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   Back to Shipping off Woolwich Dockyard

Old entrance to the Thames Subway on Tower Hill.

Old entrance to the Thames Subway on Tower Hill.
Old entrance to the Thames Subway on Tower Hill.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: H5107
Description: The Tower Hill Subway was the real tube railway in London. It ran from Tower Hill to Vine Lane, off Tooley Street in Bermondsey. It was built by Peter Barlow, who had been involved with the Metropolitan Railway - the world's first underground line, and James Henry Greathead, a young engineer born in South Africa. Greathead designed his own tunnelling shield, a much improved version of Brunel's. It was completed in 1870 and opened to the public in August of that year. It operated as a horizontal funicular railway, with a stationary steam engine hauling a small cable car carrying up to 12 people. With technical problems and such small numbers of passengers, the firm went bust after a few months. The tunnel was converted into a pedestrian subway (costing a halfpenny to use), and was used by a million people each year until the opening of Tower Bridge in 1894 made it redundant. It closed in 1896. Since 1926, it has carried hydraulic tubes and water mains, and now also cable TV circuits.
Creator: William Whiffin
Date: Unknown
Credit line: Tower Hamlets Local History Library Collection
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