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Stories from Piccadilly Pilot

Stories from Piccadilly Pilot

Piccadilly Pilot can always be relied upon to come up with stories from London Underground.  His first couple of contributions read as follows:

1. Before the tunnel telephone handset was built into the train the Motorman used to carry it with him in a small wooden box. A curious passenger asked a Motorman what the box was for and was told, "It's a pigeon coffin! You've seen all the pigeons around? Well, occasionally we hit one and kill it and we have to pick it up so that it can be disposed of properly."

2. A DR train got tripped and caused a bit of delay (take the comments such as "how would anyone notice" etc. as read). (Readers - please note: - It's been Standard Practice for many years for there to be more than a degree of 'banter' between Piccadilly and District Line Train Crew. One overworked joke is that the Picc has a timetable - the District just works to a calendar! District Dave) When the Motorman explained the cause to the Regulator he was disbelieved. A few hours later the door of Earl's Court Regulating Room flew open, the Motorman standing there asked who the Regulator was he'd spoken to earlier. He then went over to the Regulator's desk, slapped down the dead pigeon he'd been tripped on and said, "Don't call me a liar".

The next story from Piccadilly Pilot is, however, of a much more serious nature:

In the early 1980s an incident took place that would have had fatal consequences but for the guard doing something unusual.

It was late on a Friday evening, the West End revellers were heading for home as were the crew of a certain westbound Piccadilly Line train (1973 Tube Stock). Although very lightly loaded until then the train had rapidly filled with passengers at both Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations. On arrival at Piccadilly Circus the platform was extremely crowded.

Somehow the people on the platform managed to get on the train and the guard closed the doors. Unfortunately, although all the doors were closed and all the indicators that showed them to be open were off, the indicators to show that the doors were closed were also off. This sometimes happens if a car is overloaded and both circuits are broken. There was no way of finding out which is the affected car so the only solution is to detrain all the passengers.

This we did with the help of the station inspector. By the time we had everyone off, the guard, station inspector and the driver were inside the train near the middle. The driver went forward, the other two went to the rear and the guard told the driver that it was OK to start.

As the train went through Green Park station the guard called the driver on the cab to cab phone to tell him that "There is someone on the train." The driver stopped the train, went back to investigate and discovered a young man hanging on between two of the cars.

Prompt action was called for because of the delay to the service and because the person in question appeared drunk and was in danger of going to sleep. Luckily he was between the two cars that could be easily uncoupled, i.e. at the inner ends of the units.

The guard therefore returned to the back of the train and applied the parking brake. When he had done that he and the driver operated the controls to uncouple the units but the front unit would not move away under the spring pressure of the coupler as it should. The driver then had to return to the front and move it a few feet under power and return to the middle of the train.

The person was brought inside the train and the two units recoupled. Upon arrival at Hyde Park Corner the miscreant was handed over to the station foreman and eventually to the police. When asked what he thought he was doing he said that his friends had told him to try and get back in. He was eventually prosecuted for obstructing the railway, causing delay etc.

The likelihood of anyone in this position surviving the experience is remote. Firstly because as the train negotiates the extremely tight bends approaching South Kensington the ends of the cars get very close together, probably less than six inches, so anyone standing on the coupler is almost certainly going to be crushed. The other reason in this particular case is that because he was drunk and falling asleep he would have lost his grip and fallen under the train. Either way he would have been killed before reaching the end of the tunnel.

What was it that the guard did that was unusual? Before switching off the car lights he looked up the train and saw something flapping. Normally he just turned off the lights when the train started to move off after detraining.

I've received another story from Piccadilly Pilot too, this about a failed train, so it follows on nicely from the previous tale.

The distance between Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations is the shortest on the Underground at 282 yards or 257.5 meters.

The driver of a westbound 1973 tube stock moved his train away from Covent Garden in the usual manner and made a normal stop at Leicester Square. When the moment came for him to move off to Piccadilly Circus there was no reaction from the train.

He went through the usual checks of resetting the overloads and tried again. He also became aware that there was no noise from the motor alternators (the MA's) that provide the electrical power for the train's lighting and control circuits.

By looking at the Train Equipment Panel (at that time they were constantly illuminated and were an innovation on London underground trains) he confirmed that the MA's were not working.

This event predates the fitting of train radio so he went to the telephone on the platform and contacted the Line Controller who assured him that Traction Current on on so there was no good reason for this situation.

There was a Car Examiner based at Leicester Square to assist trains with problems so he was called to help. He also could find no good reason.

It was by now obvious that some major defect had befallen the train so the passengers were detrained and the one behind was called forward to "push out" the stricken train to Northfields Depot. That train also deposited its passengers onto Leicester Square platform.

During the journey to Northfields it was noticed that the assisting train was having to struggle somewhat in order to move the additional load so a clear run into the depot was requested.

Upon arrival in the depot the defective train was checked thoroughly and it was found that all the positive shoes along the number two side of the train (that is the left side when travelling west) were missing.

When the fitters went to check the assisting train they discovered that the two leading motor cars had also lost their positive shoes on the south side.

Therefore it had been just two motor cars pushing all twelve cars from Leicester Square all the way to Northfields with pretty stiff climbs up from Earl's Court to Baron's Court where the line emerges from the deep level tunnel. Also from Hammersmith up a steep bank to Ravenscourt Park where the line goes from below street level up onto a viaduct at roof height. There is also a steep climbing gradient entering Northfields Depot.

The Permanent Way department had also checked the track between Covent Garden and Leicester Square and found a displaced positive traction current rail with a pile of collector shoes close by.


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