A Brief History
On August 2, 1870, the Tower Subway opened for passenger traffic in London, England, the first ever underground tube type railway commonly called a “subway” in the US and “the tube” in the UK.
Not to be confused with a fast food store, a subway is a rail train for carrying passengers in underground tunnels. Using coal or wood powered steam engines, or even gasoline or diesel engines to power the train would be problematic underground. The Tower Subway was propelled by a cable system with no onboard propulsive power. Most subways today are electric powered.
Many major cities and urban regions are served by subways that avoid jamming traffic on surface roads, creating an efficient mass transit system. Notable systems include the New York City subway with 28 separate lines, North Korea’s Pyongyang Metro that is the deepest at 110 meters below ground, Kiev Metro in Ukraine with the world’s deepest station at 107 meters, and Tokyo’s Toei Subway carries 8 million passengers a day!
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ridden on a subway? What did you think? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Bobrick, Benson. Labyrinths of Iron, a History of the World’s Subways. Newsweek Books, 1981.
Morris, John. Subway: The Curiosities, Secrets, and Unofficial History of the New York City Transit System. Black Dog & Leventhal, 2020.
The featured image in this article, interior of the Tower Subway cable car from the Illustrated London News, 1870, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.
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