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Underground-Symbol-Small.gif (1234 bytes)Tubeprune - The Tube Professionals' Rumour Network
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Life Underground - Stories from the Tube

London Underground has a life of its own.  Here are some facts, rumours, true stories, legends and anecdotes, with some information and archive material from the newsgroup.


Announcements - Pigeon Fanciers? - Hanger On? - Stonebridge Park Depot - Lost Property? - Next Train to Tel Aviv? - Pub View - Nasty Habits - Cab Comfort - Dead Man - Suicide Pits - Handbrake Fuse - Metropolitan to Barking - Iris Plantation - Tea for Two? - Making Tea - Ghosts - Blind Man's Bluff - Bicycle Clips - Wrong Stick - Vandalism Isn't New - Long Service - Flashing Lights on Track - Table Top Livery - Red Repeater - Test Massage - Division of Labour - Depot Furniture - Golf Balls - '73 Tube Stock Batteries - The First 1967 Tube Stock - So Sorry   


Anyone from London or the rest of the UK reading this will know that we've just had two derailments on London underground in less than 48 hours - one on the Piccadilly Line and one on the Northern Line. Fortunately only seven people were hurt and none of these serious. It looks as though there may be some industrial action by tube staff to try to increase safety on the tubes which they believe is at risk since the tube was part privatised earlier this year.  So if the closure of parts of the Northern Line affects you, spare a thought for the drivers and station assistants and have a look at this Northern Line special of overheard drivers announcements reported to

"I was at Mill Hill East the other day, a quiet tube station, and the driver of the train said something like: "Hello this is xxx speaking, I am the captain of your train, and we will be departing shortly, we will be cruising at an altitude of approximately zero feet, and our scheduled arrival time in Morden is 3:15pm. The temperature in Morden is approximately 15 degrees celsius, and Morden is in the same time zone as Mill Hill east, so there's no need to adjust your watches."

"I was on the Northern line again, and we all got chucked out of the tube because it was broken. Obviously when the next tube came along, we all tried to get on and there was lots of "Please stand clear of the DOORS" before we could get going. When we finally started moving again, the driver says over the tannoy, "This is a customer announcement, please note that the big slidy things are the doors, the big slidy things are the doors".

"I heard this on the Northern line recently: "Ladies and gentlemen this train has 22 doors on each side, please feel free to use all of them, not just the two in the middle".

"On my way down the Northern Line, the train stopped in a tunnel. After a few minutes, the driver's voice came: "Sorry for the delay, but there has been an incident at King's Cross. Someone has attacked the driver (*big sigh*).  9.15am on a Monday morning and there's been an incident already.   The police have been called. (*Pause*) It's a good thing I'm not a policeman, because I'd lock them all up for life. (*pause* *lower voice*) either that or shoot them."

"A friend of a friend (etc..) worked as a station assistant at Warren Street station and one day whilst making a public announcement re busking/begging on London Underground, got the two slightly confused and came up with the following gem: "London Underground would like to remind everyone that buggering is not allowed at any Underground station!"

"On a Northern Line train last week the driver made this announcement..."Due to an overpowering smell of sewage, this train will NOT be stopping at Highgate. I repeat, this train will NOT stop at Highgate". then, a minute later, "Ladies and gentlemen...this train IS stopping at Highgate and of course I'm the last to know"

"On the Northern Line, when a teenager had pretended to jump in front of the train, the driver announced: 'you should have done it mate, it might have knocked some sense into you'.

"My friend was waiting the other night for the Northern Line when the tannoy burst into life with the following, which I think sums up British understatement: "When the gentleman urinating on Platform 3 has finished, would he ask the attendant for a mop and bucket. Thank you"

Supplied by The Mole 21 October 2003

Beating the Vandals -

The east end of the District Line has always been bad for vandalism, particularly during the summer holidays.   Many is the time Tubeprune has had to duck as a brick or a milk crate came flying towards the cab window.  It was so bad, they used to call the bit between Plaistow and East ham, "Bomb Alley".  Now the Underground has managed to reduce the problem along the line by almost 50% with a special campaign of surveillance and patrolling.   They've even used helicopters.  You see - good police work can succeed.   LU's press release about it is here.  

