diamond geezer

 Friday, August 02, 2013

DISTRICT: Down the line

I'm continuing my journey down the District line, from Upminster as far as you can go, which is Richmond. So far I've reached Monument, which is halfway. Sorry, yes, only halfway.

Cannon Street station is closed. Or it was when I passed through. The driver crept through at the regulation 5mph, before speeding up a bit once his cab was in the tunnel, which I suspect isn't entirely within the rules. Cannon Street is the only station left on the Underground network that closes on Sundays... as well as after 7.30pm on Saturdays and after 9pm on weekdays. There is good reason for this. Southeastern rail services from Cannon Street close down outside those times, almost to the minute, and anyone who really wants to get here can walk the short distance from Monument or Mansion House instead. The latter station isn't exactly busy either, not outside the City's working hours, and yet your train will often linger here for an extra minute... isn't there a kitchen or a toilet or something at the front end of the platform into which the driver can nip for swift relief?

Blackfriars is the odd station out along this southern edge of the Circle, entirely rebuilt in the 21st century so brighter and cleaner and shinier than everywhere we've just been through or are just about to go. Whereas Temple is proper old school, and pleasingly simple. Two platforms facing each other across a gentle curve not far beneath the Embankment, almost how stations are in Paris, although the pillars supporting the ceiling have a defiantly Victorian English flair. It's at this point that the bloke who's been sitting next to me since Whitechapel finally looks down to try to work out what the hell I'm writing. Obviously I take notes on trips like this, I'd never remember all the minutiae otherwise, but I do scrawl sufficiently that my writing is deliberately barely legible. I consider jotting down the phrase "the bloke sitting next to me is looking at what I'm writing" but decide against, that is until he stands up and goes to sit in another seat... was it something I said?

I've never understood how Embankment can support quite so many newsagent/sweetie kiosks on the District line platforms - two on the eastbound and another two on the westbound. Is it that the station happened to be built with these tiny rooms in the walls, or is there an innate need for Mars Bars and copies of Private Eye in this particular location? The train gets more touristy at Westminster, its dark silver walls in complete modern contrast to St James's Park - the next stop down the line. As the station beneath TfL HQ you'd expect it to look special, and there's a 30s timewarp quality that almost makes you expect a man in a greatcoat and bowler hat to walk down the steps with a pipe at any minute. But the WHSmith kiosk here closed long ago... perhaps Embankment's Kit Kat sellers put it out of business.

Victoria is the busiest station on the line, and so it proves. A throng of people line the platform, some of whom stand back and wait for a Circle line train while others charge aboard. My section of carriage is targeted by a Polish family on tour, six-strong, each member lugging a suitcase and a substantial item of hand luggage. There should be space for their belongings in the flip-up space, but the current occupant just stares into his phone and refuses to budge. Instead the family plonk down all around me, chatting loudly as if I don't exist. By Sloane Square the eldest teenager has plugged into some soft rock number and is playing air guitar. By South Kensington his brother has unwrapped some tinfoil and is stuffing his face with a cooked meat sandwich. And at Gloucester Road a Japanese family joins them, forcing the displacement of a 'Power Metal' rucksack. I think I preferred the labrador.

The next stop is the hub of the line, that's Earl's Court, where District line trains run in a record-breaking five directions. A Wimbleware is stationed in the platform alongside (heading towards Wimble', rather than 'ware, as the heritage arrowed indicator above makes clear). We're now properly out in the open air again, and staying that way to the end of the line. The train halts at West Kensington for some considerable time, but the driver doesn't play the "We are being held at a red signal" announcement - you don't hear that so often any more, do you? If I were heading to Heathrow I'd alight at Barons Court - the platform's narrower and the benches much finer - but my Polish colleagues choose Hammersmith. That 'Power Metal' rucksack nearly swipes me on the head as its owner stands, and the family are still dragging gymbags off the trains as the door slides shut.

We're on the slow tracks now. Piccadilly line trains take the express route along the viaduct to Acton Town, but the District line stops at all the stations, much to the relief of residents in the general Chiswick area. Ravenscourt Park is the first of a trio on the elevated viaduct, with fresh tubs, smart niched benches and a gabled canopy. Stamford Brook is very similar, except one of the canopies is designed from a flat slab of concrete, and there are no platforms in the centre of the station where regular Heathrow-bound trains speed through. Canopy design reverts to all-wood at Turnham Green, where some of the roundels announce "For Bedford Park" as an admission that this isn't the closest station to Turnham Green, that'd be Chiswick Park, and there isn't a park called that, and we're not going there either. Instead the train veers off down a curve past the nature reserve onto the final branch line.

If there were a competition for London's ugliest Underground station, Gunnersbury would make the shortlist. A bleak platform sits in a canyon alongside a zigzag concrete car park, with an entirely uninspiring 60s tower block looming at one end. To be fair this isn't a TfL station, it's owned by Network Rail, a legacy of the Overground line that also runs through to Richmond. Things then improve, sharply, with a bridge across the Thames and a fine fluvial panorama, for anyone who chooses to look up from their phone. The tide's out, and I spot much beer being quaffed at The City Barge. There's another pub on the platform at Kew Gardens - I think that's unique on the tube network - plus a set of semi-tropical tubs as a nod to the nearby botanical gardens. And that's almost it, bar a slow crawl past the backs of gardens and buddleia into the platforms at Richmond station. The crowd that pours off is very different to the East London demographic that filled the carriages an hour back down the line. But the District's egalitarian like that, and you never know who's been sitting in your seat earlier in the journey... unless you sit in it all the way.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream