Background Info

On January 10, 1863, the London Underground (also known as the "Tube") opened to passengers. The London Underground is the world’s oldest underground railway. Initial service ran between London Paddington station and Farringdon station. Forty thousand passengers were carried on the first day of service. Today, more than 3 million people ride the Underground every day.

Currently, the London Underground has more than 402 kilometers (250 miles) of track serving 270 stations; it is the longest rapid-transit system in the world. Navigating this system is made easier by the iconic London Underground map, designed by Harry Beck in 1931. Beck’s map used a schematic diagram approach, showing relative locations, rather than actual geographic locations, in order to simplify the highly dense information.


Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry



having parts or molecules that are packed closely together.






symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

Encyclopedic Entry: map



stretch of railroad between two points.

relative location


general spot where something is located; its place in relation to something else.

schematic diagram


representation of a system that uses symbols or graphics.


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Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society


Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society

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