickr stream which reads – “There is a Comfortable & Luxurious Cinema Attached to this Train” –  “Special Programme Compiled Exclusively For This Train by PATHE GAZETTE”, Commencing Monday, May 16th, 1938.

The poster is for an LNER train, which is the London North Eastern Railway service, so trains going from Kings Cross to places like Edinburgh. We can just picture the classy and demure travellers as they relaxed in the “Pathé L.N.E.R. Saloon”, the countryside silently sliding past them as they tucked into a feast of the latest British Pathé reels.

The films shown on the train were actually issued only 7 days before the scheduled event, so it was pretty hot off the press. It’s interesting to see that Ireland is quite well covered, and also that boxing appears to be the most highly-sought sport.

The train’s cinema carriage wasn’t free – it cost 1 shilling – so it would have been a bit of a treat, but think about it – people didn’t have televisions in the 1930s and they had to go to a cinema house to see moving footage.  We love that the poster tells customers that the Pathé saloon is non-inflammable too! Of course earlier newsreels were made out of nitrate, and almost everybody smoked, so you can understand the concern.

ANYWAY. We were delighted to see that the poster then lists each reel that would feature in the screening. Using the date as a guide and searching the titles in the British Pathé film archive we’ve managed to find 32 out of 34 of the items on the trains bill, and we’ve put online links to each below so that you can pick and view the ones that interest you, or perhaps even re-live the experience and watch them all!

HERE WE GO:

Their Majesties In Lanarkshire

New Berth For Bananas

Hitler In Italy

Training For Royal Tournament

French Liner Ablaze At Le Havre

Rugby League Cup Final At Wembley

Demonstration of Kay Autogyro at Southampton

Ninety-Four Year Old Mrs. Anne Budd Takes Her First Flight

New German Ambassador in London

John Tussaud Celebrates His 80th Birthday

Fire Brigade Chief Retires

Boxing At Theatre Royal Dublin

Mille Miglia Car Race

US Thoroughbreds Prepare For Match Race

First President Of Eire

Boston Marathon

Blessing The Lambs in Italy

Dublin Spring Show

King Tours RAF Stations (Mute)

New Defence Balloons

Markham Pit Disaster

Italians Goosestep For Hitler  

Boys Boxing Comedy  

Plane Safety

How To Make Money

Cineviews In Brief No.73

The Emotion Machine

Al And Bob Harvey Famous Radio And Variety Stars

“Order To View” – Cannot Find

Model House – Cannot Find

Troy Town

Ted Andrews Canadian Singer And The Girl Friend

London In The Provinces

Novelties – Cannot Find

Suzette Tarri – Character Comedienne

Courtesy of www.britishpathe.com

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