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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A potted history of the London Underground
I previously purchased the same author's Water: A Turbulent History, and was pleased to find one of the same author's books available through Amazon Vine(tm). However, unlike that earlier book, this one only gives a very basic history of the subject. I knew that when I chose the book, but even so I feel that it could have been better.

It works as a basic facts...
Published on 29 July 2011 by Peter Durward Harris

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Style but no substance
London Underground Facts is a bit like an Underground Schott's Miscelleny - a book designed to be sold at Christmas as a gift for people who don't read books. It looks good - a beautiful red white and blue art deco dust jacket; small; thick paper. The format is magaziney - text boxes, lists, bullet points, random quotes, pictures and heaps of white space for resting the...
Published on 24 Nov. 2009 by MisterHobgoblin


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A potted history of the London Underground, 29 July 2011
By 
Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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I previously purchased the same author's Water: A Turbulent History, and was pleased to find one of the same author's books available through Amazon Vine(tm). However, unlike that earlier book, this one only gives a very basic history of the subject. I knew that when I chose the book, but even so I feel that it could have been better.

It works as a basic facts book for people wanting to get a sense of the history of the system, but no more than that. Its small size makes it handy for reading on trains, even those underground trains that were the book's inspiration, though of course you would have difficulty reading it during the rush hour with everybody fighting for space.

There are some amusing stories about smells and mosquitoes, while the tragedies at Moorgate and King's Cross are both covered, though not in any depth. There are pieces about the men who financed and/or managed the system in its early days, though these stories are of necessity incomplete.

A good book in many ways, it is nevertheless something of a tease. I am sure that the author could do better if he were to write a proper in-depth book. But wait - Christian Wolmar has already written that book The Subterranean Railway : How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever so we don't need another such book, at least not yet. If you really want to learn about the history of the London underground, that's the book to go for.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Style but no substance, 24 Nov. 2009
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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London Underground Facts is a bit like an Underground Schott's Miscelleny - a book designed to be sold at Christmas as a gift for people who don't read books. It looks good - a beautiful red white and blue art deco dust jacket; small; thick paper. The format is magaziney - text boxes, lists, bullet points, random quotes, pictures and heaps of white space for resting the eyes. The content has nothing new, it is simply culled from the many existing Underground reference books and presented in a much abbreviated form. Although there is an index setting out different sections, there is no logic to the sections. Why would Wartime Underground precede Metroland? Why would Poetry On the Underground come between them both? And even within sections, we find a blurb about Public Private Partnerships immediately before a potted biography of Herbert Morrison (Transport Minister in 1929).

The book is short, too. 143 pages - 6 of which are an index and the text actually starts on page 6, so that makes 132 pages of actual text. Throw in several pages that are little more than route maps for each line (badly drawn by freehand with spelling mistakes - Surrey Keys, Edgeware Road...), the same five drawings repeated over and over again, and a couple of blank pages... You get the idea: it's thin.

However, I guess the target market is people who are stuck for gift ideas, and it won't actually offend anyone. Indeed, I can imagine that in the right setting - perhaps in a small room where one tends to be alone, looking for amusement in small, 2 minute chunks then this fits the bill. Just like Schott's Miscelleny; Crap Towns; The Little Book Of Calvin and all its illustrious forerunners.

Judging it for what it aspires to be, 3 stars seems fair. Had it had a point or a structure - or anything new to say - it would have deserved more. But as it doesn't really offend, it probably doesn't deserve less.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pocket introduction to Underground history, 4 Jan. 2010
By 
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK) - See all my reviews
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This small book has an assortment of interesting facts scattered through the pages, but also much white space and several instances of repetition. I think skimpy is an appropriate word here.

I felt the drawings were decidedly amateurish, and almost might have been sketches intended for a proper artist to clean up and present properly. The break-out boxes were largely wasted, and the thumbnail pictures were repeated far too often - better used just the once.

It feels rushed and cheap. It could have been so much more. There are several sources of accurate and fascinating information which could have been plundered to make this more worth the read and less of a half-hearted effort.

A much better book for fascinating history of the tube is J E Connor's London's Disused Underground Stations and Stephen Halliday himself has produced a more comprehensive work in Underground to Everywhere: London's Underground Railway in the Life of the Capital.

But perhaps the most interesting place to find history of the London Underground is the web site underground-history, maintained by Hywel Williams, which is crammed full of photos and relevant information.