Posted 22 August 2002.

New Timetables

Some lines have new timetables.  Curiously, in spite of the continuing high levels of traffic all over the system, they all show a reduction in services.  The Piccadilly Line now operates only 24 trains per hour (tph), instead of the 30 that the line can run.  The reason for the reduction is that the line becomes unmanageable when something goes wrong.  It is a long line - some 70 kms from end to end - and it has two crew depots at the critical stations, Acton Town and Arnos Grove.  The result is that, after a disruption like a signal failure, the need to get the service back to normal is frustrated by the delays at Acton and Arnos when crews are being sorted out.  They have to have breaks to ensure they don't become too fatigued by excessive hours.   There aren't enough spare crews to cover all the reliefs needed during a service disruption and many trains get shoved into depots or sidings to get them out of the way.   The result is a reduction in the service and long queues of trains up to Acton and Arnos while the crewing is sorted out.

In the meantime, the trains get more crowded.   Posted 6 November 2002.

Pigeon Fanciers?

Two stories from "Piccadilly Pilot", 10 December 2002.

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).  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".

Hanger On?

From "Piccadilly Pilot", 24 November 2002.

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 de-train 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 appeard 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 liklihood 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 de-training.

Stonebridge Park Depot

When the Stanmore branch of the Bakerloo Line was converted into the Jubilee Line in 1979, the Bakerloo lost its main depot at Neasden.  To replace it, it was planned to build a new depot at Stonebridge Park on the site of the old London and North Western Railway power station originally built for their Euston to Watford electrification scheme of 1914. 

Work on a site investigation contract for the new depot started on 14th November 1972 and demolition of the power station was completed early in 1973.  At this point, Brent Council, the local government authority for the area, announced that the new depot needed planning permission and that it would not get it.  There was then a two-year delay while the bureaucratic nonsense was sorted out and planning permission was only finally obtained after LU went to appeal.  The new depot was finally completed and formally opened on 9th April 1979.

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Next Train to Tel Aviv?

From "District Dave", 11 June 2002.

On Sunday evening I was 'doing' Wimbledon - Edgware Roads.  Nice and quiet, so having fun using the Westinghouse brake.  I arrived at Edgware Road and, having shut down, I was leaving the cab.  A concerned couple came up to me - "Sorry to trouble you, but there's a man in there (indicating the car behind the cab) who's collapsed.  We
think he's breathing but we're not sure".  I thanked them and went to investigate.

I entered the car and, sure enough, there was a guy of about 30ish sprawled across two seats.  (Loud voice) "Wake up' mate - this is as far as we go!"  No response.  Tried again - same result.  I rapped on partition glass with my Control Key (this usually works) - nothing.  Last resort - blew guards whistle I carry for the purpose close to right ear - eyes opened (very drunkenly).

"Where are you going?" I enquired.  Mumbled indecipherable response.  Repeated question - same result.  On the fourth attempt I made out "Tel Aviv".  I (trying to keep a straight face) responded "Sorry - this train only goes to Wimbledon and you're at Edgware Road right now".  Blank expression from passenger.   "You could try Heathrow - that'll start you off in the right direction"   Blank expression and more indecipherable comments.  Eventually I made out "but David Ben Gurion needs my help" to which I replied (remembering vaguely that he'd died in about 1954), "Well, I don't think you'll find him at Edgware Road!".

With that, he hauled himself to a sitting position, but made no effort to leave the train.  He seemed OK, so I left him.  He must have got off somewhere, as he'd gone by the time I changed ends at Wimbledon.

It's things like that that make your day!

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Pub View

The surface structure of Kilburn Park (Bakerloo Line) station is a Grade II listed building because it represents a particular style of pre World War I station architecture and it is in particularly good condition.  It also has some clear windows around the building which let in light and, in the days before automatic fare collection and secure booking offices, the ticket office (which was of the passimeter type) could be seen from outside.   Opposite the station, is a pub.  If you stood at a certain position at the bar you could see through the pub window to the ticket office and to the "Way Out" sign hanging on the ticket office wall.  A former station master responsible for the station, used to frequent this pub.  His personal place was always at the bar, facing the station.  In the days before mobile phones and radios, he could be alerted that he was needed when the booking clerk, who had been suitably advised of the SM's whereabouts, switched off the "Way Out" sign as a signal that he should return to the station.  Where are you now Vic?

