Strange start to the day!
I'll start by telling you how my day started. Well in actual fact, my bus journey to the station.
I boarded the bus and stood about halfway down the gangway as there were no seats. I could smell cigarette smoke, and was casting my eye up and down the bus to see if someone was having a sly ciggie at the back. I couldn't see anything, but I could definitely smell cigarette smoke!
After about a minute, a big Jamaican guy approached me and in his Jamaican accent told me "Hey mon, your shoes are on fire!"
Now I've been told some strange things in the past, but that's the first time I've been told my shoes were on fire. I was beginning to wonder if it was some sort of code - maybe he thought I was the secret agent he was supposed to be meeting!
I had to ask him to repeat himself, even though I'd heard what he said. He told me again that my shoes were on fire.
Sure enough, I looked down, and found the source of the cigarette smoke! There was a lit cigarette end sticking out from the side of my shoe drifting smoke up the bus!
The shoes we wear are company-issued Doctor Martins with quite good tread on the sole, and I must have stood on someones cigarette as I boarded the bus which had wedged in the tread pattern!
I hastily removed said offending ciggie and stood on it to extinguish it. I felt such a pillock!
The Lost Oyster!
Even though it sounds like the name of a cutesy kids book about poor Ollie the Oyster who got lost, this is the tale of a group of drunken young ladies on the platform at Victoria station earlier this evening.
I had stopped and opened the doors as usual, and I could see the girls looking underneath the carriage. I opened my cab door and asked them what the problem was. One of them had dropped her Oyster card onto the track, and they were working out how to retrieve it.
Apparently one of them was going to jump down when I pulled out of the station. I almost screamed at them not to be so silly!
They didn't seem to realise that the rails are electrified! When I told them I'd summon station staff assistance and that they weren't to attempt to retrieve the pass under any circumstances themselves, one of them asked me "Why? Will be prosecuted?" I told them "No you'll be electrocuted".
I contacted the line controller who informed the station staff who duly arrived with the special tool they use to recover items from the track. So although I may have initially upset them by doing my 'strict headmaster' thing, I like to think that I've educated them for the future.
It's still very worrying that people don't realise that there is 630v running through the rails!
Yes, it's my traditional whinge time! We went for months on the District without having any signal failures, then we had a load all at once!
I keep a record of every time I've had to 'apply the rule' (to pass a failed signal), and the previous time was several months ago. Then I got three in two days!
The worst one was the signal just beyond Dagenham East on the eastbound line which had failed at danger. The signal is automatic (meaning it is controlled by the passage of trains with no input or control by a signal box). The rule for passing this type of failed signal is wait 2 minutes (to give it a chance to clear) then blast the whistle, pass the signal (which will stop the train instantly thanks to our safety systems). Reset the safety system, then continue at a "speed at which you can stop short of any obstruction" (about 5mph, and the train will not allow you to go faster than 10mph anyway for 3 minutes after being tripped) until you've passed two consecutive signals showing a proceed aspect (ie yellow or green).
Now in most areas, this isn't a problem because signals are so close together, so you can pass the required two signals in a relatively short period of time, but beyond Dagenham, the signals are about half-a-mile apart!
What a pain in the arse it was to drag the train at 5mph for almost a mile until I'd passed the required signals!
By the time I arrived in Upminster, I was about 15 minutes late because of this! I wasn't too worried because the District timetable is quite generous in 'recovery' time, so I should have still got back to Earl's Court for my meal break on time, however this wasn't to be!
I was fine as far as Minories Junction (which is between Aldgate East and Tower Hill where the Circle line services go their own sweet way towards Aldgate). I got held at the signal approaching Minories, which I knew meant I was about to have a Circle train put in front of me. Now this is bad news to any District driver, especially one who is due off for meal relief, because the drivers on the Circle allegedly deliberately take their time to try and run late and miss a trip!
Sure enough, the Circle trundles over the junction and eventually I get a green signal. I was right... The Circle driver was taking the piss, and never seemed to get above about 20mph meaning that I was simply going from one red signal to the next. Not too bad though, he seems to find out how to make the train move after a few stations, and I start to catch up some time... Until I hear a radio message between the controller and a Circle driver who is apparently having door problems somewhere. I think to myself "knowing my luck, that'll be the one in front of me", and guess what?!
I'm now stuck in the tunnel between Victoria and Sloane Square while the Circle line tries to rectify his door troubles. Eventually he gets the train moving and off I go. The outcome? I lost 10 minutes of my meal break! Not the end of the world, but when you're hungry, it's bloody annoying!
As any member of LUL staff will tell you, there is always a rumour of some sort floating around the messrooms! The latest I've heard is that when the new Heathrow Terminal 5 opens, the Piccadilly line will not have enough trains to operate a full service to Heathrow whilst maintaining the service on the Rayners Lane branch. Therefore, there is talk about the Rayners Lane branch being given back to the District Line!
Those of you with a knowledge of LU history can probably tell me the year, but the branch was originally the District line anyway!
I have no idea if and when this would happen, but would make the longest run for a driver anywhere on the Underground to go from Uxbridge in Middlesex through the city to Upminster in Essex!
Well, that's it for now!