I am interested in the Tube, and use it frequently, but I am not an 'Enthusiast' merely another Londoner. Even so, I felt short changed by this brief book. So only three stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing, 9 Sept. 2011
By 
Karura (London) - See all my reviews
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When a book includes the words 'amazing' and 'extraordinary' in its title, it's setting a pretty high bar for itself, and unfortunately, this book failed to live up to my expectations. After flicking through the book in the shop, I got the impression that it was a collection of London underground factoids, covering things like the never-quite-functional spiral escalator at Holloway Road, and, as an underground and trivia junkie, I was eager to pick up a copy.

Sadly, the reality was more than a bit disappointing. Instead of packing a punch with interesting bits of trivia, the book tries to set out a more complete history of the Underground- which would be fine if it had the space to do so! As it stands, the book is far too short to do more than scratch the surface, and as the writing style is quite dry and unengaging, it doesn't make for that enjoyable a read. To add insult to injury, much space is wasted with wobbly, unprofessional-looking sketches of the various underground lines, whilst 'Underground' and 'Way Out' signs are liberally and repetitively sprinkled throughout.

There are some interesting factoids to be found in the book's many side boxes, but overall these are a bit hit-and-miss, with one 'Did You Know?' box ironically echoing information the reader will have just read in the main text! The book also makes a mistake in saying that Covent Garden and Leicester square are the two closest Underground stations - Embankment and Charing Cross are closer!

Although not outright bad, this book was a little underwhelming and disappointing. Underground fanatics should probably check out something like London's Disused Underground Stations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 28 Nov. 2009
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This little book will be an ideal stocking filler present for anyone who is interested in trivia, history or railways. What surprised me was how many millions of passengers the London Underground carries each year. The book is full of facts and figures and strange snippets of information.

I had not appreciated how many Americans were involved in the original construction of much of the Underground or that the Brunels, father and son, were also involved. There are ghosts and tragedies, births and deaths, conmen and men of integrity. There is even a river running above the tracks at Sloane Square station and a species of mosquito which only lives in the Underground.

This book contains all you could possibly want to know about London's Underground including the fact that they make more money from licensing copies of the iconic map if the Underground than they do from running trains.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and interesting, but not extraordinary, 29 Dec. 2009
By 
Darren Simons (Middlesex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This book takes the reader through the history of the London Underground, throwing in some interesting facts along the way. It contains pages for each of the underground lines describing their history, a section of the overall history of the Underground (notably the financing) and describes the architecture of some of the most famous stations.

For me, it was clearly a very well researched book and from that point of view it was interesting but the style of the book didn't do it for me - it tried to bring the image of the Underground through the ages yet there are no photos and no colour at all.

So overall, it's good but not great in my view.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent text, but hamstrung by cheap visuals, 5 Jan. 2010
By 
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This is a pleasant little browse through the history of London's Underground system. It is designed not as a formal history but as a book for dipping into, with a plethora of side-bars, "Did you know?" facts and so forth; there is, however, a lot of solid information in it about the development of the system and the various characters, many of them shady, that fed into its early years.

It would make an acceptable gift, but could be a lot better if more money had been spent on the visuals. The cover design is nice, harking back to the interwar period in which the Underground led in applied design. Within, however, there is little in the way of illustration and what there is is unimpressive. There is a section on each line, illustrated with a rough scribbled map that is little use and in some cases is inaccurate (that for the East London Line, for instance, shows not the rail line but the bus route that currently - 2010 - replaces it, taking in New Cross Gate and New Cross in sequence rather than as alternatives; and including a station called "Surrey Keys" is just shoddy). This is the closest one gets to a map of the current system. The endpapers provide two maps of the system: one by F.H. Stingemore showing it in, I think, 1925, in the old style that gave accurate directions and distances, and the first version of the famous Harry Beck diagrammatic map. Neither, however, is labelled and their significance is thus lost, as is any indication of where the system went thereafter and how it got to the shape it is today. This failure to use the rich visual heritage of London Transport hamstrings what could have been a much better book: as it is, one needs to know a good deal about the history of the system already to get full value out of the book, which rather defeats the object.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, if frustrating, 9 Feb. 2010
By 
Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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A confession: I don't come from London, nor do I live there, and I'm not a railways enthusiast. I bought this book out of curiosity, as I've always had a strange interest in all things subterranean, particularly the Tube, and its slightly mysterious "ghost stations".

