The world's first underground tube railway opened – on this day in history


02 August 2016
2-August-Location-of-the-Tower-Subway-in-1895-07390.gif Location of the Tower Subway in 1895
On 2 August 1870 the Tower Subway opened in London

On 2 August 1870, the world's first underground tube railway, Tower Subway, is opened in London. The subway is a circular tunnel beneath the River Thames, situated between Tower Hill and Vine Lane. The tunnel was dug through London clay using a wrought iron shield patented by Peter W Barlow and a narrow gauge railway was laid inside. When it opened in August 1870, it could carry passengers in a wooden carriage pulled by cable, but this proved to be too costly and the tunnel was converted for pedestrians, who paid a 1/2d fee to cross under the river on foot. One million Londoners a year used the subway until it closed to the public in 1898, following the opening four years earlier of Tower Bridge, which was free to cross. The tunnel still exists today and is used to carry water mains.

The same construction methods were used to build the tunnels in 1890 for the City and South London Railway, London’s first ‘Tube’ transport.

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