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Dead Man

No, this isn't the usual sort of deadman (the driver's vigilance device), this is the real thing.  On one celebrated occasion (many years ago) a train arrived at East Finchley at the end of the morning peak and was scheduled to run empty to Highgate Woods to stable.  The crew, inspecting the train to see it was clear of passengers and doubtless looking for a newspaper to read during "grub time", found a man slumped in a seat and they tried to wake him.  They discovered he was dead.   When the station staff were called to help remove him, they found he had been dead for so long that rigor mortis had set in.  He was now rigid in a seated position and had to be removed from the train thus.  He had to be laid sideways on the stretcher to prevent him rolling off. 

On another occasion, equally long ago, a guard on the eastbound Piccadilly Line at Northfields was called to attend to a man on his packed peak-hour train who "seems a bit poorly", according to the passenger raising the alarm.  This man was also dead.   The guard, not wishing to delay the train any longer than necessary, persuaded a couple of the passengers to help him drag the corpse off his train and left it sitting, upright, on a bench on the platform.  As he ran back to his position, the guard called to a platform attendant (they were called "stationmen" in those days) and told him to find someone who could "shift the stiff".  It later transpired that the local police weren't to happy about the treatment of the corpse but the guard, on being admonished for his casual approach to disposal of human remains told them, "What else could I do, I couldn't delay the train, could I?"  Sadly, you won't see such devotion to duty today.   Tubeprune imagines that nowadays the train would have been declared a "scene of crime" by the police and it would have taken a week to get it removed to depot.   Such is progress.

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Suicide Pits

Tube stations in tunnel sections are provided with "suicide pits" (photo).  These were put in during the 1930s because of the high rate of suicides during the "depression".  As the floor of a tube train is low, the underneath is very cramped and is packed full of equipment.  If someone decides to jump in front of a train, they usually make an awful mess underneath and some poor soul has to "pick up the pieces".  The driver gets a bit of a shock too.  In Tubeprune's experience, a couple of stiff drinks afterwards usually helps.  LU gets around 100 suicides a year.  A reasonable delay would be about 60 minutes unless the police or fire brigade get involved, when it can last for hours.

Tubeprune recalls an incident at Victoria (District) many years ago when a lady decided to end it all and chose to do it under an EB Circle train at 4:15 in the afternoon, just as the evening peak was building up.   When the local staff investigated, the body was found to be stuck under a bogie, trapped by the negative shoegear.  The LU breakdown gang was informed but they had to come from Neasden, no quick run at that time of day.  In the meantime, the local fire brigade turned up.  The fire brigade (God bless 'em) don't know much about trains, although they get regular training on the main things, like how to get the current off etc.  But they do love to "play trains" and they love it even more if they can practice cutting them up.

They decided to chop up the bogie with cutting gear and spent an hour struggling to get the body out but without success.   Eventually, the LU breakdown gang arrived, got under the train, undid the four bolts securing the negative shoegear, released the body and sent the fire brigade packing.   Of course, they then had to spend another two hours welding the train back together again so they could move it and resume the service.  A lot of people were inconvenienced that evening.

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Handbrake Fuse

In the days when all trains had manually operated parking brakes, universally known as handbrakes, some new recruits could be fooled into thinking they were more complicated than they really were.  A new Area Manager, fresh from his graduate training course, immaculately dressed in his neatly pressed new uniform but with very little experience of practical railway operations, was sent to investigate why a particular train had been several minutes late leaving Elephant (Elephant & Castle, Bakerloo).  He met the train on its return trip and, when he asked the guard the cause of the delay he was duly told that the "handbrake fuse had blown".  The AM wrote up his report and submitted it to the Traffic Manager.  The next day, he was summoned to the Divisional Office and was told in no uncertain terms how he had been fooled.  He later went back to the guard in an attempt to remonstrate with him and was told, "I thought a man in your position would have known I was only joking".

