Thursday, January 10, 2013

London Underground - The Astrology



The Tube is 150 years old to mark the occasion here’s an extract from the talk I gave to the Suffolk Astrological Society in 2007


First London Underground Tube Journey

The Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground railway, opened on 10 January 1863. It was an immediate success, carrying 40 000 passengers on its first day of operation, 26 500 people used it daily in its first six months. It ran from Paddington to Farringdon Street, a route of three miles via Euston and King's Cross mainline terminals.

Most of the route was constructed using a method called 'cut and cover'. This caused widespread disruption, and required the demolition of many properties on the surface. (Note disruptive Uranus in the 4th house (ruler of homes)

The first trains to run on the Metropolitan Railway were steam-powered locomotives designed by the Great Western Railway. The tunnels were punctuated with ventilation shafts at regular intervals to allow the steam to escape. Smoke and fumes were an ongoing problem and often affected tube travellers health. This eased with the complete conversion to electricity in1905.

With Aquarius rising Saturn & Uranus rule the underground, aptly symbolising a new technology (Uranus)  that will become part of the established infrastructure (Saturn) of London.

I would also look to Mercury as natural ruler of short journeys, in mythology he was messenger of the gods who freely travelled between the underground and overground worlds. Mercury, is ruler of the 4th which is connected with under the ground, it is in Aquarius which is associated with new technology and in the 12th (anything hidden).

Saturn and Mercury are in an easy flowing trine aspect linking the two as significators of the tube. It wasn’t too long before the tube became a useful way of travelling across London, despite people’s initial, and not unfounded, doubts and concerns for health. (note Moon (the general public) in critical Virgo)

The Map
No article on the tube can be complete without mention of the iconic tube map. By the 1930’s the tube was rapidly expanding, the Underground Group's draughtsman, Fred Stingemore, was finding it increasingly difficult to squeeze new lines and stations into his map

And so enters Harry Beck, designer of the the tube map.

Harry was born on 4th June 1903 in Leyton. During the 1920s he worked as an engineering draughtsman at the London Underground Signals Office. In 1931, he proposed a radical new design to illustrate the rapidly expanding Underground system.

Beck could see that the network had become too big to represent geographically, and worked on a solution to the problem in his own time. 'Looking at an old map of the Underground railways', he said, 'it occurred to me that it might be possible to tidy it up by straightening the lines, experimenting with diagonals and evening out the distance between stations'.

Beck's solution was to map the network schematically, using a system based on electrical circuit diagrams. The Underground's publicity department initially rejected his proposal, thinking it too radical. However, after he made a series of modifications, the design was approved. A trial pocket version was published in 1933, just before the Underground became part of the London Passenger Transport Board.

Beck continued to refine and update the map for London Transport until 1960, during which time he also designed a series of publicity posters.

Harry Beck - Noon Chart

Note that his chart is set for noon as I don’t know his time of birth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t far wrong. Ascendant is in Virgo, which is associated with tidiness and detail. Also note that sun is in inventive Gemini. Both of course are ruled by Virgo. Saturn is associated with cartography, it makes a grand trine with both the Sun and the Moon.

Where this becomes really interesting though is in comparing Beck's chart to the chart of the first underground journey.

Harry Beck & The Tube
The Tube moon is conjunct Beck's noon ascendant, showing the public perception and connection between Beck and the Tube, the map is now synonymous with the tube.

Beck Moon and Mars in Libra show someone who finds emotional satisfaction in investing energy into finding a balance. Both planets are conjunct Tube Saturn and trine Mercury, the two planets I have identified as rulers of the tube, showing how involved and intertwined he has become with the history of the London underground

Note also Becks Mars opposite Neptune, the map itself bears no resemblance to reality. The straight lines (Mars) of the map are an illusion (Neptune)

There are more aspects of note to be found in all of these charts - but as with Suffolk Astrological Society Meetings, I'll leave you to find them for yourself.


It's too long ago to recall where I got my information for these charts, probably looked at The London Transport Museum's pages and Wikipedia

Coming soon: Tube Disasters

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