The day The Queen drove a tube train! Images released for 150th anniversary of London Underground

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Updated: January 9, 2013
The Queen drives a tube train in 1969

THESE historic images have been released to celebrate 150 years of life on the London Underground … including the day The Queen drove a tube train!

The fascinating photos are from the archive of newsreel company British Pathe, which has published a commemorative gallery to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of the tube in 1863.

The footage includes film of The Queen opening the new Victoria Line in 1969, during which Her Majesty took to the controls of a train at Green Park, the nearest stop to Buckingham Palace.

Her majesty makes the return journey

Her majesty makes the return journey

A plummy-voiced British Pathe narrator told newsreel viewers: “Deep under London a new section of the Victoria Line rumbled into service.

“Her Majesty inspected the automatic controls of one of the line’s 34 silver trains, then pressed the buttons which sent the loco in motion. That’s all the driver has to do. Computers do the rest.

“The Queen stayed at the controls for the short journey between Green Park and Oxford Circus.

Her Majesty was later filmed relaxing in a carriage as the newscaster adds: “Accompanied by officials, The Queen then made the return journey in one of the bright modern coaches.”

The Queen was also shown riding on an escalator after inspecting brand new automatic ticket machines. It was the second time The Queen had been on a tube, having previously visited the London Underground during her teens.

The Royal images are among hundreds of photos and videos which British Pathe is showing in an online gallery on its website at www.britishpathe.com.

They include a newsreel from 1944, which tells how women known as ‘Fluffies’ were employed to clean underground train tunnels during the night.

The images show women crawling on their hands and knees and cleaning between the tracks as a man supervises.

A narrator explains that the women start work after passengers on the last train home have “fraternised freely in an atmosphere of tobacco smoke and hops.”

The narrator adds: “These are the Missus Mops of the Underground: the women who dry clean the miles of tunnel in our vast subterranean railway system.”

The Queen on an escalator

The Queen on an escalator

There are also poignant images of Brits bedding down in tube stations for shelter during The Blitz, when London came under attack from the Luftwaffe.

A British Pathe source said: “There are some wonderful films in the archive on women war workers cleaning the tube lines at night – it doesn’t look fun.

“There’s also coverage of new construction and the alterations made to the tunnels during the Blitz, all of which makes for fascinating viewing.”

Another early photo shows London’s famous statue Eros being temporarily dismantled during building work on the tube at Piccadilly Circus in 1925.

Another clip from 1946 shows men in bowler hats riding a new section of the Central Line from Liverpool Street to Stratford, a route that was to play a key role in The London 2012 Olympics more than 60 years later.

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