Just a Normal Day
Well, perhaps not quite but a combination of a number of incidents that happened during one early turn and the impact that they had on the service.
I was doing a spare turn and was due to book on at about 0515. As usual I was a little early (even at this time of the day I'd rather be a few minutes early and have time for a relaxed coffee rather than have to immediately start rushing about) and on checking the 'booking on sheet' found that all the duties were covered. This seemed to bode well for an easy shift.
After a few minutes the Night Duty DMT said he'd have to give me a job as the booked driver had been involved in an incident the previous day and needed to be interviewed. 'Start it off, but he should be able to pick it up later. Even if he's a bit delayed you'll only have to do the first half' he said.
I had plenty of time, so finished my coffee had time for a bit of chat and banter with some of my colleagues and then set off for the depot to get the train ready for service.
It was about 0535 as I approached the depot and I think it subconsciously registered that there still seemed to be a lot of trains still there for that time of the morning. This was further reinforced as I realised that at least four were waiting with their front lights lit – indicating that the trains were 'opened up' and waiting to come out – and, of course, this was only one end of the depot.
As I passed the Shunter's Cabin the Shunter stuck his head round the door and said 'if your mates ask why they're being held there's a late surrender of possession at Earls Court' – meaning that the overnight engineering works had overrun and the engineering staff had not yet been able to hand the railway back for passenger traffic. So As I passed each train I let the drivers know – the news was consistently greeted with a groan!
So I made my way to my train, got it ready and then sat down to read the paper until I was called down. I was due to leave the depot at about 0600. Trains were, by this time starting to move out and by the time it was my turn I departed at about 0615. Not too bad in all the circumstances.
Normally at this time of the morning the radio is pretty well silent. Not today – the Controller is already recovering the service, turning trains early to recover the timetable.
By the time I get to Earls Court I'm still showing my booked destination of Tower Hill on the train, but as I come down Platform 1 I see the platform describer is stating that the train's for Mansion House. This makes perfect sense, as it will almost exactly recover my late running, particularly if I can then get a reasonably prompt departure from Wimbledon. However, I try to call the Controller but can't get through on the radio, so leave the destination as Tower Hill. I call again on my way to Gloucester Road, and finally get through as I arrive there. Mansion House is confirmed, so I change the destination blind, make a PA to let my passengers know and carry on without further event.
I arrive at Mansion House, change ends, signal clears immediately and off we go to Wimbledon. Clear run all the way so the late departure has been all but made up.
I arrive at Wimbledon. There's a C Stock and another D Stock already there and I've got about six or seven minutes before I'm due to depart. The D Stock leaves even before I've shut down and by the time I reach the other end the C Stock's also 'plunged' and got a signal to depart. I'm still looking good for a scheduled departure and this is confirmed as the C Stock leaves straight away and I 'plunge' to let the signalman know I'm ready to go.
Signal clears, and I leave less than a minute after my booked time. A good run follows – that is until we get to West Brompton. The Station Starter stays on. At first I think this is due to a combination of the normal early morning congestion around Earls Court and the last knockings of the earlier delay but, even allowing for this, we seem to there a long time. Just as I'm about to call the Controller the signal clears and away we go, at least as far as the next signal towards Earls Court. And there we sit. By this time there's some talk on the radio of a train with no movement at High Street Kensington and this is having a 'blocking back' effect into Earls Court. Platform 1 is effectively out of action and the train in Platform 2 is the C Stock that left Wimbledon in front of me and that should go to Edgware Road, but now can't get up there! The Controller calls him up, and tells him to divert to Mansion House. This he does, and I'm now able to get into the platform. I've lost about fifteen minutes due to this delay and have tried to keep my passengers informed with appropriate PA's so at least they've got some idea that it's not just me!
Eventually we leave Earls Court and, apart from a Circle Line train being put across in front of me, thus delaying me for another couple of minutes, we have a fairly decent run through the city.
The train's booked to go to Barking and reverse via the sidings. As I leave Bow Road I check the time and see I'm due to be leaving Barking in about five minutes. The Controller's been calling various trains and reversing them early (again!) but he hasn't called me. However I've just left Bromley-by-Bow when the radio calls my set number. 'Where are you driver?' I duly tell him and he responds 'reverse Plaistow'. Nothing like plenty of notice! So I make another apologetic PA saying that I've just been informed and that passengers will find it easier to leave the train at the next station (West Ham) and wait on the platform there to continue they're journey. I suggest this as the bay road at Plaistow is staggered in relation to the through platform and it saves them having to hurry down the platform for the next train which invariably arrives almost immediately after a train into the bay road. It was also raining heavily and they'd too stay dry!
So I finally leave Plaistow. The journey back to Earls Court for my meal break is a stop/start affair and I eventually arrive at Earls Court about twenty minutes after my due time.
I'm not too concerned though. Remember, I was only expecting to do the first half of the duty and am hoping for an easy time for the remaining three and a half or so hours. I reported to the DMT that I was there, and reminded him that the booked driver was supposed to be picking up his own second half. 'We've had a few problems (he said) and I haven't been able to do the interview yet. Can you finish the turn inside your hours?' I check my Duty Book and find that I can (with twenty minutes to spare, if it runs on time) so there goes my quiet second half! I'm even tight for a meal break, but not so tight that I don't get the minimum. Great!
I'm due to pick up at Earls Court Eastbound at around 1025, and I'm there in time to find a gaggle of drivers already there waiting for their pick up's. The longest there is now fifteen minutes late. Apparently there's been some sort of signal problem at Acton Town which has added yet another delay into the equation and the efforts at recovering the service have again come to little!
Eventually my train arrives at 1050 – twenty-five minutes late. I'm due to do Upminster – Ealing Broadway and arrive at Acton Town (east) at 1322 to finish. So off we go through the city.
No further delays occur and, again, as I'm approaching West Ham I'm instructed to reverse early, but this time at Dagenham East. A clear run follows. I leave Dagenham East back on time and the run back to Ealing Broadway is uneventful. I even have about twelve minutes at Ealing before I depart right on time (the first time I've been on time all day!).
I'm relieved at Acton Town right on time, and finish twenty minutes before my duty time.
And all this on a day with a 'full book' which looked ripe for a good early 'cut away' – the bonus every driver hopes for from a spare turn, but rarely gets!
So, all in all, just another day.