Thursday, 19 October 2017

Blog Trip To London Part 1

I consider myself very fortunate that for the first ten years of my life I had grandparents in South West London. Not only that but parents who grew up in London themselves. That meant I got to know the London transport system very early. I remember Red Arrow buses with turnstiles, red Underground trains, and felt very comfortable in London a lot earlier than some. It also means that I rather take it for granted that all transport enthusiasts have similar knowledge and experience and I'm always surprised when someone says their experience of London is virtually zero. Such was the case with blog contributor, good friend and sounding board Tim, who confessed his experience of the Tube was Liverpool St - Oxford Circus, and hadn't even been on a Borismaster. I simply couldn't let that continue so on Saturday we met at Blog Towers at a silly time, and set off to give Tim the London Experience. This will be a joint post with Tim adding his comments. The huge majority of pics are Tim's, who retains copyright.

T.Yes it was early but the advantage being the lack of traffic. I was looking forward a lot to this trip so the silly start was worth it and the fact Steve had found the perfect place to start just ticked a good few boxes. The first being my initiation to the S7 Underground stock which for those yet to try is vastly different to what I had been on previously. Very light very airy albeit empty for a few stops did seem very pleasing and very smooth!

S. We drove 90 miles (on fresh air to those who think it's a free hobby) to Upminster, which is on the zone 6 Travelcard boundary. An added attraction was the all day parking charge at Upminster Station of a mere £2.40. That is extremely compared to other stations. We arrived just before 6am to an eerily quiet station, and an even more eerily empty District Line train.

Just us then!                                                       pic SW
However by time we arrived at Bow Rd the train was heaving, and it was time for our first change - a 180 metre walk to Bow Church and Docklands Light Railway.

T Ahh yes the next big first! The first look at Canary Wharf was fantastic to me, the station as Steve says is so different to what you imagine plus the ride(no it's not a roller coaster he kept telling me!) through the Docklands with some lights still on is worthy of a Christmas wonderland type ride. I will admit to seeing Docklands before but it was well under construction and a labyrinth to get lost in.

S. Because of engineering work we had to go to Lewisham instead of my preferred Woolwich Arsenal, and that was good as it meant changing at Canary Wharf, in my opinion one of the great stations of the country, and highly underrated. The fact only DLR serves it shouldn't detract from its magnificence. (Yes, I know Jubilee Line goes there but that's way below ground)

Canary Wharf DLR station                                      pic SW
                                                                                                     pic TM
S. At Lewisham we made our way up to the Southeastern station to catch the first of several overground trains to feature during the day.  A Class 465 Networker was our trust steed, 25 years old this year, a milestone that seems to have been largely ignored.

 T Next up my introduction to 3rd rail proper and to listen to Steve wax lyrical about these machines and realise that they are still as good as they started as is great. Couldn't fault the ride and the chance to see a lot of new places again I had not seen before.

465169 departs Lewisham                                                        pic TM

S. Our destination was Charing Cross, a station that has played a huge part in my life and somewhere else I rather take for granted. But despite only having 6 platforms it is a must. The views of the London Eye and Houses of Parliament as you cross Hungerford Bridge are unparalleled, and the station building itself quite spectacular, as Tim noticed. The sun was playing havoc at this still early hour so not as many snaps could be taken as we wanted.

T. The run into Charing Cross was a first for both of us I believe as it involved the new Borough Market bridge and London Bridge station which you can clearly see the scale of the work being carried out. And crossing the river for the first time since 1998 I think which was Vauxhall Bridge (and MI5 on my way to Peckham) was very eye opening and I couldn't take my eyes off the station itself, blew me away a bit.

Charing Cross Station                                             pic TM
S. Tim had told me in advance that although trains were his priority he simply had to ride a Borismaster, so our next journey was on the number 9 from Charing Cross to Hammersmith, and still being early we weren't bogged down by traffic which meant a proper ride. I'll let Tim give his verdict as I'm a little biased!

