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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Tim White
“Crossing Oceans to Cross Rivers: Trans-Atlantic Knowledge & Capital in Tunnelling History”
18 January 2013
Pennsylvania Railroad tunnel, Hudson River (Wikipedia)

Pennsylvania Railroad tunnel, Hudson River (Wikipedia)

Abstract: Not long after the London Underground opened, American railroad companies sought to tunnel under the Hudson River, so they could connect their lines from New York City to all points west.  Although the earliest, failed tunnelling effort in 1874 was strictly American, the second attempt was decidedly British.  The 1888 Hudson River Tunnel Company was not only backed by British capital, but also relied upon the “greathead shield”, important for London’s Tower Subway.  It also failed to complete the tunnel under the mile-wide Hudson, but the half-finished sections it left behind facilitated the completion of a railroad tunnel in 1908.  The Chief Engineer for this final push was none other than Charles M. Jacobs, a brit.

This paper is about trans-Atlantic transfers of knowledge and capital in late 19th and early 20th century tunnel projects, with a focus on the efforts to tunnel under the Hudson River.  Charles M. Jacobs, the British mastermind behind New York’s first subaqueous gas tunnels in 1894, the 1908Hudson & Manhattan tunnels, and the 1910 tunnels of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was certainly a key player in these transfers, but the paper is not just about him.  In addition to Jacobs, Norwegian-born Ole Singstad was crucial to both the 1908 project and the Holland Tunnel, while the subterranean tracks of the original Pennsylvania Station were inspired by the Gare de Orsay in Paris.  For too long, American transportation historians have written about tunnelling without a proper trans-Atlantic lens. This paper will redress this imbalance.

 

Biography: Tim White completed his Ph.D. in History at Columbia University with Kenneth Jackson in 2007, and is now an Assistant Professor of History at New Jersey City University.  As a scholar, he has published a review essay in the Journal of Urban History, a full-length, peer-reviewed essay in Performing Arts Resources, and has a manuscript under contract and forthcoming from The University of Pennsylvania Press.  This manuscript chronicles the theatre-related craftwork (costumes, scenery, lights, shoes, etc.) of the American stage from 1880-1980.  By highlighting these activities as they dominated and then abandoned Times Square over the course of many decades, White argues that planning policy and structural economic shift transformed Times Square, if only briefly, into the Flint, Michigan, of American popular culture.  It presents the departure of theatre-related craft from Times Square in the 1960s and 1970s as a major cause of the larger theatre district’s struggles with crime, prostitution, and drugs.  His new research focuses on New York Harbor, its regional economy, and the late 19th and early 20th century tunnelling projects that were crucial to its continued growth.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
David Pike
Hitchcock’s Underground
18 January 2013
Alfred Hitchcock (wikipedia)

Alfred Hitchcock (wikipedia)

Abstract: “Hitchcock’s Underground” studies the fascinating intersection between one of cinema’s foremost directors and perhaps London’s most frequently filmed settings. Unlike a number of his contemporaries—Fritz Lang, to name a prominent example—Alfred Hitchcock used underground settings sparingly in his career. He generally preferred to create suspense from the paradox of entrapment in an open space than the more conventional spatial dynamic of confinement below the ground. The primary exception to this pattern is the cellar setting in the Hollywood films Notorious and Psycho; however, this paper will examine the other use Hitchcock made of subterranean—the London Underground as setting in his London films of the 1920s. The Underground figures physically or as a plot element in Downhill (1927), Blackmail (1929), Rich and Strange (1931), and Sabotage (1936), making it a significant setting among his London films, and making his engagement with the setting one of the most sustained of the period. This paper will present the films in the context of cinematic representations of the Underground during the interwar years—key years in its development as a spatial icon of city—and in the context of Hitchcock’s extensive meditation on the cityscape of London from the first film he directed (Number 13, 1922) until he left for Hollywood during the war. For Hitchcock, the Underground was a photogenic space of urban modernity, but it was not, as it had been for the 19th century and would continue to be in many cinematic cityscapes, a space distinct from the world above.

Biography: David L. Pike is Professor in the Department of Literature, American University, Washington DC.  He is the author of Metropolis on the Styx: The Underworlds of Modern Urban Culture, 1800–2001 (2007) and Subterranean Cities: The World beneath Paris and London 1800–1945 (2005), shortlisted for the 2006 Modernist Studies Association book prize, and of articles on medieval literature, modernism, film, and Paris and London. From 1993 to 1995, Professor Pike was Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Jacob Paskins
‘Stand Clear of the Doors, Please’: An Aural Journey on the London Underground
17 January 2013
Busy at the Tube station (wikipedia)

Busy at the Tube station (wikipedia)

Abstract: The Underground is one of the noisiest places in London. The sounds of machines, crowds and the music of buskers accompany travellers on each journey through the Tube. Public address (PA) systems have become a central feature in the design of trains and stations. PA announcements inform passengers with a constant stream of information and warn us to ‘mind the gap’. Warning signals beep to tell us to ‘stand clear of the closing doors’. Experienced commuters tune in to these aural markers of the Underground and use all their bodily senses to alter their journey, to alight a train swiftly, or to leap through closing train doors. The act of listening plays a special role in the efficient navigation through the spaces of the Underground and the city.

