1969: A Royal Welcome for a Subway Line in London

March 7, 1969

The Victoria line of the London Underground, the wide-ranging rapid transit system of England’s capital city and the metropolitan area surrounding it, was officially opened. The Victoria line was the first entirely new line of the London Underground to be built in a half-century.

The first portion of the Victoria line to be completed was the segment between Walthamstow Central station in the London Borough of Waltham Forest and Highbury & Islington station in the London Borough of Islington. This segment first went into service on September 1, 1968. The next portion of the Victoria line to go into operation was an extension built between Highbury & Islington station and — in the London Borough of Camden — Warren Street station. This section first went into service on December 1 of that year. Both of these segments were opened without any ceremonies.

It was not until the debut of the Victoria line’s next section, built between Warren Street station and Victoria station (in the Inner London city, borough, and central business district of Westminster), that inaugural ceremonies for this line were finally held. Queen Elizabeth II took part in these festivities on March 7, 1969, and her unique role that day was extensively covered across the globe.

Those reporting on the queen’s dedicatory duties for the Victoria line included Charles V. Flowers of the Baltimore Sun’s London bureau. “The Queen a-riding she did go,” stated Flowers in his article. “And it was only the second time in her 42 years that she had been on a subway. Such is the deprivation of royalty.” (Queen Elizabeth had first traveled via the London Underground as a 13-year-old princess; those accompanying her on that train ride were her sister Margaret and one of their governesses.)

Alvin Schuster of the New York Times News Service likewise wrote a story about Queen Elizabeth’s activities during the formal launch of the Victoria line. Schuster noted, “The Queen sipped champagne, pushed a button that started one of the trains, traveled in the cab, sat in one of the gleaming new cars on the journey and made a speech.”

For her trip on the new line, Queen Elizabeth initially rode from Green Park station in Westminster (and near Buckingham Palace) to Oxford Circus station (also in Westminster). She then traveled in the opposite direction to Victoria station. The queen confirmed at the time, “This is amazing, and it is a very smooth ride.”

The Victoria line now covers a total of 13 miles (21 kilometers), with Walthamstow Station continuing to be the northern terminus and Brixton station in the London borough of Lambeth serving as the southern endpoint. There are 16 stations in operation on this line.

(The above photo featuring a Victoria line train at the Euston station in the London Borough of Camden was taken in 2010.)

Photo Credit: Sunil060902 (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 at  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

For more information on the London Underground’s Victoria line, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_line

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