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The 150th anniversary celebration of the London Underground got a burst of worldwide publicity when Metropolitan 1, an old steam train, huffed and chugged through the historic subway system.
Moving at up to 25 mph, the restored train traveled between Kensington Olympia in west London to Moorgate on the east side. On that day in 1863, the Metropolitan Line opened to the public—the world’s first underground railroad.
For the January 9 anniversary, onlookers lined the tracks taking photos of the coal-fired engine, built in 1898, as it hissed and belched steam. A lucky few got a chance to ride in the passenger cars. News outlets from the BBC and Time magazine, to the Jakarta Post, the Voice of Russia and the Washington Post covered the event. Google used a modified map of the subway system spelling its name as the “doodle” on its home page.
London is celebrating the 150th birthday of the system, known as the Tube, with a year-long series of events and activities including a special exhibition, commemorative stamps and coins and series of steam train runs like this first one. Cubic is the lead in¬dustry sponsor for the anniversary.
“Those Victorians were utterly bold, daring and original,” Boris Johnson, London’s colorful mayor, told the BBC while standing aside the old train. “They decided to put a track in tunnels. No one had ever done that before on the planet. That was how our Tube system began.”
Martin Howell, Cubic Transportation Systems worldwide marketing communications director in London, attended the event with CTS President Steve Shewmaker and other Cubic representatives.
“Boris Johnson got it right when he said that there was something about a steam train that reduces adult males to bug-eyed adolescents,” Howell said. “There were certainly a lot of awestruck and genuinely delighted people along the Metropolitan Line, as I and a handful of Cubic representatives and our guests were lucky enough to travel from Olympia in the west of the capital to Moorgate in London’s financial district—almost mirroring the first journey taken by a steam train along that route 150 years ago.
“The half hour that followed was truly magical as we sat back in the perfectly restored carriages, rumbling along a route which included the original stretch of the Metropolitan Railway dating from 1863.”
Cubic provides all the ticketing services on trains and buses for Transport for London, which operates the city’s public transport system.
Cubic has worked with TfL since the 1970s on revolutionary developments in ticketing, including the Oyster smart card, introduced in 2003. Cubic is currently working with TfL on an open-payment system that will allow passengers to pay for rides using their debit and credit cards.