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Nasty Habits

Don't you hate those inconsiderate louts who take up too much space, poke you with their umbrella or bore you with their idiotic phone chatter.  Now the passengers strike back.  These two photos, showing ads posted inside a Northern Line 1995 Tube Stock car in 2001, say it all.  Does anyone know if they were official or was it really the passengers striking back? 

nasty habit view 1 mod2.jpg (32808 bytes)This is a wonderful rant against space louts and umbrella idiots.,

Click on the image for the full size view.


nasty habit view 2 mod2.jpg (33568 bytes)This one is another great rant against mobile phone bores.  Mobile phones don't yet work in London Underground tunnels but the new privatised communications system will eventually get round to it.

Click on the image for the full size view.

The photos were sent in to Tubeprune by Donald McGarr.

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Metropolitan to Barking

In 1939, London Underground started a through Metropolitan Line service between Uxbridge and Barking.  They had already been running trains from Hammersmith to Barking from 1936 and it was decided to try out the new service as a precursor to combining all the Metropolitan and District services.  This was a result of the formation of London Transport in 1933 when the Metropolitan Railway was absorbed into the Underground organisation.  It was suggested that trains could be run, say, from Uxbridge to Upminster and then from Upminster to Wimbledon via either the northern or southern parts of the Circle Line.  There were some doubts about how to keep trains in maintenance and crews familiar with all the different destinations.   In those days there was a lot of different types of stock and the Metropolitan cars were quite different from those of the District.  The Metropolitan service to Barking was a first attempt to combine the two lines.

The Uxbridge to Barking service only lasted a few months.  It was found that the additional journey time and the passage through an additional set of flat junctions at Aldgate East made the service prone to late running and it was difficult to recover lost time.  Recently, it has been suggested that the Metropolitan should be extended out to Barking again.  If this happened, A Stock would be used.  C Stock would not run out to Barking and the Hammersmith service would terminate at Aldgate.

As there are some gauge infringements along the route, some work will be necessary to allow the A Stock to run out there and the platforms will have to be extended at Barking bay platform at least.  The locations of OPO CCTV screens and mirrors will also require alteration at most stations between Aldgate East and Barking.  Some signalling improvements will also be necessary.   Oh yes, they will have to buy some more trains.  Tubeprune thinks it should be at least eight extra.  If they were to do this, the C Stock trains released from the Hammersmith to Barking service will allow a more frequent Hammersmith to Aldgate service.

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Iris Plantation

There used to be a beautiful display of irises every summer on the embankment adjacent to the EB track approaching Northfields (Piccadilly Line).   This so took the fancy of one young driver that he stopped his train short of the station one evening and collected several of the flowers to take home to his new wife. 

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Tea for Two?

At the north end of the eastbound platform at Arsenal station, Piccadilly Line, a small staff room, which was formerly the signal cabin, had a kettle on a gas ring for brewing tea.  The staff at the station kept the kettle full of hot water for the convenience of train drivers, who would run in and fill their tea cans with hot water from time to time.  Unfortunately, the room was closed to trainmen many years ago after a celebrated incident in which a driver dashed into the room to fill his can with hot water, only to discover the station foreman and one of the lady ticket collectors "in flagrante" across the mess room table.  The driver kept his cool sufficiently to fill his can but the couple were somewhat upset at the interruption and the room was henceforth closed and remained closed forever after.

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Making Tea

The business of making tea used to be an important ritual for train crews working on the Underground.  Hot water was available at certain locations along each line and crews were allowed to use it for brewing tea as long as the train was not delayed.  Mansion House eastbound was one such location.  The hot water was provided in a room at the east end of the platform where the driver stopped the front of the train.  Prior to starting the trip, the crew would decide who would make tea during the trip and who would make it at the meal break time.  In the case of Mansion House, the Circle Line driver would take his can and the guard's and make tea in one of the cans.  He would get the hot water at Mansion House, brew the tea between Mansion House and Monument and, after he left Monument, add milk.  By the time he reached Aldgate, where there was usually some waiting time allowed, the tea would be ready and he would meet the guard in the middle of the train to give him his can with half the tea in it.

On the Central Line, it used to be common practice to nip into the signal cabin at Marble Arch to get a fill up of hot water.  The signalman kept a full boiling kettle as a courtesy to passing trainmen.   There was also a facility provided in a small cubicle at East Acton (WB), not much use if you had just been through White City where there are crew changes. Thanks to Rick Thomas for the Central Line information.

