2019 sees the 150th Birthday of London’s ‘District Line’ tube network – and “London Shoes” took this occasion as an opportunity to take a closer look at this particular underground line in celebration of its longevity, by looking back at its history and how it has evolved to the present day – and also ‘stopping off’ at a selection of its stations that have a little bit of a story to them.
The ‘District Line’ tube (the one coloured Green one on a standard tube map) is the 2nd oldest of the entire London underground network.
It currently consists of 60 stations – much more than any of the other lines – and interestingly only 25 of its stations are actually ‘underground’.
It comprises of 40 miles of track, some of which it ‘shares’ with the District Line – the Metropolitan Line – the Piccadilly Line and the Hammersmith+City Line.
It currently experiences over 21 million passenger journeys per year.
The District Line was first opened to the public way back in 1869 and consisted of only 5 stations that were serviced by gas lit wooden carriages that were pulled by steam engine locomotives.
Throughout the following couple of years the District Line was extended out west to West Brompton – and east to Blackfriars.
By 1884 the line had been extended further east to Whitechapel – and by 1902 further extensions east, saw it go right the way out to Upminster in Essex.
By 1905 the entire District Line track had been fully electrified.
Further extensions in 1946 saw it spur out north to Olympia to accommodate passengers who were regularly attending all the exhibitions continuously being held there.
Today the District Line runs all the way from Ealing Broadway in the west and right through to Upminster in the east.
The Line spurs at Turnham Green down to Richmond – and at Earls Court it spurs north to Olympia – and also south down to Wimbledon – and then further north up to Edgware Road.
Three train depots service todays District Line, and they are located at Ealing – Hammersmith & Upminster.
From a personal perspective, the District Line a tube line is that is used frequently by ‘London Shoes’ for its weekly jaunts to and from the ‘smoke’, as its Hornchurch station (2nd from last stop to Upminster) is my local tube station. Also during my career with Barclays Bank, I had to use its Whitechapel and also East Ham stations on a daily basis, when I worked at the branches that were in those areas.
‘London Shoes’ wanted to take a closer look at a selection of District Line stations that have seen a bit of life and have a little bit of an interesting ‘story’ to tell – that all adds to the historic background of this tube line.
So – looking at the District Line on a standard tube map and starting from the end of the line at Ealing Broadway in the west, through to the end of its network at Upminster in the east – here are some fascinating facts about the following District Line stations:-
On one of the platforms at Ealing Broadway station, are displayed a couple of pre-1910 ‘roundels’ – the very first that were ever used on the ‘new’ tube network at the time of its origins.
It was at this station in 1964 that the Underground’s very first automatic ticket barriers were installed.
Is technically 2 stations in one – with the District Line & the Piccadilly Line services in one location – and the Hammersmith & City and the Circle Line services in another part, just a couple of hundred yards walk away.
Apparently, some tube geek has worked out that if you wanted to get from one of these lines to the other ‘by train’ (rather than walk a few yards….why would you!!!) then you would have to make 3 changes and travel through 10 stops!!
This station has a disused platform that is totally dedicated to ‘art’ – and where exhibits are constantly on display – (a really good idea – it looks great)
When Sloane Square was first constructed way back in 1868 – the engineers hit upon a slight problem, as the path of the River Westbourne ran right through where the track needed to go.
So – to solve the problem, engineers diverted the river via a huge metal pipe that runs up in the skies ‘over’ the rail tracks.
St. James’s Park:
This station is built into a building that was/is known commonly as 55 Broadway – the old HQ of what was ‘London Underground’ – now ‘Transport for London’ (TfL).
The building was granted Grade I listed status, which means that it can’t be touched ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ – making any future development plans a little bit tricky.
It also has something that causes mayhem amongst the OCD sufferers, as it has a ‘roundel’ that displays the station name as “St. James’ Park” – whereas the other roundels on display name it as “St. James’s Park”…..now, which one is the correct spelling – and why aren’t all the roundels the same!!
One of my favourite tube stations – for no other reason than it just has a pleasant ‘vibe’.
Displayed throughout the exterior of this station is London Transport signage dating right back to the 1930’s – and within the structure of the platform inside the station, there are loads of iron pillars that have images of temples moulded into them.
One of the stations I used to use every day when I worked at Barclays Bank-Whitechapel branch.
This station has a really weird anomaly, as its ‘Overground’ track is underground – and its ‘Underground’ track is overground…..confused – you will be!!
Bow Road to Bromley by Bow
The short stretch of track between these 2 stations is said to have the ‘steepest’ gradient of the entire tube network – which is measured as 1:28 (whatever that means).
It is also the stretch of track where a film of the tube train travelling across a bridge, has been animated and is used as part of the scenery backdrop for the tv soap ‘East Enders’.
Another station that I used to use daily when working at Barclays Bank East Ham branch.
On the westbound platform, in the brickwork of a corner of the waiting room – there is a ‘ghost sign’ that advertise “Tea 2d per Cup”.
Barking is one of only 2 stations throughout the entire tube network where the train doors open on both sides when it reaches the platform. (The other station is Stratford on the Central Line)
The eastern end of the District Line.
Not far from the station is the Church of St. Laurence, where way back in 1709, the Reverend William Derham became the very first person to accurately measure and record the ‘speed of sound’.
He did this by taking a telescope to the top of the church tower – and then arranged for someone to fire a gun in the visible distance –then, by observation, timed the distance and time between seeing the ‘flash’ of the gunshot and ‘hearing’ the gunshot. (I’m sure there not many ‘locals’ who are aware of that fact – I certainly wasn’t).
So – the above are just a few ‘interesting facts’ about the District Line, which you can amaze your friends with next time you travel past these stations when using the District Line.
Having spent the day hopping on & off at stops on the District Line, I was in desperate need of ‘cheeky’ beer or two and a packet of pork scratchings – and so I made my way to the unique ‘ The Edgar Wallace’ pub, just a couple of minutes’ walk from Temple station (on the District Line).
The pub building dates right back to 1777 when it was called ‘The Essex Head’ – and it was re-named in 1975 to commemorate the famous crime writer ‘Edgar Wallace’ at the centenary of his death.
The pub is also famous for being the local drinking hole of Samuel Johnson–(b.1709 – d.1784) the historically famous writer, poet, playwright, biographer, literary critic and early author of the English Dictionary.
The “Edgar Wallace” has a really unique and interesting interior as it is crammed to the rafters with old advertising memorabilia, mainly relating to pubs and smoking, and its ceiling is completely covered with old beer mats. It’s the sort of place where, no matter how many times you visited, there would always find something new that you hadn’t noticed before – a really great pub and well worth a visit if you’re in the Embankment area of the ‘smoke’.
Anyway – that all about the District Line for you, and I hope the accompanying photos bring this little story to life for you.