Underground, Overground. Text: Andrew Martin, photo: Tim Marshall. (4/5)

Piccadilly line. © Tim Marshall 1992.

Andrew Martin writes:

After an inquest into an Underground suicide in 1921, the Westminster Coroner observed: ‘There was something about the roar and rush of the Tube train which was terribly fascinating to a person if he were alone on the platform.’ Alone-ness may be an important consideraton. Two hundred people try to kill themselves under Tube trains every year, of whom half are successful. The number has not risen commensurate with the great increase in Tube usage of recent years, and my friend Stuart, who works on the Underground, says this is ‘because people are embarrassed about doing it in front of a crowd.’ He added, hauntingly, ‘On a Sunday night back in the late Sixties, it was only you and the driver anywhere east of King’s Cross.’ In-house at the Underground, they are known as ‘one-unders’ or ‘jumpers’. But in her novel King Solomon’s Carpet, Barbara Vine writes: ‘Even those who cannot dive, who would not dream of diving into water, dive, not jump, in front of the oncoming train’. I cannot say whether this is true.

The text is from Underground, Overground: a passenger’s history of the Tube, published by Profile Books (also available here). The photos are from Tim Marshall’s series When a Tube train stops.


Underground, Overground. Text: Andrew Martin, photo: Tim Marshall. (3/5)

Piccadilly Line. © Tim Marshall 1991.

Andrew Martin writes:

All human life is on the Piccadilly; the line is too cluttered with stations, having originated from three railways serving the congested area of central London, and having then been extended. It’s unfortunate, therefore, that it should be the line that since 1977 has served Heathrow. When the British Airports Authority first proposed its Heathrow Express service from Paddington in 1988, london Transport responded with its own plan to run Tube trains express to the airport, partly using District Line tracks, which would have provided the fastest access by Underground. This ambitious and expensive proposal did not stop the Heathrow Express, which I refuse to use because of the television screen that blares at you the whole way. I stick with the Tube, and, being a north Londoner, any Heathrow flight I take is always preceded by – and often exceeded by – an hour and a half on the Piccadilly.

The text is from Underground, Overground: a passenger’s history of the Tube, published by Profile Books (also available here). The photos are from Tim Marshall’s series When a Tube train stops.


Underground, Overground. Text: Andrew Martin, photo: Tim Marshall. (2/5)

Piccadilly line. © Tim Marshall 1992.

Andrew Martin writes:

For Valentine’s Day, an editor once instructed me, ‘I want you to write about love on the Underground’, but I couldn’t dig up much. I read in Underground News that on 30 April 1986 at bank station a woman hit her eighty-year old husband with a handbag, which sent him tumbling down an escalator. Just before Christmas in 1989, an Underground labourer who had consumed ten pints of bitter had an unorthodox interaction with a cat on a Tube train. Then he fell into a stupor, and his first remark on being awakened by an appalled fellow passenger was, ‘What cat?’ He was later fined £500. For many years the dating agency Dateline placed posters throughout the Underground that showed a man and a woman crossing on adjoining escalators. ‘A hidden glance, a forgotten smile’ ran the copy. ‘Have you ever looked and wondered what might have been?’ That drove me mad, because if you’d forgotten the smile then you wouldn’t wonder what might have happened as a result of it. Even so, when the fashion designer Bella Freud (who launched one of her collections on a Tube train) said, ‘There’s a strange tension on the Tube, a moodiness, a sexiness’. I think she was right.

The text is from Underground, Overground: a passenger’s history of the Tube, published by Profile Books (also available here.) The photos are from Tim Marshall’s series When a Tube train stops.


Underground, Overground. Text: Andrew Martin, photo: Tim Marshall. (1/5)

Piccadilly line. © Tim Marshall 1991.

Andrew Martin writes:

In my boyhood, the system was not what it had been in the triumphalist inter-war heyday, and nor was it like the spruce, sparkling (if badly overcrowded), upgraded Underground of today. In the Seventies the system was run-down and demoralised. Road transport was the future; the Underground was being ‘managed for decline’, and the system was filthier even than the streets above. You were not to lean against the station walls, or that was your rally jacket ruined. In most of the stations about a quarter of the tiles would be broken. Sometimes the station name was meant to be spelled out by the tiles, and Londoners’ toleration of the position at, say, Covent Garden – rendered for years as something like ‘COV-TG-DEN’ – implied an impressive broad-mindedness on their part.

You could actually see the atmosphere in the stations: it was sooty, particulate. There is an Underground poster from the late Thirties by Austin Cooper that advertised something as un-mysterious as ‘Cheap Return Tickets’ but did so with an abstract image: a lonely searchlight trying to penetrate a jaundiced miasma. That was the Underground of my boyhood: a marvel of engineering but also a dream space, in which people of all classes and races would float past you, with the strange buoyancy of a passing carriage. In the case of people in your own carriage (or ‘car’, since the Underground is riddled with American railway terminology), you could look at them directly, or you could look at their reflections in the windows, and they would be sunk in their own dreams; all this under electric light, so that it always seemed – as it always still seems – to be evening on the Tube, which is my favourite time of day.

The text is from Underground, Overground: a passenger’s history of the Tube, published by Profile Books (also available here). The photos are from Tim Marshall’s series When a Tube train stops.


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