Train Operators Notebook
By District Dave
In the course of his duties, every Train
Operator on London Underground keeps a notebook in which he records events that occur
during a duty. There are no hard or fast rules for what is written, although some
events (such as where it has been necessary to carry out a particular procedure for
example) are prescribed to be recorded under London Undergrounds Operating
Procedures. Here are some stories taken from mine and other driver's notebooks which
show how the railway actually works from day to day.
Trespasser - Passing Signals at Danger - Disjointed Jottings - Flash
Floods - Jubilee Celebrations - Just a Normal day - Signal
Failures - Iced Train - Train Stalled at Wimbledon - Football Night at West Ham - Power Down at West Ham - Main
Line Burst - A Bit of Background
See also Dave's page describing One
District Dave has his own website here.
To the Top of this Page
Im sure that every Train Operator has his own routine
for taking notes; some note very little - some write a great deal. I think I
probably fall somewhere in the middle. I work on a two page format - on the right
hand side I note such mundane details as the date, duty number, book on and off times (and
the book on location to make sure I report to the right place.) and the bare bones of the
duty - train number, pick up time, booked reversing points and times and time and place I
expect to be relieved.
The left hand page I leave blank and use this to record
events which have caused me to be late, diverted and so on. These are noted in a
factual way, but there is often a story behind these and, occasionally have an amusing and
(I hope) interesting tale behind them. So, from time to time, Im going to relate the
circumstances behind some of these jottings which, I hope, may explain to the travelling
public why they may suddenly find their train diverted, turned early, cancelled, not
turned up at all, unduly delayed and so on. I hope too that youll find them amusing.
Firstly, Id like to dispel a myth which Im sure
is shared by many members of the public. To the best of my knowledge no member of
London Undergrounds operating staff deliberately sets out to cause delays and create
situations that may inconvenience you. There are a few who will do what they can to
get trains turned early (because they dont want to finish late - after all no one
likes finishing work late, especially if youve been up since 3.30 a.m. or
arent due to finish until 1.30 a.m.) but quite often it is us train crews who are
told to divert or turn short of our booked destination. Occasionally a driver will
request a diversion, but usually because he can see that he is not going to be able to do
his full trip without exceeding his permitted hours. If this happens he has no
choice but to stable his train at the first available place.
Rather than put actual dates and times, Im going to
give the occurrences a name. I hope you enjoy the jottings, and that it helps you
understand some of the occurrences that frustrate you in your travels.
This is a situation that crops up all too frequently - the
report of a person or persons about the track. Not only do such individuals put
themselves at great risk but, on occasions, cause great disruption and inconvenience to
passengers (and staff too of course). On some parts of the line its not an
uncommon occurrence - it seems to occur quite frequently in the area between Barking and
Upminster. But its an easier situation to manage in these open sections
- drivers can be warned and instructed to use caution when in the area. So extra
vigilance will cope with the situation and cause little delay.
Usually its youngsters involved - I presume playing
some sort of perverse game of dare and the sight of a train or an alerting
blast on the whistle is enough to get them scurrying back to the right side of
the fencing. But - very occasionally - the situation arises in Line
Clear areas - that is where no persons should be (authorised or unauthorised) during
traffic hours, unless of course the appropriate protection is arranged for instance for a
Signals Technical Officer to attend to relamp a signal or effect a repair to a track
circuit. This is what occurred in this story - it seems that there was an
unauthorised person on a walkabout'.
I had an early Sunday Spare Duty and (situation normal) was
given a whole turn as soon as I booked on. It was a long turn, with three trains
involved. The first half had all gone uneventfully. Id had
my meal break and picked up my second train on time at Earls Court eastbound. The
train was due to go to Barking, reverse via the sidings, then to Wimbledon and I was due
to be relieved at Earls Court east again. I was due to be on the train for just
under three hours.
I picked up at about 10:55 right on time, headed off to
Barking, detrained and moved the train into Barking sidings, arriving right on my due time
of 11:50. Just as I was arriving I heard the Controller acknowledge what, from his
tone of voice, sounded like quite an urgent call. I waited a couple of minutes
before shutting the cab down (which switches off the radio) to see if anything further
came through. It didnt, so I shut the cab down and made my way to the west end
of the train to prepare for my scheduled departure time of 12:05.
On arriving at the west end of the train it became apparent
from the radio that there was a problem. Initially it sounded like a train had
failed in the central area - the Controller called a Circle Line train, instructed him to
detrain at St. James Park and move forward as far as signals would allow as
weve got a train stuck in the area ahead. This is why I thought it
was a stalled train - perhaps he was considering using the C Stock to push out
the train ahead.
The Controller then continues calling up westbound trains
right back to Tower Hill, instructing them to remain in platforms and to remain until
instructed further. So when the signal clears for me to proceed from the sidings
Im not too concerned - even if its a stalled train, its about forty-five
minutes or so before Im due to be on that part of the line and that should be
sufficient time to get a stalled train moved out of the way.
I head off from Barking and its as I travel west that
announcements start being made that due to a trespasser the District Line is suspended in
all directions around Earls Court. As I get close to Whitechapel, trains are
starting to block back ahead of me. Im held at Stepney green and
can see theres at least one train between me and Whitechapel. It transpires
that there are also two trains occupying what are normally the westbound platforms at
Whitechapel. The Controller is now calling trains at various points instructing them
to reverse or remain in platforms further - hes even rerouting trains to stabling
points - some are being put away in Ealing Common, Parsons Green and Triangle Sidings.
Eventually I get into Whitechapel about ten minutes later
than I should have arrived. The Station staff are trying to cope with platforms full
of passengers, trying to get them towards their destinations. An SA asks me if
Im going through to which I answer, Well, Ive not been told
I am but there again I havent been told I am!. After about five minutes
Im still waiting, so call the Signal Cabin. Youre going back to
Upminster driver - havent you been told? The temptation to reply,
If I had Id have changed ends by now was strong but I managed to resist.
So, down to the east end of the train - inevitably fielding questions on the way
and trying to offer some advice.
Fortunately the Hammersmith and City is unaffected, so at
least they can use that towards Liverpool Street and Baker Street and then adjust their
travel accordingly. Those for further west, I suggest using the Central Line from
Mile End and then changing as necessary. I head back to Upminster. At Barking,
Im a little surprised that theres no-one on the platform trying to sort the
trains out. Im held there for a while and I'm just about to call the Signal
Cabin there (just in case they now want me to tip out there since the service
has now been resumed well over an hour since the original suspension) when the signal
clears for me to head off towards Upminster. Dagenham East (another potential reversing
point) comes and goes and I eventually get to Upminster. Again - no Managers on the
platform, no sign of life from the Signal Cabin, so I put the train up as a Wimbledon
(again), head back to the west end and await developments. Eventually the
stick clears and I head off west once again.
Approaching Barking WB theres a queue of trains - one
appears to tip out at Upney and go into the sidings. I get into Barking,
the signal clears and off we go again. Of course by now the time I should have
picked up my third train has come and gone and Im still a way away from Earls Court.
Now the problems with trains and drivers being in the wrong place is really
starting to impact. The trip towards Earls Court gets slower and slower - my
trains had three different destinations shown by now and I cant get a reply
from the Controller to get a definitive answer - so Im warning passengers that I
think the trains for Wimbledon but that may not eventually be the case.
Finally I arrive at Earls Court at 15:20, one hour
thirty-two minutes late - I should be getting of my third train in four minutes - and, by
now, I am also over my four hours fifteen minutes maximum driving time. I go into
the DMTs office and report my arrival. When are you due to finish? he
asks. In four minutes, and Im over my hours I reply pre-empting the
question Will you take it to Parsons Green and stow it? that I could see was
The atmosphere is one of just controlled chaos.
Theres no drivers available, apart from one who was just about to restart the
suspended Olympia service, so thats put on hold and he takes the train off me, I
head off to the Piccadilly Line platforms to get back to Acton to retrieve my car and so
finish just about on time.
What happened to my third train (remember I was supposed to
have done a step back over an hour ago) that I didnt pick up? Ive
no idea! I know that it was one of the trains that was stabled in Triangle Sidings
at the height of the disruption but, as Id come past on my way from Gloucester Road
to Earls Court, there were no trains in there, so I suppose it must have come back into
service at some point. As I write this, some six or so hours later, I see that
thetube.com is showing No Reported Delays on its Service Update page, so I
presume eventually all was got back to normal. But I hate to think of the amount of time
that was lost, passenger journeys delayed and the amount of sorting out that was needed
just because someone thought itd be fun to take a walk round the railway. Did
they catch the individual? I dont know if anyone was found - if I find out
Ill update this tale.
This isnt about SPADs, though of course that
situation does occur and I may return to the theme later, but about the authorised passing
of signals remaining at danger. Ive talked in the past about the delays that
occur when signals fail but this was tale prompted when I was asked recently but if
a signal fails how can a train proceed? After all, London Underground employs a
system to stop trains should they do so. This is of course quite correct, and
further reading of this site will find excellent explanations of the Trainstop and Tripcock system employed by London
Underground on its conventional lines.
So, I thought that Id relate a situation in which I
was involved not long ago to try to explain this. Ill tell the tale, but at various
stages I will need to go into proceedural matters, as they bear a great deal
One evening I was doing the Edgware Road to Wimbledon
service. Whilst coming back from Wimbledon on my first trip I could hear the
Controller talking to a train that was being held at a red signal between Parsons Green
and Putney Bridge. From what was being said a track circuit failure had occurred -
this being one of the causes why a signal would remain at danger as the signals
think there is a train in the section ahead.
As I went up to Edgware Road, there was still talk going on
between the Controller and Driver as to what processes were under way to address the
trains predicament and dealing with the trains that would start building up behind
the stationery train if not diverted. However, as we change to the Metropolitan
Lines radio channel between Notting Hill Gate and Edgware Road, I obviously heard nothing
further until I returned to Notting Hill Gate on my way back to Wimbledon.
