How London’s underground lines were named

Cafe thinking

London’s tube lines are unusual – they have names. Not for Londoners the relative humdrum of ‘line 4’ or ‘the red line’ (though our lines have colours too).

But a newcomer to London might find the names a little odd. The Northern line goes furthest south. Until 1994, the Central line went furthest north. The Circle isn’t a circle any more. The Jubilee was opened when Queen Elizabeth II had been on the throne for, er, 27 years.

Many of these names are historic accidents, because much of what is now the London Underground was built by competing railway companies.

First up was the Metropolitan Railway, some of which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2013. Its great rival, the Metropolitan District Railway opened its first section in 1868 and the successor line is now known as the District.

Next to be opened was the City and South London Railway…

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