diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Next train: Baron's Court

If you want to see a motley collection of ancient next train indicators, head to Baron's Court. Two thin fingers of platform, each with Piccadilly line services on one side and District on the other, and possibly the easiest interchange on the entire tube network. It's been a very long time indeed since anybody at London Transport installed any new 'next train' indicators here. The two westbound platforms still have those old black lightboxes, one simple, one rather more complex (for everyone who needs to know whether the next train's stopping at Turnham Green or not). And none of these new-fangled digital clocks, oh no, but a proper analogue dial hanging inbetween marked out in Roman numerals. Boris would approve.

But Baron's Court's unsung jewel is the heritage 'next train' indicator on the eastbound Piccadilly line platform. This is how proper station information used to be. A chunky arrow at the top of the sign to indicate on which platform the next service is due. Then 13 glass segments, each with a different destination lurking behind, one of which lights up when a train's on its way. Lovely isn't it. You could almost imagine Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson meeting for a passionate embrace in swirling fog beneath the lightbox. By modern standards, however, this is rubbish. It makes no attempt to mention how many minutes away the next train is. It can't cope with unusual destinations caused by engineering works. And TfL can't scroll important security messages about unattended luggage across the bottom. Actually, I knew there was a reason why I liked it.

There are fewer and fewer of these very old 'next train' indicators on the underground network today. Every time a station gets upgraded (or, in heritage terms, vandalised), these old workhorses are being ripped out to be replaced by something more modern and more functional. And I can see why, because more information has got to be a good thing. But I shall still be sorry to see the last of the old guard go. I hope that this one survives a little longer.

NTI uselessness, category 2: Stations with ancient heritage displays
• Upton Park (westbound): This is no ordinary lightbox, this is a burnt-into-the glass lightbox. It doesn't matter whether a train's coming or not, both line options are permanently visible. Look carefully and you may see that one line is more illuminated than the other - that's the service arriving next (sometime). One thing's for sure, however, there'll be no Metropolitan line train trundling down these tracks. There hasn't been for the last 18 years anyway. And any traveller who takes the sign's advice and decides to change for the Metropolitan line at Aldgate East will be sorely disappointed too. As commenter Venichka says, "while one is all for heritage features, accurate non-misleading information is more important." Few objects sum up TfL's cash-strapped-ness better than this particular sign.
• along the District/Piccadilly line either side of Hammersmith (including Acton Town)
Uxbridge (they really don't make them like this any more)
• Cannon Street
• any more? (and no, not Earl's Court, not any more)

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