Monday 31 December 2012

Mesmerising Moorgate Musings [4]

Climbing the Northern Heights

The Edgware, Highgate and London Railway opened a three branch network based on Finsbury Park. This set of tracks became known as the "Northern Heights" lines.
Lines ran to Alexandra Palace, to Edgware and to High Barnet. Under massive plans drawn up in the very early 1930s it was proposed to link these lines into the Underground network and add a northern extension from Edgware into open country. The Edgware (& beyond) and Barnet lines would join the Northern line at Highgate whilst the Alexandra Palace branch would be linked to the Northern City line at Finsbury Park.
The original plan was only partly implemented to create the High Barnet Branch of the present Northern Line with a short single line spur to Mill Hill East ...
... being the only part of the Edgware Branch to be retained.

Using the fbb map of the Northern City line, we see the implications of this plan.
The plans of the Northern City line's builders would be realised, albeit with different destinations. In the end the powers that be at London Underground decided that the Alexandra Palace branch was not a suitable candidate for "undergroundification" and the branch from Highgate plus the stations at Stroud Green ...
... and Crouch End ...
... on the line from Finsbury Park to Highgate were closed permanently in 1964. The tracks remained open until 1970 and were used for the occasional freight train and transfer of underground stock with diesel haulage.
A present-day aerial photo shows the curve of the line, now a wooded footpath, very clearly.
The decayed remnants of Crouch End Station now form a "decorative feature" ...
... and at Stroud Green the overbridge remains and a much refurbished stationmaster's house.
The rather rudimentary station building stood between the house and bridge piers.

The final piece of the pre-1975 jigsaw was when the line was severed and operated from Drayton Park to Moorgate only. This was to allow tunnels to be modified to provide cross-platform interchange between the Pccadilly Line and the new Victoria Line. A bus link was operated between Finsbury Park and Drayton Park.
This convoluted history all evolved after fbb bought a second-hand book, published in 1975 to mark the end of Underground operation between Finsbury Park and Moogate.
A little over 70 years after this line was opened, the aim of its promoters was finally achieved and proper big trains ran from the suburbs through Greathead's unique full-sized tunnels to the City terminus.
To complete this series of blogs, we will take one last look at the line and stations (then and now) and review the present timetable. Maybe even speculate a little about possible developments?

The Alexandra Palace branch and the proposed line north of Mill Hill East warrant blogs in their own right and these will follow when the "underground" muse is refreshed and re-activated.

Tomorrow is the first day of 2013. fbb wonders what jewels of transport extravagance or disaster will appear to provoke a whole new batch of blogs. The politics of transport, both bus and rail, are getting very "messy" and rumours continue to circulate abut the future of at least one of the larger bus groups. Interesting times ahead?

 Next Rail Blog : Tuesday 1st January 2013 

Sunday 30 December 2012

Mesmerising Moorgate Musings [3]

But first, from our Northampton correspondent.
Dateline Thursday 27th December
Birmingham International
Having enjoyed the pre-Christmas privilege of floods, cancelled trains, substitute buses (if you were lucky) etc., this was the scene at "International" on Thursday last.

There was a "signalling problem", i.e. none of them were working.

Anyone got some fuse wire?
Back to Moorgate etc.

Finsbury was a borough, a division, and a sub-district, in Middlesex. The borough lay between Tower Hamlets and Marylebone and took its name, which signifies "fen-town", from a marshy common, now partly occupied by Finsbury Square ...
It was constituted a borough by the act of 1832. The marshy common was the burial-place of many victims of the great plague; was made traversable by causeways to Hoxton and Islington in 1415; and was first drained in 1527.

The Borough of Finsbury was a Metropolitan borough within the County of London from 1900 to 1965. In 1861 the population was 129,031 but 100 years later it had delcined to 32,887 as former private houses gave way to offices and business premises.
Finsbuy Town Hall

So in 1965 it was amalgamated with the Metropolitan Borough of Islington.

During the early part of the second quarter of the 19th century, following developments in Paris, Londoners began to demand the creation of open spaces as an antidote to the ever-increasing urbanisation in the city. In 1841 the people of Finsbury petitioned for a park to alleviate conditions of the poor. Despite some considerable local opposition, the park was formally opened on Saturday 7 August 1869.
The main line railway station at Seven Sisters Road was renamed Finsbury Park in November of that year.

