Who invented subways?


The word "Subway" can mean two things.

A short pathway under a road is one.

Underground transportation on rails is the other.

The invention of a pathway under a road is probably many many thousand years old. I believe we have had subways for as long as mankind have been building roads. In beginning a subway was formed just by coincidence because of terrain where road were built.

The first descriptions of Subways is probably from Rome, but it is highly unlikely that they were the first or the only one to utilize them.

The underground transportation on rails however... That is of much more modern character and its story is amazing.

Short answer:

Charles Pearson and/or Queen Victoria (Born 24 May 1819, Died 22 January 1901)

But to understand why, you would need the wordy version.

Even teachers might disagree before the wordy version is read.

It also depends what ones perspective of an inventor is.

Longish wordy answer:

The actual inventor:

I have found many names through my research on Internet.

Alfred Ely Beach, Charles Pearson, Sir John Fowler, Queen Victoria of GBR

I have not been able to find a "one man/woman person" that is "correct" to credit for the invention. It seems that this "invention" as such is nothing more than using existing equipment and machinery's, just under ground instead of over ground.

The idea:

Sewers.. ewwww. but still...

The years of the "Big Stink" in London (1858 - 59), led to the installation of large new sewers to deliver wastes to the Thames River -- this time, to a discharge point downstream of the Parliament Buildings! Queen Victoria was so excited about the new larger sewer tunnels that she ordered a small rail line to be installed therein to transport people through the sewer.

Maybe the inventor actually was a woman of royal blood. She may not have been the very first in the world to think it possible, but she was the first to order it done.

The first underground railway in the world was the Metropolitan Railway, now part of the London Underground. London's system was proposed by Charles Pearson, as part of a city improvement plan, after the Thames Tunnel opened. After ten years of discussion, the British Parliament authorized the construction of an underground railway. Construction began in 1860 and was complete in 1863. Steam locomotives were used on the underground route until 1905.[31] The first electric underground railway was the City & South London Railway, also now part of the Underground, which opened in 1890.

The inventor popularly credited with the invention of the pneumatic tube subway is Alfred Ely Beach. Beach received a 1865 patent for a pneumatic transit system (pneumatic tube) for mail and passengers. He also built America's first subway.

The idea of a pneumatic under ground railway however belongs to Charles Pearson that already back in 1845 Published a pamphlet calling for the construction of an underground railway driven by compressed air.

Beach's subway in New York City was an experimental subway driven by compressed air and vacuum and the total length was only 312 feet (104 yards). It operated from 1870-73, when it was closed.

Between the 1860 and 1863 Sir John Fowler and others actually built the first section of the London Underground. The section that opened in 1863 was about two miles long.

Alfred Ely Beach actually got his inspiration from London Underground in regards to a subway.


We understand that Alfred Ely Beach did not actually invent the underground, but he did make use of the pneumatic tube which had much less pollution to it. We understand that sewer canals under ground is the most likely origin of the actual subway transportation under ground.

We understand that it actually was an English Queen that saw the possibility of transporting people in sewer canals and ordered this done/made. If this indeed was her own idea, then I must credit Queen Victoria (Born 24 May 1819, Died 22 January 1901).

She was the longest reigning British monarch and the figurehead of a vast empire. She oversaw huge changes in British society and gave her name to an age.


Charles Pearson proposed an underground system for transportation to the British parliament. History tells:

After ten years of discussion, the British Parliament authorized the construction of an underground railway and construction began in 1860.

This mean that Charles Pearson had the idea before Queen Victoria.

It can even be that the queen gave this idea for Pearson to mature the idea in the parliament. Political games has throughout time been played out in mysterious ways.

Pearson published a pamphlet as early as 1845 calling for the construction of an underground railway through the Fleet valley to Farringdon. The proposed railway would have been an atmospheric railway with trains pushed through tunnels by compressed air. Although the proposal was ridiculed and came to nothing (and would almost certainly have failed if it had been built, due to the shortcomings of the technology proposed), Pearson continued to lobby for a variety of railway schemes throughout the 1840s and 1850s.