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Underground, Overground: A Passenger's History of the Tube [Hardcover]

Andrew Martin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
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Book Description

26 April 2012

Why is the Victoria Line so hot? What is an Electrical Multiple Unit? Is it really possible to ride from Kings Cross to Kings Cross on the Circle line?

The London Underground is the oldest, most sprawling and illogical metropolitan transport system in the world, the result of a series of botch-jobs and improvisations.Yet it transports over one billion passengers every year - and this figure is rising. It is iconic, recognised the world over, and loved and despised by Londoners in equal measure.

Blending reportage, humour and personal encounters, Andrew Martin embarks on a wonderfully engaging social history of London's underground railway system (which despite its name, is in fact fifty five per cent overground). Along the way he attempts to untangle the mess that is the Northern Line, visit every station in a single day - and find out which gaps to be especially mindful of. Underground, Overground is a highly enjoyable, witty and informative history of everything you need to know about the Tube.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 1st Edition edition (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846684773
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846684777
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Martin grew up in Yorkshire. After qualifying as a barrister, he won The Spectator Young Writer of the Year Award, 1988. Since, he has written for The Guardian, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and Granta, among many other publications. His columns have appeared in the Independent on Sunday and the New Statesman. His Jim Stringer novels - railway thrillers - have been published by Faber and Faber since 2002.

Product Description


Martin's knowledge is both encyclopaedic and full of quirky digressions, based on everyday observation... this history has plenty of fun detailing the travails of the Underground's pioneering figures... (Andrew Neather Evening Standard 2012-04-26)

A jaunty history... the book is studded with little observational gems... he can occasionally stop you in your tracks with a well-turned phrase. (Andrew Holgate Sunday Times 2012-04-22)

Seeing Martin puzzle his way through the history is half the fun, as are his lively interlocutors ... the language is beautiful (Rose Jacobs FT 2012-04-28)

A sparky history of the tube ... Martin has more fun with it than most ... He honours the Underground, and glories in its oddities (Tom Fort Sunday Telegraph 2012-04-29)

For those who love a bit of darting about the Londinium subway whenever the chance comes, Underground, Overground will be a sweat-induced, claustrophobic treat (Brian Donaldson The List 2012-04-26)

Hugely entertaining ... gives us all the lore and myths ... Underground, Overground captures the same zest, zaniness and sense of marvel shown in the recent BBC Two series The Tube. (Michael Binyon Times 2012-05-05)

A highly engaging journey through the history and geography of the tube. (Jonathan Sale Independent 2012-05-05)

An excellent "passenger's history" of the network... entertaining (Mark Mason Spectator 2012-04-28)

If you've ever wondered who is responsible for the announcements on the Northern line, or why Bakerloo line trains don't have armrests, then this engaging and witty social history of the London underground is guaranteed to beguile.

. . . Martin is a highly entertaining guide to the stygian depths of subterranean London in all its absurd, confusing glory. . . Offbeat anecdotes abound . . . a compact yet comprehensive study

(Alexander Larman Observer 2012-05-13)

Pages of fascinating facts... (Lola Sinclair The Lady 2012-05-18)

Where Martin's book comes into its own is on the experiential aspects of tube travel... Martin is never less than engaging. He also mounts a spirited - and even to this sceptic, thoroughly convincing - defence of Ken Livingstone's tenure as London transport supremo, which should be required reading by public policy wonks all the way to the top. On balance, if you're a tube neophyte - I mean reading about it, as much as riding it - I would strongly endorse Martin's book as the stop to get on at. (Will Self Guardian 2012-05-26)

Martin's witty tome is as entertaining as its subject is frustrating and, perhaps surprisingly, liable to induce sympathy for the poor sods who run the ever teetering service. (Steve Jelbert Word 2012-05-01)

A compelling social history that blends reportage, humour and personal experience. (Simon Evans Choice 2012-06-01)

A deeply pleasurable history of the London tube. Martin has all the history at his fingertips... (Kathryn Hughes Prospect 2012-05-01)

So dense with fascinating facts that a Londoner can dip in it at almost any point and get a new insight to enrich their experience of the city... a fine tribute to the tube (Kevin Younger Time Out 2012-06-07)

Martin is the Laureate of the Underground... Martin has an acute eye for detail, and tempers his own knowledge with a dry humour. Unlike many funny writers, he is both affectionate and alert to nuance... you emerge from this book as though from the Underground itself, blinking into the sunlight as you bid farewell to its peculiar, parallel universe, a place where, as Martin says, 'it always seems to be evening'... it wouldn't be surprising if the next pigeon he spots on the Tube was bent over a copy of his fascinating book, saying 'Coo!' (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday 2012-06-17)

The best introduction to the tube . . . I missed my stop on three separate occasions when engrossed in this readable and very funny history . . . Mr Martin is the perfect guide (Michael Murray-Fennell Country Life 2012-07-25)

Fascinating (Craig Brown Daily Mail 2012-09-11)

Book Description

An entertaining and enlightening social history of the world's most famous underground railway

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars better as a personal reflection than a history 24 May 2012
By gerryg VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's alway going to be difficult to beat in-depth nerdism such as one might find from capo-di-capo Christian Wolmar and The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How it Changed the City Forever but what I liked about this book is the anecdote and affection, together with a little more about the personalities and the politics.

