diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 27, 2012

That's it. The last Metropolitan 'A Stock' train slipped out of public service last night. There'll be one last hurrah nipping round the entire line on Saturday, but that's special £40 tickets only, and they're long gone. These fine old workhorses have given sterling service over the last fifty years, but their time is up and an air-conditioned future awaits. This train terminates here.

Wednesday evening, mid-City, height of the rush hour. A bog-standard Met line train rolls into the platform, white headlamps blazing. As the doors beep open its passengers pour off and not that many step aboard. If they'd all waited another minute they could have ridden the special train, unique of its kind, that's approaching through the tunnel. It has a small white board on the front - 1960-2012, Last Day In Service. The carriages are still unusually full, a body on every seat, and they're definitely not your normal commuters. These are the men who love trains (I looked, but I couldn't see any women, sorry), out to ride their favourite rolling stock one last time. I sit down beside a large bloke who smells like your worst traingeek stereotype. It's not the fragrant final journey I was hoping for.

At Aldgate a familiar mechanical whining noise kicks in, emanating from somewhere unseen beneath the carriage. Normally everybody alights, but today a substantial proportion stay on board - they're here for the journey, not the destination. Many others get out to walk along the platform and stretch their legs, or more likely amble up to the cab for a commemorative picture. There are a lot of photos being taken, of anything and everything stock-related, because this won't ever be possible again. But hurry, because we're not hanging around at Aldgate for long. Train 412 is a regular scheduled Metropolitan service that's already been out to Amersham three times today, and needs to make space for the new breed coming in behind. At eight minutes past six the doors slam shut with a not quite synchronous clunk, and the train heads off on its penultimate public journey.

A short distance up the tunnel we pause. "Sorry for the delay," says the driver, "but we're waiting for a C Stock ahead." He'd never normally say that, but on this occasion he knows his audience. For one stop only we're the enthusiasts' train, as evidenced when one man slips out a Fisco Unimatic tape measure and starts checking the dimensions of my seat. But at Liverpool Street the clientèle changes, as we're joined by hordes of City commuters heading home to Metroland. Many of them get a seat while others stand, flicking through the Evening Standard or checking their Blackberries. Nobody slips their briefcase onto the luggage rack, and no umbrellas dangle from the overhead hooks. A few of these passengers may have noticed this isn't their normal train but most are entirely oblivious - to them we're just a semi-fast to Watford.

With each passing station more crowd aboard, for this the A Stock's final exit from the City. The platform announcer at Farringdon is on the ball, alerting passengers to their "privileged journey" home tonight. I'm sat by the window, a longitudinal view that'll be hard to come by tomorrow, watching the brightly lit Metropolitan future speeding by. It's hard to believe I'll never do this again, especially given that these trains have been running since before I was born. Every time the grinding whirr kicks in I'm transported back to childhood trips to town, an unexpectedly evocative sound, yet imminently doomed. But I'm not heading all the way out to Hertfordshire, I have more important places to be, so I join the throng disembarking at Baker Street and pat the old girl goodbye.

From today on, consider the Metropolitan line fully upgraded. Every train in service now has air-conditioning, every train has scrolling in-car announcements, every train has fewer seats, and every train is fully accessible. Expect TfL to update a number of wheelchair blobs on the next tube map from white to blue, now that the entire S Stock fleet affords level-ish access from platform to train. It's a whopping investment, and a major success, and never mind any nostalgia for trains gone by. Which leaves the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines with the Underground's oldest remaining rolling stock, although these too have kicked off the process of being replaced. When the last of the C Stock disappears don't expect quite so much of an outpouring of affection as these Met line trains have earned. And if you're on that final train on Saturday, wish her a final thanks from me.

Photos and a video of the last day (not from me)
Ten A Stock shots from me (mostly from June)
Ian's farewell trip on the not quite penultimate train
ITV London Tonight news report

Previous dg coverage of the Metropolitan revolution:
Ken announces first air-conditioned train will arrive in 2009 [December 2006]
Public invited aboard a mocked-up carriage [September 2008]
Boris unveils aircon tube [June 2009]
First air-conditioned Metropolitan line train in public service [July 2010]
Metropolitan 'A Stock' celebrates its 50th anniversary [July 2011]
Last chance to ride the old Metropolitan line trains [September 2012]
District, Circle and H&C now all fully airconned [some time in 2016]

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