When making tea, it was sometimes necessary to be quick.  To avoid delay, some drivers on the District, after collecting hot water at Mansion House (EB), would make and divide the tea whilst running towards Tower Hill as usual.   At Tower Hill, the driver would stop the train short so he could leave the guard's tea can at the rear of the platform and then draw the train fully into the platform to perform station duties.  If the driver did it correctly, the guard would open the door at his position to see a nice hot can of tea standing on the platform in front of him.

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Cab Comfort

Driver's cabs have always been a source of much trouble on London Underground.  Generally they are either too hot or too cold.  Droplights were provided in the old stocks' hinged side doors but these didn't give much of a draught in a hot cab, even in tunnels.  In the days when hinged doors were provided, hot days would see many trains running around with the offside door open.  It was difficult to drive with the nearside door open at it obstructed the controls.  They were designed this way to discourage drivers from running with the nearside door open.

D Stock cab door open.JPG (22768 bytes)Here is a photo of a D Stock cab at Tower Hill with the offside door left open to provide better ventilation during warm weather.

Click on the image for the full size view.

Powered doors for driver's cabs were first introduced on the C Stock when it entered service in 1970.  The problem was that there were no longer any droplights in the doors and the cabs got very hot in the summer.  Drivers resorted to either driving with one or both of the cab doors fully open (unsafe and illegal) or closing the door on a wedge - usually the telephone handset box (when these were still around) or an empty drinks can.  The wedge allowed an opening of a few inches to let in a little fresh air without the risks associated with a fully open door.  Of course, the doors have interlocks which had to be by-passed to allow the train to be moved with them open.  The passenger door interlocks were unaffected.

Cab seats are also a source of trouble.  They need to be adjustable, safe and reasonably comfortable but not too comfortable in case the driver falls asleep, as has happened from time to time. 

C Stock Cabpc.jpg (35695 bytes)This photo shows a C Stock cab with the new cab seat installed after refurbishment in the early 1990s.

Click on the image for the full size view.


The worst problem was always draughts.  Any "room", travelling at up to 80 km/h, having four doors in an area of less then 2 m is bound to be draughty unless there is a serious and continuous campaign to eliminate the draughts.

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Covent Garden station (Piccadilly Line) is said to be haunted.  There have been reports of a man seen wandering the station dressed in evening wear.  When approached, he disappeared.   Some staff even refused to work there because of him.

Jon Bird writes:

London Road Depot (Bakerloo Line) also has something of a reputation for ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night.  On the eastern side of the depot is a Roman Catholic School, which is presided over by Nuns (the order of which the ghost is believed to come from)and which stands on the site of a previous religious institution of some sort.  As with anything old and mysterious rumours run riot.  I personally have never seen this ghost (yet) but hope to, one day. 

To the southern end of the depot, there are two tunnels.  One exits onto the running line between Lambeth North and Elephant & Castle stations, the other is a dead end to prevent runaways etc.   However, behind the wall at the end of this tunnel is one of London's many Plague Pits (That's why there is a big fuss about the collapsed A2 at Blackheath, another Plague Pit!).  To date no one has ever reported any supernatural going's on from that tunnel, however not many people like going down there, especially at night.

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Snooze on the Tube

This news item appeared on 11 July 2000:

"A Tube train with more than 100 terrified passengers on board rolled backwards in a tunnel for over half a mile after the driver apparently fell asleep at the controls.  The Northern line train went backwards through Chalk Farm station, gathering speed all the time. By chance it then went through a signal at red and an automatic device on the track turned on the train's brakes. (This was actually a trainstop very close to the block joint of a home signal at Chalk Farm.  It was pure luck that the train was tripped there) There was another train on the same track further down the line. London Underground today launched an immediate investigation.