As I came down from Edgware Road, my train was described as
a Wimbledon service but, as Ive mentioned before, this didnt necessarily mean
it would be the destination I would finally go to. Announcements were being made
that the service was suspended between Parsons Green and Wimbledon, so I took the platform
describers with a pinch of salt and made announcements to customers that it appeared
unlikely that the train would go through to Wimbledon.
When I arrived at Earls Court the description remained and
whilst I was there the Controller called me up and said he was resuming the service and
that Id be the first train to go through to Wimbledon. This in itself
didnt indicate that the problem was fixed - it could mean that various procedures
had now been put in place to allow trains to travel through the area.
On arrival at Parsons Green I saw a cluster of staff
standing at the end of the platform - one was a Signals Technician, another one of our
DMTs and the third a member of Parsons Greens station staff. The latter
requested that I phone the signal operator at Earls Court.
I got on the phone, identified myself to the signaller and
confirmed my location. The signaller confirmed the problem ahead and what he wished
me to do. The instruction given was Please carry out your procedure at the
following signals - WGX660, WG150and WG15 and then obey all further signals.
Weve now arrived at the point where I need to give
you a bit of an insight into London Underground's Operating Procedures, or, as
theyre still better known Rules and Regs. As you will see if you
have read Tubeprunes explanations on our signalling
(and if you havent I urge you to do so) our signals fall into two categories.
Automatic Signals are just that, they work themselves. Semi- Automatic signals are
operated by the signaller.
If a train is held at an Automatic signal, the driver can
be authorised to pass it at danger by the Line Controller or, if the driver is unable to
establish communication with a Controller or other Operating Official he may
pass it on his own authority having waited at the signal for two minutes. You must
note the details in your notebook - date, time, signal number and the reason for your
If a train is held at a Semi-Automatic, local authority
MUST be obtained and, in this instance, the Controller cannot authorise you to proceed -
only a signaller or Operating Official (this usually means either a Station Supervisor or
Duty Manager) may give this authority.
Under no circumstances may a driver proceed on his own
authority. To do so is to put your job at jeopardy. So what have I been told?
Effectively that the signaller is unable to clear the three signals for the numbers shown
above and that on reaching each I am authorised to pass them at danger. But (I hear
you ask - didnt I?) wont the train be tripped when I go past
them? Yes it will. So (I hear you ask again) how do you proceed?
Actually, its quite simple and of course, very
prescribed in our Procedures. You arrive at the signal, stop the train and (if
youre doing the job properly) you warn your passengers that youre about to
carry out a routine procedure which means that the train will move off, come
to an abrupt stop and then, after a short delay, move off again. You should also
request that customers be seated if possible, and if not to hold on to something for their
own safety and comfort.
Ive now got my authority to proceed and am about to
shut the doors when the DMT and T/O ask to ride in the cab as theyre looking for the
fault - whichll probably be a broken wire between two rails which forms part of the
track circuit which has failed. This will be between the last signal Ive been
authorised to pass (WG15) and the next signal. But as theyll be getting down
on the track to do this we need to fully understand what the actions of the other will be
- in LUL parlance this is coming to a complete understanding.
So we set off, arrive at the first signal, I stop the train
and do my PA to the customers. I blow the whistle and move off until the train
passes the raised trainstop and comes to a halt. The tripcocks reset, the air
to the brake system recharged, I blow the whistle again and we head off (now at a
speed which allows me to stop the train short of any obstruction - i.e. no more than
about 8 - 10 mph) to the next signal where the procedure is repeated.
Then we set off again towards the third signal where again
we stop. This where our complete understanding comes into play.
The DMT, T/O and I have agreed that they will be getting down at this point and examining
the track between this signal and the next. But even if the signal clears (which it
will when the break is fixed) I will not move the train until they call me on
- that is signal that theyre in a safe place and are happy for me to move the train.
What Ive described above is actually the short
version of Applying the Rule - there is more to it than that but I wont
bore you with the details - this gives the gist of whats involved - the other steps
are not important in the context. Suffice it to say, its one of the matters
reviewed in our ATOR (see my earlier piece about this.) and a driver MUST be able to
recite the steps by rote. At your training stage failure to be able to go through the
various scenarios can (and does) lead to your training coming to an abrupt end.
The DMT and T/O leave the train and start their inspection.
I do a further PA letting the customers know why were stopped again and may
remain so for some minutes (I had done this at Parsons Green as I know there are people
who get quite agitated if a train is stopped between stations for some time) but it never
hurts to give a reminder. As luck would have it, the broken wire was the first
inspected in front of the train. It was duly repaired, the signal turned to green
but, in accordance with our complete understanding, the train remained where
My colleagues were only a few yards ahead of me, so they
returned to the cab and, once safely in, we set off for the remainder of our trip to
Putney Bridge - albeit still at caution speed - this is still part of the procedure.
On arrival, my guests leave the train to keep an eye on the now repaired signal for
a while to make sure the repair is going to hold.
I arrive at Wimbledon with a packed train and now about
twenty-five minutes late - this has all taken that long. Its nice when several
customers come up and take the trouble to say thanks for keeping them in the picture -
they found it reassuring to know what was going on. I change ends and head off back
to Edgware Road.
The platforms on the way back are busy, so Im not
able to make up any time on the trip. On the way back to Wimbledon, the Controller
calls and instructs me to reverse at High Street Kensington on my next trip, which means
Im relieved on time for my meal break and that train is back on time. Plenty
of others are not, of course, so by the time hes done various reformations and
diversions itll probably be another couple of hours before the service is fully
As with many of the tales Ive related what looks like
a relatively simple situation has a long list of steps that need to be done properly - but
it can all be summed up with one word - Safety.
This is, of course, an emotive subject and one that gets a
great deal of attention from the media. As Ive already mentioned LUL, has
its own ATP system and this does ensure that in the event of a SPAD the train (and
the area ahead of it) is protected but, again, the driver must then carry out procedures
correctly - if he doesnt the consequences are serious, and not just for the driver.
There are all sorts of reasons why SPADs occur - some
are due to equipment problems but many are down to the driver. It can only take a
momentary lack of concentration, an assumption that an approaching signal will clear (it
always does - doesnt it?) or mishandling the train or misreading a situation and the
train will come up in a heap and the driver will find himself taken off at the
next relieving point for an uncomfortable interview with a Duty Manager.
As with any TOC LUL takes SPADs very seriously -
depending on circumstances it can lead to the loss of your job (at worst) or at the very
least an Action Plan being put in place to address any shortcomings in
knowledge and technique. If procedures following a SPAD havent been followed
to the letter the driver concerned will be in very deep trouble, quite possibly there will
be no second chance.
The emphasis is that if you do SPAD make sure you then
follow procedures to the letter - if you cant contact the Controller or a signaller
do nothing - wait until someone comes to you. I know drivers whove moved
without authority with the best of motives, but have lost their jobs.
A great deal of work has taken place in the last couple of
years to reduce SPADs and this has been pretty successful. At one time (and
not so long ago) it was statistically four times more likely that a new driver would have
a SPAD in his first six months as a driver than a driver whod been on the
job for over a year. The efforts made have now reduced the ratio to
one-to-one. That isnt to say that LUL are complacent about it - theyre not.
Steps are constantly in motion to reduce the incidence even further. The
target of course is to reduce the incidence to zero but there are human beings involved in
To the Top of this Page
As its been a while since I wrote one of these pieces
for Tubeprune, I thought it time to go back over my notebook and remind myself
of anything that may be of interest to his readers. Suprisingly, it was remarkably devoid
of any major incidents, but a few notes Id jotted down present the opportunity to
give a few insights into some of the minor things that occur and also occasional events
that occur in our lives. So, some of what follows are of an operational
nature, some relate more to personal development and some are a mixture of
This is a purely operational event but one which impacted
on the service to passengers. This will become clearer as the story unfolds, I hope. The
line, in common with others, has introduced new timetables - these actually came into
force while I was on a period of Annual Leave, so I fully expected to return to work to
hear that the revisions hadnt made much difference. But I was surprised to find that
the reactions were, on the whole, favourable and that it seemed to work.
My first personal experience was on a Sunday - not a good
day to come to a balanced judgement, as there are fewer trains running so delays are
always fewer. But I found that the more generous running times that had been built
in resulted in me being held to booked departure times at a number of places. On one trip
Id been held at Whitechapel and again at Mansion House, but Id then been
delayed on the remainder of my trip back to Earls Court so was surprised when I still
arrived there early.
So, I was looking forward to seeing how a morning peak
service duty would work out the next day. I had an early turn - booking on at about
04:50 with my train being due to leave the depot at about 05:30. As I walked over to the
depot with a couple of my colleagues I registered subconsciously that there seemed to be
several trains ready to go with the drivers just sitting in their cabs - the shunters
cabin was in darkness and as we walked past the phone was ringing persistently. All
a little odd.
On passing a couple of the trains it became apparent that
they were overdue to depart and had no idea of the reason for the delay. I arrived
at my train and went through my pre-service checks. Still the radio was silent (at
least from the east end of the depot, although trains were being called down to the west
end outlet). I headed down to the other end and repeated the process there and,
having done so, went back to the east end to await developments.
As I was walking through, the train on the next road
started moving, only to come to an abrupt halt again. It then started to reverse
back - most unusual, to say the least. What seems to have happened was that the
shunter was asleep. My colleague on the adjacent train told me later that hed
been handsignalled to draw down and had just started to move when the radio had come to
life and called the train next to him to draw down too. That would have ended in a
collision, as they were on converging roads. The shunter had (fortunately) noticed, got
both trains to stop and reversed one back so that the cabin shunter could take charge.
Matters then started to go from bad to worse. Next,
there was a points failure at the west end of the depot, so nothing could get out that
way. One train was on its way down A Road (which runs behind the depot sheds) and
the driver was then instructed to change ends and take the train back to where hed
started from. The east end shunter is trying to move trains out as quickly as
possible but the depot staff are also bringing trains, which should have departed from the
west end, back through the shed roads so that they could get out from the east end.
Eventually I departed almost exactly an hour late.
Once outside the depot limits the radio changes to the line channel and, of course, the
Controllers diverting and reforming trains to try to restore the service.