 There was huge demand for rail travel from the northern suburbs, including Finsbury Park, to the City's financial districts and most of this travelled via the Metropolitan Railway's widened lines accessed at Kings Cross (and St Pancras). Initially a link line (shown in orange) was built from Finsbury Park to join the midland's line into Broad Street, next door to Liverpool Street Station.
Relationships with the Midland Railway were not very good and not many trains ran to Broad Street, certainly not enough to relieve pressure on the "Widened Lines". The line is still open and used for freight.

Two further proposals to help alleviate the Kings Cross bottleneck were under discussion at the turn of the century. One was what became the Piccadilly line running via Kings Cross and on to Hammersmith. The other was the Great Northern and City Line. Both these schemes had the support of various "Main Line" directors and neither scheme turned out quite as expected. In Particular the plan to link the Northern City with the man line and provide through trains from the suburbs to Moorgate simply did not happen. The line remained an isolated shuttle until 1975!

Drayton Park station is in a shallow cutting and here the depot was built as seen in this picture looking south.
On the left are the lines linking to the North London (now Overground) but then taking trains to Broad Street. The Northern City tunnels were bored using the "Greathead Shield" method and, uniquely, are the only full size tunnels (as opposed to "cut and cover") on the London underground network.

Equally non-standard was the electrical system, using two conductor rails and two "running" rails, both outside the running rails as shown here. Today London Underground used four rails, but the second electrical rail is in the middle of the running rails.
This little line also had the distinction of being the first true underground line to use a form of treadle controlled signalling and its associated safety system.

In 1913, still in financial difficulties, the original company sold the line to the Metropolitan Railway who immediately standardised the operation. The "branch", still unlinked to any other passenger line, eventually became part of the Northern Line. When fbb visited in the swinging 60s he was surprised (and disappointed) to discover that, despite the full size tunnels, only diminutive tube line stock was used.
These "little trains" looked very much out of place set against the full-size tunnels and, here at Drayton Patk, under main line station canopies. 

But this unprepossessing little line still has more adventures to add to the pages of its history. The first "adventure" began in the early 1930s.
P.S. Santa did get fbb's letter and his little helper (No 3 son) did give him a "Here to There" timetable book which will be reviewed in a couple of days.

Apologies for the delay but additional scanning technology is needed.

 Next Rail Blog : Monday 31st December 

Saturday 29 December 2012

Mesmerising Moorgate Musings [2]

A new route to the City
To understand the significance and delights of Moorgate from a railway point of view, it may be best to start from what is there now. So we'll stat at the bottom and go round in a roughly clockwise direction.

 Thameslink  services from Bedford to Brighton and Sutton running via St Pancras and the so-called City Widened Lines as far as Farringdon, then via the Snow Hill Tunnel to Blackfriars and then over the Thames. Services used to run to Moorgate, but this spur was closed to allow for longer 12-coach platforms at Farringdon. This was the last train to leave Moorgate appropriately (?) adorned with the rather lurid Thameslink upgrade livery.
 Circle  line Underground trains which no longer circle! From Hammersmith via the "Cirrcle" line to Edgware Road. These tracks also carry Metropolitan Line train to Aldgate and Hammersmith & City Line trains to Barking.

This network first opened in between Paddington and Farringdon 1863, reached Moorgate in 1865 and burrowed under the Thames at much the same time.

 Northern  line (City Branch).  This, in the form of the City and South London tube line had arrived at Moorgate from the south in 1900 an was running through to Euston by 1907.

 Main Line  opened to King Cross in 1852 having used a temporary terminus at Maiden Lane from 1850.
 Overground  line (the North London Line) opened in the early 1850s and now runs from Richmond to Stratford.

 Piccadilly  line opened as the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway in 1906, linking Finsbury Park with Hammersmith.

 Victoria  line opened in 1968.
The latest arrival in the "City" area will be Crossrail, but fortunately the only stop on the fbb set of lines will be Farringdon.

Originally, the "Circle" lines and the "Widenend" lines platforms at Moogate were mostly in the open air ...
... seen here with the terminating platforms on the right. The whole area was "rafted" and covered with the obligatory office block with the result that the station then appeared to be "underground".
Here two Thameslink trains occupy Platforms 5 and 6 with the Circle etc. lines on the right. The last such train ran ...
... nearly four years ago. How time flies!

