This week's column is by Editor-in-Chief Inez Sharp.
In January, the London Underground, or "Tube", celebrates its 150th birthday. When the first train rattled its way through a tunnel in 1863, it was seen by many as a ridiculous venture. Now, one and a half centuries later, it is a lifeline for London, transporting 1.1 billion passengers across the metropolis each year.
If you have ever used the Tube, you know that it is usually the fastest way to get from A to B. Certain peculiarities have, over the years, become its hallmarks. These include the beautiful, abstract map, the iconic logo of a circle with a bar through the centre, the drily English voice that tells you at some stations to "mind the gap", and a tradition of great poster art.
I lived in and around central London for five years during my university studies, and I remember a few other things as well. The smell, for example, is unlike that of any other underground train system. It is a sweetish aroma of metal and soot that gets carried along the platforms and escalators on currents of warm air.
Then there is the narrowness of the tunnels. Next time you are in London and take the Underground, look out of the window between stations and you will see that there are sometimes only a few centimetres between the tunnel walls and the train. It's an interesting test of nerves if the train suddenly stops, as it often does when there is a short delay.
You can find out more about the London Underground in the January issue of Spotlight.
Mike Pilewski pays homage to its fascinating development in the History column.
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