Confession is Good for the Soul!
I suspect that there are readers here (and probably colleagues too!) who have the impression that I never make mistakes. Well, I do - I'm only human after all (despite what some who know me might think to the contrary!).
The following story - which is entirely true, is aimed completely at myself, and is a classic example of how to error - quite big time!
I was due to start a new trainee's Road Training and had arranged to meet him at the Booking On point at 06:15, and had planned to have a quick briefing session before actually taking a train out. When I got to Acton the Duty Manager asked if I'd got a particular duty in mind (which I did) or if I could help out with an uncovered duty. This was possible, and as it fitted quite well with my plans I agreed to do it.
But 06:15 came and there was no sign of my trainee. I gave it a few minutes extra, and having agreed that the DMT would get him to meet me when he did arrive I went over to Ealing Common to prepare the train for service. This was all done, and I drew the train down to the outlet signal, ready to go into service at Ealing Common. Whilst waiting 'at the stick' my mobile rang; it was my trainee - he was on the platform and would meet me there - no problem.
I took the train into Ealing Common, did the usual platform duties, and the trainee entered the cab - profuse apologies - he'd overslept and so was off to a bad start. But - really - no big deal and we went off towards Ealing Broadway - or so I intended.
So, I'm driving the train, and trying to brief him on my plans, so (hands up) my attention was a little diverted.
Those of you who know the District Line will know that we share the route with the Piccadilly Line, and go off towards Ealing Broadway at Hanger Lane Junction, whilst the 'Picc' heads to North Ealing and then on to Rayners Lane and Uxbridge. The signal displaying the route that has been set should appear like this if it has been set correctly:
Unfortunately it had not been so set, I failed to notice, and it was only as I was approaching the points that I noticed that these were lying incorrectly for me to go to Ealing Broadway. Yes, the signal had been green but the Junction Route Indicator (the three white lights above the signal) could not have been illuminated! In London Underground parlance this is known as 'Taking a wrong 'un'.
So, I had to make a quick decision - either stop the train and wait for the procedure to be put into place that would allow me to move the train back 'wrong road' (against the normal direction of travel) so that the route could be reset and I could go to my intended destination or to carry on to North Ealing and sort things out from there. A quick attempt on the radio established that it wasn't allowing me to get through to the Line Controller so I carried on to North Ealing!
If I'd decided on the option of getting the train 'wrong roaded' back towards Ealing Common this would probably have taken anything up to 40 - 45 minutes, during which time I would be 'shutting down' not only the District Line both to and from Ealing Broadway but also too the Piccadilly Line towards Rayners Lane.
On arrival at North Ealing I got my trainee to go back through the train to find any passengers who may have got on and to bring them to the front of the train so that they could detrain via the cab. Whilst he was doing this I tried other methods to contact the Line Controller. As was I suppose inevitable the phone on the platform wasn't working - my next option was to use my mobile.
'Hello Controller' I greeted - 'it's the Operator on Train xx. I'm afraid I accepted a wrong route at Hanger Lane Junction and am at North Ealing'. 'We wondered where you'd gone!' he replied. 'Are you prepared to take the train up to South Harrow and reverse it back from there?' South Harrow is the first place this can be done. Although not formally trained over the route, fortunately I'm very familiar with it having ridden in the cabs of 'Picc' trains up there dozens of times. I agreed to do so; we would be out of service of course and, though my trainee had detrained one passenger (a schoolboy who we directed back to the opposite platform with a grovelling apology) I went right through the train to ensure it was indeed empty - my train, my responsibility.
The saloon lights were turned off, the destination blind changed to 'Special' and off we went to South Harrow.
Our passage to South Harrow was uneventful, though passengers waiting for trains were (to say the least) a little surprised to see a 'big' train going through the stations and, of course the Picc drivers were more than delighted to see me pass; they universally 'waved' (in a variety of gestures) and were killing themselves laughing at my misfortune! I greeted them with a regal wave back!
As we got to South Harrow the signals started to clear, and I was routed to the eastbound platform - presumably so that it was obvious that I was to go no further! I berthed the train in the eastbound platform, shut the cab down and my trainee and I walked back to the other end of the train, trying very hard (for the benefit of passengers on the platform) to make it look as if we were supposed to be there!
Cab opened up, destination blind to 'Special', signal cleared and off we went as quickly as we could, whilst allowing for the need to reduce speed under the bridges - there isn't the normally required clearance, so caution must be exercised; I didn't want to compound my error by creating the line's first open top D Stock!
