diamond geezer

 Saturday, September 05, 2009

Rewind a week, and let me take to the east end of London. Not quite to London's easternmost settlement (which is North Ockendon, which I must tell you about one day). But to Cranham, which is the next suburb in, where TfL's Upminster depot is based. They had an open weekend last weekend to celebrate half a century of District line shed operations, and yes I went along. [some other people's photos]

Upminster depot noticings
Look, almost everybody in the queue is male. Some have dragged their wives along, and some have brought their offspring (i.e. their sons), but this is going to be a testosterone-filled visit.
1938 stock Ooh, the LT Museum's 1938 stock. It may never have been a District line train, but couldn't you just lick it. Best not, though. Let's just look inside the driver's cab and sit on the luxurious seats and admire the old tube maps and revel in the sheer non-21st-centuryness of it all. [photo]
Ooh, if we put on a protective Metronet helmet they'll allow us to go down into an inspection pit and see what a train looks like from underneath. There are a heck of a lot of motors and electronics and hydraulics under there, all hidden away beneath the carriage floor. Suddenly it's very clear why TfL needs such a big depot out here in Upminster to ensure they're all maintained properly.
There's no electric current along the rails in the inspection shed, so the maintenance staff have to attach giant electrical jump leads to the trains when they want to get them back outside. [photo]
Just as interesting as the trains are the staff noticeboards, which reveal what really makes this place tick. Union announcements, health and safety info, and lists of important telephone numbers. There's even an 'Own Goals' board where recent service faults and irregularities are catalogued and investigated, along with lessons learned.
Ooh, a steam train. Ah, it's only going slightly forwards and then slightly back again, but it's drawing an enraptured audience.
Here's TfL's mock-up of the new Circle/Met/H&C/District carriages (the ones with aircon), along with one of the managers responsible for their introduction. I note he's having to answer an awful lot of questions from visitors about reduced seating capacity in the new carriages. His answer is that improved signalling will mean more frequent services... but that may still be a decade away.
Mmm, a rare opportunity to sample TfL canteen cooking. It's bloody cheap, isn't it?
It's not every day you're allowed to walk up close to a whole sidings-ful of tube trains. Worth a couple of photos at least. [symmetrical photo] [asymmetrical photo]
More heritage trains, lovely. A 1920s red carriage still undergoing renovation. A 1950s silver car with those characteristic flared windows. The Sarah Siddons electric locomotive that ran on the Met in the 1920s (and we can walk around inside? Fab).
Oh, and there had to be some stalls selling stuff. Little model trains, and books about trains, and commemorative Upminster 50 mugs, and even more train-related ephemera. No, really, I can resist buying all of it. Except, damn, for that old in-carriage tube map. I hope it doesn't rain on the way home.

Riding the Routemaster back to the station
Damn, I was hoping to travel on RM1 (the first ever Routemaster) or RM2760 (the last ever Routemaster) [photo]. Never mind, RT3871 will do.
We're travelling along the normal 248 bus route, stopping at all the normal 248 bus stops. The normal passengers are, to say the least, surprised.
A Cranham family are off to celebrate their Mum's birthday, and are mighty chuffed to be travelling for free on a "proper" old bus.
A Cranham dad tries to explain to his young son that the conductor is giving him something called a 'ticket'. How quickly history moves on.
A Cranham granny beams broadly as the bus of her childhood pulls up to take her into Upminster. Hop on, love. She only gets to travel a few stops on this nostalgia trip, but gives the driver a genuinely friendly wave as she steps back into real life. Way to go.

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