London Underground: Mind the gap! 150 years of going down the Tube

Royal Mail’s first stamp issue of 2013 celebrates the 150th anniversary of the world’s oldest underground railway.

Issued on January 9, the London Underground issue comprises six separate stamps charting the history of the network, and a miniature sheet of four wide-format stamps focusing on the design heritage of its promotional posters.

The sheet stamps all feature a timeline across the lower quarter of the design, giving the date of the image and using
the livery colour of the relevant Underground line.

Each of the miniature sheet designs features three different posters. Several of the artists whose work is represented also designed posters for the General Post Office, and one, Abram Games, also designed postage stamps.

The issue date coincides with the precise 150th anniversary of the opening of the first part of what would become ‘the Tube’: the steam-driven Metropolitan Railway running between Paddington and Farringdon Street via King’s Cross.

Philip Parker of Royal Mail Stamps said: ‘The London Underground has a unique status as the oldest and one of the busiest underground railway networks in the world. We have tried to capture the incredible history behind what is an iconic part of London’s identity, and what for millions of people is an integral element of their daily lives.’
The sheet stamps were designed by Hat-Trick and the miniature sheet by NB Studios, and the issue was printed in litho by Cartor.


COMMEMORATIVE WORTH  A big anniversary for a capital treasure which is both historic and world famous

The set of six tell the story beautifully, but the poster images are crammed into too small a space

A fine selection of images, tied together by classy design and traditional colours

2nd class 1863: Metropolitan Railway Opens
The first part of the network is celebrated by way of contemporary lithograph of a steam locomotive near Paddington Station, on what is now the Metropolitan Line.

2nd class 1898: Tunnelling Below London Streets
A photograph of railway construction workers, known as ‘Navvies’, excavating a tunnel near the former British Museum station on the Central London Railway. The CLR became the Central Line, but this particular station was closed in 1933.

1st class 1911: Commute from the Suburbs
A painting of an Edwardian carriage full of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen commuting to work from the outskirts of the city on the District Line.

1st class 1934: Boston Manor Art Deco Station
Suburban expansion of the Piccadilly Line in the 1920s and 1930s led to the construction of a string of Art Deco-style stations. This is a detail from Designed For London poster artwork by Tom Eckersley.

£1.28 1938: Classic Rolling Stock
A detail from the cover of the ABC of London Transport Railways shows one of the electric trains introduced on the Tube’s deep-cut lines, such as the Bakerloo Line, in 1938, which became London icons.

£1.28 1999: Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf
A photograph of the spacious interior of Canary Wharf Station, one of the more recent additions to the Underground network, which was designed by Sir Norman Foster.


1st class
Reproductions of three classic London Underground posters: Golders Green (1908) by an unknown artist, By Underground To Fresh Air (1915) by Maxwell Armfield, and Summer Sales (1925) by Mary Koop.

Reproductions of three classic London Underground posters: For The Zoo (1921) by Charles Paine, Power (1931) by Edward McKnight-Kauffer, and The Seen (1948) by James Fitton.

Reproductions of three classic London Underground posters: A Train Every 90 Seconds (1937) by Abram Games, Thanks To The Underground (1935) by ‘Zero’ (Hans Schleger), and Cut Travelling Time, Victoria Line (1969) by Tom Eckersley.

Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: The London Transport Collection (1975) by Tom Eckersley, London Zoo (1976) by Abram Games, and The Tate Gallery By Tube (1987) by David Booth.


Set of 6 stamps £4.76
Miniature sheet £3.52
Stamp cards £4.95
Presentation pack £8.80
First day envelope £0.30
First day cover (set) £6.19
First day cover (mini sheet) £4.70
First day cover (coin) £19.95
Retail stamp book £3.60
TOTAL  £56.77

Oliver Green, the former Head Curator of the London Transport Museum, reflects on the history of the London Underground in the presentation pack, and on its design heritage in the accompanying miniature sheet carrier.

A retail stamp book will feature both of the 1st class designs, along with four 1st class Machin definitives.

Stamp cards, a first day cover and a special coin cover are also available.