I didn't appreciate (but on reflection wasn't surprised) that Harry Beck, the pioneering tube map designer had a face that didn't fit and his contribution was only recognised years later. I also thought the discussion of the lost property office interesting (yes, I've been there...). And his description of Northern Line islands together with the speculation as to why people don't fall off the edge during the rush hour (I've been there and there too) are just some of the charming stories that keep this well written personal reflection moving forward. A tiny criticism, knowing Temple very well, and the map to which he refers, which is so faded and insignificantly positioned, I would think one could stand there a long time before observing anyone having noticing it let alone becoming confused by it.

I enjoyed reading that just as documented in The Bus We Loved: London's Affair with the Routemaster that there was no such thing as a standard Routemaster because of continual tinkering with the design, there was no such thing as the standard tube train.

Other reviewers have criticised the lack of a tube map, I wasn't sure I understood this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
The attractive cover drew me to this book, and the reviewers quoted inside who described it as sparky (Sunday Telegraph), engaging (Observer), jaunty (Sunday Times), fascinating (Time Out) and very funny (Country Life) persuaded me to buy it. Just the thing to see me through a long train journey, I thought, and very appropriate for one which started with a tube trip across London.
I wasn't expecting thrills and romance, but I don't think I was being unreasonable in hoping to be entertained. It was billed as a personal memoir of one man's lifelong obsession with and love for the tube, after all: at the very least I expected a lively social history peppered with some engaging anecdotes. But I'm afraid I found it deadly dull - and, having nothing else to read, I was stuck with it for the next four hours!
It fails because it falls between two stools: it's far too meandering and stodgy to entertain, yet it's not authoritative enough to satisfy historians or train nerds (and other reviewers have pointed out a lot of inaccuracies).
The icing on the cake is the lack of good illustrations - and whoever thought that there was any point to publishing a book like this without a series of maps to illustrate the subject should be sacked. Or was it a question of reproduction rights? Because the author talks at length about the unique design of the underground roundel and that doesn't appear, either.
But it is nicely written, and it's probably one of those books that it's better to dip into rather than just read through. So you might want to give it a try - but use a tube map as a bookmark, as I did, otherwise you'll find it a very frustrating read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No maps! 4 Sep 2012
Without historical and current maps this is a very difficult history to follow. I'm baffled by their exclusion. Could have been so much better.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book but why no maps? 12 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book but was a bit disappointed by the lack of explanatory maps, as new lines were discussed and brought into the book.

Andrew Martin has an easy writing style but I found I had to keep stopping to look at a map of London to try and work out some of the points he was trying to bring across.

A few more pictures would also have helped but a worthwhile read nevertheless.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Underground overground 5 Aug 2014
By Clare O'Beara TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
I feel that this book will be of more interest to the serious railway devotee, which is why I'm not giving it more stars.

There is plenty of history, from the first tunnelling efforts on. Now it seems amazing that each line was independently financed and dug, in competition and privately run. The main point of the Tube was to let poor people move a few miles out of the slums and still get to work cheaply. This encouraged city sprawl. As the city got busier, horse and carriage or cart traffic-blocks as they were called increased; so did the cry for more trains.

There are lots of little details which only inhabitants of the city would notice, like garden gnomes placed in a station or a tiling scheme. The London Transport staff appear to have been very civil about answering questions.

I'd previously read 'London Under London' which also looks at the other sub-city networks such as rivers, sewers, pipes and electricals, bunkers and the like. This book is more focused and claims to correct a rumour, which exists in the other book, that a baby girl born on a Tube train was named so as to have initials TUBE; the author says her initials are MAE. Both books mention the façade of fake houses over a rail line tunnel; in this one the author went there and asked the neighbours what they thought, a comical scene.

I was reading this book for research purposes and it did not mention the stations in which I was most interested. The author was paid as a journalist to write about the Tube in a column for several years. He includes a photo of Francis Bacon which he took on the Tube train one day. While he brought the tale up to date with the Olympics, the Greenwich and Canary Wharf stations, by its nature there are already updates to the system.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
A very interesting overview of the history and development of the Underground from many perspectives. A great read.
Published 18 days ago by David Mellor
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book, excellent service
Funny and fascinating at the same time, it is recommended to all London lovers! Available for a very convenient price (I bought it new at 0.99), and to be dispatched quickly.
Published 4 months ago by Federica Accorsi
5.0 out of 5 stars Railman
First of all I have to say lucky so and so, it was most boys' dream in my era to have access to free First class rail travel and free Underground tickets. Read more
Published 5 months ago by cairns
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent volume!
This is a very chatty and humorous telling of the history of the Tube, with some personal musings of the author thrown in for good measure! Read more
Published 6 months ago by S M DIX
4.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Martin
This was bought for a present so I can only go on the person who received it was delighted with it as he is an Andrew Martin fan.
Published 6 months ago by Mrs C
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Read History of the Underground
This book is not a blow by blow detailed history of the London Underground and anyone looking for such a book should read Christian Wolmar's 'Subterranean Railway' However I found... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Suebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Minding the Gap
"I visited the (East London) line shortly after it re-opened, noting that the refurbishment had done nothing to eliminate the brackish stink of the Thames at Wapping or the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Joseph Haschka
5.0 out of 5 stars Four or five stars, easily
Good read, not for absolute perfect details, but a great sense of how the tube began and developed and became an institution. A light read but a good one.
Published 10 months ago by L. P. Lewzey
4.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Martin
I bought this book for my husband. He found it very interesting and would recommend it. It was reasonably priced too.
Published 12 months ago by Elisabeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stuff!
This was a detailed history of the different tube lines with many personal anecdotes to enliven the story. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Matto763
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