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Iced Train

This story relates to an incident which happened during January 2002.

Although London did experience some severe conditions during 2003 I was not actually working at the time, and although I know that there were many tales arising from this, I had no first hand experiences to relate.

Iced Train

During the early part of January you may recall that we had some very cold days (and nights!) This particular event occurred on one of the coldest of these days.

I was due to book on at 0500, with my train being due out of Ealing Common Depot at about 0530. As I was driving into work the outside air temperature reading on my car dashboard never rose above 4 deg. C and at one point fell to 7! I booked on in plenty of time, established on which road my train was stabled in the Depot and walked (briskly!) over to prepare it for service.

As I walked into the depot I could see my train, no lights on and it appeared to look very cold. On getting into the cab my fears were realised not only had the cab heaters been switched off but the car heaters too! This was a seriously cold train.

I turned as much heat on as possible (to at least make my working environment a little more cosy) and set about my checks. Number set, Destination set, PA working, Passenger alarm, brakes tested and so on. The last check I do is to see if the train's motors are engaged by carrying out a Traction Test. No movement Train Monitoring System (TMS) says doors are open, but no car specified. This usually indicates that a Miniature Circuit Breaker is 'tripped' (i.e. switched off) in this case the Door Interlock MCB. I visually check it and trip and reset it still nothing as confirmed by no Pilot Light (the visual indication in the cab that the doors are closed).

I decide to go and do the checks at the other end and find exactly the same situation most odd. I now need assistance from the depot staff, and follow the normal routine of sounding the train whistle to summon help. No response; so I leave the train and go to the Shunters Cabin 'Oh, I thought I heard someone blowing up!' I explain my problem and he comes back to the train. He repeats all I've done and (to my relief) can't get any movement either. He needs to summon help and disappears to get assistance.

I've now missed my departure time. Eventually I've got four train technicians running up and down the length of the train, checking doors, tripping MCB's, jumping up and down on couplers (where the electrical connections are passed from one unit to another) all to no avail.

We go to the Depot Duty Manager's Office to find out where the spare train is there isn't one! So I walk back to the booking on point to report back to the Duty Manager (Trains). By the time I get there he's aware of the situation. The Line Controller has told him to tell me to make my way to Upminster to get a spare train out from there and to complete the first part of my duty up to my meal break. So I head off for the Eastbound platform to await an Upminster train. Just as it's arriving I see one of my colleagues running (a rare sight indeed!) down the platform waving his arms at me. He breathlessly announces that there aren't any spare trains at Upminster either and to come back to see the DMT.

On arrival he says 'all you can do is make your way to Barking (where I'm due for my meal break) and then pick up your second half'. This is due at about 0945 and all it does is go back to Ealing and into the Depot. I make my way to Barking, have a long, large and relaxed breakfast and read the paper from cover to cover. I realise rather ruefully that I've been up since 0400 and have spent 5 hours awake unproductively on the coldest day of the year!

A couple of days later I run into one of the depot staff who was involved in the incident and enquire what the outcome to the problem was. Apparently they moved the train into the depot sheds and once it had been in there a couple of hours it was OK. The speculation was that the train had got so cold that ice had formed on the electrical connections preventing them from contacting correctly and once it had thawed out it was serviceable.

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