Im told to go straight through as an Upminster, so I actually arrived at Barking for
my relief right on time.
Talking to colleagues later some were, inevitably, late but
all generally felt that the new timetable had allowed for the service to be recovered more
quickly. The story of the near miss in the depot had got around and all
agreed that a potentially very serious incident had only been narrowly avoided, more by
luck than judgement. And a fair amount of all the delays were due to someone
Annual Refresher Training
All London Underground operational staff have to be
retested annually in various fields, depending on what role they occupy - Rules and
Regulations, Fire, Railtrack and Stock Refreshers for example. The ones that are
common to both train and station staff is the Annual Test of Rules (ATOR) although it is
refined according to exactly what the individuals job is. For example, drivers are given
much the same test as station staff, though with some aspects added, such as procedures in
the event of failed signals and, on the District Line, we are also tested on Railtrack
It is an oral exam and there are usually four candidates
with an Instructor Operator officiating. He poses the questions and you take it in
turns to answer. Hell then ask if the others agree or want to add anything.
You go through procedures that only occasionally arise - point-to-point working and
wrong direction moves for example, some that more frequently arise but have a fairly
complex number of steps involved and so on.
Its not a forgone conclusion that youll pass
and if you dont, youre stood down pending a resit. Failure
to pass on the next occasion will see a report submitted to the Line Standards Manager and
a decision will then be made s to the next steps that are appropriate - in the worst case
this could result in the loss of your job. But, providing youve done a bit of
revision just to remind yourself, them its straight forward enough.
As is well known, since the Kings Cross disaster and the
subsequent Fennell Report, matters relating to fire training are right at the top of the
safety agenda within London Underground. So another annual test relates to this.
This course is also common to train and station staff and various adapted courses
are given to all staff, adapted as appropriate to their roles. The course is
comprehensive, incorporating identifying areas such as the causes of fire, types of
extinguisher and so on.
More specifically to train staff are the Stock refreshers.
These are used to remind you about defect handling, so that should a situation arise it
wont have been too long since you were last reminded of how to deal with such
situations. Of course, we also have to be conversant with two quite different
trains, so, for us, this occupies two days. Again these are handled by an Instructor
Operator and involves some theory before moving to trains in the depot where the
Instructor puts the defect on the train and the group decides what the fault is and what
they can do to move the train, if they can, can it remain in service, if they cant
what options are available - assisting driver, assisting train and so on.
The final refresher is actually bi-annual and relates to
Railtrack - specifically do you know how to be safe about the track, your sight and
hearing is tested and a number of other safety related matters. Only lines which
have running over Railtracks metals are subject to this. It also covers matters such
as the Rules and Regs appropriate to Railtrack - there are significant differences between
LUL and Railtrack in a number of areas.
Overall, about five working days a year are devoted to just
proving your continued theoretical knowledge. Generally these are relatively easy
days, providing of course that youve spent a bit of time reminding yourself of the
topics before attending the sessions. But theyre essential if youre to
be able to do your job.
This is a relatively recently introduced programme where a
drivers driving, train handling and procedures are reviewed. Personally I have no
problem or complaints about the idea, though this not a view displayed by all drivers.
I view it as an extension of the annual retesting procedures but this time you are
demonstrating your practical rather than theoretical skills.
It actually takes the form of two observations by a Duty
Manager Trains (DMT) who has been specifically trained for the role. The TD1 review
is where you are given notice of the forthcoming event. Youre given a briefing
as to when the review will take place and its format. You will be relieved of your
normal duty for the day and instead is substituted the DMTs chosen list of moves and
timings. Ill expand on this later and detail some of the examination to which
I was subjected. Another review is a no notice check ride (in airline
parlance) - the DMT presents him (or her) self as youre picking up a train and do a
short trip with you. My last one was a trip from Earls Court to Wimbledon and back
to Earls Court.
The DMT will note things like driving and braking
techniques, accuracy of stopping at stations, signal observation and anticipation, use of
mirrors and monitors to observe platforms and passengers, use of the Public Address and
radio systems and how you deal with any situations involving prescribed procedures, should
they arise. Hell also ask you to describe how you would deal with various
situations. At the end of the trip hell give you a bit of feedback and praise
or criticism as appropriate.
The TD2 is more involved. The DMT will be present
when you book on - at this time you should check for any recent notices (such as temporary
speed restrictions, known signal problems, platform issues), the SPAD board (this
highlights signals know to be at risk as being passed at danger - maybe because of
sighting problems due to encroaching vegetation but it also gives a running total of the
lines recent performance). He will also be looking to see if you are correctly
uniformed and also that your Personal Protective Equipment (shoes, Hi-Vi etc.) is in order
and that you are using them correctly. He may even take it as far as looking for your name
Youll then make your way to the depot and prepare a
train for service. As Ive described this process elsewhere on this site I
wont bore you again with the details. You proceed into passenger service and,
effectively, carry out a normal duty.
Part of the process is to demonstrate your line and
procedural knowledge, so the trips youll do are to include procedures at termini,
driving under Railtrack rules (the procedures vary from LULs in some respects).
You have to go through Earls Court a set number of times, drive both C and D Stocks
and demonstrate your handling of both types of train. Youll also show your use
of the PA in both routine use and, should circumstances dictate, to keep customers
informed in the event of delays.
Depending on circumstances that may actually develop during
the review youll also be asked to describe your actions should situations present
themselves - things like the correct procedures in the event of signal failures for
example. Youll also be asked a variety of questions to test your line
knowledge - some will have been covered whilst driving, others will be covered later.
At the end of it all youll have the opportunity to
discuss the experience, hell give any feedback appropriate and you then have
finished the review. In many ways its a bit like doing your road test all over
again and, though perhaps not as stressful, it does focus you - and Im sure
thats part of its purpose.
Performance and Development Review
In common with many employers London Underground has a
system in place to encourage staff to develop themselves and their career. My old
employer called it an Annual Appraisal - London Underground calls it Performance and
Development Review. This is an opportunity for a member of staff to sit down with their
manager, discuss the period since the last such review and the progress of any agreed
steps arising from that and then discuss any career aspirations that the individual may
have. Steps towards can then be agreed towards this progress and plans made to facilitate
Some staff (in whatever grade) may be perfectly happy in
staying where they are and this is respected, although if perhaps theyve been
identified as having potential beyond there current level they will be encouraged to
reassess this. So what has all this achieved? Well, not only is it essential
for a Train Operator to be able to continue his work but it is also now being recognised
by the availibility if an NVQ Award in Train Operation. The theory is not only to
acknowledge the skills and knowledge demonstrated but also to give the individual a
tangible document that should be transferable to another prospective employer.
Having done all of this, next year, you start the process all over again.
Perhaps not an expression that might seem relevant to a
Train Operator - but perhaps youd be surprised. Most of the readers of this
site will be familiar with the concept of a person under a train or in LUL
parlance a one under - the unfortunate situation where, for a variety of
reasons, someone has ended up under a train. Often this is fatal - sometimes it has
been a deliberate act, sometimes it has been accidental but the laws of physics really
dictate that a persons body is really little challenge to approaching 200 tons of
metal travelling at up to 50 mph.
Im not sorry to say that (so far) Ive not
experienced this and I hope that that situation remains, but statistically the fact is
that a driver is likely to experience such an occurrence about every five years. You
cannot be trained for how you react - you are trained how to deal with it in terms of the
mechanics of the situation but the longer term effects can only be dealt with
Another situation that is less widely known and considered
is the near miss - that is where a driver happens across a person or persons
about the track who should not be there and often in a potentially life threatening
situation. Often this as a result of the use of alcohol, the perpetrators are,
frankly, oblivious to the danger to themselves but nevertheless the driver receives a
nasty shock and one that can be quite a shaking experience. Ive seen quite a few -
both on my time on the stations and since being on the trains - but this was an experience
that shook me quite a bit.
It was a Thursday night at about midnight when I was
heading towards Ealing Broadway on my last trip of the evening. All I had left to do
was get to Ealing Broadway, close up the train and put it into Ealing Common Depot.
I arrived at Hammersmith - all was quiet. I carried out my normal duties and started
off towards Ravenscourt Park. As I rounded the quite sharp curve to the left the
train was approaching 25 mph and I suddenly saw, very close to the front of the train, two
individuals waving and jumping around at the side of the track.
I braked as hard as possible (in LUL parlance
assisted the train to a stop) but the curvature of the track is such that I
could not see back round the curve - I hadnt heard an impact and decided to carry
on, as I did so I called the Controller on the radio to warn him - and so that he could
warn trains behind me - that there was a potential hazard in the area.
I carried on to Ealing and it was only after I had tipped
the train out and was sitting quietly on the front waiting to go to the depot that the
impact of what I had experienced hit home. Im not the kind of person that
dwells on things and I was, frankly, surprised at myself that I felt pretty shaken when
the implications hit home of what might have been - all itd have taken is for the
clearance to have been a bit less, one of them to have slipped and so on.
Anyway, the signal cleared - I headed off towards Ealing
Common, stabled the train and was a little surprised to find that the incident was still
on my mind. So instead of heading straight home, I decided to head to the DMTs
office at Acton Town - at least Id have time for a cup of tea and a natter to take
my mind of it. The DMT on duty was great - he even made the tea. But he called
the Controller (who had received my radio call despite the fact that I hadnt really
heard a response) who had passed details to both train and station staff. Apparently two
individuals had been apprehended - theyd been looking for somewhere to have a pee
and decided that itd be fun to play with the trains...
They received a dressing down from both the Station
Supervisor and British Transport Police and left Hammersmith duly admonished. I left
for home and, though feeling reassured that the outcome had been positive, still found it
was on my mind. The next morning (still very short of sleep) the phone at home rang.
It was my boss - our Train Operations Manager - hed heard what had happened -
was I OK. I assured him that I was, though short of sleep, and Id be in for my
turn that afternoon. Come and see me - well sort something
When I booked on he was there - a Spare had been organised
to run with me for my first half and I was then to finish and the Spare would finish the
duty. A bit like riding a horse, I suppose, get back in the saddle and so on but I
was grateful for the company and that certainly settled the demons.