Bur we have left the  Northern City  line to the last. Presently this carries stopping trains from northern suburbs and Hertfordshire towns on Mondays to Friday only, leaving the main line at Finsbury Park. It is a true "Tube" line running in proper tunnels and sharing Old Street and Moorgate stations with the Northern Line. But it carries full-size "big" former British Rail electric trains.
This line opened in 1904 and forms the core subject of this series of blogs. The Underground underground station at Moorgate was, as opened, separate from the Circle and Widened Lines facility with an imposing building situated in a neighbouring street.
The next blog in the series will look at the origins of this line and its uniqueness.

Meranwhile, yesterday, Sons Nos 1 and 3 took fbb to see the James Bond movie "Skyfall". This featured some tense action scenes on London's Underground at Temple and Westminster stations; plus action on a train going to Richmond. In one scene the baddie creates a crash whererby one of these "District Line" trains plunges through a blown-up hole in the track and on to James Bond. Very painful!

Readers with only limited knowledge of London's tube system will immediately recognise that the trains illustrated in these incidents ...
... are formed of deep level tube stock that never operates between Temple, Westminster and Richmond. Spot the difference ...
... between a real District Line train at Temple and the "Skyfall" Offering. With a budget of at least 150 million pounds, surely someone could get the right size of Underground train!
 Next Rail Blog : Sunday 30th January 

Friday 28 December 2012

Mesmerising Moorgate Musings [1]

A name to remember?
Dozens killed in Moorgate Tube crash.
A news item from 1975.

A London Underground train has crashed at Moorgate, killing the driver and at least 29 passengers and injuring more than 70 in the worst-ever Tube disaster. The 0837 train from Drayton Park to Moorgate was packed with commuters going to work when it overshot the platform and ploughed into a dead-end tunnel at 0846. 

The front three carriages were crushed together with the last three intact at the platform. The rescue operation has involved several teams - police, London Underground staff, fire crews, doctors and nurses from St Bartholomew's Hospital and members of the Salvation Army. 

29 passengers plus the driver were killed. The cause of the crash is, as yet, unknown.
This terrible tragedy shock the nation and all those who travel daily on the Underground. It challenged the claim that you are safer on the London's subterranean transport system than lying in your own bed at home. Despite the horrors of Moorgate and, 12 years later, the Kings Cross disaster, you are still safer on an underground train than safely tucked up in your own home.
Shhhhh ....

But this series of blogs was not provoked by some ghoulish memory of a horrific tragedy but by a second-hand book bought in Wantage and lying, forgotten, in a corner of fbb's well-known filing system.
The slim volume in question is :-
It was published in 1976 but was, presumably, prepared before the disaster which is not mentioned. It is 56 pages long in A5 landscape format and was priced at £1. In a telling comment on inflation, fbb's second hand copy cost him £2. Used copies are available on Amazon (at least they were when the blog was prepared; (on Boxing Day in a lull between exciting grotty television programmes) at prices from £3.09 to £15.99 plus £2.80 postage. Which makes fbb's £2 something of a bargain!

Anyway, the book set the chubby one off on a post-festival voyage of mesmerising exploration. A journey of delectable discovery into a lesser known backwater of London's underground railway system.

So, where and what is Moorgate?

Answer : It is a road in the financial district of London just to the west of Liverpool Street station. But, before that, Moorgate was Moore Gate, a gateway in the wall of London, the line of which is now a road called, in sublime originality, London Wall. This ancient maps shows the gate and the wall.

Moorgate was a postern in the London Wall originally built by the Romans. It was turned into a gate in the 15th century. Though the gate was demolished in 1762, the name survives as a major street in the City of London. The street connects the City to the London Boroughs of Islington and Hackney, and was constructed around 1846 as one of the new approaches to London Bridge.

And this is "yer actual" gate in 1680.

The first railway to "appear" at Moorgate was that of the Metropolitan underground line. Constructed by digging a gurt big trench and roofing it over with girders and or masonry ("cut and cover") the line had progressed from Bishops Road (now Paddington) to Farringdon by 1863. An extension to Moorgate was opened in 1865. The bit between Kings Cross St Pancras and Farringdon became four track to accommodate trains from the northern suburbs via tunnel links at the two London termini.

This old engraving shows platforms on the Metropolitan line at Kings Cross with a through train from the Main Line appearing through the murk on the far right. With the growth of "business" around Moorgate, these lines (still known as the City Widened Lines) became very busy indeed, conveying suited office clerks from the rapidly expanding suburbs. So busy, in fact, that long distance trains into Kings Cross were being delayed at peak times. Sounds rather familiar!