We got to Ealing Common; still the radio was dead, so it was on the phone again to the Controller. I told him where we were and what did he wish me to do with the train. 'Oh, your back then.' he replied. 'Put the train up as a Barking and re-enter service'. So, doors were opened, lights back on and destination blind changed and off we went to Acton Town.
As I expected there was a welcoming committee of colleagues on the platform to greet my return, one of whom relieved me so that I could go and see the DMT to confess my sins, not that he wasn't aware of it anyway!
I'm now 'stood down' until the matter has been investigated.
After 'suitable greetings' were exchanged I was told to go and see the 'Mobile' DMT at Earls Court - he's the one he deals with such matters. So off I went, with my trainee still in tow of course.
My reception at Earls Court was similar to that I'd received at Acton Town. One of the DMT's presented me with a tube map 'you might find this useful' he said. But it was then to the 'formal' stuff.
I had to write a memo telling the story and my actions.
Having done this I sent a text message to a couple of colleagues - the word would get out quick enough, but I thought I'd let them know personally.
An interview followed where (essentially) this was all repeated and formally recorded so that the necessary Incident Report Form could be completed. The DMT (who had previously been a driver himself, so understands the situation) was perfectly fair in his dealing with the matter and - basically - the situation was concluded with me being 'suitably advised' and returned to duty. It was generally accepted that the action I took had been the least disruptive to the railway and minimised any delays as far as possible.
The signalling equipment had been running in 'programme' mode and somehow on my departure from the depot, had decided that I was a Picc train, and had triggered me being 'offered' the wrong route. Had I noticed this what I would have done would have been to have stopped the train with the signal ahead of me, contacted the signaller who would have been able to 'take a release' (return the signal to Danger) and then reselect the correct route. Had I done this the 'item' would have been down to him, but as soon as I accepted the signal it was mine.
Apparently too when I'd 'disappeared' our Controller called over to the Picc Controller (who sits next to ours) 'what's the train in the westbound platform at North Ealing - can you ask the driver of your train that's in the eastbound'. I understand that the Picc Controller called his driver on the radio who responded 'I dunno - but it's bigger than me!'
The interview was interposed from time to time by the arrival of text messages from colleagues with 'messages of sympathy'. Not! These ranged from single words (not repeatable here! - or suggestions as to where I should have gone and so on. I was also greeted by our Line Standards Manager who stuck his head round the door and uttered a single word greeting too - again not repeatable here.
When I got back to Acton Town later, I bumped into our Train Operations Manager who said I should really be commended for trying to claim back the Rayners branch for the District; after all we had built it!
Whilst that really is the end of the story, it was not the end of my day of course! Various messages kept popping up as well as a couple of phone calls, all with the purpose of enjoying my moment of glory!
When I got home I told my wife what had happened; being the sympathetic person she is she burst out laughing! She'd already picked up a message on the answer phone which had just said 'oops'. She'd got the number; it wasn't one she recognised, but I did; another caring friend! She spent most of the rest of the day reminding me of which way I needed to go round the house to various rooms, and my son too found the story hilarious. Nothing like family support.
More phone calls were received, one in particular from a colleague at Upminster who'd done the same thing not many months ago and was now delighted to be able to return the sympathy I'd shown when he'd taken his wrong 'un.
There is also a group of us who contribute to a closed forum specifically for LU staff. This, too, by now was buzzing with the news and of course I had to post appropriate responses and explanations.
My enterprising mate at Upminster who'd done the same thing as I has kindly produced the following 'amended' map........
Thanks for that Jim! And the ever enterprising Piccadilly Pilot has devoted a web page to the topic of Hanger Lane Junction. This was originally written for Jim, but has now been further enhanced!
So, that was my day! I bet I've still got more (deserved) stick to take, and probably for months to come and at every available opportunity!
Update added 30 June 2004
It seems I'm not to be allowed to forget this event.....
The ever enterprising Solidbond has provided the following photo as a momento of my little excursion; note the destination blind on the train and the cunningly doctored Line logo's in the cab windows! I hasten to add that 'South Harrow' is not an option on the D Stock. Remarkable what can be done with 'Photoshop'! Apparently he did this at the suggestion of our Line Standards Manager who, incidentally, still greets me as 'Lefty' every time I see him!