The Northernest Line

Contra Jago Hazzard’s well-researched and historically grounded exploration about the origins of the Northern Line, I’d like to suggest that the reason why it’s called the Northern Line is because it travels the farthest north of any line.

“But, what ho! What about Chesham?” I hear someone cry. “It’s at least 2.7km further north than High Barnet!”

“Correct,” I would reply. But, this isn’t about which line ends up the farthest north, but which line travels the farthest north along its route. This means we’re taking into account the southern-most starting point as well as the northern-most termination point. For the Northern line, we give credit for how far south Morden is, compared to (say) Aldgate on the Metropolitan line.

It’s no spoiler that the northernest line is, in fact, the Northern Line. It travels 13.8km north. Nor is this even a close race; the Northern line travels 2.9km further north than the next northernest line, the Piccadilly line. Interestingly, places 2-4 are all within a few hundreds meters of each other; in addition to the Picadilly line, in third, there is the Metropolitan (our early favorite), and in fourth, the Central line.

Personally, I was rooting for the Waterloo And City.
London Underground Lines: Distance North Traveled

When we look at the easternest lines, the top four have only one difference: the winner. Positions 2-4 remain (in slightly different order) the Central in second, Metropolitan in third, and Piccadilly in fourth. But the Easternest line is now the District line, spanning the distance from Richmond to Upminster (nearly a ninety minute ride1). Of course, in the distant future, the Elizabeth line will be the Easternest winner; some will regard Reading as it’s ultimate origin.

I'm always amazed at how often I use the Haversine formula. And Levenshtein Distance
London Underground Lines: Distance East travelled

In writing this, once more, I realized that the famous Tube map is not your geographic friend. Watford Junction is significantly further south than Chesham and over on the Central Line, Epping is further east than Hainault.

  1. I have a maxim about travel around London: “You can’t get anywhere in 15 minutes, but you can get everywhere in an hour.” This might be the exception; both Richmond and Upminster are within “London-M25.”