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The Queen Going Underground

by Richard Palmer: Historic images of the day when the Queen became Britain’s poshest Tube driver have been released to celebrate today’s 150th anniversary of the London Underground…


The fascinating pictures are from the archive of newsreel company British Pathe. It has published a commemorative gallery to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of the world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan Line, on January 9, 1863.

The footage includes film of the Queen opening the new Victoria Line in 1969, when she took to the controls of a train at Green Park, the nearest stop to Buckingham Palace. Quite what the trade unions of the day made of an untrained, non-union monarch driving one of their trains is not recorded.

But a plummy-voiced British Pathe narrator can be heard saying: “Deep under London a new section of the Victoria Line rumbled into service. Her Majesty inspected the automatic controls of one of the line’s 34 silver trains, then pressed the buttons which sent the loco in motion. That’s all the driver has to do. Computers do the rest.

“The Queen stayed at the controls for the short journey between Green Park and Oxford Circus.” Later she was filmed in a carriage as the newscaster said: “Accompanied by officials, the Queen then made the return journey in one of the bright modern coaches.”

She was also shown riding on an escalator after inspecting brand new automatic ticket machines. It was the second time she had been on the Underground. She first travelled on the Tube in May 1939, when she was 13 and still a Princess. She was pictured with her governess Marion Crawford and sister Princess Margaret.

The royal images are among hundreds of photos and videos which British Pathe is showing in an online gallery on its website




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