Taking the London Underground can be quite a chore, especially in the rush-hours. There are stairs to climb and sometimes it feels as though you’re walking down endless tunnels to reach your particular platform. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that London was the first to have an underground railway. These days, most major cities have one and many, being more modern, have learned to make theirs more efficient.
However, one of the innovations which makes travelling around the stations as well as many other places, are the escalators. And, guess what, London was the first to install one. It was built at Earl’s Court Station in 1910 in order to service the Piccadilly Line. When the line was opened in 1906, it stretched for ten miles. These days the line has been extended to over forty miles. And like all the other lines, the total number of passengers using the system each day runs into millions.
But it was not always so. During the early years of the Underground, passengers were often fearful of travelling on the new railway. They were used to travelling overground and the thought of journeying miles and miles without seeing any natural daylight, frightened the. So, when the first escalator arrived, even more fear grabbed the population. They were afraid of it and so they didn’t use it. The situation got so bad that the management of the company feared they had lost a great deal of money in building it.
They needed a way of getting passengers to see it was safe to use. And what better way than to employ somebody with a disability to use it. That way, people would say, if he can use it safely, then so can I. So, they employed a chap by the name of Bumper Harris whose only job was to go up and down the new escalator all day. Yes, I can’t think of many jobs as boring as this one either.
But it worked. You see, Buster only had one good leg. His other one was wooden. But by showing everyone how safe it was for him to use the new-fangled device it would be safe for everyone else to use. So, how long did Buster keep his job? Apparently, he had it for a number of years. I suppose he must hold the record for getting to the top of his job before ending back at the bottom!