My first train appears on time, I head off to Ealing Broadway, arrive on time and have time to make myself a coffee before changing ends ready for my booked departure time.
So far so good and (fatally) I think it looks as if we're in for a quiet night.
Within a matter of minutes there's talk on the radio of an 'incident' between Upminster bridge and Hornchurch on a westbound train - the train behind the one that's been affected is told to wait at Upminster Bridge pending the arrival of the Police to attend the 'problem' - bear in mind that this is before six o'clock in the evening. By the sound of the discussion the train affected's had a window broken as a result of a 'missile' hitting the train. In itself this is (sadly) not an unusual occurence - we loose quite a few windows through vandalism at the east end of the line, though more usually between Elm Park and Becontree.
It's also a little unusual for a driver to demand the attendance of the Police - normally he'll 'tip the train out' and run it empty through to Ealing Common where it'll be changed over for a serviceable train - but there seems no pressure from the Controllers for this to be done, so I presume there's good reason for what's occuring.
I'm not concerned at this stage - it's still well over an hour until I'm due to get up to the east end of the line and I'm sure that by then the matter will have been resolved. But obviously there's limited capacity at Upminster, so the Controller is now starting to reverse trains at Dagenham East and Barking - effectively the service is suspended in both directions between Dagenham East and Upminster - something that is only reluctantly done during the evening peak.
By the time I leave Earls Court the Central Public Address System is announcing the suspension due to 'passenger action' in the Hornchurch area.
But there's still plenty of time for it to resolve - it's still an hour's run from Earls Court to Upminster. But as I depart Victoria the Controller calls my train number and asks my location. I tell him and am surprised when he responds 'Reverse Mansion House and run additional to Richmond'. I duly acknowledge, tell the passengers on the train and change the destination blind. Presumably the concern is that there's going to be a gap coming up in the westbound service and my train will help to alleviate that.
Just as I'm arriving at Mansion House at about 1825 the 'all clear' is given for the service to resume - so the matter has been resolved, but the Controllers now have the task of recovering the service.
I depart from Mansion House at about 1835 and head off westbound towards Richmond.
As I'm heading west there's now talk on the radio concerning a defective C Stock train in the Wimbledon area, and as time progresses it becomes clear that this is going to take time to resolve - the service is now suspended between Putney Bridge and Wimbledon in both directions. Edgware Road trains are to reverse at Putney Bridge and all D Stock trains are to reverse at Parsons Green.
The problem with the failed train is obviously quite serious as the following train is told to detrain and work towards the failed train - they're obviously looking at the need to 'push out' the failed train, not something that's done lightly!
On arrival at Richmond I phone the Controller and ask where he wants the train to go and when does he want me to leave. 'Put it up as a Mansion House again and leave in about five minutes' are his instructions. I do as asked and leave Richmond at about 1925. Assuming no further delays I should get to Earls Court for my relief at 2039 as booked for my mealbreak.
My approach to Earls Court's quite slow - possibly because there are now problems with crew reliefs at Earls Court, but a couple of radio calls gets us moving again.
On arrival at Earls Court the train's being described as a Mansion House, but as I get further into the City this becomes 'Tower Hill'. In itself this is not unusual - it may just be a 'glitch' with the train's identification on the signaling equipment, but at 2000 I call the Controller again. 'Change of plan driver, the train ahead of you's going round at Mansion House - take it through to Tower Hill'. So another PA to the passengers telling them of the change of plan and the destination blind's changed again it's off to Tower Hill!
I leave Tower Hill at 2018 - just enough time to get to Earls Court for my booked relief, but there's a bit of congestion approaching Earls Court - we've now got problems resulting from the earlier delay at the east end with crew reliefs and the problem at Wimbledon is also causing delays - so I'm about five minutes late arriving at Earls Court, but at least my relief's ready and waiting.
The talk in the messroom centres pretty much around the events of the evening so far, as is usually the case when there's been problems.
The word is that the broken window was due to a gunshot aimed at the train (!), and this would probably explain why all concerned were taking the incident seriously - as they quite rightly should. Sadly though this wouldn't be the first time this has happened and I dare say it won't be the last, but in my view, the driver was absolutely correct in the actions he took. I presume it must have been the local police who attended as the length of time involved doesn't suggest that the BTP (British Transport Police) aren't exactly renowned for their 'Rapid Response'. This sounds a little demeaning I know, but they work with pretty limited resources and, on occasions, I know they do get a bad press; this does lead me to another train of thought and possibly a thread I'll pick up at some point in the future!
As far as the defective C Stock is concerned, this situation seems to be still continuing - almost two hours after the initial problem! The rumour is that it's a Main Line Burst - possibly one of the worst defects possible, but I know the driver involved, and his abilities are unquestioned - he's a 'top man' and not the type to make a meal of a job just for the hell of it! But it's a devil to resolve - hence the need for the 'push out' by another train. Once I get my stock related pages sorted out, I'll try to address some of the aspects of Defect Handling so that I hope this may become clearer!
By the time I arrive on the platform to platform to pick up my second train there's a fair collection of drivers waiting - obviously the delays are still occuring, and late running is now the order of the day. The announcement is now that 'due to an earlier 'Passenger Action' at Hornchurch, Defective Train in the Wimbledon area and Staff on the Track at West Kensington (?), services are subject to delay to all District Line destinations.' The last raises a quizical expression on all the faces of us assembled - this we haven't heard about!
My train arrives about twenty minutes late, so off I go to Ealing Broadway - and then the earlier announcement becomes clearer - as I round the curve after the exit from the covered way approaching West Kensington there are the warning lights of a Temporary Speed Restriction (TSR) flashing, followed in close order by a plate showing a limit of 10mph, so it's on with the brakes, reduce speed and creep into West Ken. Why has it been imposed? No idea!
On arrival at Ealing I change ends, and when the signal clears I've recovered about seven minutes. An uneventful eastbound trip follows, until I leave Blackfriars when I find another TSR has sprung up! Oh, and there's also a radio message that a similar TSR has been imposed between Aldgate East and Whitechapel - obviously the ERU (Emergency Response Unit) were having a quiet night and must've thought they'd go out and make life interesting for drivers!
So I leave Tower Hill about ten minutes late - all is now quiet now (it after all turned 2300 on a Monday night!), close the train up and actually end up arriving in the Depot about five minutes early - no overtime at least!
Can't resist this though..... 'One of those nights, One of those crazy old nights'