Saturday, 11 June 2011

Rail Mini Marathon - Day 2

Wednesday 8th
Sleep disturbed a couple of times in the night, including during the shunting at Waverley, but woke refreshed at about 6 a.m to a sunny day. With the aid of my trusty track plans I soon worked out that we were on the Trent Valley line around Rugeley. Our progress was occasionally delayed by signals as we made way for the early morning expresses from Birmingham. Breakfast was prompt at 6.45 complete with airline style fry up but with real cutlery and crockery. Not a bad effort. By now we had our place in the traffic and were flying along. We whizzed through Berkhamstead without sighting Ed Reardon - a bit early for him I suppose. Soon we were immersed in the fascinating tangle of lines in north west London. After a short signal stop just outside the station we rolled into Euston dead on time at 7.47 a.m. Our 4 coach train had grown to about 16 coaches overnight, switched from a diesel loco to an electric one and changed running direction but it did still feel like a single journey. 
Now for the tricky bit. Before leaving home I discovered that somebody (Helen?) had half inched the pocket A-Z of London so I had to find Gospel Oak on foot without a map. I knew that I needed to turn left out of the station and then take the first left. The weather was beginning to look threatening but it wasn't actually raining. I started to look for somewhere with wifi so I could report my progress but failed to spot anywhere. After about 20 minutes walking I turned a corneer to find myself outside Mornington Crescent tube station. Was this an omen? I was able to check a locality map and charge up my Oyster card for later. I made my way through Camden and into Kentish Town by which time I was starting to see signposts to Gospel Oak station. These took me across a park and through side streets and passageways to my goal - where I was much too early. Off peak travel starts at 9.30 so I took a wander and found a cafe for a a cup of coffee but still no wifi.  
 Back at Gospel Oak station I boarded the 9.35 for Barking - a very smart new diesel multiple unit. Fended off the feeble texted jokes about Barking and enjoyed the trip. Looks like Boris is onto a winner. The train was clean, punctual and quite heavily used, although most people only seemed to go a couple of stops. Once at Barking I exited the station and immediately found a Wetherspoon's - The Barking Dog. A cup of tea and the free wifi went down very well. I could relax now that I had brought the world up to date. I returned to the station and found a Hammersmith & City tube waiting. 
 This runs on the surface in this part of the world and took me for a 4 stop ride to West Ham where I walked about half a mile to transfer to the Jubilee line to go one stop to Stratford. This is an enormous station, being totally rebuilt for the 2012 Olympics. There was a Richmond train waiting at the platform.  This time the train was electric with lengthways seating which made looking out of the window a bit more difficult, especially when the train got busier. Slight markdown for Boris here. 
As we made our devious route around north London the weather improved and by Richmond it was sunny. No time to dawdle as I needed to take the same train back for a few stops to Willesden Junction in order to change for Clapham Junction. On this leg of the journey I received texts from wife and No 1 daughter to say that Shelagh is in London today to celebrate her birthday. There followed a rather confused set of messages as Shelagh has changed phones and didn't recognise my number. Apparently I sign off texts in the same way as Dan the archaeologist. We agree to meet later at her brother in law's flat in Kensington. The train is delayed by signals and I miss my connection at Willesden, not a catastrophe as there is a 15 minute service. The high level platforms overlook the West Coast mainline and I spend the time in the sun watching the trains go by.

 Another electric to Clapham Junction which really is an amazing place with tracks and trains as far as the eye can see in most directions. No time to linger as once again I need to retrace my steps for 3 stops to West Brompton in order to switch to the District line for Wimbledon. This trip is mainly on the surface and while I wait on the open air platform it starts to pour with rain. I take cover under a bush until the train arrives. At the end of the line I transfer to the Croydon Tramlink, still in pouring rain. 
 This crosses south London on a disused railway track for most of the route and, again was busy, but people were only travelling a few stops. The last section was real tram track, running up the high street amidst the traffic. West Croydon railway station took a bit of finding but I got there in the end and had only a couple of minutes to wait for my final Overground train to Highgate & Islington. This runs along the London Bridge suburban lines for a while, then veers off and joins the old East London line which is actually underground, using the Rotherhithe tunnel to cross the Thames. At Whitechapel we intersect with the Underground District line, which is actually nearer the surface than the Overground line.
Since my last trip this line has been extended by bringing a section of the old North London back into use, which traverses the rapidly gentrifying East End at roof top level. By the time I arrived at the terminus the sun was shining and, mission accomplished, it was time for a (very) late lunch. The Famous Cock on Upper Street provided passable ham, egg and chips as well as wifi, allowing me to Bookface my triumph. When I retraced my steps to take the tube it was noticably busier although I did get a seat for my first leg to Kings Cross. The next hop, to Edgeware Road was definitely playing sardines - the Delhi Metro is a lot more comfortable. At ER I crossed the platform to a waiting District line train and travelled in relative comfort to High Street, Kensington.  A quick call to Shelagh and she gave me directions to Nick's flat - only a couple of hundred yards away. On the way I stopped at Tesco for a bottle of prossecco and had to wait at the checkout while a duty manager was summoned to check my Clydesdale Bank tenner. The house was quite full when I arrived and soon got fuller. The time flew, assisted by Nick's champagne and it was soon time to head back to Euston. 
 I made use of my entitlement to the Virgin Trains First Class lounge but their wifi was down. When the sleeper was called I headed for platform 15 where I discovered that my birth was in the front coach of 16 - a long walk.
 I then had to walk 5 coaches back to the Lounge car where I got the last seat. 
 As we got under way at 21.15 I realised that it was very definitely getting dark, more than an hour before it does at home. A couple of beers and a sandwich went down very well before returning to the cabin to type up my notes and then turn in.

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