But the things Id pass on to you:
1. If you think itll be a laugh to play with the
trains when youve had a few - dont. Theres some poor individual on the
front of the train wholl get scared witless.
2. If you work for LUL and think all Managers are uncaring
idiots - think again. Many have been there and done that and may well
know how youre feeling. Dont prejudge them all.
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Early August in London isnt really the time youd
expect a meteorological catastrophe in Central London, but this is what occurred on
Wednesday 7th August 2002.
Apparently London received 1.8 inches of rain in about half
an hour, right at the height of the evening peak. Transport systems of all varieties
were brought to a grinding halt and, as I write this, some forty-eight hours later, they
have still not entirely recovered.
The first half of my duty had gone pretty well as planned,
the only possible cloud being a signal problem between Hammersmith and Barons Court just
as I was due to go to Earls Court for my meal break. However it was resolved and I arrived
at Earls Court pretty well on time just before 1700. It was starting to rain
a bit, but nothing that gave clues to the mayhem that would occur in the next hour
in fact it seemed a bit of a blessing it had been a humid afternoon and needed a
shower to clear the air. I regretted this thought later.
My second half was to be C Stocks plying up and down
between Edgware Road and Wimbledon from about 1800 to about 2030, so fairly short and the
time seems to go quickly when doing this route. I was due to pick up my train on the
westbound platform but about ten minutes before my pick up time the Duty Manager stuck his
head round the canteen door and said, "Could you pick up on the eastbound at the same
time theres a few problems on the Wimbledon branch. I expect the
Controllerll turn you early to put you back on time at some point"
Id been happily ensconced in the canteen (isolated from
the world outside) and hadnt realised that in the intervening forty-five minutes or
so thered been a major downpour and serious storms.
So I headed off to pick up my train. As I walked down
the platform it was raining quite hard, but nothing to suggest how extensive the storms
My train arrived and the driver told me there were signalling
problems as a result of the rain on the Wimbledon road and he (and the other trains going
down there) had been delayed as a result. I asked if trains were running through and
his answer suggested that they were, but that there could be further delays. In
itself this isnt that unusual. The signalling system round Southfields and
Wimbledon Park is notoriously susceptible to rain, so I had no major cause for concern at
I worked the train up to Edgware Road and, as I was going up
there, it became obvious from the messages being issued by the Line Controller that there
were delays occurring all over the line. At Notting Hill Gate we switch to the
Metropolitan Lines radio frequency, so it was clear that the Met. too had problems.
Baker Street station was closed, there was flooding in the Farringdon/Aldgate area
and a bulging wall was giving cause for concern at Kings Cross.
But there were still no clear messages that the Wimbledon
branch was effectively closed. I changed ends at Edgware Road, set the train up to
return to Wimbledon and waited for the signalman to clear the signal for me.
Im a little concerned when I find a fair volume of water and condensation sloshing
around the west end cab which suggests that the previous driver had been in and out of the
cab a number of times on his last trip.
A couple of passengers enquired if the train was going to
Wimbledon, to which I replied (honestly.), "Yes, as far as I know. There are
some problems and if I find out anything different, Ill let you know over the Public
Address". Famous last words.
We set off towards Wimbledon. I arrived at Earls Court
the trains still being described as a Wimbledon service.
Nothings being said over the radio to suggest it isnt going through, although
some trains are being called to reverse at Parson Green. Were still described
as Wimbledon at Fulham Broadway. Were held there (Im not surprised
I know the train aheads being tipped out at Parsons Green) and
eventually I set off towards Parsons Green. The signal clears at Parsons Green
still nothing said, although the rains coming down at a serious rate.
As Im approaching Putney Bridge Im held at the
home signal, which makes me a little suspicious, but then I see a train depart
from the bay platform this would explain that and I expect the signal to clear for
me to go through. Im now mentally revising the procedures required for passing
Railtrack Signals under Authority whilst at Danger (theyre different from London
Undergrounds rules) when the signal clears but gives me the route into
the bay road. Reluctantly I open the cab door (its pouring down) to use the
signal phone. Its sited at eye level so can be reached without
leaving the cab, although I now have a soaking left shirt sleeve. I query the route
and am told everythings going round at Putney Bridge the Wimbledon
roads suspended. I reply (a little sarcastically) that itd have
been nice to have been told earlier, at which point the signal operator hung up.
So I make a PA apologising that I hadnt been told
earlier that this is the situation and that a train load of passengers would have to find
alternative methods to complete their journey.
I pull into Putney Bridge, make a final "All change,
this train terminates here" announcement and shut the train down not at all
looking forward to my walk to the other end of the train. I get a few sarcastic remarks,
but probably less abuse than I expected to receive.
I reach the other end and prepare to head off back to Edgware
Road. The talk on the radios now of trains being diverted, terminated early
and so on as they try to keep some kind of service running. On my way back to
Edgware Road I discover that the Circle Line is now suspended completely, theres no
service between Edgware Road and Kings Cross and other lines are suffering too. It
takes a good while to finally get to Edgware Road, having warned passengers at Notting
Hill Gate and Paddington to try alternative routes, as theyre not going to get past
Edgware Road. Most heed my dire warnings, so there are few left on the train when I
finally arrive at Edgware Road.
So off I go again to Putney Bridge. The station staff
at High Street Kensington and Earls Court are doing their best to cope with the situation,
so my arrival at Putney Bridge is this time a little less fraught.
I arrive back at Earls Court at 2050 (twenty minutes after I
should have been relieved). No sign of a relief driver. I phone the DMT
hes forgotten about me. So I offer to take the train to Edgware Road and back
and he promises Ill be take off when I get back. The alternative would be to
further delay the service while he found a driver and more inconvenience and delays to
already disgruntled passengers.
I arrive at Edgware Road the platforms are crowded and
it takes me almost ten minutes to change ends answering questions all the way from
passengers trying to travel east. No station staff in sight not good at
all. Fortunately the signal operators are trying to turn trains on all four
platforms, so I still have time to open the train up before the signal clears but
only just. I arrive at Earls Court and am finally relieved an hour late.
Fortunately (for me) theres no shortage of trains going
to Ealing Broadway, so at least I can get back to Acton Town to retrieve my car.
But the trips dramatic, with forks of lightning and downpours all the way. I
cant remember before when Ive seen lightning like that in the UK.
Its only as Im listening to the radio in the car
as I drive home that the full scale of the disruption becomes apparent.
Theres flooding, trains cancelled, buses disrupted and major chaos of a scale I
struggle to recall all over London.
As I said at the start, two days since this all occurred, we
were still suffering problems as a result of the floods. The signals were still
giving trouble around Southfields to the extent that the Edgware Road service was still
terminating at Putney Bridge to reduce the number of trains using the area.
Ive been down to Wimbledon on several occasions since, all without incident, but
its obvious theres still cause for concern.
More worryingly I also understand that in the midst of all
the disruption a disgruntled passenger assaulted one of our drivers at Gloucester Road.
I dont know more than that, but its a trend that seems more and more
prevalent these days.
I also found out today that Earls Court Station is subject to
a Noise Abatement Order which prevents them from using the Public Address system after
21:30. That leaves me speechless
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Trying to be reasonably topical in these stories, I thought
Id recount my experiences of this holiday period, and the time around them.
But I have to say that my notebook remained thankfully clear of specific events that
affected our contribution to the celebrations. Thats not to say that there
were not occurrences that affected the District Line's service, rather that they happened
either when I wasnt on duty, or, if they did, they didnt really significantly
affect me. As is (I think) well known, London Underground ran a service through the
night on the night of the main celebrations. I was, however, not affected by this, as I
was rostered on both Monday and Tuesday for early turns.
One thing that was noticeable as I came down the platforms on
these days was the number of people who were obviously heading into Central London to view
the various events. Flags were much in evidence, as were Union Jack type articles of
clothing. During the day (and particularly in the peak) very little sound comes from
behind you as youre driving - occasionally the sound of a mobile phone and even that
annoying sound you hear from peoples walkmans. Occasionally you can
hear snippets of peoples conversations so be warned - if youre planning on
sharing details of your life and youre sitting right behind the driver remember he
can probably hear the details too.
But these Jubilee days were different. There
were many families on board and a constant buzz of conversation and lots of excited
kids. It was a very pleasant atmosphere. The stations in the central area were busy
and, Im pleased to say, there seemed plenty of station staff in evidence to help
with moving the throngs along the platforms. There were obviously people using the system
who were unfamiliar with it, so lots of questions were being aimed at just about everyone
wearing an Underground uniform. But they always seemed to be accompanied with a friendly
smile and an almost apologetic approach that they didnt know where they were going.
So the trains were busy, but not packed.
The time trains spent at stations was probably longer than
normal, as there were parties covering all age groups, from the very young to the very
old, so allowance had to be made to be made for this so that push chairs and so on could
be loaded and unloaded. The atmosphere was genial though and no one seemed to get
pushy in the way that often occurs during the rush hour. Monday had been uneventful
up to the point when I booked off duty at about 15:00 hrs. My own trains had been on
time throughout my duty and pick ups and reliefs all occurred pretty well as booked. But
during the latter part of the day there was a shutdown between Barking and Upminster
because of a cable fire at Upney. Beyond that I cant really comment further, apart
from I know it did impact on the service, though for how long and to what extent I
Tuesday started similarly. I was first
spare at Acton Town and was given the first half of an early turn to cover.
