150 Years of the Underground vs the Mole Folk

Happy 150th Birthday London Underground! You great heaving wonderful signal-failuring engineering-worksing glorious mess you!

For the occasion they ran a steam engine along part of the Hammersmith and City line and I got to go! Not, as you might think, in deference to my Victorian engineering comics fame, but on account of I won the lottery draw for a chance to pay a ton of money.

View from inside the carriage!

Should you happen to be in the teeming metropolis of London this coming Sunday- the 20th of January– you can watch the final journey along the Hammersmith and City line. It’s pretty magical! Some great tips on the timetables and best views at the indispensable IanVisits. (from my perspective in the train, Barbican and even Kings Cross were pretty empty on the flyby just after 10pm).

Naturally I did some sketches FROM LIFE (sketches not from life)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Under-London-tunnel-and-railway expert, died too young to have a hand in the Underground in our universe, which just goes too show you what a sad, mole-folk-less desolate place universe our is. Sigh. However, it did make much use of his father Marc Brunel’s innovative tunnelling shield. The design of the shield, by the way, was inspired by the tunnelling shell-mouths of the mole-folk’s electrified-battle-worms shipworm (warning: links to picture of a shipworm), which I see from that article is inspiring further bio-imitative technology. But I digress.

Unlike the simple Salamander People, the sophisticated Mole Folk have mastered electricity and telepathy (gained from ingesting the mysterious products of their Marmite mines); they’re such formidable opponents that it’s a good thing the conflict seems to have been resolved peaceably, as I surmise from this Historical Document:

A miscellany of links for the occasion:


Lots of great shots at the London Transport Museum’s Flickr

A Very Very Verbose Visit to the Underground, courtesy of the always excellent Cat’s Meat Shop.

Then, again, look at the Metropolitan Railway. With what ease and rapidity can the denizens of this vast and thickly-populated city traverse its enormous area! Is it not a wonderful and awe-inspiring fact that man in the nineteenth century can be thus transported from – yes, from the Edgeware Road to Farringdon Street in twelve minutes for sixpence?’
‘Certainly,’ said I; ‘and I have heard that the first-class carriages are very comfortable, and the smell arising from the steam has been much exaggerated.’
‘You have heard!’ exclaimed my neighbour, with some astonishment. ‘Am I, then, to understalnd that my young friend has allowed so many weeks to elapse without examining this last achievement of engineering skill?’

Here’s a great piece of history all dressed up in the finest polysyllabic prose– A Twenty Minute’s Letter To The Citizens of London, In Favour of the Metropolitan Railway and City Station. By your faithful correspondent the worthy Charles Pearson, a pitch for selling shares for this crazy idea of an underground railway, not an easy thing to do after the dot-com style railway bubble of the 1840s- “that maniacal period of speculation”, as he terms it. What could possibly be more Victorian than this passage-

The City of London is inhabited by a more crowded and active population, better able and more willing to pay for Railroad accommodation, than any other locality in the world. The organs of public opinion– the columns of the daily press– record, what our own personal observation proves, that the moving masses in our public thoroughfares are most seriously obstructed by the carriages and carts which throng our streets, and are daily increasing with the daily increasing population, commerce, and wealth of the City and the surrounding districts. The decennial census, and the reports of the officers of health and of the visting clergy in the City, record the fact that our courts and alleys are crowded with a stagnant mass of human beings of the lowest class, intermingled with the families of respectable working men, who have the mans and disposition to migrate, like their masters, if they had facilities wich a Railroad would afford them, and to live with their families in the country, a few miles from the locality of their occupation.

Anyways, we return triumphant to User Experience shortly, with a whole heap of pages for you.. I couldn’t get used to the rhythm of doing one page at a time, the comic seems to want to erupt all at once in ill-regulated explosive intervals, like the capricious volcano-god of the Salamander People. What can I do!


  1. Skauthen on June 17, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    That drawing is hilarious!

  2. Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey on January 30, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Mary Ellen writes: “I note a certain resemblance between the Mole Folk”s worms and the giant sandworms of the “Dune” epics — maybe Frank Herbert had seen pictures of shipworms too? ”

    If not Frank Herbert, perhaps the best-known illustrator of his work, John Schoenherr , had seen a shipworm or two.

  3. The doodler on January 21, 2013 at 4:45 am

    I have nothing intelligent to add, except dang the Mole-People are cute.

  4. Magpie on January 20, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I’m sure you have seen this in your travels, but I was tickled to discover that there is a Bunnykins figurine of Brunel!

    • sydney on January 20, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      NO I WAS NOT AWARE OF THIS!!! I don’t know I”m just unreasonably excited about it.

  5. Mary Ellen on January 16, 2013 at 1:58 am

    I note a certain resemblance between the Mole Folk”s worms and the giant sandworms of the “Dune” epics — maybe Frank Herbert had seen pictures of shipworms too? Interesting that they’re really molluscs.

  6. Stu on January 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I.K.Brunel did have a hand in building the Thames Tunnel, indeed he nearly died in it. It was used as part of the old East London Line, now part of the Overground, but it counts!

  7. Rico on January 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    I love all the train stuff. So wish I was in London to enjoy it. As for user experience, I like the idea of more to read at wider intervals. The weekly updates just left me wanting more. Of course, any updates are welcome, at any time.

  8. John on January 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    See, if our universe had tunnel-dwelling, electric Mole Folk, I’d visit London. Instead, I take the train into Manhattan to consort with the gators in the sewer and the rats that tow the subway cars, which isn’t nearly as interesting.

  9. Kris on January 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Ah, Brunel vs. The Mole People – a spin-off, perhaps? ;-)

    Glad you enjoyed your ride!