This paper takes an aural journey to show how PA systems contribute to travellers’ successful negotiation of the Underground. Examining the period from the 1960s to the present day, I explore how the development of PA systems has affected the behaviour and mood of passengers. Drawing on a rich archive of accounts gleaned from social media, I trace people’s responses to the live and recorded messages on the Underground. My paper considers the choice of words and the voices used in PA announcements in order to analyse the Underground’s institutional attitudes to gender and ethnicity. Exploring how sound is a socially and historically produced part of the experience of Tube travel, my aural journey contributes to the cultural meaning of the Underground.

Biography: Dr Jacob Paskins is an Architectural Historian and Research Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge. His PhD thesis (UCL, 2011) was an historical study of construction sites in France during the 1960s. He teaches at the Bartlett School of Architecture and runs a seminar about the relationship between the body’s senses and architecture for the MArch Architecture programme. He is a founding member of the Autopsies Research Group, which examines the obsolescence of everyday objects and places. Developing his research into the social experience of architecture, infrastructure and travel, Jacob is currently working on a history of the hoverport in Britain and France.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Christoph Lueder
The London Tube Map as Shared Public Diagram
18 January 2013
Map of the London Underground (wikipedia) - not the Harry Beck version

Map of the London Underground (wikipedia) – not the Harry Beck version

Abstract: Harry Beck’s seminal London Tube Map, in over 80 years of use and alteration since its inception in 1931, has provided an indispensible tool for navigation to tourists and locals. It may have become one of the most widely recognized diagrammatic representation of any city. As a diagram, it not only is a tool for navigation, but also, paraphrasing Anthony Vidler, an instrument of thought about the city as well as a mirror of thought. Comments and early sketches of Beck, such as the ‘spoof diagram’ suggesting analogy to electrical circuit boards, evoke what Paul Elliman has termed ‘the modernist vision of the city as an efficient machine’. However, in its various incarnations and re-inventions, the London Tube Map has been invested with memory, meaning and poetics by its users. It has been re-labelled, re-configured, and re-conceptualized by advertisers, artists, designers and theorists, while remaining recognizable and retaining graphic coherence. Unlike aboveground London, which too has been a subject of seminal maps, but has resisted conceptualization as a single, shared public image, the London Underground is embedded in public imagination as a network diagram.

This paper will examine processes of appropriation of the Tube Map against alternate attempts at diagramming urban networks such as Situationist maps of Paris. A series of semi-structured interviews incorporating sketched diagrams of above and below ground London will be evaluated in order to situate the London Tube Map in the context of urban theory and the practice of urban life.

Biography: Christoph Lueder is a graduate of the University of Stuttgart in architecture and urbanism where he has also taught. He practiced with Behnisch & Partners as well as Auer + Weber in Stuttgart before setting up his own office in Zurich whil teaching and researching at ETH. In the UK he has taught at Canterbury School of Architecture and currently researches on the roles of diagrams in architecture and culture and teaches at Kingston University.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013 conference
17 January 2013
Richard Dennis
Letting off steam: the perils and possibilities of underground travel in Victorian and Edwardian London

Abstract: Operating steam-hauled trains underground, even with locomotives designed to condense their own steam, was always going to cause problems. This paper focuses on some key episodes in the early history of the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways: the question of whether smoking should be allowed on trains and platforms, hotly debated in the late 1860s and early 1870s; the attempt by the District to provide adequate ventilation in the late 1870s and early 1880s, including controversies over the siting of Mansion House and Mark Lane Stations and the construction of additional ventilators on public land in Embankment Gardens and Queen Victoria Street just at the time when the company was also selling land which could have been used for ventilation; and the Board of Trade investigation into ventilation on the Metropolitan in the 1890s which attempted to force the companies to adopt electric traction. Each episode can also be read as a debate, not only about regulation in public and private space, but also about class interest: the rights and responsibilities of working-class, ‘gentlemen’ and female passengers underground, and of all commuters and railway employees underground compared to those of pedestrians and road users above ground.

