Mind the Gap
You can’t spend time in London and NOT write something about the famous London train system. First off, I kept calling it the “Underground” because it does say that on about 5 million signs all over the greater London area but everyone here calls it “The Tube.” There are 270 stations which I’ve visited roughly 48. Every station is unique in design. My favorite being Baker Street which is brick and classic with a vintage clock arch and feels like something out of a Sherlock Holmes book. Marble Arch is art deco. Bond was under construction so I only saw it as the train blasted through. And even Westminster felt like a proper station for parliament. The stations have great names like Knightsbridge and Elephants & Castle (which is named after a pub!) The Waterloo & City line only goes back and forth between Bank and Waterloo. And the Northern Line does indeed go north and south. The Tube has grown to a brand, in and of itself, because of this diversity (and tourism). There is a museum dedicated to it. Even that classically simple red circle and blue bar logo adorns t-shirt, coffee mugs, and a line of furniture.
I’ll never forget the email I received from someone at the London office explaining when I arrived at the airport, it was easy to get to my apartment, “Simply take Piccadilly to the King’s Cross/St Pancras station, change over to the Northern Line going south and get off the Angel station.” What!? Your first exposure to the Tube map will make you go cross-eyed with colored line and weird names. But after only a couple of weeks (and the amazing Tube app), I defined myself as a Tube Ninja which meant I could get pretty much go anywhere I wanted to on the Tube. It did take 2 to 3 weekends of literally getting lost and trying to find my way home. And one embarrassing moment when I raced to jump on the Metropolitan line before it left the station only to realize after 5 minutes of not moving that the train had terminated. But I will tell you that I actually swelled with pride the day I skipped over the King’s Cross stop, even though the Tube app told me to change over there, and continued on to the Moorgate station because I knew the station was smaller and it was faster to catch the Northern Line.
By the end of my stay, I was quite comfortable Ninja-ing around on the Tube. And it became a map of life. What I mean is I found myself saying things like, “Yeah, I work by Old Street but I live near Angel (train stations).” I did not drive a car for three months. Let me say that again, as a person who’s been commuting in a car for the past 20+ years and who’s youth was made up of multi-hour road trips, I didn’t drive for 3 months. Weird! But as I slide back behind the wheel of my truck, I missed the Tube and it’s wonderful spiderweb of colored lines and quirky names like Shepherd’s Bush.
Early on in my stay, I knew I wanted to write something about my Tube experiences so I did a search for an animated gif of all the stations signs. To my surprise, I couldn’t find anything so I started my quest to capture as many station signs as I could on my adventures. People at work became accustom to me stopping on trips to snap shots. There were one or two incidences with the train doors when they caught me leaning out at a quick stop to take a pic. But in the end, the below animated gif is all original photos that I took. And a few duplicates of some stations that had more than one really neat sign.