St. Patrick's Day
I hope you enjoyed yours (if indeed you celebrate it!); I spent my evening ploughing up and down the District Line!
In itself there was nothing remarkable or unusual about the duty I had for the day, but a few things happened to coincide to make it a little out of the ordinary.
I picked my first train up at Earls Court at the appointed time and on enquiring of the driver I was relieving if it was all working as it should his response (rather disinterestedly!) was 'It's OK - same as the rest of 'em!'. So I set off towards Ealing Broadway.
I pretty quickly thought that this wasn't the quickest D Stock I'd ever driven, and this was confirmed when, as I pulled away from Hammersmith at the same time as a Piccadilly Line train, it quickly started to pull away from me on the run up to Ravenscourt Park. That doesn't usually happen; normally we can hold our own and often we can outrun a 73TS - much to the chagrin of the Picc drivers! I suspected that there may be some of the motors not functioning and, although we can't check this for sure, there is a check that we can do that that points to that. I carried out a couple of 'trip and set' procedures to some of the train's equipment - sometimes that can cure the problem - but to no avail.
I changed ends at Ealing Broadway and headed off on my trip to Upminster - again you sometimes find that the other end of the train works OK, but this wasn't the case so, on arrival at Acton Town, I called the Controller and asked if he could arrange for the Train Technician to attend at some point. As I arrived at Earls Court he wasn't waiting for me - in fact I noticed he was on the westbound platform waiting to look at another train I presume, so I headed off on my eastbound trip.
As this was all occurring during the evening 'peak' it's not unusual to loose time through the central area whilst you wait for trains ahead to move through, so the reduced performance of the train didn't matter too much.
On arrival at Barking the Train Technician was waiting for me. As we headed further east he connected his box of tricks to the train's systems and confirmed that indeed all of the motors on one car were 'out'; this means that instead of having four motored cars I only had three; hence the reduced performance. He tried changing a couple of fuses to see if this would resolve the problem but it made no difference. So a 'changeover' (the replacement of the train with a good one) was requested.
On arriving at Upminster the DMT was waiting for us. 'When train xxx comes in take it as yours and the driver of that one will take yours as his - it's due to stable at Ealing Common on its next trip. This was all done, though obviously we had to wait for its arrival, tell the driver what was going on and then change the set number and destination; none of this takes long, but it adds up and resulted in leaving Upminster about five or six minutes late.
As we headed west the platforms were quite busy, partly as it had obviously been a few minutes since the last train had gone through, but also many of those waiting on the platforms were sporting west Ham shirts - there was a match at Upton Park that evening. So we weren't able to make up any time and in fact by the time we got to Whitechapel we were about ten minutes late - mainly due to the extended 'dwell times' caused by the volume of passengers and that we were held at Upton Park whilst the platform cleared of the deluge of supporters who left the train.
The rest of the 'first half' was uneventful and I got back to Earls Court for my meal break still about 'ten down' - but the duty has quite a generous meal break, so that wasn't in jeopardy!
My second train arrived about five or so minutes late, but as it was headed for Wimbledon that should be recoverable; we have about a ten minute turn round there. I left on time and had a clear run back to Earls Court - in fact I was held at Earls Court as the train was running a little early.
On leaving Earls Court to head off towards Barking (my booked destination) it occurred to me that I'd be back in the West Ham area around the time the match would have finished and the supporters would be making their way home. The run through the central area was uneventful, although a little slow, so by the time I reached Whitechapel I was about three minutes late.
But of course as I started to get nearer to Upton Park the journey slowed further as trains were being held for the football crowds. Eventually I left Upton Park, reminded the passengers at East Ham that the train would terminate at Barking and then set off again, now about ten minutes late and wondering if the signaller would reverse me in the Bay Road there, rather than through the sidings as booked to make up my late running. But as I approached Barking I could see that there was already a train in the Bay platform, so that idea went by the board.
The station staff at Barking did their usual efficient job of assisting in detraining the train and closing the doors up, and as I got back to my cab I could see that the 'Doors Closed' visual was already lit, telling me it was safe to move the train. But just as I moved off, this light went out and the train came to an abrupt halt! A quick check revealed that there were doors open on the fourth car of the train! I'd now have to go back to check the problem before I could move again - more time lost! Fortunately the station staff had noticed my abrupt halt and were coming down from the rear end of the train, so they beat me to the car in question. It was obvious from what I could see that one of the local 'wags' thought it a great idea to operate the outside door opening device (ha, ha - very funny!) which caused my lack of movement. The station staff sorted this out and so with a wave of thanks, I returned to the cab and was able to get into the sidings without further incident. I changed ends, and expected the signal to clear pretty well immediately, as I was now past my booked departure time. This didn't occur though, as of course other trains were running late too, and I watched as a couple of trains came down 'the main' heading westbound.
So, all I had to do now was get back to Ealing Broadway and put the train into Ealing Common Depot. The run west was fairly uneventful, apart from a few 'revellers' sporting large hats advertising a brew of a well known Irish beer behaving a bit erratically on some platforms (it was now past closing time for the pubs) - I noticed one or two of the hats being used for drop kicking practice - so obviously one exercises caution coming down platforms and tries to ensure that no-one falls into or out of the train or - worse still - between the train and the platform!
At this point perhaps someone could tell me why the funniest thing in the world after a few drinks is to do one or more of the following as a train arrives: a) give the driver a 'thumbs up' sign b) use a 'hitch hiking' gesture c) pretend to throw your mate in front of the train (that's REALLY funny.....) or d) moon! If I had a pound for every time I'd seen such a display I'd be a rich man! If you think of doing any of these, please don't - it's NOT really funny and every driver sees it several times every Friday and Saturday night (along with quite a few examples of bodily functions caused by the excess consumption of alcohol). And people wonder why we look bored..........
Anyway I finally arrived at Ealing Broadway and started closing the train up prior to it going to the depot. I noticed that if there were no problems in this I'd just be about on time to finish at my booked time. No problems encountered - there were a few 'high spirited' types still exiting the platform, but at least there were no 'sleepers' on the train to be persuaded to leave. The train was closed up, I got into the cab, the signal cleared. But when I opened the cab up (got it ready to use) I noticed that I had no 'Doors Closed' visual! My initial thought was that I'd left the cab door open on the other end of the train (it happens!) but on checking I saw that it was the fifth car indicating open doors. I was sure that I had closed that car up and had checked to make sure that all the doors had closed, so off I went on the best part of a 100 yard walk back down the train. On arriving I found that someone had again had the amusing idea to open the door on the exterior control. Most amusing! It's the sort of 'prank' that occurs from time to time, but twice in one night?
On a more sombre note though, I have to say that the number of people travelling around the system at the moment does seem down on the norm - and in the past St. Patrick's night has been far busier than this one was. It does cause me to wonder if the Madrid bombing (less than a week before this night) is causing some rethinking of travel plans. Certainly people seem to be being more vigilant and are showing uncommon acceptance of the increased number of security alerts we are experiencing at present; I hope this trend continues.