Photography Travel

Confused aboot the London Underground… mostly


Dear Englanders,

I have a question Re: The London Underground aka The Tube. Why is it called the underground when most stations are above the ground? And where does the London Underground begin? And is it still called a “train” even when it’s in the underground or is it simply the tube. I’m slightly confused.

See below a picture montage to illustrate said confusion. (aside: I suppose I could just google/wiki it and i could find out, but then you wouldn’t get to add your smarmy know-it-all comments. plus, i like to get my info from reliable sources, and you, my smarmy British commenting friends are as reliable as they come.)

We start our journey on the Picadilly line at Hownslow Central station located approx. 7 mins from Heathrow Airport. It’s a lovely sunny day, innit? Yes indeed.





This looks like a train to me. A train that is above the ground. I get it that Great Britain is great and can make up their own rules about what to call things, but the train/tube thing is confuuuusing…

Like say you are at Green Park station (see illegal green park underground picture below) would you say: “I’m sat at the train station with my mates on the way to grab some pints and watch the football match.” OR “I’m sat at the tube station sharing a bag of crisps with my mates whilst trying to attract the attention of a well fit bird with our iPhones.” Now would it be different if you were say… at King’s Cross, which seems to be a combo of an underground station and a train station…

Explain me. ta.


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  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    December 1, 2007 at 12:25 AM

    no comments?!?! you are all RUBBISH!

  • Reply
    December 1, 2007 at 6:42 AM

    Dear Canaders,

    Dont know the answer to any of your questions but since you want a comment…here you are. I *think* the underground was initially just in the center where it was all under ground and as time went on they moved it further out.

    I also *think* that the trains that have rounder ceilings are called tubes but the ones which go both over and under ground are called trains. I may just be making that up.

    Im from Glasgow. We have 1 underground which goes in a circle and NEVER goes above ground. We are extremely serious about that. If the tube goes above ground then we know something has gone wrong.


  • Reply
    December 3, 2007 at 12:14 PM

    It began mostly underground in 1863, I think. Then in the turn of the century (1900), some American tycoon bought up the Northern Line and connected it to the Tube. During and after WWII, they expanded more of the railway into different London and outlying railways, making it 55% above ground.

    I’m not English, or from England. But my family is from Scotland, so we know a bit about the weird Limey folks.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2007 at 4:24 PM

    Hi Lisa,

    I am from Dayton OH USA. I went to London and got so confused about the subway / tube / underground / mind the gap, that I got really lost and everyone at my work calls me “Piccadilly” now. So, I guess I am an extreme example of your confusion… mostly.


  • Reply
    Dmitry Chestnykh
    December 8, 2007 at 3:39 PM

    Re: Children Under 5 (and dogs)…
    How aboot catz?! :)

  • Reply
    December 13, 2007 at 12:15 PM

    Funny that, but the Vancouver SKYtrain runs largely in underground tunnels, and not in the ‘sky’.

    She probably gets confused by that too.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2007 at 4:36 AM

    @LB & @djh I was wondering that. Some of the apartments ive been looking at are near the skytrain and ive had a Logans Run style futuristic monorail train in my head. Ive been to Vancity 3 times and never been on it

  • Reply
    A Londoner
    January 9, 2008 at 6:56 PM

    The London Underground is so simple – I can’t see how the map can be made easier. OK – it may be difficult for Yanks to understand – but most normal people don’t have a problem. And why is it sometimes called “the tube.”? Take a look at the tunnels – they are “tube” shaped. The Underground was initially put there to speed up travel through central London as above ground it was so congested. As London itself expanded and the suburbs were created, the Underground was extended outwards to meet demand for people to commute into central London. It didn’t need to be under the ground – because their was no reason for it to be so. And why are they called “trains”? Because that’s what they are.

  • Reply
    January 6, 2012 at 3:24 AM

    I am incredibly late to this, but never mind. It’s called the tube because it runs (largely) in tubes underground. The actual vehicle you’re travelling on you can call a train or a tube or whatever – the announcers usually say “train”.

    Whether above or below ground, that whole network of trains ( ) is the same so that’s why it’s the London Underground. If you want to get a train to Cambridge or Edinburgh you have to change and that’s why it’s totally different.

    And if you’re at King’s Cross you’d probably just say you were at King’s Cross :-p but if you wanted to be more specific it would depend on whether you were on one of the platforms up the top, waiting for a train, or below ground waiting for a tube train!

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