IT seemed as if London had solved one of her great problems at last. The communication difficulty was at an end. The first-class ticket- holders no longer struggled to and from business with fourteen fellow- sufferers in a third-class ...
IT seemed as if London had solved one of her great problems at last.
The communication difficulty was at an end. The first-class ticket-
holders no longer struggled to and from business with fourteen fellow-
sufferers in a third-class carriage. There were no longer any
particularly favoured suburbs, nor were there isolated localities
where it took as long getting to the City as an express train takes
between London and Swindon. The pleasing paradox of a man living at
Brighton because it was nearer to his business than Surbiton had
ceased to exist. The tubes had done away with all that.
There were at least a dozen hollow cases running under London in all
directions. They were cool and well ventilated, the carriages were
brilliantly lighted, the various loops were properly equipped and
All day long the shining funnels and bright platforms were filled with
passengers. Towards midnight the traffic grew less, and by half-past
one o'clock the last train had departed. The all-night service was not
It was perfectly quiet now along the gleaming core that lay buried
under Bond Street and St. James's Street, forming the loop running
below the Thames close by Westminster Bridge Road and thence to the
crowded Newington and Walworth districts. Here a portion of the roof
was under repair.
The core was brilliantly lighted; there was no suggestion of fog or
gloom. The general use of electricity had disposed of a good deal of
London's murkiness; electric motors were applied now to most
manufactories and workshops. There was just as much gas consumed as
ever, but it was principally used for heating and culinary purposes.
Electric radiators and cookers had not yet reached the multitude; that
was a matter of time.
In the flare of the blue arc lights a dozen men were working on the
dome of the core. Something had gone wrong with a water-main overhead,
the concrete beyond the steel belt had cracked, and the moisture had
corroded the steel plates, so that a long strip of the metal skin had
been peeled away, and the friable concrete had fallen on the rails. It
had brought part of the crown with it, so that a maze of large and
small pipes was exposed to view.
"They look like the reeds of an organ," a raw engineer's apprentice
remarked to the foreman. "What are they?"
"Gas mains, water, electric light, telephone, goodness knows what,"
the foreman replied. "They branch off here, you see."
"Fun to cut them," the apprentice grinned. The foreman nodded
absently. He had once been a mischievous boy, too. The job before him
looked a bigger thing than he had expected. It would have to be
patched up till a strong gang could be turned on to the work. The raw
apprentice was still gazing at the knot of pipes. What fun it would be
to cut that water-main and flood the tunnels!
In an hour the scaffolding was done and the debris cleared away. To-
morrow night a gang of men would come and make the concrete good and
restore the steel rim to the dome. The tube was deserted. It looked
like a polished, hollow needle, lighted here and there by points of
It was so quiet and deserted that the falling of a big stone
reverberated along the tube with a hollow sound. There was a crack,
and a section of piping gave way slightly and pressed down upon one of
the electric mains. A tangled skein of telephone wires followed. Under
the strain the electric cable parted and snapped. There was a long,
sliding, blue flame, and instantly the tube was in darkness. A short
circuit had been established somewhere. Not that it mattered, for
traffic was absolutely suspended now, and would not be resumed again
before daylight. Of course, there were the workmen's very early
trains, and the Covent Garden market trains, but they did not run over
this section of the line. The whole darkness reeked with the whiff of
burning indiarubber. The moments passed on drowsily.