Journey to Metro-Land

This weekend, there have been many goings on, on the Met, north of Harrow… A familiar friend has been back to greet passengers once more!

One of the remaining 4-car units of A Stock that have been saved, was out giving trips up and down the Met line – as part of the LTM’s Vehicles On The Move days, to coincide with Rickmansworth Canal Festival. It was rather brilliant to catch a proper train from Amersham to Harrow, and then back again.

It was also really great to see other people enjoying the train as well – a few small children, enthusiasts and past A Stock travellers were soaking up the atmosphere, noises and bouncy seats!

Amazingly, the cab door was open on the way back North, and so I peeked a look inside at the equipment and the superb view! That’s something I won’t forget in a hurry, rushing trees amidst the powder-blue of the cab.

Also taking part in this day was the lovely 1938 Tube Stock train, with amazingly shiny and heritage adverts inside, beautiful wooden floor, restored moquette and some friends as stewards!

The 38ts is available to be viewed at Acton Depot (when this is open!) and you can pop in the cab, have a wander through all the carriages, admire the 1930s styling, and marvel at the awesomely outdated adverts displayed in the carriages too! The rear cab door was open on this train as well – so I was able to snap the view of the A-Stock train at the top of the page, departing southbound from the rear cab, on the way back to Amersham!

All in all, a very lucky day – brilliant weather and beautiful trains to ride on! You can take a look at all of my pictures of the day here.

Bluebell Railway

It was a cold and wintery day a couple of months back, when we took a trip on the Bluebell Railway to celebrate the new extension to East Grinstead. The new station at East Grinstead makes it much easier to connect with the current railway network – however on the day of our planned visit, there were engineering works on!

Oh dear. Anyway, we made it safely to East Grinstead, had a wander about and a warming cup of tea, hopped on a train along to Sheffield Park and hid in the warm canteen (with more tea).

Steam trains arrived and departed.  A wonderful stall of railway memorabilia was browsed, and the working repair sheds at Horsted Keynes were looked at.  And then to catch up with more friends, and then depart again!

Lots of steam, lots of trains and a wonderful day out!

My photos of the day

Acton Depot

Last weekend was another of the bi-annual Open Weekends at the London Transport Museum’s Acton Depot.

As well as catching Met 1 lightly steaming once more, there was time for a cup of tea and a catch-up with friends.  And a quick wander around, to see what had changed since the last visit!

This time some new and old films were showing, in the screening gallery – a delightful account of the history of underground trains being paraded through Neasden Depot, along with a premiere – Geoff‘s most recent film for the LTM – an account of the change from the older A-Stock trains on the Metropolitan Line, to the newer S-Stock.

And after viewing this, it was time to go and spend some time upon the same train as featured in the documentary – the LTM’s most recent stock aquisition.

Some more photographs of the day are available on my Flickr page.

Automatic on the Northern

Finchley Central in the sun

The Northern Line today started its journey into becoming an automatically run line, by opening the first section of track controlled by a computer. This is the section from West Finchley to High Barnet in North London (or Middlesex, if you are that way inclined!) – right at the top of the Tube map.

The system being used is called TBTC, which stands for Transmission Based Train Control, and is very similar to the system used on the Jubilee Line.  This was turned into a totally automatic running line between 2006 and 2011 – giving upgrades to the signalling system and allowing trains to run much faster and much closer to each other – while still (hopefully!) being safe to use.  This means that the train’s speed, acceleration and braking is monitored by a computer – and all the driver has to do at each station is open and close the doors (and indicate the train is ready to leave).  The Victoria, Central and Jubilee all use ATO (Automatic Train Operation) – so the Northern Line is just joining some others, which already use similar systems!

The Jubilee’s upgrade took a little longer than originally planned and had quite a few problems when it was rolled out, causing a bit of frustration for passengers.  It was known informally for a while as “the new misery line” – taking the mantle from the Northern!

We went down there to have a ride between Finchley Central and High Barnet, and see how it was going at all – or if any of the general public could tell the difference.

On arrival at Finchley Central, there were lots of members of staff around, and a lot of signs and warnings where the train operator would be inclined to look.  Boarding the first train heading north, we sat for a while as the crew changed over, but after remaining in the platform for at least five minutes, we were told the train was going out of service, and to return to the platform.

We were initially told there had been a signal failure, but then a more railway-minded traveller walked up to the staff at the head of the platform, and asked what was going on – as he was there to ride an automatic train!  He was told that the operator of the train we were on had not enabled the automatic operation at East Finchley, and so the train could not go any further than Finchley Central… whoops!

The next train rolled in, and we boarded.  It was the usual drive up to West Finchley, considerately speeded, where we dwelled in the platforms for a couple of minutes.  The signals were bagged over with black plastic, and white tape to indicate they weren’t in use, but a rather sinister blue light shining instead.

And then the doors closed, and we were off!  The acceleration was a lot swifter than a “normal” journey, and the train quickly gained speed.  Around me, the couple in the next seating bank carried on chatting about the shopping, and the lady opposite dialled up a taxi to her home, from High Barnet station. They didn’t feel that anything much was different.

But it sounded completely different.  On the way northbound, the train sounded a lot more lively (and/or broken) than normally heard on the Northern – it was trying to accelerate, or brake, all of the time – so when hovering around the line speed for the area, it would lurch forward a bit with some braking, and then lurch backward with some accelerating.  I’d imagine the line rises quite a bit up to Barnet – as most of the time the motors were whirring instead of the brake screaming a bit.

We then returned back to Finchley a few minutes later, where this audio was taken.  The journey seems a bit more downhill on this part – as there is a lot of braking (high squealing) and less accelerating – but it maybe explains the noises in the previous paragraph!

We then made a return journey (why not!) where, similarly, the rest of the passengers had no clue that their train was automatic – apart from, again, being asked to leave the train at Finchley as it was being cancelled and turned around.  Indeed, why should they know what was going on, or be inclined to care?  As long as they get to their destination in good time and healthily, I wouldn’t imagine they would notice any difference…

Definitely an different thing to do, of a Sunday afternoon!  It will also be interesting to see which parts of the line are upgraded next, and are then automatically-run.  Fingers crossed for a smooth transition, and for more efficiently-timetabled trains!

You can view a few more of my photos on Flickr.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It all starts with the pitch and swoosh of the hum. It’s that coming-in-to-land noise we are so familiar with, as motors whirr and click and purr to slow down this synergistic beast and his swaying passengers.

Step on board, and under the harsh light sit your fellow inhabitants, dazed and confused by the morning glare. Some look up warily and scurry further in, others feign nonchalance as the space fills. Their ground staked, their little patch of seat or floor or grab-rail possessively maintained until the next stop, where the equilibrium must again shift to accommodate even more harrumphing individuals.

You’re part of the pack, as the pack becomes one singular occurrence. The ebb and flow mean nothing when caught amidst the depths. And so she blows; ferocious feasts of the stale and warm pass around and in between and through the bodies of our lacklustre lives.

Do not stick to just one door. Ladies and gentlemen. Ladies. And gentlemen. This is. This.