This was all straight forward enough, but on my way back west I had just left
Mile End when my train was subjected to a flood of water coming through the tunnel roof. I
duly reported this and, I found out later, so did a number of my colleagues. When I
arrived at Earls Court for my meal relief at about 09:45 the service was still running
through the area. I was told by the DMT to have my meal break and it was sometime in
the next half hour or so that the word came through that the service had been suspended
between Whitechapel and Bromley-by-Bow because of flooding between Mile End and Stepney
Green. So we were ending up with trains and crews in the wrong place. Trains at the west
end of the line were being reversed at either Whitechapel (if booked for Upminster), Tower
Hill (if booked for Barking) and Mansion House (if booked for Tower Hill). The situation
was also critical enough in terms of train and staff availability that the Olympia Service
was suspended altogether. I presume trains at the east end of the line were being reversed
I booked off duty at about 13:30 and the situation was
unresolved, though I know the service was restored later in the afternoon, but, by all
accounts, took a considerable time to recover. Not surprising really, as the
suspension had been considerable and prolonged. I dont know what alternative
advice for travel was being given for those travelling to and from the east end of the
line, but I would guess that the C2C services from Fenchurch Street were a prime carrier
to Barking when customers could rejoin our line.
Wednesday saw a resumption of the normal weekday timetable
and, again, I was working an early turn. My impression was that passenger volumes
were down, so I guess that many had extended their holiday period. My first
run was to High Street Kensington, then Wimbledon, Upminster and back to Earls Court for
my meal break. All uneventful and I had my full turn round time at Upminster.
However, as I had headed east I had heard that there had been a signal failure at
Gunnersbury, and a person ill on a train at Aldgate East. None affected me going east, but
my westbound trip was delayed and I was about ten minutes late arriving back at Earls
My second train was a little late when I picked it up on the
eastbound platforms at Earls Court, but I made good time to Upminster and left to head
back west to Earls Court still about ten minutes late. I was running very close to
the train ahead and so passenger numbers were small. However, on arriving at
Becontree I noticed a member of the public waving to attract my attention. On
investigation she turned out to be an off duty member of staff and informed me that one
car on the train had been vandalised - three fire extinguishers had been let off and seats
pulled up. So I had no choice but to take the train out of service. I informed the
Controller, who had me met at Barking by a Train Technician who verified the damage and
confirmed my decision. I ran empty all the way from Becontree to Earls Court where I
was due for relief. The relief man would then take the train on to Ealing Common
Depot for a changeover. So that was my Jubilee holiday - at least I got
to see the Gig at the Palace on the TV in the evening though.
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Well, perhaps not quite but a combination of a number of
incidents that happened during one early turn and the impact that they had on the service.
I was doing a spare turn and was due to book on at about 05:15. As usual I was a
little early (even at this time of the day Id rather be a few minutes early and have
time for a relaxed coffee rather than have to immediately start rushing about) and on
checking the booking on sheet found that all the duties were covered.
This seemed to bode well for an easy shift.
After a few minutes the Night Duty DMT said hed have to
give me a job as the booked driver had been involved in an incident the previous day and
needed to be interviewed. "Start it off, but he should be able to pick it up
later. Even if hes a bit delayed youll only have to do the first
half" he said. I had plenty of time, so I finished my coffee, had time for a
bit of chat and banter with some of my colleagues and then set off for the depot to get
the train ready for service.
It was about 05:35 as I approached the depot and I think it
subconsciously registered that there seemed to be a lot of trains still there for that
time of the morning. This was further reinforced as I realised that at least four
were waiting with their front lights lit - indicating that the trains were opened
up and waiting to come out - and, of course, this was only one end of the
As I passed the Shunters Cabin, the Shunter stuck his
head round the door and said, "If your mates ask why theyre being held,
theres a late surrender of possession at Earls Court." This meaning that
the overnight engineering works had overrun and the engineering staff had not yet been
able to hand the railway back for passenger traffic. So, as I passed each train I
let the drivers know - the news was consistently greeted with a groan.
I made my way to my train, got it ready and then sat down to
read the paper until I was called down. I was due to leave the depot at about
06:00. Trains were, by this time starting to move out and, by the time it was my
turn, I departed at about 06:15. Not too bad in all the circumstances.
Normally at this time of the morning the radio is pretty well
silent. Not today - the Controller is already recovering the service, turning trains
early to restore the timetable. By the time I get to Earls Court, Im still
showing my booked destination of Tower Hill on the train but, as I come down Platform 1, I
see the platform describer is stating that the trains for Mansion House. This
makes perfect sense, as it will almost exactly recover my late running, particularly if I
can then get a reasonably prompt departure from Wimbledon.
However, I try to call the Controller but cant get
through on the radio, so leave the destination as Tower Hill. I call again on my way
to Gloucester Road and finally get through as I arrive there. Mansion House is
confirmed, so I change the destination blind, make a PA to let my passengers know and
carry on without further event.
I arrive at Mansion House, change ends, the signal clears
immediately and off we go to Wimbledon. Clear run all the way, so the late departure
has been all but made up. I arrive at Wimbledon. Theres a C Stock and
another D Stock already there and Ive got about six or seven minutes before Im
due to depart. The D Stock leaves even before Ive shut down and by the time I
reach the other end the C Stocks also plunged and got a signal to
depart. Im still looking good for a scheduled departure and this is confirmed
as the C Stock leaves straight away and I plunge to let the signalman know
Im ready to go. Signal clears and I leave less than a minute after my booked
A good run follows - that is until we get to West
Brompton. The station starter stays on. At first I think this is due to a
combination of the normal early morning congestion around Earls Court and the last
knockings of the earlier delay but, even allowing for this, we seem to there a long time.
Just as Im about to call the Controller the signal clears and away we
go, at least as far as the next signal towards Earls Court. And there we sit.
By this time theres some talk on the radio of a train with no movement at High
Street Kensington and this is having a blocking back effect into Earls Court.
Platform 1 is effectively out of action and the train in Platform 2 is the C Stock that
left Wimbledon in front of me and that should go to Edgware Road, but now cant get
The Controller calls him up and tells him to divert to
Mansion House. This he does, and Im now able to get into the platform.
Ive lost about fifteen minutes due to this delay and have tried to keep my
passengers informed with appropriate PAs so at least theyve got some idea that
its not just me. Eventually we leave Earls Court and, apart from a Circle Line
train being put across in front of me, thus delaying me for another couple of minutes, we
have a fairly decent run through the city. The trains booked to go to Barking and
reverse via the sidings.
As I leave Bow Road I check the time and see Im due to
be leaving Barking in about five minutes. The Controllers been calling various
trains and reversing them early (again.) but he hasnt called me.
However Ive just left Bromley-by-Bow when the radio calls my set number. "Where
are you driver?" I duly tell him and he responds "Reverse
Plaistow". Nothing like plenty of notice.
I make another apologetic PA saying that Ive just been
informed and that passengers will find it easier to leave the train at the next station
(West Ham) and wait on the platform there to continue theyre journey. I
suggest this as the bay road at Plaistow is staggered in relation to the through platform
and it saves them having to hurry down the platform for the next train which invariably
arrives almost immediately after a train into the bay road. It was also raining
heavily and theyd too stay dry.
I finally leave Plaistow. The journey back to Earls
Court for my meal break is a stop/start affair and I eventually arrive at Earls Court
about twenty minutes after my due time. Im not too concerned though.
Remember, I was only expecting to do the first half of the duty and am hoping for an easy
time for the remaining three and a half or so hours. I reported to the DMT that I
was there and reminded him that the booked driver was supposed to be picking up his own
second half. "Weve had a few problems," he said, "and I
havent been able to do the interview yet. Can you finish the turn inside your
I check my Duty Book and find that I can (with twenty minutes
to spare, if it runs on time) so there goes my quiet second half. Im
even tight for a meal break, but not so tight that I dont get the minimum.
Great. Im due to pick up at Earls Court Eastbound at around 10:25 and Im there
in time to find a gaggle of drivers already there waiting for their pick ups.
The longest there is now fifteen minutes late. Apparently theres been some
sort of signal problem at Acton Town which has added yet another delay into the equation
and the efforts at recovering the service have again come to little.
Eventually my train arrives at 10:50 - twenty-five minutes
late. Im due to do Upminster - Ealing Broadway and arrive at Acton Town (east)
at 1322 to finish. So off we go through the city. No further delays occur and,
again, as Im approaching West Ham Im instructed to reverse early, but this
time at Dagenham East. A clear run follows. I leave Dagenham East back on time
and the run back to Ealing Broadway is uneventful. I even have about twelve minutes
at Ealing before I depart right on time (the first time Ive been on time all
day.). Im relieved at Acton Town right on time and finish twenty minutes
before my duty time. And all this on a day with a full book which looked
ripe for a good early cut away - the bonus every driver hopes for from a spare
turn, but rarely gets. So, all in all, just another day.
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Probably one of the most common reasons for which passengers
hear about delays on London Underground are signal failures. The failures come in
various forms, as signalling equipment is pretty complex stuff involving the physical
signals, electrical circuits, cabling and, of course, the equipment in the signalling
centres themselves. So when something goes wrong it can take time to trace the root
of the problem and then resolve it. The pages in this site on Signalling will give you some insight into these complexities,
so Im not going to go into the technical stuff here. This piece actually
comprises two separate events, both within three days of each other but which demonstrate
firstly how disruptive they can be and also how they just occur without warning. The
last few weekends on the District Line have been subject to a special timetable because of
works being done to a bridge in the West Ham area and, although undoubtedly inconvenient,
have seen a pretty reliable and consistent service. Last weekend was the first for a while
when we were working to our normal timetable.
I was on a spare duty, which essentially means
providing cover for uncovered duties, either in whole or in part. When I
booked on at about 05:50 I was given a whole turn. My train was due to
come out of Ealing Common Depot at about 06:25 and my first half was booked to
go to High Street Kensington, Richmond, Upminster and then back to Earls Court where I
would be relieved for my meal break at about 10:00.
I walked over to the depot with a couple of other drivers,
and as we arrived we were greeted by the Shunter looking for one of my colleagues with the
message that his train was cancelled due to a signal failure at Hammersmith, but he was to
stay with the train and await further instructions. There inevitably followed a bit
of banter along the lines of some people have all the luck and, with that, we
went to our various trains to prepare them for service. Id only been on
my train for less than five minutes when the shunter called me on the radio. He
advised me that I too was cancelled and, as with my colleague, to stay with the train and
await further instructions. So I prepared the train, went into the depot to get
myself a coffee and returned to the train.
