Inside London Underground Tube carriages mid-20th century
Inside the London Underground tube trains is in some ways similar today to what it was in the past. There are, however, some important differences which this page describes from personal recollections in the 1940s: types of grips for standing passengers, controls for guards, emergency seat, the emergency stop and the windows during WW2.
By the webmaster: her childhood recollections with contributions from others who lived at the time
The London Underground was always known as the 'tube'. The only compartments that I knew in the 1940s were full-length, seating perhaps 50 passengers. In many ways, they were much as they are today. However there were some significant differences:
Grips and pole supports for standing passengers
The trains got very crowded at times. So passengers had to stand. As the ride could be jerky, there were grips and poles for them to hang onto. The grips consisted of dangling black balls that fitted neatly into the palms of hands. Perhaps they were unhygienic because they were later replaced by other designs.
Controls for guards
Every compartment could, if necessary be placed at the back of the train and used for the guard. So the controls with their coloured buttons were plainly visible in every compartment, and were a great temptation for children to press. I was always told not to, but I suspect that many a child did press, so they were probably disabled unless a guard was actually there.
The guard's seat/the emergency seat
Beside the controls was a pull-down spring-loaded seat presumably for the guard but known as the 'emergency seat' when no guard was there. It was hard and uncomfortable with no arms, but as a child I enjoyed sitting in it - and was always allowed to do so.
I certainly didn't spend my wartime tube journeys looking out of the windows. Because it was wartime and London was in fear of German bombing, all the windows had creamy-looking mesh netting stuck over them to stop glass splinters flying from bomb blast. I very much wish I had a photo of the windows, but no museum I have seen shows these windows. Probably when the war stopped, they were so rapidly and eagerly stripped that no-one bothered to photograph them.
This mesh must have been fairly easy to buy, unlike non-essential items, because we had it up loosely at the windows at home in place of net curtains. New net curtains, being non-essential items, were no-where to be bought - and my parents had started to set up home only in the year before the beginning of the war.
More about the netting on the train windows
There were notices on trains about not peeling off netting:
Please do not peel the window netting. It is there for your protection.
Some graffiti added in response was:
Thank you for the information but I can't see the bloody station!
as told to him in 1916 by the then 95 year-old Mr Jackson who was a a radio operator/air gunner in WW2
Tap/click for more about train windows.