"The driver, who has 20 years' experience, was immediately relieved from duty and questioned. A breath test proved negative and LU is awaiting the result of a drug test.  An LU spokesman said: "He will be subject to a series of medical examinations. We do not know if he fell asleep. We are taking this very, very seriously."  He was driving one of the new Northern line trains travelling from central London towards Belsize Park station where, not long after midnight on Friday, he stopped at a red light.  He released the brakes but the train was "in neutral" and rolled backwards. The "dead man's handle", a spring-loaded lever which is a safeguard if the driver is taken ill at the controls, would have stopped the train automatically if released, but the handle was kept in the "on" position

"The train started to roll backwards downhill - it is one of the deepest parts of the Underground - alarming passengers, many of whom were returning from West End clubs and pubs. It continued right the way through Chalk Farm station, surprising more passengers waiting on the platform, and into the tunnel the other side.  It would have continued but for good fortune and the next signal being red, despite the train approaching it from the wrong direction.  The LU spokesman confirmed that the train had been stopped by the track device and not by the actions of the driver.

"'A very full investigation has been launched into what happened. We have never had anything like this before.'  He added: 'After the train came to a stop the driver must have realised what had happened and drove the train back into Chalk Farm station. At that point he was relieved of duty but we also ordered the passengers off because we did not know if there was a fault with the train. They were collected by the next train along.'

"It is known that the driver, who lives in London, reported for duty at 8pm.  He then worked for an hour and took a meal break between 9pm and 10pm. He had had a rest day two days previously.  He was rostered on a normal scheduled duty and was not working overtime. He was not being named today."

Tubeprune comments (from experience) that it is very easy to fall asleep in the cab of a train.  It is sometimes very difficult not to if you got up early or you have been working all day.  What is really needed is a run back detector, as on the Victoria Line 1967 Tube Stock.

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Blind Man's Bluff

A driver based at Northfields (Piccadilly Line), when there was a trainman's depot there, was in a mischievous mood one day and stood, at the start of his duty, waiting to pick up his train at Northfields station carrying a white stick and wearing dark glasses.  When the train arrived, he tap-tapped his way up to the front of the train, rattling his stick against the platform and the sides of the cars, relieved the driver, stepped into the cab and drove away.  Some complaints were later received at 55 Broadway from aggrieved passengers about employing blind drivers and the associated safety risks.  Needless to say, the driver, whose name was Fred and who was one of the most skilled and reliable drivers at Northfields, got sent "up the road" (disciplined) for this little escapade.   Fred has long since retired but Tubeprune has heard stories that this little prank has been repeated from time to time elsewhere.

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Bicycle Clips

A shunter who worked at Northfields during the early 1960s always wore bicycle clips, although he didn't have a bicycle and came to work by train.   One day, one of the old-timers there was asked why this man, whose nickname was "Popeye" on account of his lack of teeth, his wearing of a flat cap and smoking an old curved pipe, wore bicycle clips.   "Oh," the enquirer was told, "he was walking up the depot road past the rubbish incinerators one night when a rat ran out and ran right up his trouser leg." 

The incident frightened the poor man so much he fainted with shock and had to be taken to hospital to recover.  Although he suffered no injuries, he was henceforth never seen without the bottoms of his trouser legs firmly secured by a pair of bicycle clips - and who could blame him?.

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Wrong Stick

The word "stick" is Underground slang for signal, so "wrong stick" refers to a signalman offering the wrong route for a train.   When a driver sees the signal showing the wrong route, he is supposed to stop at the signal and advise the signalman he has been given "the wrong stick".

A favourite for these kind of incidents is at Hangar Lane Junction, between Ealing Common and Ealing Broadway/North Ealing.  It is at this point that the District and Piccadilly lines, which share the same tracks up to the junction, diverge.  The District goes round to Ealing Broadway while the Piccadilly goes to North Ealing and stations beyond to Rayners Lane and Uxbridge. 

"Wrong Sticks" at this junction are relatively common.  Drivers often fail to notice and take their trains along the wrong route.   After all, the driver is trained to look out for red and yellow signals, not green ones.  On one celebrated occasion, a Piccadilly line driver accepted a wrong route and took his train round to Ealing Broadway.  Once there, he went through the usual procedure of phoning the signalman to get the route back, quickly changed ends and took the train back to Ealing Common, where his unlucky passengers were advised to cross back to the westbound side and wait for the next Piccadilly train to Rayners Lane.  And so they did, but this train also got "the wrong stick" and the driver also accepted it and took the same lot of passengers round to Ealing Broadway again.  They were not a happy band of passengers. 

