Wednesday, March 07, 2007

London Underground

I've always been fascinated by the London Underground. I enjoy the descent into a stygian realm of eerie Victorian tunnels and artificial lighting. A thousand dead souls scream in agony as each tube train brakes to a halt in each claustrophic station, punching a pillar of air up the escalators and stairs. The cooling fans kick-in underneath the passengers' feet, lonely moments pass, then the doors close again, sealing the victims inside. And then that fabulous Mephistic acceleration out of the station. From inside the trains, blue bolts of ectoplasmic power momentarily illuminate the crepuscular darkness outside, the carriages swaying and rocking and clattering as the speed and engine note grow with manic intensity.

Never before, however, have I seen things from a driver's perspective. A quick search on Youtube indicates that tube (and train) drivers are now videoing their journeys, and posting them on the web.

5 comments:

Doug Hudson said...

On YouTube? How appropriate!

Brit said...

Gordon: I fully understand what you are saying.

The Tube has gripped my imagination since childhood. In addition to the experience of travelling on it, which you describe perfectly, there is the added fascination of the ingenious map, and the poetry of the station names.

Gordon McCabe said...

Interesting point about the undergound map. Famously, the map preserves the topology, but not the geometry of the real thing.

By the way, Brit, I think your link to the geometrically accurate map has dropped away, but here's a great map, with the tube lines superimposed upon a satellite image of London.

Susan Balée said...

Mephistic journey and *mephitic* air! Actually, I don't mind the London tube, and I rather like D.C.'s Metro, but NYC's subway system stinks. It reeks of urine in many stations and one pastime of late-night platform waiters is "count the rats" or "point out the biggest rats" (some are as big as cats, seriously) making their bold way along the tracks, eating what one would rather not imagine.

But, Gordon, if you *really* want a great underground journey, I recommend the Catacombs of Paris to you. Tunnels, tombs, skulls & longbones galore, gruesome art made of same, famous statements about death ("Abandon all hope, ye who enter here") on the walls, a cold air dampening one's nerve. But you aren't allowed to go back. I took my daughter down there when she was 12 and though she grew terrified, we had to keep walking forward, several miles until we could get out. (Apparently, those who left the marked path have died down there. It was a bastion of the French Resistance centuries after it was a favorite gravesite.)

Spooky and makes one think of what Ben Franklin said about old age: "Consider the alternative." Perhaps he took a stroll in the Catacombs when he was Ambassador to France....

Gordon McCabe said...

Sounds fab, Susan. I'll enlist Gollum as my guide.