A steam train which carried passengers in the 19th Century has returned to the Great Portland Street tube station on a journey to mark 150 years since the first London Underground journey.(wikipedia)

A steam train which carried passengers in the 19th Century has returned to the Great Portland Street tube station on a journey to mark 150 years since the first London Underground journey.(wikipedia)

Biography: Richard Dennis is Professor of Human Geography at University College London. He is the author of Cities in Modernity: Representations and Productions of Metropolitan Space, 1840-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and of numerous essays and book chapters about 19th- and early 20th-century London, especially focused on housing (in model dwellings, in the East End, and in mansion flats) and on the city as represented by the novelist, George Gissing, who was fascinated – and usually horrified – by all things modern, including the Metropolitan Railway. His essay on ‘Mapping Gissing’s Workers in the Dawn’ (The Gissing Journal, 2010) has been republished in Ross Bradshaw (ed), Maps (Five Leaves, 2011). Most recently, Dennis has contributed essays on ‘ Victoria Street in theory and practice: scenes from the governmentality of nineteenth-century London’ in Matthew Davies and Jim Galloway (eds), London and Beyond (IHR, 2012), and ‘Urbanising experiences’ in Martin Hewitt (ed), The Victorian World (Routledge, 2012); and he is co-editor, with Carlos Galviz and Sam Merrill, of a forthcoming special issue of The London Journal devoted to ‘150 Years of the London Underground’ (for publication in 2013).

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013

Chancery Lane

Chancery Lane

Ximena Alarcón

Listening and Sounding in the London Underground: sonic memories as embodiments of technological infrastructure

ABSTRACT: From 2004 to 2005, I undertook ethnographic research with twenty-four London Underground commuters regarding memories left by this sound environment during their routine journeys (Alarcón, 2007). I was interested in their memories as remnants of subjective experience, and also, in the commonality of these memories as a reflection of a collective aural memory. I understood the commuters’ process of remembering as a “mediated action” (Werstch, 2002), mediated, in this case, by the technological infrastructure in the underground. The concept of soundscape (Schafer 1984; Truax 2001) was used to describe certain aspects of the experience; however, I found it insufficient to encompass the varied dimensions of subjective listening experience and its cultural significance. In this paper, I am revisiting these commuters’ accounts, from the perspective of remembering and listening processes, in a wider, holistic manner. Nourished by railway and subterranean environments interdisciplinary studies (Schivelbusch 1986; Pike 2007; Williams 2008), and approaches to both outer and inner listening (Augoyard 2005; Oliveros 2005), I suggest that commuters’ sonic memories are embodiments of the technological infrastructure, which is reflected in their remembered sounds, in their perception of space and time while travelling, and in social, symbolic and political connotations that shape their auralization. Derived from further comparative studies with commuters’ memories from Mexico and Paris metros, the internet-based interface “Sounding Underground” acts as a disembodied technological environment to allow one to listen to everyday narratives from a distance, acknowledging their contrasts, and commonalities, while opening a path for transcendence of our technological condition.

 

Ximena Alarcón biography

Ximena Alarcón is a new media artist who focuses on listening to social context related sound, connecting it to individual and collective memories. She completed a PhD in Music, Technology and Innovation at De Montfort University and was awarded with The Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship 2007-2009 to develop “Sounding Underground” at the Institute of Creative Technologies. There, in 2010, she worked as a Programme Leader for the Masters in Creative Technologies. Deep Listening practice and telematic musical performance are current interests that expand both the connections to other territories and the social and aesthetic possibilities of working with the migratory experience. Since October 2011, she works in Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice – CRiSAP, at the University of the Arts London, as a Research Fellow, developing her project “Networked Migrations – listening to and performing the in-between space”.

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013

Piers Connor

“A Job For Life” Changes seen in a 50-year career on London Underground 1916-1966

ABSTRACT: In August 1966, when the author was working as a “Motorman” (a train driver) for London Underground, one of his train crew colleagues, a train guard named George Balaam, retired after 50 years service. He told the author he had started as “a boy” at the age of 15 years in August 1916. Although he didn’t make it clear at the time of the conversation, he would have been a junior porter, signal box boy or messenger at that age. After three years, he became a “gateman” on the Piccadilly Line and remained as train crew for the rest of his employment. During that 50 years, there was much change but there was also much that remained unchanged. This paper looks at the 50 years of George’s employment and describes both the constants and the changes that took place technologically and socially on the London Underground during that period.

(wikipedia)

(wikipedia)

Piers Connor

Piers Connor is a senior international railway professional with extensive management expertise and front line experience in rail project development, planning, design, maintenance, operations and manufacturing in Europe, Middle East, USA, South Africa and Asia. He has a wide ranging recent consultancy portfolio in the UK and overseas. Experience of projects for both existing and new railway systems around the world including London, US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Taiwan. Publications include several books and articles about rolling stock history and railway delevopment and he is visiting lecturer in a number of universities in the UK. Piers worked for London Underground for 25 years and has studied and researched its history over many years. He obtained his MSc in Railway Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield, and has professional membership of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, member of Institute of Railway Operators and is lead tutor for Engineering module in Institute of Railway Operators degree course. Now employed as part time senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham and studying part time for a PhD.

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