T. And we come to the main well one of the main things for the day. Now I have ridden original Routemasters, sampled all that is as up to date that we have at home and done all manner of heritage days but this was to be a virgin ride for me. Once I realised that the hybrid part i.e electric to diesel was almost unnoticeable I was convinced it was the smoothest bus I had been on in ages! And not withstanding the "excellent" London drivers and the scenery I reckon a snooze would have happened but you can see loads from upstairs so I took advantage of it !  Got to say cheers mate for that !!

LT152 at Hammersmith Bus Station                                pic TM
 S. From Hammersmith it was Piccadilly Line time to Hatton Cross to see some big planes. And big planes we saw. Now I have stood at the perimeter fence at Hatton Cross many times with many people over the years with not so much as an eyebrow raised. 30 seconds there with Tim and the Police turned up saying we had triggered all sorts of security alarms accusing us of "hiding behind a hedge". A hedge that only comes up to waist level and could have been used in Monty Python's How Not To Be Seen sketch! So we moved 20 feet across the road which clearly lessened our security risk considerably and waited for the icons of the sky to arrive, and, one after the after, they did!

T. All throughout the day I had to get used to the volume of traffic I had not seen in quite a few years having not driven a truck for a while. Now my ears had to acclimatise to another noise, planes. I still do runs to airports but never stop long enough to listen or observe and this bit left me in awe again, especially the 747, only ever seen one on the ground never at about 100ft above me, blinding!! I can only equate the noise to a Lighting fighter or an A10 but on a bigger scale. Oh and can't understand about the Police....I have such an innocent face....

Someone can tell me if 777 or 787 but big and loud!                            pic TM
S, Realising how much we cherished our freedom we caught a rather nondescript Gemini II on the 285 from Hatton Cross to Feltham, the only notable point being the rather alarming transformation of the driver from young lady to big bloke with beard without anyone noticing the changeover! At Feltham station we caught a Class 458 to the one place I knew was top of Tim's wish list - Clapham Junction.

 T. By this time I was furiously punching numbers into my trainspotter app and thinking why didn't I take my notebook! As predicted the Gemini a bit worn and the odd rattle and as noted the ability to "Paul Daniels" the drivers. But the prospect of another class of EMU beckoned. And still a very smooth ride. I can honestly say the approach to Clapham Junction opened my eyes, never really seen that many trains in one spot.

South West Rail 458 pulls into Feltham                                                pic TM
 S. Clapham Junction is the UK's busiest station, but in my humble opinion far from the UK's best spotting station. Apart from the occasional 158/159 it's all EMU's, and once you've seen one 377 0r 455 you've seen them all. However if all you're used to is Beccles or Norwich then it must seem vast! Highlights for me were seeing a new but to be short lived Class 707 in the sidings, and a possy of spotters suddenly rushing our platform to get a Colas Class 70 loco on an engineers train only for it to suddenly change lines and get spectacularly bombed by a Gatwick Express 12 car 387. Schadenfreude at its best!

T. I was reminded on Twitter that Clapham Junc was at one time a very downtrodden place but I have to say it seemed to be ok now and the amount of trains and people can fair muddle a country boy's head plus the amazing amount of caffeine outlets to get your "fix" at. Would have loved a go on a 707 but not to be that day. The variety of trains is not overly great (app got bashed again!) but just the sheer volume is enough and the class 70 "Fugly" was indeed a bonus to see there as normally we only see them at Ipswich.

The Class 707 in Clapham Jct sidings             pic SW
Old and new liveries on Class 444 units.                          pic SW
Gatwick Express Class 387                              pic TM
Class 450 still in SWT livery             pic TM

S. A short ride to Wimbledon on a Class 455 and it was time for another mode of transport, which will begin part two of the day's travels -- and it still wasn't midday! I'll leave Tim to sum up Part One

T. I can honestly say that even the 455 was ok to ride on and I was definitely looking forward to the next bit! At Wimbledon I could see how the word "integrated" when used in the transport tense actually worked. I just wish some of the provinces could catch the same idea.

