I have just finished Underground Overground, an informative and easy to read history of the Tube. The author Andrew Martin, sets out to describe the growth of the network from its beginning as a cut and cover steam service to the City and he also shows how the development of new lines led to changes in the capital itself. On the way he finds time to visit the London Transport Museum and the Lost Property Office at Baker Street. The evolution of the Tube map culminating in Harry Beck's iconic design is discussed too.
The Tube originated as a dream of social reformer Charles Pearson who started work on the first cut and cover branch of the Metropolitan Line. Tunneling using shields enabled Brunel to build the first railway tunnel under the river at Wapping, then the smaller Greathead Shield (Greathead's statue stands outside the Bank of England) led to the many deep level lines, largely funded by American investors who never saw their money back. Frank Pick presided over the network in the early twentieth century, creating the Piccadilly Line and the monster that we know as the Northern Line - which has the longest continuous rail tunnel in the country! Pick also commissioned Charles Holden to design some of the Tube's finest suburban stations. After the war a period of austerity eventually came to an end with the opening of the unambitious Victoria Line, then the even less ambitious Jubilee Line, finally extended at the turn of the century.
The book was a birthday present from my excellent PA Maura. She clearly knows me well because I share some spooky similarities with Andrew Martin. we are both immigrants, Martin having grown up in York and myself in Cleveland, a short distance away. We are both children of the sixties and arrived in London at a similar time, both starting our adventures in Leytonstone. We were both educated at the Inns of Court School of Law, although neither of us practise as barristers.
You must read this book - it will tell you so much you didn't know about a system that we take for granted because we use it every day.