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Lost Property?

You do see the strangest things in the strangest places.  Two pictures sent in by Tube Troll show that the Underground has everything - even the kitchen sink!   A signal gantry on the Piccadilly Line at Ascott Avenue, South Ealing with, on close inspection, a strange object resting on it. Lost Property.htm

Click on the image for the full size views of both photos. 


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Vandalism isn't new

In the mid 1920s, London Underground began the conversion of its sliding door trains to single guard operation.  Up to this time, there had always been two guards on the train as well as the driver.  The door control was divided between the two guards, one operating from the front car, the other operating from the rear car.   The logic behind this system was that it was considered necessary to have a second man on the leading car in case the driver got into difficulties, needed help, was taken ill etc.  The rear guard was needed for train protection rules.  When a reliable train telephone system became available, the opportunity was taken to reduce the train staff to two - driver and rear guard.  Naturally, the staff themselves were against this and, in trying to prove the train telephone system was unreliable so the front guard was essential, some incidents occurred where the telephone mouthpieces were punctured by someone inserting a pencil into the microphone to render them useless.  

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Long Service

In August 1966, a guard based at Northfields (Piccadilly Line) retired after 50 years service.  During the whole of his 50 years on the railway, he worked trains on the Piccadilly Line, having started as a gateman in August 1916.  He was originally based at Lillie Bridge (now the engineers' train depot near Earls Court), which was the line's only depot when it ran between Finsbury Park and Hammersmith.  He moved to the new depot at Northfields when it opened in 1932 with the extensions to Hounslow and South Harrow and retired there 34 years later. 

Now, the trainmen's depot at Northfields is closed.  Trains are stabled and maintained there but the crews "book on" (sign on) at Acton Town and travel to Northfields if their duty requires them to take a train from the depot.

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Flashing Lights on Track

In, Ben Clifford wrote in message - 16 November 2000 ...
At the west end of the inner eastbound platform at Whitechapel, just east of the points, between the rails are two little flashing yellow lights, mounted in the same box, facing eastbound so that a train driving west would see them.  What are these for?

Response by 3518+3227 - 16 November 2000 ...
This is the warning of a TSR; you will see a few feet beyond the yellow lights an inclined sign in the four-foot, displaying the permitted speed, or a "T" indication denoting the termination of the restriction.  There are currently four TSRs in force at Whitechapel:-
> Whitechapel no. 21 road (plat 1)    15mph   Condition of track
> Whitechapel no. 23 road (plat 3)    15mph   Condition of track
> Whitechapel (blanket of TSRs)      Various  Condition of p/c
> Whitechapel no. 24 road (plat 4)    10mph   Condition of track.

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Table Top Livery

In 1990, London Underground was looking for a new train livery to cover the graffiti stained unpainted aluminium exteriors which most of the fleet had at that time.  A number of design houses were asked to look at the whole corporate livery question and a large amount of money was spent trying to find an attractive but durable colour scheme.  Some trains were tried in experimental finishes but none really looked the part.  After this, some models of trains were made and painted in various colours. 

While all this was going on, a young engineer, Mark Orsman, took home a general arrangement drawing of one of the cars and tried out a colour scheme, using his kitchen table as a drawing board.  He took the idea back to his office the next week and it was much admired by all who saw it.  The idea was eventually offered to the London Underground board, who quickly realised they had a winner.  The rest is history.  The Underground fleet is now painted in the "Orsman Livery".

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Red Repeater

London Underground repeater signals usually show only green and yellow aspects.  It is a standing joke amongst operating instructors at the Underground railway training school that there is a location on the Underground where repeaters are red.  They ask the question "When does a repeater show red?"   The answer is, at High Street Kensington.  This is because the because the Interlocking Machine Room identification for the area is ED.  The stop signals all begin with the letters ED.  The repeater identification plates therefore show the letters RED, so the identification plate is RED 123 or whatever .   The fog repeaters aren't actually called FRED but on the signalling diagrams, such as in the Station Supervisor's office on the northbound (outer rail) platform at High St. Ken., they are shown as FRED.

