Friday 28 September 2012

29: A Tribute to A Stock (and A Grid)

Hello, and once again welcome to the Railwaymedia blog.

I know it has been less than a week since I published edition number 28, but with no plans to travel anywhere in the next week or so I thought I would take the opportunity to cover my visit to London to witness the last public runs in service of the Underground's veteran 50 year old A-Stock.

Before that though, the big excitement in the North West last weekend was the first use of a Colas class 56 on a Carlisle to Chirk Log Train. It had been rostered to work the Thursday loaded train from Teigngrace to Chirk and then Friday afternoon headed up to Carlisle. Following loading it then was in charge of Saturday afternoons 6J37, which at a weekend is booked via the West Coast Main Line rather than the weekday route via Settle. There is a nice new bar on Carnforth station, The Snug, which usually has 4 real ales available, so the decision was made to go there to see the 'Grid'. The location, to the north of the station, I had actually never used before for pictures, despite the many hours I used to spend at Carnforth with stand-by engines. Of course as is usual with my luck when out and about, despite it being sunny everywhere else it wasn't shining here!


Hopefully the 56 will become a regular performer on this train, though it is at a slightly inconvenient time as normally when I've been on night turns all week I am in the pub when it is due through!

So Wednesday of this week was advertised as the final public run in service of a London Underground A60/A62 stock Metropolitan Line train. Built between 1960 and 1962 they are (or were) not only the oldest passenger coaches in service in Britain but, as far as I know, the last trains still in service built by the firm Cravens of Sheffield, which was bought out by Metropolitan-Cammell in 1966, and was once a prolific builder of rolling stock. 

The diagram (train 412) for the last day included several round trips between Amersham and Aldgate, also with visits to Watford. It was booked to work the 0928 fast train from Baker Street to Amersham, so in order to beat the off-peak 0930 curfew for Oyster Cards I boarded at Finchley Road for a run on it up to Rickmansworth. As far as I know this was the first time I have travelled on a Metropolitan Line train on the fast lines north of Harrow, and obviously it will be the last time I'll ever do it on one of these trains!

At Northwood there was a 4 car rake of A-Stock in the siding which has been used for loading the withdrawn coaches onto lorries destined for the scrap yard. I decided to get a shot of '412' returning past here, though one of the new S8 trains heading north got in the way a bit. I heard later that the two nearest coaches in the siding, 5095 and 6095, were removed by road 2 hours later.

I had a ride up to Watford as I have also never previously travelled over this branch. There are plans to divert this line from the present terminus on the edge of Watford via a short new section of line to take over the former BR route from Croxley to Watford Junction. The residents of the leafy suburbs surrounding the present station are kicking up a fuss about the loss of their direct trains to Central London, but there can be no doubt that having the Metropolitan link directly to the Town Centre and West Coast Main Line at the Junction can only be a good thing for the vast majority of users.

Back to chasing train 412, and having missed the next northbound train whilst I had my dinner in Watford, I went to Pinner. I almost got 'bowled' by an S8-Stock heading the other way, meaning a rather quick change of lens. Hanging round with my camera waiting for it, full marks to the two Community Service Officers who, rather than the expected "Excuse me sir, what are you doing?" just nodded and asked "When is it due?" I suppose they were of course aware of all the enthusiasts about, but it would be nice if that was the normal casual approach from people in authority to anyone wielding a SLR camera on a suburban station.

I wasn't expecting too much from the weather during the day, the forecast had been for showers, but come early afternoon it started brightening up. I met up with Richard Stiles who showed me two good bridges located between Willesden Green and Kilburn stations. There followed about an hour of photography whilst we waited for the A-Stock to return which, with about 30 trains an hour each way between the 6 tracks of the Jubilee, Metropolitan and National Rail's Marylebone lines, resulted in quite a few picutres.Wonder of wonders also, the sun appeared for the return of train 412!

It was basically a case of waiting for the train then to return from Amersham, so we got a few pictures at Harrow before doubling back to Preston Road for a final shot and, more importantly, to board it for its last run through to Aldgate. It formed the 1808 from there to Watford which, as it is peak hour, would normally be full of commuters. This day however I suspect quite a few failed to board it as it was full, literally, with Enthusiasts before it even started its journey. Never before I would imagine since the opening of the line has a train terminated at Aldgate and virtually every single passenger has remained on board to travel back!

I needed to catch the 1930 Pendolino back from Euston as I was working that night, so I travelled with the a-Stock as far as Finchley Road. Richard stayed on to Watford and for its final journey as the 1917 back to Harrow-on-the-Hill. There is a farewell tour planned for this Saturday, the 29th, when for £40 you can travel over every bit of the Metropolitan Line. In many ways the withdrawal of these trains mark the end of an era as they are the last trains on the London Underground with many features such as luggage racks and 'traditional'  transverse seating. Very quickly the next oldest stock on the Underground, the C-Stock (used on the Hammersmith and City Line) and the D-Stock (on the District) will start to be replaced by the S7 stock currently being delivered.

As with all things, now they have gone I wish I had taken more pictures of them over the years whilst I had the chance, so I suppose I had better get my finger out and get a few more of the ones pictured above. I hope my little tribute to final day of the A-Stock has been of interest. The rest of the days pictures can be viewed HERE, please look out in a few weeks for edition number 30, bye for now!


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