Friday, October 26, 2012

Return of the Strap

Readers whose tastes run to what I believe is known in certain circles as "discipline" will be sadly disappointed if they continue with this article. For the strap to which I refer is a device to make it easier to retain one's footing on a moving train. In the olden days all the tubes had them, often rather sinister sprung jobs with shiny black spherical handles, somewhat like what I imagine a cosh to resemble. The phrase "straphangers" was invented to describe a line of commuters in a packed train, each clinging on for dear life to one of these and trying not to trap their fingers in the spring. I found an excellent picture showing the straps - and a comment from a reader saying he thought they were used as coshes during the second world war - on the Flickr pages of IanVisits.

Well, we have new version of the old strap and they are being installed to the "S" stock trains on the Met right now. I saw my first examples yesterday and courtesy of the District Dave site you can see a picture of them. The photo makes them rather sinister, like a line of dangling nooses into which travellers who have finally given up the bitter struggle to get in on time can end it all, but don't worry about that, they are not that big.

And now to my new journey from beautiful Ruislip to work. My office has moved to Farringdon and it is the Met line all the way. The only complexity is that, in the morning most trains in from the Uxbridge branch stop at Baker Street :  so - do I change at Harrow, with a good chance of having to stand all the way (clever link back to the strap hanging theme here) [nice one: Ed] or go onto Finchley Road, hop off and wait for the next Aldgate, or to Baker Street where if the train comes in on platform 1 one must either walk through to the Circle Line or go over the steps to platform 3?  And coming home - take the first train which, if a Circle, requires a change at Baker Street and a hair-raising race up the steps, through the main concourse and down again to catch a train that is starting from there (this happened yesterday and whilst I was lucky to get an Uxbridge just before it left, I saw a fellow commuter bound down the steps only to see the doors close in his face), or hang around waiting for a through train to Uxbridge (these run only in peak hours and most of my journeys are off-peak)?  There are other options and possibilities but 'twould be tedious in the extreme to describe them all, much as you probably want me to, so I shall desist. [Thanks: Ed]. Decisions, decisions.  And not helped by the tube internet information system which sometimes describes all southbound trains as Aldgate when they are not, or simply as "unknown".

Farringdon station itself is fascinating - one of the oldest stations on the line and indeed one of the oldest metro stations in the world, but with a huge new station building for the National Rail lines and massive construction going on around it for Crossrail.  Footbridges snake across the lines at odd angles. At the end of the tube platforms an unmarked tunnel leads to the National Rail platforms. The tube lines bend away so sharply at this end that, although fully in the open, incoming trains are invisible until the last second of their approach. Yesterday as I waited for my Met train, passengers just a few feet away (but separated by a barrier) were waiting for trains to Gatwick and Brighton.  Brighton for me means starting at Victoria, passing Battersea Power Station and calling in at Clapham Junction, the way that God intended. One of my earliest and favourite computer games was called "Southern Belle", written for the Spectrum , and it simulated driving a steam train along that route using the most basic of graphics but with such atmosphere that one could easily imagine it. A diesel from Farringdon? No. It won't do. Just look at this screenshot and marvel

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