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Test Massage

Train describers advertising something soothing for frustrated passengers? 

testmassagewaterloo210800.jpg (21583 bytes)

Photo by Tube Troll

Division of Labour

In the days when the Neasden train crews' mess room was on the down fast platform of the station there was a strict division between the Metropolitan crews and the Bakerloo crews.  The main room had a long notice board down the middle with the Bakerloo duty sheets on one side and the Metropolitan's on the other.  The seating arrangements were similarly arranged, with the Bakerloo men on one side and the Metropolitan on the other.  A similar situation existed at Acton Town where the facilities were shared by District and Piccadilly crews.  Anyone sitting in the wrong half was always made to feel uncomfortable.  If someone transferred from one line to the other, he had to sit in the new area for his line as he would be politely ignored by his former colleagues if he continued to sit in the old location.

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Depot Furniture

At Acton Town, a special crew was always kept for shunting trains in and out of Acton Works.  These men were separate from the usual District running crews and from the shunters employed in the works itself.  Their sole purpose was to pilot trains to and from the shunt neck used for stock transfers.  They were so rarely used that they spent most of their time in the mess room reading newspapers and playing cards with anyone on a meal break.  They became known as the depot furniture, since they were only seen to move when the cleaner came round to sweep the floor and had to move the chairs.

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Golf Balls

In the 1950s and 60s, golf was not the popular game it is today and golf balls were expensive.  Many golf clubs used to pay locals who returned golf balls found in areas around golf courses.   Between Boston Manor and Osterley, the Piccadilly Line runs through a golf course and many balls used to end up on the track.  Drivers sometimes used to stop and pick up balls, particularly on the empty runs from Northfields to Hounslow early in the morning.  One driver, with a mischievous sense of humour, nailed a golf ball to a sleeper and was amazed by the number of drivers who later complained that they were looking for some joker who had nailed a golf ball to a sleeper.

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1973 Tube Stock Batteries

When the 1973 Tube Stock was first built, the batteries provided were 4 x 12 volt heavy duty types like those used in buses.  At the time, the Underground bus and rail engineering divisions had recently been combined and this cost saving idea was one of the products of this reorganisation.  It was thought, quite rightly, that the traditional special large 24 volt "traction" batteries specially designed for the Underground were expensive and awkward to handle and that it was sensible to get rid of them for a standard road vehicle type.

Of course, the design office had not reckoned with the maintenance staff, who quickly realised that these new 12 volt batteries made excellent replacements for car batteries.  A gradual reduction in the available spares was the first indication that anything was amiss but this soon became a bigger problem when cases arose of trains cancelled due to "No Batteries".  The comment "No Batteries" on the failures and delays sheet usually meant that the train had flat batteries and couldn't start the generators for the control services on the train.   However, the appearance of this failure against against a 1973 Stock train was invariably followed by a note which said "removed by persons unknown".   Eventually, common sense prevailed and all the original 1973 Tube Stock batteries (the ones which were left anyway) were replaced by a pair of the traditional 24 volt traction batteries.

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So Sorry

This is a booking office window where London Underground seems to be adopting a new and international approach to its apologies.  Obviously intended for Japanese visitors.  Or perhaps someone is offering the backside kicking position?

Sorry position.jpg (35238 bytes)

Photo by Tube Troll

The First 1967 Tube Stock

The first 1967 Tube Stock 4-car unit was delivered to Ruislip depot on 27th September 1967.  It was numbered 3001 - 4001 - 4101 - 3101.   Tubeprune remembers it very well.  In those days he was a just a plum.   The wrinkles of his drying process had not yet begun to appear.  Nevertheless, he was invited to see the new train by one of the two Assistant Rolling Stock Engineers, a title whose initials were unfortunate to say the least and who were often referred to as the left cheek or the right cheek.  Tubeprune digresses.  The brand new 1967 Stock unit was regarded with the same sort of reverence as the first NASA Saturn rocket.   It was very high tech for the time and no one was supposed to look at it, let alone touch it, without permission from very high authority.  It arrived wrapped in polythene.  It was pushed inside the lifting shop and had "targets" left on it reading "THIS UNIT MUST NOT BE ROBBED".  Of course, this was a useless warning, since there was little on the train that was of much use to the depot, which at that time was exclusively maintaining 1962 Tube Stock.


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