It's a nice little book to hold, a tiny paperback which won't really fit alongside anything else on your bookshelf, and the matt paper wraparound cover is pleasingly matt so has a nicely "old" texture, plus the graphic looks almost Soviet in a way, which makes it feel like an odd little thing, almost a relic from the past which has suddenly arrived in the present. Once inside, the book is structured into a series of themed sections: The pioneers; The lines; Financing the underground, and so on, and in each there are long (1-3 pages or so) passages which focus on a specific person or subject, plus lots of small facts presented in boxes around the margins. It's interesting to read the back-story to the Tube, such as where the money came from and how it was developed over the years, plus some of the failed ideas such as pneumatic trains or others powered by heated bricks, which sadly exploded during trials.

However, there are frustrations. Several of the facts boxed-out in the margins are simply lifted from the main text, and I'm sure I noticed a couple which are themselves repeated again in the book. The biggest frustration though is the lack of pictures. There are two maps in the book - a very early Tube map where the stations are illustrated in their geographically correct location, and another which is the first Harry Beck map, but could we not have also had a "current" Tube map too, so we can see how it has changed since then? There are also a few times where a surface building is described (such as Arnos Grove station) but a photograph would have been helpful too. There are some illustrations, but sadly they are effectively just icons: The "Underground" sign stencilled on the occasional page; a "To the trains" sign; a line drawing of a station building; a "Way out" sign... Yes, the initial section "(The lines") has a drawing of the line itself, almost lifted straight from the Tube map, but that's really all.

A fairly quick, interesting little book, but it could - and should - have been better. A shame.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating history of the Tube, 11 Jan. 2010
By 
Martyn - See all my reviews
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Stephen Halliday's clear intention was to tell the story of the Underground in an entertaining and fact-filled way that would appeal both to the enthusiast but also the more casual reader.

Hnece the book is a small-sized volume broken into bite-sized chunks, with many subsections, and plenty of boxes headed 'Amazing' or 'Extraordinary Fact'.

Some of these facts are actually neither, and occasionally you do get a sense of author and publisher trying just a bit too hard to gain mass appeal with this book. Oddly some truly amazing facts, eg that 55% of the underground is actually overground, only merit the heading 'Did you Know?...'

Nevertheless, it's quite a good bedside pick-up-and-browse volume, and certainly doesn't come across as particularly 'buff-ish'.

Halliday clearly IS a buff though, and obvioulsy we wouldn't want it any other way - we want to hear from an expert and he certainly does tell the story of the individuals and companies behind the formation of the Underground and its various lines. To summarise, we owe the development of the Underground to a large extent to a parade of over-ambitious entrepreneurs and conmen who got the lines built on funds borrowed on false projections of passenger numbers and so on.

The recent banking crisis to an extent turned the public away from those seeking to make a lot of money, but we did pretty well out of the recklessness of some of these businessmen.

It's often odd to think of how long ago the Tube was introduced - they began by using steam trains... and also that there were some 60 years in the 20th century when no new lines were built (the resumption coming, surprisingly to me at least, with the Victoria Line in 1968).

Anyway, for more such facts do get and read this if you've any interest in the Underground. An added bonus is the reproduction of both the original geographically correct tube map, and an early example of the great Harry Beck's design.

Overall it's an interesting, well-designed book, and comprehensive enough that you won't have to read another on the Underground for a long time.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well, I Never!, 29 Nov. 2009
By 
Richard M. Seel (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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What a delightful book - full of interesting pieces of information about the London Underground from its beginning in 1863 to the present day. The London Underground is the oldest underground and also has an amazing history. It stands to reason that there should be lots of things I didn't know about the Underground but I enjoyed dipping into this book.

For instance the diary of R. D. Blumenfeld in 1887 recounts a `first experience of Hades.' It seems the gentleman got into the underground Railway at Baker Street and wanted to travel to Moorgate Street but because of the smoke and sulphur all the windows had to remain closed. He says that the atmosphere was a mixture of sulphur, coal dust and foul fumes from the gas lamps above so that by the time he reached Moorgate Street, he was near dead of asphyxiation and heat. He goes on to say that he thinks that Underground railways must soon be discontinued for they are a menace to health. I suspect travellers today would echo his views but how else would they get to their destination?!

I am delighted to know that Londoners did not listen to the Government who had told them that the Underground was not to be used as air raid shelters. On 8th September 1940 a large group of determined citizens forced their way into Liverpool Street Underground station, pushing aside hapless police, Underground employees and volunteer Home Guards who were supposed to stop them. The Government recognised a fait accompli when it saw it and from that date, the tubes were there for anyone who wanted to shelter in them.

This is the sort of book which one could happily give as a present, especially to a gentleman friend knowing that they would be happy telling their woman folk and children different pieces of information, much as people like to read one excerpts from a newspaper.
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