I settled down with my book (a good way to pass the time) and
waited as instructed. In situations like this you have no idea whats going on
as the train radio automatically switches to the Depot Channel as it enters the depot, so
you cant hear any conversation from the Line Controller. Eventually at
about 07:45, the Shunter calls up and tells me that Im to put the train up as a
Barking and to draw down to the outlet signal. This is all duly done and I leave the
depot at 07:50.
The trip starts quietly enough but this all changes as I come
into Hammersmith platform. I can see one of our Duty Managers standing at the end of
the platform holding a red light, which overrides the green signal being displayed.
Its now about 08:02. He tells me that Im going to be used to provide
protection for the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) team that are working on the defect,
which has been diagnosed as a broken insulated block joint (these are used to separate the
various signalling sections from each other) and they are going to replace it - a job that
shouldnt take more than about ten minutes or so. He takes my keys to ensure
the train cant be moved - a standard procedure in these circumstances.
I advise my passengers of this delay, but add the rider that
as we could be held for some time theyd be well advised to take the Piccadilly Line
to Earls Court and then return to the District Line there. I told the DMT that I was
going to close the train up and switch the lights off so that we wouldnt need to
re-announce the situation. I think he thought I was being a little pessimistic, but
I walked down the train and closed the doors up. This turned out to have been a wise move.
Back on the front of the train Im watching the affected
signal that is now going from red to green, back to red and then red and green together -
just like Christmas. Then I see the ERU team coming quickly back to the
platform. Theyve replaced the block joint, but have discovered theres
also a broken rail that is exacerbating the problem, and this needs to be welded up to fix
it. They hurry of to their vehicle to fetch the appropriate equipment.
By this time I can hear the Controller on the radio reversing
trains so that nothing else heads down to either Richmond or Ealing Broadway Westbound and
instructing trains now queuing behind me to move up, applying various procedures to
achieve this. The DMT now gets me to move my train as far up to the Station Starter
as possible so that the train behind me (now empty, having detrained at Ravenscourt Park)
can move right up behind me.
The ERU team are, by now, back on site and eventually
indicate that alls fixed. Its now 08:50 - Ive been at Hammersmith
now for over forty-five minutes. My train is, of course, well past the end of the
platform and as theres another train right behind its more straight forward to
leave Hammersmith empty and go back into service at Barons Court. This is all done,
and Im running normally towards Earls Court, mentally calculating whether or not I
can make Barking and back to Earls Court within my permitted driving time.
Ive got no chance of getting through to the Controller - the radios one
constant stream of radio calls from him advising drivers of where to go and what to do.
Ive worked out that I can make Tower Hill and back (and
possibly even Whitechapel, depending on progress through the City), so I decide to carry
on until I get a bit further east and when the radio quietens down. Its
just about 09:00 as I pull in to Platform 1 at Earls Court. The platform describer
is showing the train as an Upminster service, although Im not really surprised at
As I draw up another driver walks up, tells me the
trains being reformed and to report to the DMT. So I go over to his office and
am told just to start to my meal break and to pick up my next train as booked - this
isnt due until 10:49, so I get the benefit of almost a two-hour break.
There are already others in the canteen in much the same situation, although some were due
to have had their break at either Upminster or Barking where they were, of course, due to
pick up their next trains. So to make everything worse, weve got lots of
drivers in the wrong place.
By the time I pick up my second train, everythings
pretty well back to normal, but only just. So a failure at just after 05:00 has
taken almost five hours to resolve and for the service to be recovered. The
rest of the day was much quieter.
Only two days later, I book on for a late turn at Acton at
about 15:20. Im due to pick up my train at Acton Town Eastbound at about
15:30, but the DMT on duty warns me that it might be late as theres yet another
signal failure at Hammersmith - Im hit with a feeling of deja vu. In the
event, my train arrives only about ten minutes late.
Im due to go to Barking, Wimbledon, Tower Hill and back
to Earls Court for my break. All goes reasonably well. The signalman at
Barking reverses me in the bay platform (rather than via the sidings, which what the
trains booked to do) which saves some time, but I arrive back at Wimbledon about
fifteen minutes late at about 18:05 - I should have departed at 18:02. There are
already trains there, but I have a word with another driver and discover hes due out
after me and he agrees that I can go first. So I duly plunge to let the
signalman know Im ready to depart.
Nothing happens - all the other platforms are occupied, and
all the signals are red, so its not that hes letting someone else go first or
waiting for a train to come in. I plunge again - same result. I plunge for a third time -
its now 18:15 and Im supposed to go to Tower Hill and back before I get
relieved. The probability of a short meal relief is looming large.
I get on the signal phone and am told that there seems
to be some sort of obstruction on the line - we cant clear any routes.
Great. I announce this to my passengers and give them the gloomy news that Ive
got no idea how long were likely to be there. Im reluctant to leave my
train to use the Autophone to phone the Controller (the radios no good
at Wimbledon - its well known as a black hole) as this is sited at the
far end of the platform in case the situation resolves and the signal clears, so I call
the Controller from my mobile phone (often a drivers best friend these days) to see
if he knows whats going on. He cant really add too much - remember
Wimbledons a Railtrack station and subject to their signalling, so hes relying
on the Wimbledon signalling staff keeping him advised.
Eventually the problem is resolved (I still dont know
the exact cause) and I depart at 18:40 - the trains due to be leaving Tower Hill
coming back in ten minutes. As I work up to Earls Court I get further delayed by
trains that have been reversed at Putney Bridge and Parsons Green. The
platform describers are clearly confused as Im being described as an Edgware Road
(not possible with a D Stock - they wont fit.), Tower Hill (OK - thats where
its due to go) and finally as I arrive at Earls Court as an Upminster train.
I wonder if the trains being reformed but theres
no sign of a relief. I get out and use the phone. I tell the Controller of the
description and that Im booked for Tower Hill. He says booked
destination then driver. I point out that I should be back at Earls Court in
less than ten minutes and wouldnt it be an idea to send me to High Street Kensington
and then at least the trainll be more or less on time. Good idea
driver - Ill tell the signalman.
I get to High Street, change ends, and leave reasonably
quickly, arriving back at Earls Court at about 19:25 - only about ten minutes later than
booked. So again, there was a significant shutdown, but this time in the evening
peak, so a huge number of passengers were delayed, diverted and generally
inconvenienced by a situation no one could predict. In fact, on this evening
wed had failures at Hammersmith and Wimbledon and the Metropolitan Line had suffered
two similar failures, which also impacts on our Edgware Road service. So again we
had a disrupted service that took time to recover and resulted in trains being diverted -
either because they were unable to make their booked destination or reversed
short to try to recover the service.
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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 05:00, with my train being due out of
Ealing Common Depot at about 05:30. 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 where 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 - without
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 (at least to 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 trains motors are engaged by
carrying out a Traction Test. Ooops - no movement.
The Train Monitoring System (TMS) tells me that the doors are
open, but it doesn't say which car. 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 in the cab at the other end
(noting that all the doors are closed in spite of what the indication tells me) 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." says the train technician, keeping warm in the cabin. I
explain my problem and he comes to the train with me. He repeats all Ive done
and (to my relief) he cant get any movement either. He needs to summon help
and disappears to get assistance.
Ive now missed my departure time.
Eventually, Ive got four train technicians running up and down the length of the
train, checking doors, tripping MCBs, 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 Managers Office to find out where the spare train is - there
isnt one, so the trip is cancelled.
Now I walk back to the booking on point to report back to the
Duty Manager (Trains). He's the train crew supervisor. By the time I get
there, hes 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 its 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 arent any spare trains at Upminster either and to
come back to see the DMT. On arrival the DMT says, "All you can do is make your
way to Barking (where Im due for my meal break) and then pick up your second
half". This is due to start at about 09:45 and all the train 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
Ive been up since 04:00 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 enquired what 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. Of course, it is the custom to keep train heaters
heaters on all night in cold weather to prevent things freezing. This must have been an
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A train stalling is a situation that occurs from time to time
and does, of course, lead to an inevitable disruption to services and inconvenience and
delay to passengers. There are a number of ways the situation can be resolved and a
couple will be covered in the course of this tale. Personally, I wasnt
affected as I wasnt on the Wimbledon branch (nor due to go down it) at the time, so
I only became aware of the initial occurrence from talk on the train radio.
A train stalling is usually the result of it not getting a
supply of traction current to drive the motors. It takes a pretty unlucky
combination of factors for the whole train to be off juice - normally this is
when current has been switched off, but there are other situations can cause this to
happen, usually where there are large gaps in the power rails. This was the
situation in this case.
Much of what is related here I found out in later discussions
with colleagues who became involved in the incident. It is also worth briefly
touching on a couple of operational procedures. London Underground has its own
and Railtracks differ in some respects. On the District Line one has to be
qualified in both. One difference is the procedure for making persons about the
track aware of an approaching train. On London Underground the driver sounds the
train whistle, the person or persons moves to a place of safety and acknowledges the train
once there by raising an arm. The procedure on Railtrack is similar in most
respects, except the person acknowledges the warning before going to a place of safety.
On this occasion the train involved was approaching Wimbledon
at about 2.00 p.m. one weekday afternoon and had been signalled into Platform 1 - the
platform with the most sets of points to cross from the running line. There
was a work party about the track and as the train approached the driver correctly warned
of his approach, which was acknowledged. However as the train started crossing the
pointwork the driver was not convinced that the work party was in fact clear of the track
and applied the brakes and brought the train to a stop.
Normally one tries to keep the train (particularly a C Stock
as was the case here) moving, as its a well-known area for large gaps in the power
rails. Once sure the work party was clear the driver tried to move off - nothing, no
movement. This was when he called the Controller for the first time and, from what
you could hear from the Controller, the driver was setting about his various checks to try
to resolve the problem. No success - the train was not going anywhere when driven
from the front cab.
The next try is to see if itll move from the rear,
which (obviously) involves walking through the train to the back cab. This is
fine in theory, and when ones doing it in the depot for training, stock refresher
and so on, but, of course, in the real world youve got a train full of
passengers, all of whom ask you whats the matter, and expect an individual
answer. So, eventually, he gets to the back of the train and tries to move it from
there. No luck.
