Tube Life – Review

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By Sarah Morgan

I’ve got a strange obsession with the London Underground. It’s not because it’s such a handy way to travel about the capital, or any weird people-watching fetish, but because it’s an absolute marvel.

Just think about it for a second. While thousands of people go about their daily business above ground, there is an intricate network of tunnels beneath it, transporting folk wherever they want to go.

It would be impossible to see a cross-section of what it looks like, but try to imagine how all those different lines work above, below and alongside each other, worming their way across the city – pretty incredible really.

And that’s why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Tube Life, a showcase of photos from the Mirrorpix archive featuring a variety of weird, wonderful, terrifying and awe-inspiring shots taken over the past 80 years or so.

tube life mirrorpix book review coverInitially I was somewhat disappointed to find that the tome was rather small – in fact, so small it would almost fit into a pocket, making it perfect to read while, you guessed it, travelling on the Tube.

“Candid photographs”

However, as we all know, small can be beautiful, so what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in candid photographs.

The publication date was due to tie in with the opening of the new Elizabeth Line, part of the Crossrail network, but due to unforeseen delays (how often have we heard that?) the line won’t now open until next autumn.

Never mind, the book contains some fascinating photos of Crossrail being created, although I must admit, it’s shots taken much earlier in the Tube’s development that I find particularly interesting.

The book is arranged in chronological order, from the 1930s to the present day. There’s a limited amount of text accompanying the images, but enough to reveal some intriguing facts, particularly in the section set during the Second World War, when underground stations provided Londoners with much-needed shelter during the Blitz.

The book doesn’t shy away from the difficulties faced by the network either, by covering the Moorgate crash, the King’s Cross fire and the 7/7 terrorist attacks.

Londoners may continually complain about the Tube, how cramped and busy it can be, but after living in a semi-rural area for the past 20 years, where public transport is a bit hit-and-miss, I can tell them they don’t know how lucky they are to have such an institution on their doorstep.

‘Tube Life’ by Mirrorpix is published by The History Press, £9.99 paperback


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