So far so good. I refer to my legs more than anything but I was enjoying it too much to let them hold me back. My days as trade plate driver had seen me on old rolling stock rattled and banged about but the stock now is beyond what you could have conceived 35 odd years ago and it works. The seamless way you can get around affords you to be able to see more things and I had seen plenty, some for the first time and some which bought back memories and to see the changes were awesome. But I knew there was definitely lots more to come!


  1. Andrew Kleissner20 October 2017 at 13:57

    It's been ages since I've been to London. Two comments:

    - yes I agree with you about Canary Wharf DLR station, I've always liked it. (I don't, by and large, like the monstrous Jubilee Line Extension stations though).

    - not so sure about the S7 trains - on the long Metropolitan Line runs they have far fewer seats than their predecessors. I haven't travelled on one at speed so I don't know what the ride is like, the old A stock could be decidedly bumpy!

    As a general comment, the travel disparity between London and "elsewhere" is huge - and that simply shouldn't be the case in a well-run country. Here in Cardiff we now have quite a good ail network but all the trains are ancient Pacers and Sprinters - makes East Anglia seem quite palatial!

  2. Andrew Kleissner20 October 2017 at 17:08

    PS Those Red Arrow buses with turnstiles were awful, although at least they were flat fare. The DMSs in the suburbs, where you were supposed to feed your money into a slot and then push the turnstile, were much worse. The system took ages, was impossible to use of you had a bag or a buggy - no wonder most people still paid the driver. Things like Oyster have SPEEDED UP London buses no end - I wish other operators would realise just how much time can be lost in fare collection, and how unattractive that makes the bus as an option. Contactless debit cards and tickets on iPhones, allied to a simple fare structure, offer a very good way forward for many in my opinion (you probably still need to have cash payment available as a back-up though London seems to manage without). Another way is to have validators on the bus which can be used while the bus is moving. This speeds up entry as the driver doesn't need to look at anything, however it's open to evasion unless you have lots of travelling inspectors, possibly travelling "under cover".

  3. Innovative Solution to re opening old railway lines.

    Standard trains and electrification is very expensive and difficult to justify the cost with the low passenger numbers. Why not consider guided trolleybuses for some of these lines. For lines up to say about 50 mils they would as fast as trains. The guidance could be laser or say a single rail. The advantage of a rail is that it could also act as a return rail greatly simplify the overhead line structure another advantage if hybrids are used is it could avoid rebuilding most of the bridges etc it would also mean they could in many case actually serve the villages etc rather than stations a mile or so from them. How viable this is I don't know one would need to look at the technical issues and costs, Certainly when running on the old track bed speeds of up to 50mph should be feasible. A line where this could be considered is the old Sudbury to Cambridge line. To start with Haverhill to Cambridge which is about 18 miles

  4. Andrew Kleissner22 October 2017 at 07:53

    There are some of these "guided light transit" systems in France, although they look more like "trams with tyres" than "trolley buses with a rail". Wikipedia suggests that they have the advantage of being more able to climb hills than conventional trams, also of course they can travel off-piste if they have auxiliary diesel engines. However it seems that they are more expensive to build than conventional LRT systems, and there is a problem with rutting as the wheels always pass over the same section of road. I realise though that what you are suggesting is more of an "electric guided (or reserved) busway", nipping from time to time into the villages, which would be a bit different, however Cambridge's experience suggests that it is hardly a cheap option, although one would have thought it should be!

    1. Cambridge had this silly guided busway which has unsightly concrete guides on either sides which is expensive and takes up lots of road space. A trolley bus is flexible so where the old track bed exists it can use that. Using a rail for guidence of course means you can use that for the return path and using hybrids means they can run through the villages without needing overhead line. Trolleybuses are cheap to buy and have a long lifetime. The overhead line etc does add a bit to the cost probably about 10% but it last for decades. Trams are very expensive and you cannot vary the route and if there is an accident the service grinds to a halt

  5. Boost for Haverhill to Cambridge rail link revival hopes