By now the Controllers telling trains to hold in
platforms if theyre already on their way down to Wimbledon, or diverting them if
theyre not. The train is, of course, almost at the platform and it so happens
that one of our Duty Managers is on the platform, waiting to go to Earls Court to start
his duty. So the DMT puts on his HiVi and goes down to meet the driver to see if he
can assist, so at least now the drivers got some support. The Controller has
also contacted the next train behind the stalled one and told the driver to expect to have
to go to assist the stalled train, initially as an Assisting Operator - this
is where one driver would be at one end of the train and the other would be at the other
end, communicating via the cab-to-cab telephone. However, it was really already apparent
that this wasnt going to work, the driver having already established that he
couldnt move the train from either end.
Luck had it that on the following train there were two or
three Train Operators whod hitched a lift to Wimbledon on their way home having
finished their days work. They moved the Assisting Train forward
and a couple of them moved over to the stalled train to see if they could assist.
Of course, it was soon established that the train wasnt going anywhere
without a physical push, so the Assisting Train is appropriately prepared,
moved forward and coupled up. The object of the exercise is to move the stalled
train forward until its back on juice, then the two are uncoupled again
and the now unstalled train is able to proceed forward. All this is duly achieved,
but its all a time consuming process, so from start to finish all this has taken the
best part of an hour.
On examination it becomes apparent whats
happened. Although, in itself, the gap involved isnt a full trains length it
is quite long. Circumstances have conspired that the shoes which pick up the
traction current have all lost contact, either because theres a number physically
missing, or because those that are still there either have not been gauged
(adjusted) to ensure theyre at the proper height or the current rails are lower than
they should be.
So there we have it - an hours shut down, a
stressed driver, delayed passengers and then everything that has to be done just to try to
get the service back to normal. So next time you hear a bland announcement that services
are delayed because of an earlier stalled train in the xxxx area, think of everything that
has to be done to resolve the situation as quickly and safely as possible. This all
occurred on a train which wasnt crowded during the winter - you can imagine how
unpleasant it is for all concerned if the train was packed with commuters during the
peak. Then add to that the possibility that it occurred in a tunnel
section - the main lighting is also lost and the train would be lit by emergency lighting
only. Very unpleasant for all concerned.
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This was a late turn on a mid-week evening when West Ham were
playing Chelsea at Upton Park in (I think) a Cup Match. Football fixtures are a weekly
feature on the District Line - we now have three Premiership Clubs directly on our route;
Chelsea, Fulham and West Ham. For the most part their fixtures are arranged in such a way
as not to have the teams playing at home at the same time or on the same day, but of
course it is inevitable that each are going to play the others twice each season - plus,
of course, any cup fixtures.
At weekends certain train crew duties have Football
Specials attached to them, which are trains run only as directed by the Line
Controller. However, this isnt possible mid-week as all available stock is
on the road anyway and there arent any spare trains available for use.
On this particular mid-week evening, I was due to pick up my
first train at Earls Court (eastbound) at about 17:25 and I was due to be relieved at
Barking at 21:36 - four hours eleven minutes driving. I was supposed to take the
train from Earls Court to Upminster, then to Richmond and back to Upminster again. I
was due my relief at Barking eastbound on the second Upminster trip.
The train arrived at Earls Court (EB) about ten minutes late
and then things went rapidly downhill from there. On my way through the city the
journey was (not unusual in the peak) as usual slow, but the situation rapidly
deteriorated through a combination of events. Firstly, traction current had to be
discharged at Aldgate East when a train got a collector shoe (the equipment which picks up
the current from the power rails) jammed between the current rail and the running
rail. This took some time whilst the shoe was levered away, current recharged and
the train got moving again. The queue of trains behind was substantial and progress
was very much from red signal to red signal, usually being held at each for two or three
Matters then got worse. Football crowds were, by now,
beginning to make their way to Upton Park for the match and, inevitably were getting
restless to the point where the police began intervening. Strangely enough they
seemed to have let matters get to a point where it was necessary for them to call a
helicopter onto the scene and were insisting that each train load of supporters were
allowed to clear the station before the next load were let loose.
Id got to near West Ham and it was obvious that I had
no chance of getting to Upminster at anything even close to my appointed time when the
Controller called me up and told me Id be reversing at Barking. At least this
would put me back to something like my schedule. I duly made my PA announcement -
few were, I suspect, concerned as most would be getting off at Upton Park anyway. As
usual the train was held on the platform at Upton Park whilst the crowd made their way
from the platform - a sensible safety precaution to avoid any accidents.
Finally I made Barking, reversed via the sidings and was sent
Westbound with little delay, although following very close behind the train ahead.
The trip back to Richmond was uneventful and I made good progress. On arrival
at Richmond I quickly changed ends and departed only about five minutes late - not too
bad. It then occurred to me that I was almost certainly going to get caught again in
the football crowds at the end of the match. However, all was going well and as I
got to Plaistow I could see I was going to be a little late for my relief at Barking, but
should be within my four hours fifteen minutes limit of driving.
This proved to be wishful thinking. Sure enough the football
finished (Chelsea won, scoring in injury time) and trains ahead started to be held so that
they could be packed to the limit at Upton Park. It took twenty minutes to go from
Plaistow to Upton Park (one stop.) and I was held at Upton Park whilst morose West Ham
supporters were packed into the train - remember, this was showing Upminster as its
I eventually arrived at Barking at 22:10 - almost thirty-five
minutes late. I was greeted by my relief with didnt anyone tell you -
the trains being reversed here. My comment was, "If I were you
Id speak to the signalman. If you try to tip out here youll
probably have a riot on your hands". With that I took his key and beat a hasty
retreat for my belated meal break. I dont know if the train did go through,
but I presume it did - there were no signs of blood stains on the platform when I went
back down to pick up for my second half. This should have gone to Upminster
and then back to Ealing Broadway before being stabled in Ealing Common Depot.
Inevitably it was running late, but, again, was reversed at Barking and I eventually
stabled at about the scheduled time.
I think this little tale highlights a number of
- Communication is vital both to the driver from the Controller
and/or Signal Operator and from the driver to his passengers. This would have
avoided what could have developed into a very nasty situation.
- Passengers at the ends of the line get understandably
frustrated by the seeming lack of trains getting to their intended destination. This
is particularly so for passengers trying to get to Upminster. There are occasions
when more trains seem to get turned early than actually make it to Upminster.
- The holding of trains at stations in this way is, of course,
frustrating for both driver and passengers but the safety implications if they were not
are, frankly, too unpleasant to contemplate.
So there we have it - a combination of the rush hour, a train
related delay and football crowds - a recipe almost guaranteed to cause chaos.
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There is an adage amongst Drivers:- If youre
doing Earlys, at least the Job's not had the time to go Up the
Wall before youve even started. In my (limited) experience there
is more than a grain of truth in this. This train of thought (excuse the pun) leads
me to a more general set of ponderings which, perhaps, I will expand on at some later
time, if this series of ramblings continues. The theory is that if youre
running at the start of traffic, all is well and you are, at least going to be on time
when you start your duty. This (and the previous tale) seems to lend some credence
This incident occurred on a late turn, although, in fairness,
could have happened at any time during the day - it was down to a meteorological
occurrence, not any fault on the part of LUL (or any other Train Operating Company come to
that). Id booked on at about 16:55 and was due to pick up my train at about
17:05. It turned up pretty well on time and, when relieving the driver he told me the
train was fine but there seems to be a problem going east, it
seemed there was a power supply problem of some sort in the West Ham area, but the details
were thin. At this point I was taking the train to Richmond before getting any where near
West Ham, so, although there was the potential for delay, there was nothing at this point
to cause undue concern. Messages like this act as a useful reason for attention, but
little more than that.
So, I headed off down to Richmond, changed ends and departed
on time. As I headed East (the train was booked to go to Upminster), it became
obvious that there was a serious problem; I could hear over the radio that the Controller
was instructing trains to reverse (eastbound) at Whitechapel or Bromley-by-Bow, which is a
sure sign that there is a serious problem. This was further underlined by trains
being instructed to stable at Ealing Common Depot and Parsons Green - a sure sign that the
Controller wants to limit the number of trains at one end of the line.
The radios work on a duplex system rather than a simplex
system - this means that you only hear one side of a conversation - this results in you
trying to draw conclusions without full facts. On the District Line this is
exacerbated in that there are black spots where the radios are dead.
No hard information was coming through but, with what I could glean from the
train radio and Public Address announcements at stations it was clear that we werent
going to get anywhere near Upminster.
I arrived at Hammersmith and a driver from Barking hitched a
lift in my cab. He was one of the drivers instructed to stable at Ealing Common and,
on reporting to the DMT at Acton Town had been told to make his way back to Barking.
He had more information at this time than I. The story seemed to be that the C2C
lines (which have overhead 25Kv power lines) had come down (reason not known) and were
fouling our tracks and had to be cleared before either we or C2C could get past West
Ham. This had the effect of zero train services for thousands of commuters during
the height of the rush hour. More later.
I was well through the city before I got confirmation that I
would reverse at Bromley-by-Bow, and advised my passengers that this was the situation and
told them via the PA what I knew which was, basically, that they needed to find an
alternative to there normal train journey, that there was no point in trying to use
Fenchurch Street and, beyond that, all they could do was to try to get local information
at whatever point they tried to interchange. Not entirely satisfactory, but the best I
could do with the information at my disposal.
From my recollection, the Central Public Address (CPA) system
which is transmitted from the Control Centre at Earls Court, started the recorded
announcements when I got to about Blackfriars. At each station I kept the
doors open if the recorded announcement was being played. The message stated that
there was no service between Bromley-by-Bow and East Ham due to debris on the line.
I reinforced this at every station, and particularly the information if the train was at
any interchange station at all.
My colleague decided to leave the train at Tower Hill to
continue his efforts to get back to Barking. I took the train on to Mile End - the
last chance for anyone who could use alternative train services. The CPA system
played again; I did my PA announcement and, having allowed decent time to allow passengers
to detrain, carried on.