Something had to be done!

 Please Note 
fbb is off on his travels with Mrs fbb. A neighbour will be cat-sitting and meerkat lookalike Maureen-next-door (?) is on hand, blunderbus at the ready, as our neighbourhood watch sentinel.

fbb will be in Abingdon for a few days (Family Christmas) and intends to blog as usual. But you can never be sure ...

 Next Blog : Saturday 29th December 

Thursday 27 December 2012

National Express, Nice and Easy? [4]

For background:-
National Express, Nice and Easy? [1] (read again)
National Express, Nice and Easy? [2] (read again)
Where in Waterlooville? (read again)
Not only have National Express (NEx) replied, but they have obviosuly read (and considered) the whole series of fbb blogs. The reply was received very early on the morning of 24th December and is published here in full as an example of how to deal with stroppy, grumpy and dissatisfied customers. fbb has added a few comments by way of explanation.

Dear Fat Bus Bloke

Actually they wrote to an un-aliased fbb!

Your comments and concerns about our Portsmouth to London services have been brought to my attention.

 First of all I'd like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to you, your wife and your friend Julia, when you travelled with us earlier this month. 
I note your comments about the facilities at Portsmouth, Hindhead ...
... and London Victoria Coach Station and I'm sorry you found them inadequate. As I'm sure you will appreciate, National Express do not own or operate the vast majority of the stops we serve and we therefore have little to no jurisdiction over the provision of the facilities. However we will continue to work with the respective proprietors / authorities to bring about improvements that will benefit our respective customers.

I realise that having to wait outside in the cold for your late running coach was bad enough and I apologise that the temperature was not warm enough once you got on the coach. This clearly spoiled our efforts to provide you with a comfortable and enjoyable journey. We've asked our maintenance team ...

Well, Luckett's man with the spanner. They run the service under contract.

... to check the heating system and air conditioning and take any necessary remedial action to ensure there aren't any further issues.

We always do our best to ensure that our services run as close as possible to the scheduled time. However as I'm sure you will understand, with the vagaries of road travel, problems do sometimes arise, often outside of our control, which can lead to a delay. It was extremely unfortunate that both your journeys on 6th December were affected in this way. 

I take on board your comments that the impact of the delay to your return journey could have been reduced, had a station staff member commenced the boarding process in the driver's absence. In an ideal world we would do exactly that, however with vast the number of services departing from Victoria at any one time, and the limited number of staff we have, this isn't always possible. I do agree that an apology and explanation for a delay is basic courtesy and this matter has been followed up with the people concerned.

We now have GPS trackers on all our coaches which, over the last few months, has helped us to build a bigger picture of how each of our services run on a day to day basis. With this new package of data, we are working with the operating depots to see how particular patterns or trends may be causing our services to run late, and what we can do to help with this.

Turning now to your comments about the information regarding our stops at Waterlooville; thank you for bringing this to our attention.

The bus stop flag that you photographed is one that is owned and maintained by the council and although, as above, we have no control over this, we have asked them if they will update it to avoid any future misunderstandings.

Our Planners have advised that there is correct National Express signage ...

Actually, this contradicts the previous paragraph; so something still to sort out there.

... and a current timetable at the stops we serve in Waterlooville, although I note your comments about our description of where to find these stops. We have since amended these descriptions to reflect the location more accurately.

I'm really sorry that this wasn't a good first experience for you and we'd very much like for you to give us another try. To try to make amends, I'll be pleased to provide a complimentary ticket for you, your wife and Julia to use on a future journey. Please let me know if this will be of interest for you and I'll be happy to arrange.

fbb and party are off to Guildford in the new year and, subject to timings being OK, will accept the NEx offer to try again. Thanks folks.

Thank you once again for taking the time to provide feedback. We welcome all thoughts and suggestions on how we can improve our network and/or individual services and we implement changes where we agree it will be of benefit.

Please therefore contact us directly if you have any further comments or concerns.

Although the reply took some time, the author thereof has obviously read fbb's blogs and taken noter of the concerns. The next trip will be of interest and a further visit to Waterlooville will confirm whether the stops have been "sorted".

But thanks, NEx for a thorough and agreeable reply.

Power to the Blog! And fbb just loves the pictures of the "traditional" Victoria Coach Station on the windows of the waiting area.
Ah, those were the days!
 Next Bus Blog : Friday 28th December