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Friday, November 30, 2007

Underground Trivia

London trivia day today. When the London Underground was first built, a large proportion of the travelling public was illiterate. So, as well as the signs in writing, the paths through the stations were marked by lines of coloured tiles, you can see that here. I wonder what they would have made of this? I rather liked the "Abbey Road" feel to this.

For London Underground stuff, don't forget Going Underground.

posted by Ham at 00:45 -- Comments here: 6

Comments on "Underground Trivia"


Blogger Unknown said ... (08:31) : 

he he i thought of Abbey Road when i saw your pic too!


Blogger Helen said ... (11:00) : 

Great pic but that's a bit of an urban myth. The tube lines were not built together and the early maps were very different, often using different colours to show the lines. The schematic chart we are used to with the colours we are used to was produced in the mid-thirties. Those tiles are a result of recent re-decoration, which may be necessary since all studies show that the level of illiteracy is higher now than it was when even the very first underground trains started running.

Sorry to be pedantic. Not what anybody wants to read on this lovely blog but it's in my nature. I shall try to control i.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:24) : 

Edward Johnston did the alphabet lettering style for all the signs in London, underground. But that was many years ago. I don't know if any of them are still there.

I liked the post today. Nice photography and interesting narrative.

p2f1 = my going green slogan. Means: Pee twice and flush once to save half of the water otherwise flushed away.


Blogger Ham said ... (11:33) : 

Helen - first I don't have any issue with anything anyone says, unless it is malicious or spam.

But two things. First, it's not the map that I was referring to, but the route to and from the platforms by lines. As you say, they were referred to by colour and lines of coloured tiles definitely mark the routes to the platforms on the old stations. Also, for the class of people that used the underground at first illiteracy would certainly have been common. The story, which I read a long time ago when there was still books about is at least credible.

And second, I see it almost as my job to give life to stories that may otherwise die, it makes the world a sweeter place. This is the Internet after all - as long as I believe them. Why leave all the work to Wikipedia?

On a tangent, storytelling (not that this is necessarily a tall story) is a long, long tradition and there is value in a story whether or not it is true. Mostly truth is in the perspective of the viewer - ask 10 witnesses to the same scene what happened and you _will_ get 10 different answers. In our modern day obsession with facts, we would do well to remember that when we listen to the news.


Blogger Ham said ... (12:03) : 

And look what you can find on the Internet:
"The revered station designer Leslie W. Green was only twenty-nine when he designed these opulent entrances to his sumptuously appointed deep-level platforms....and distinctively different decorative tiles at each station so that passengers would sub-consciously recognise their required station from the train without even having to read the name for the benefit of the poor-sighted or illiterate." So it must be true, then.


Blogger Helen said ... (12:23) : 

I wonder what happened to the poor-sighted or the illiterate when those colours changed as they did.

Anyway, Ham, I love urban myths even when they morph into propaganda and I completely agree with you that they should not be left to Wikipedia.


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Name: Ham Location: London, United Kingdom View my complete profile