Learn About Subways

Subways help lots of people travel to urban and suburban areas across the country. A subway system typically operates in an underground part of town, sometimes right underneath city streets. Some subway systems take shortcuts in other places around a city. Others might pass underneath rivers! Parts of an underground subway can rise to the surface and change into a typical above ground railway system. Subway trains contain a number of cars that run along the underground railway. Subways go by other names like the underground railway system, a rapid transit system, metro, or even the tube!

How Subways Work

Subways are a type of railway system that operates underneath a city or urban areas. They run very often and carry many passengers. Subways are usually kept separate from other forms of traffic by grade separation. Grade separation happens when two traffic streams travel over and under each other but don’t meet when they are moving.

An underground rapid transit system is usually called a Subway in North America and some parts of Europe like Scotland. In England, the subway is called an Underground. England is also home to the oldest underground transit system in the world, the London Underground. Germany and Austria usually call the subway a U-Bahn. In the remaining parts of the world, a subway is usually called a Metro.

History of the Subway

The very first subway system came to London. It happened after Charles Pearson, a city official, suggested a city improvement plan after the Thames Tunnel opened in 1843. The first subway in London didn’t open for a while after that though as it took ten years for the Parliament to approve it. The city workers then started building over 6 kilometers (3.75 miles) of an underground railway. The railway connected the locations, Bishop’s Road and Farringdon Street in Paddington, together.

Work on the Metropolitan Railway began by 1860. The workers made trenches in the streets and built brick sides into each trench, forming a brick arch for the roofs. That construction allowed workers to build the new railway over their foundation by rebuilding the road right on top of the supports. By 1863, the railway officially opened with steam locomotives running and carrying passengers freely as the vehicles ran on coal fuel.

A true subway didn’t arrive until 1866. During this time, the City of London and the then Southwark Subway Company (the City and South London Railway) started work on an underground subway line. The building process used a tunneling shield developed by J.H. Greathead.

By 1896, other cities also started building their own subways. Budapest opened a 4 kilometer (2.5 miles) electric subway during that year. It used single subway cars with trolley poles. That was the first subway in the entire European continent. The famous Paris Metro started construction in 1898. By 1900, the first 10 kilometers (6.25 miles) opened to the public. In the United States, Boston and New York opened their first subway systems between the years of 1895 and 1904.



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