I arrived at Bromley-by-Bow; did an "All change - this
train terminates here - passengers travelling east should use local bus services"
announcement and shut the train down to change ends. Now, bear in mind that
Ive been doing PAs for quite some time (something I take quite seriously) why
is it that as I walk down the train to go west, Im challenged by a significant
number of people asking if Im going to
The urge to ask if theyve been listening to my announcements is almost
overwhelming but I resist and repeat (again) what Ive been announcing. (I know that
the view of some of colleagues is whats the point of doing PAs - they
dont listen. There are occasions when I wonder why I bother.
I set off back westbound and make reasonable progress until
about Victoria when things start slowing down. We make slow progress towards Earls
Court and I suspect that this is because there are problems with driver reliefs
there. Eventually Im held so long I manage to get through to the Controller on
the radio and he confirms this, "Were blocking back into Earls Court driver -
waiting for crew reliefs". When I arrive at Earls Court Im exactly on
time - although I should have gone to Upminster and not just Bromley-by-Bow - a round trip
of about forty minutes. By this time the DOM (Duty Operations Manager -2nd I/C to
God on LUL) has invoked the Emergency Timetable - second only to the second coming of
Christ in LUL terms.
Im relieved of my train (as planned) and report to the
DMT. This is at about 20:20. My duty says my next booked train is due to be
picked up at 21:20. The train is given an Emergency Timetable number and
departs. I report to the DMT, "Duty Number xxx - due to pick up at 21:20 -
shall I report back when Im due to pick up?" Were only entitled to
thirty minutes plus walking time, but it's worth a try. "No,
No - come back at 20:55." comes the reply (this is the bare 35 mins. we are allowed),
so off I go to the canteen.
I should pick up my second train at 21:25, to be stabled at
01:13 - three hours fifty-two minutes driving. I report back at the appointed time
and am immediately given a pick up and told, "Its in the platform - do
Wimbledon - High Streets (Kensington) until youre relieved." So I
get on the train at 20:56 - this means the latest I can get off it is at 0109 or Ill
be over my hours.
From the messages being given by the Controller it is obvious
that theres still no service between Bromley-by-Bow and East Ham and its now
over four hours since the incident occurred. There is a bit of a variation when one
is doing trains to and from Wimbledon and Richmond in that its your responsibility
to let the signal operator know when youre ready/due to depart. This is done
by pushing a button located at the end of each platform. In the normal way
you obviously know when youre due to depart, but in the situation here youre
not working to a timetable, so its a matter of using common sense.
The normal service has trains departing Wimbledon at five
minute intervals, so I decide to see what the situation is when I get to Wimbledon.
An eastbound train passes me at about Southfields and when I get to Wimbledon theres
nothing in the platforms at all, and a fair few passengers waiting. So I
decide that Ill depart pretty well as soon as Ive changed ends and set the
train up. I duly plunge, the signal clears and a final check in the monitors shows
no one else arriving on the platform. I do my PA announcement, close the doors and
We get to Earls Court where I do a "This train is for
one stop only to High Street Kensington - passengers for all other destinations should
change here." announcement and, having given reasonable time for those who want to
change to leave the train, set off to High Street. I change ends, and wait for the
signal to clear (its the responsibility of our signal operator now to regulate the
service). Eventually the signal clears, and its back to Wimbledon. This time
there are other trains there, so I simply wait until Im the first due to depart and
leave five minutes after the last departure.
This continues a couple more times. At about 22:00 the
message comes through that the problem at West Ham has been cleared and trains are running
through again. Its now approaching midnight and I calculate that Ive not
got time to do another trip to Wimbledon and back, but as Im heading towards Earls
Court the platform indicators are describing the train as an Earls Court service.
This would appear to make sense, as I can reverse the train there and make it back to
Ealing Broadway and stable it in Ealing Common Depot just within my time limit.
However, on arrival at Parsons Green the description has
changed to High Street Kensington again. I decide to wait until I get to Fulham Broadway
to see what Im being described as there. Sure enough, High Street again, so I
call up the Controller. I ask him to confirm where Im going and he confirms
High Street and then back to Wimbledon. I tell him Im running short of hours
and all he can suggest is to call in to see the DMT at Earls Court when I leave High
Its about 00:15 when I leave High Street and I arrive
at Earls Court to find out whats what. The Duty Managers doing his best
in difficult circumstances - drivers are all over the place and all hes really got
available are the night crews and there are few of these. I say, "Well, I
can do Ealing and stable, but if its got to go to Wimbledon, youll have to
take me off". In the end this is what happens.
I wait for an Ealing Broadway train (together with two other
drivers who were also due to finish) and arrive back at Acton Town at about 00:50, so
Im actually finished about twenty minutes or so early. Given all the circumstances
this is not much short of a miracle.
Post Script: The next day I talk to a few other drivers
and discover that what had happened was that some buildings adjacent to our lines had
blown down and the debris had gone right across all of our and the adjacent C2C
lines. One driver had just been leaving West Ham heading west when it occurred and
he was then stuck there for over five hours whilst the tracks were cleared. I also
ran into the Barking driver whod travelled with me the previous night - he had
eventually made it back to Barking at 21:00, a journey of almost three and a half hours
from when Id picked him up at Hammersmith.
As I was heading east on my train, I picked up a Piccadilly
Line driver at Gloucester Road who lives at Upminster Bridge and hed also got caught
up in the previous nights carnage. It had taken him four and a half hours to
get home from Acton Town. Pity the poor passengers who'd had to struggle through
this lot as well. Approaching West Ham we got a sight of the aftermath of the
event. There was still debris piled by the sides of the tracks and little or no sign
of the former buildings. Its on occasions like this Im glad Im a
driver and not a Duty Manager or Line Controller trying to juggle trains and crews to at
least keep some sort of service running - they were all probably still lying down in a
darkened room trying to recover, I suspect.
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Story supplied by "Metman" a former driver on the
Metropolitan Line in 1973.
It was pouring with rain, cold and windy. I was
on an A Stock coming up on the 08:38 from Amersham to Liverpool Street. In those
days (1970s) we used to leave this train stabled at Liverpool Street between the rush
hours. It was the first half of a split turn.
I had a trainee driver with me this day. He was
a guard who had passed his driver's exam and was going through his driving experience.
He was doing very well. He had been a guard for a few years and he was
bright and was adapting to driving well. As we dropped down from West Hampstead
towards Finchley Road, my trainee pulled the brake on. He only needed about half
pressure to get a nice easy stop at Finchley Road but I noticed the train didn't respond
very well. He put on full e.p. and remarked to me, "She doesn't want to
stop." I judged we were OK to stop without going into emergency but it was a
bit tight. I wasn't too concerned. "Probably a few wheels picked up with
all this rain." I said.
We stopped at Finchley Road - just. The doors opened -
we had guards to do the doors in those days - and then the guard's voice comes over the
train loudaphone, "Driver, there's a lot of noise from down the train."
"OK, hang on," I shouted back. I stuck my head out of the cab window and
heard the sound of escaping air from along the train somewhere. I looked back at the
duplex gauge and noticed the main line air dropping with the train line air
following. I called back to the guard, "Meet me in the middle."
As I got out of the cab I told the trainee to shut
down. At that moment, the station inspector came up to me all of a panic and asked
what was happening. "Main Line burst" I told him, "Tip 'em
out." "What, now?" "Yes, NOW," I shouted,
"This train is bu**ered." He started to call, "All Change, all
change" as I continued up the train.
The train was packed but people were leaning out of the doors
looking back towards the middle where the noise seemed to be coming from. We
sounded like a steam engine with the safety valves blowing. The compressors were
also running at full tilt. It was very noisy. A helpful passenger called out
to me that there had been a big bang as the train ran past Neasden.
I met the guard in the middle. I closed the CICs either
side of the middle coupling point and told the guard he would have to get in the back cab
and give me a release to get the brakes off. He was a passed driver, a
guard-motorman as we used to call them, waiting for a driving vacancy to get a full time
driving job. I knew him quite well. He knew what to do and he had his own
keys. He walked back to the rear, tipping out passengers and closing car doors was
he emptied each car.
I walked back towards the front but through the train so I
could cut out the compressors and compressor governors on each trailer car.
This would stop the compressors running on the front unit and the governors from asking
the compressors on the rear unit to keep running all the time. They were now under
the control of the governors on the rear unit.
When the guard got to the rear cab, he cut out the e.p. brake
and audible warning to avoid the warning when he opened up to give me a release. I
got to the front, telling the inspector to tell the controller I was coming to Baker St
with a main line burst on the front unit. I took over from the trainee, cut out the
e.p. and called over the phone for a release. The brakes slowly came off as my guard
opened up to give me air from the rear unit. When the brakes were all off the train
started to roll and I called for the guard to shut down. We cautiously made our way
down to Baker Street in this fashion, with me using the Westinghouse brake to slow the
train on the steep downhill grade and my guard giving me a release when I called for it.
When we got to Baker Street, I got the signal for Platform 4,
the short platform. I gingerly coasted into the platform and stopped a few feet off
the stops. We shut down the train and the three of us stood on the platform
wondering if someone would tell us what was to happen next. All of a sudden,
an Area Manager runs up asking, "What train is this?" "Train 11"
I replied. "I though you were stuck at Finchley Road with a burst." he
said. "We were", I replied. "You got here quickly", he said.
A relief crew showed up then to take the train back to
Neasden and I told the driver what we had done. His job was easier as he could brake
and release normally from the front using Westinghouse. I wandered round to the
running office by Platform 5 (where it was then) and asked the Running Inspector what the
delay was. "Oh", he said, "The controller phoned to say it was 7
minutes and it was not bad". Yup - not bad. I told my trainee and the
guard we had done well. Not only that, we actually finished early because we didn't
have to go to Liverpool Street. A day which started badly turned out well for us and
not too many passengers inconvenienced. I found out later that a main reservoir
drain valve had been knocked off by a p-way shovel left on the track. That was the big
bang reported by the passenger.
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