diamond geezer

 Monday, April 08, 2013

HAMMERSMITH & CITY: Down the line

In any book of Great Railway Journeys of the World, the pink run from Hammersmith to Barking need not appear. The line's not especially scenic, the Victorian vaults of Baker Street excepted, and the journey's faster by District line instead. Plus the trains are a bit 'meh', having been left to decay somewhat safe in the knowledge that aircon replacements are imminent. So I thought I'd liven up my journey by taking one of the new S7 trains, which is easier said than done because only one or two of these are currently in use. But I had a hunch where to be and when, and hey presto the shiny walk-through train duly presented itself at Hammersmith bang on time.

Hammersmith's three platforms are a bit of a shunt and a shuffle throughout the day. Freshly-arrived trains hang around for only a few minutes before a fresh driver wanders down the steps from the depot, settles into the cab and prepares to vacate. There's just enough time for a cleaner to shuffle through the carriages, and for the odd pigeon to hop aboard and then think better of it. "Go on time!!" screams a driver-facing notice at the front of the platform, to "help finish on book more often" and "improve layover/meal relief times". Our driver departs promptly, heading north in the gap behind a Circle line service, past umpteen trains laid over in the Hammersmith depot. Train T236, all stations to Barking, is on its way.

The platforms at Goldhawk Road station have yellow highlights on blocks and pillars. A West Indian family of three (plus a pushchair) bundle aboard before the doors close, and plonk themselves down around me. It must be their first ride on an S7 train, and they're a little in awe. "Oh yeah it's right through," they say, "you can see right through!" They would have sat up the front, but the doors up the front don't open at this station, and they're afraid they won't open at the next. Shepherd's Bush Market is the only station on the Underground named after retail, but it's Westfield's giant roof that dominates the horizon. That and the BBC's collection of satellite dishes pointing at the world from what is no longer Television Centre. Farewell.

Our modern train suits the modern station at Wood Lane, where the 'priority seat' on the platform has been angled so that anyone might slip off. We soar over the West Cross Route to Latimer Road, which is brown in the same way that Goldhawk Road is yellow. It's not a good look. Then we nudge up against the Westway at vehicle level, its 1960s builders having worked out that the least offensive way to drive a motorway through North Kensington was to run it on stilts alongside a railway.

Passengers at Ladbroke Grove have an 'Information and assistance' window to help them while they wait, possibly because there are no next train indicators anywhere down this end of the line, or possibly because they're more needy than average. The train slopes down to pillar level beneath the Westway, not gorgeous, and eventually level with the Great Western Railway alongside. Westbourne Park has charmingly striped iron pillars, and a lot of passengers who've not bothered to spread out down the platform so crowd like sheep into the front of the train. By Royal Oak it's Crossrail construction that dominates, with ranks of conveyor belts and a hillock of sludgy clay adding to the station's depressingly quarantined demeanour.

I'll not dwell too long on the run from Paddington to Farringdon because I blogged in depth about the world's first underground railway back in January. It being a Sunday afternoon, this stretch is the only busy bit of the journey. Passengers pile aboard with shopping and suitcases, choosing to stop and stand where they enter rather than walking up to the front of the train where there are invisible seats.

Barbican's still a remarkably open station, with a signal box more suited to some rural halt and two unwanted former Thameslink platforms. At Moorgate those spare platforms are still decorated for the 150th anniversary steam runs, which is nice, if a trifle redundant. A building site overhangs the line at Liverpool Street, beyond which is the first point along the entire journey where it actually matters which line's train you're aboard. Our H&C veers east just as Aldgate hoves into view, rattling past the backs of Metropolitan terminators, then pausing and queuing to slip into Aldgate East instead.

A free run through the East End follows. Whitechapel is no longer where this train terminates, indeed the two central platforms no longer exist except as a Crossrail building site. This is where the demographic aboard our train changes, with the majority of passengers from this point on of Asian descent. It's back into tunnel for Stepney Green, which stops one loudmouth yakking into his phone, and the carriage collectively smiles. Mile End is an easy cross-platform interchange, except the adjacent Central line train doesn't wait for us to pull in, and we don't wait for its successor.

I have to resist alighting at Bow Road, which would be my instinct as a local resident. That means I rarely ride the next stretch to Bromley-by-Bow, which has an excellent view of Canary Wharf and its towers, plus a brief glimpse of the Olympic Stadium lurking behind some flats. Residential uplift pauses as we cross the Lea, including the only undeveloped patch of land on the entire journey just past Three Mills. And then we roll into West Ham, not the ideal station for the football ground either present or future, especially now the Olympic footbridge has been completely dismantled.

We bypass Plaistow's newly-redundant platform 3, its mothballing a blessed relief to non-psychic locals seeking the next westbound train, and rumble on between unexciting estates. Earlier in the journey passengers were carrying designer bags and suitcases, but by Upton Park it's more Wilkinson carriers and unbranded blue. At East Ham three station staff are fussing over a bench, because Sunday afternoons aren't exactly over-stretching round here.

And finally, the long haul into Barking. The tracks split either side of the c2c depot (still with a couple of Christmas decorations up), although H&C trains always run to the north into the terminating platform. We wait at signal FF59 until that's been vacated, then glide slowly in. On this new train many passengers have taken the opportunity to walk all the way up to the front to get off, because even then it's still quite a hike up to the station exit. It's taken almost exactly an hour to get here to Barking, five minutes slower than the District would have done it.

Don't expect to find Michael Portillo on the run to Barking any time soon.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
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 

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

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards