Trains, Planes And, Er, More Trains

Dad talked about catching the new Victoria Line when it opened in the late 1960s. He kept one of the new tickets that you put in an automated barrier rather than gave to a guard. Only many people couldn’t get the hang of this technology so the queues rather defeated the idea of automation speeding things up.

When I started working in London I’m the early 1980s, they opened the Jubilee line only they didn’t build much of it, just the stretch from Charing Cross by the river to Baker Street where they rebranded part of the Metropolitan Line. Still there were some new stations across central London to get excited about.

Later, when Canary Wharf was commissioned as London’s answer to New York mahusive trading floors the inadequate public access that was the Docklands Light Railway had to be enhanced and the Jubilee Line Extension was commissioned. It was delayed and over budget and its elongated programming had a part to play in the collapse of Canary Wharf Group into administration – a form of corporate bankruptcy – in the early 1990s. I still remember the first of many negotiations in the Canary Wharf Tower in 1995, looking down on the hole in the ground that eventually became the Canary Wharf station. From 26 floors up it looked small and unremarkable; at ground level it is cathedral sized. We acted for a large American bank who commissioned two towers to house their European Middle Eastern and Asian HQs. The client needed an assurance the tube would be running by the time the first building was occupied. That confirmation wasn’t in Canary Wharf’s gift. It led to several irresolvable standoffs. Eventually there had to be a measure of trust in the British Government that they would complete it. Oddly the Americans took that punt and they were rewarded. Probably the last time that’s happened.

They opened much fanfare, even if on opening the trains couldn’t run as fast as they’d said. The old Metropolitan section was just too old to be capable of handling the speed requirements, without a pretty major rebuild and no one intended taking the line out of action to do that.

That was 25 years ago. A lot of the system was decrepit back then. It shut at weekends for repairs and cleaning . The tonnage of human hair and skin that is dug out each time a piece is serviced would supply several cannibal delis. But a side benefit of the Olympics in 2012 was the need to accelerate the upgrades. No government wants the Olympics bollixed by its transport system. That has paid some dividends since but no doubt we will fall behind again.

And now, in 2022, 4 years late but squeakily close to the Queen’s Jublee – a mistake on some memento plates has it as the Jublee, which is close enough to Lovely Jublee, a well known catch phrase hereabouts – the Elizabeth Line has opened, linking Heathrow and Maidenhead in the west with Shenfield and Abbeywood in the east. It looks very… purple and I’ll have to ride it soon. On the news tonight, a woman from South Carolina travelled especially to enjoy it on its first day.

And I thought we were bonkers…

Train travel in all its many forms is my favourite, though overcrowded fetid tube trains on a sweaty Monday when you share the journey with a tandoori flavoured armpit is well avoided. Maybe it’s a boyhood thing. Maybe it’s the fact that unlike cars and planes the delays are generally far fewer and unlike boats I don’t get sick.

I’m glad we built it as I’m glad we’re building the new train route north and I hope we find the investment to keep improving what we have. Toot toot!

And just to show that we sometimes do neat things around transport here are some murals that line the entrance to Leytonstone Station. Alfred Hitchcock was born in that rather drab bit of east London serviced by the central line. When I saw them back in 2016 (this explains the poorish quality of the pictures) I thought I’d remember more films than I did (I managed six). I wonder how many you might get. The last picture is a list if you need a memory jogger.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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31 Responses to Trains, Planes And, Er, More Trains

  1. Have yet to ride in a “tube train” although I have ridden the “EL” in Chicago… LOVE the artwork you posted.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ruth says:

    Awww… thanks for the lovely memories, Geoff – I lived in Leytonstone for several years 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. willowdot21 says:

    Very interesting as ever Geoff I got eight films 💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great stuff Geoff.
    I cannot know your local true cost of transporting one sweaty body by train but we all know these lines would be deserted if government subsidies were discontinued.
    Here in the US, we have local money wasting train projects to create barely used lines that are heavily subsidized and the true cost per warm body is rarely seen so must be embarrassingly high. With our own local (no so) Smart Train, I play a game everytime I see one or get stuck waiting at an intersection of road & rail as one passes. The game is simple. One need only watch each coach and spot the rare passenger. . .
    On the other hand, I can’t wait to find a place to quote or shoe horn into one of my essays your brilliant phrase, “tandoori flavoured armpit”.
    This has to be the best quip of the Tangental year to date.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      It’s galling if they don’t get used for sure. Maybe if you guys paid what we do for fuel you’d move onto the train!! Even post pandemic when numbers crated the city based systems are well supported but out in the burbs or countryside it’s a different question.


  5. trifflepudling says:

    Only managed 6 too! Rear Window is my favourite Hitchcock film.
    It’s a fine network now, when you look at the London trains map. Looking forward to trying the new line from Reading. We enjoyed the DLR ride to the Olympic Park.
    Totally against HS2, though! Ruining the countryside, as have all those awful depressing and doomy metal gantries all the way along the GWR.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. joylennick says:

    Hi Geoff, I share the same delight with your American fan above. Love it! Many years of train travel brings back mixed memories, not least being squashed by taller guys while trying to alight at Oxford Street station, and the more recent, delightful and reasonably -priced… high-speed train ride from Alicante to Madrid as a birthday treat. Recommended. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Enjoyed the Hitchcock gallery.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    I could identify about five of the movies. I can’t imagine flying over to London just to ride on a train of any sort!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Anyone want to buy a second hand tunnel boring machine. I know where there are a couple going for a song. Buyer must collect!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, great murals!


  11. petespringerauthor says:

    Fantastic art! I have a lot of good memories of playing with trains when I was a kid. I still get nostalgic feelings when I see trains.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Such an informative, post, Geoff – and I’d never seen those mosaics

    Liked by 1 person

  13. noelleg44 says:

    Really good mosaic artwork! One of our favorite things to do when we visit the UK is ride the trains. THe system here is a joke.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Jennie says:

    I did not know Alfred Hitchcock was from your neck of the woods. The mosaic murals in the railway station are very well done. I can recognize most of his movies. He was brilliant; in his movies, fear was real in the everyday, which is scarier than blood and gore. I still cannot watch Psycho, and hubby still cannot watch The Birds. I love trains. Many places here are preserving the old steam engine trains. As you know, my first memories are of hearing those train whistles as a child. That sound today floods me with memories. Best to you, Geoff. Thank you for a terrific post.

    Liked by 1 person

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