Marvelling at the dedication of enthusiasts

Our human response to the dedication of enthusiasts to a subject, no matter how obscure, is to marvel, and admire. Occasionally, this response is ‘wow’, when the dedication is to a subject is way out of normal mainstream enthusiasms. It is a ‘wow’ response that I would like to tell you about.

I’ve mentioned HERE the 43rd series of Industrial Archaeology Lectures by the Surrey Industrial History Group. To date, I’ve attended the first and second lectures in the series, on Brunel, Scott Russell and the Great Eastern, and London Underground’s Edwardian Tile Patterns.

Douglas Rose, London Historian and information designer, gave the lecture on London Underground Edwardian tile patterns. Douglas began collecting details of station Edwardian tile patterns in the early 1980’s. In the mid 1980’s London Underground began a programme of station modernisation to keep pace with the increase in passenger numbers. New ticket barriers were added as were structural changes, in some cases, to fit escalators. These changes involved the removal of the old tiles, to be replaced by new tiles and new tile pattern designs. Douglas couldn’t have found a better time to begin his mammoth project.

To faithfully record the Edwardian tile patterns, running to around 300 feet of station platforms, Douglas evolved a way of capturing the patterns onto a survey grid. The tile patterns varied by station, and within a station the pattern was affected by passageways and equipment boxes. See below [click on image to expand] the survey form used by Douglas and his team of fellow enthusiast recorders.

Listening to Douglas talk about having often to remove grime, paint and posters to uncover the tile patterns, and all at night when the Underground power was switched off, increased my admiration of his efforts. One might even say his, and his team’s devotion, is heroic.

Douglas has been generous in allowing me to post some of his images, see below [click on image to expand]. These are Douglas’ words about the images.

The images are all from Regents Park. The top photograph is from inside an equipment room in the shield chamber on the northbound platform at the left-hand end. This gives a flavour of the difficulty of getting to much of the original tiling, being in a locked small room and with equipment fixed in the way. The second photo is of a pattern panel showing obscuring posters. The bottom photo is of a name panel and is of the earlier and heavier style used only on the Bakerloo stations. The realisation is of panels 1, 2 and 3 at the left-hand end of the northbound, showing a small section of the eventual realisation – there were 16 panels along the full length of the 292 ft platform (which was extended to about 350 ft much later on to take longer trains.

The project involved 2,000,000 tiles on over 90 platforms and after 26 years; truly a marvel at the dedication.

Reporter in Wonderland riding the Tube

Having spent time, though must say not recently, I’ve seen the aging infrastructure in America – mostly with their bridges and railways. It contrasts with their world leading position in science and technology. Oh, and the two other things we’re hopeless at, and at which, in my opinion, they excel: public address systems and air conditioning.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the New York Times has published this article – New York City Transit Reporter in Wonderland: Riding the London Tube.

The Evening Standard finds that Londoners baffled by New York Times article branding the Tube a ‘wonderland’ that ‘runs like clockwork’.

Impressive map of all London rail lines – Tube, Overground, DLR and National Rail

Visiting the City Metric website I happened on an article about London’s abandoned tube stations.

Fascinating in itself, though more impressive is a link within the article to a map of showing the entire National Rail, Tube, Underground, Overground, and DLR lines stations, and platforms in and around London. Oh, and it includes past stations and lines too. The nearest stations at the limit of the map to us in Surrey Heath are Virginia Water, Longcross, and West Byfleet, which shows just how extensive is the coverage of Central and Outer London rail lines.

The map is a creation of French designers at Carto.Metro. Below is a screenshot from the map. Being copyright protected it’s not possible to post the complete map here. You can, though, freely download the map and explore its content at your leisure.

Piccadilly Tube Station hosts a tribute to Frank Pick

Don’t know who Frank Pick is – shame on you. Frank Pick was the exemplary administrator, and manager of London Underground, forging it’s corporate identity, station design, lettering, and tube map.

Considering he promoted and pushed the roundel design, I saw a fitting tribute to him in Piccadilly Circus tube station – his name on a roundel. I think we easily neglect to appreciate the design elements of London Underground, mostly founded in the time of Frank Pick’s management of it, and notably with Harry Beck’s famous tube map design.

Here are some photos of the tribute, and the development of the tube map. [Click on images to enlarge]

Comparison between the Paris Metro to the London Underground

Ok, it’s not me doing the comparing. It’s CityMetric, a division of the New Statesman, that has an article entitled, “Paris has one of the densest metro networks in the world. So we’ve superimposed it on London“.

Geographically accurate Paris metro mapThe article contains clever overlays of the Parisian Metro, and it’s suburban rail networks over a map of London to help identify the differences. [Click on image to enlarge].

The article finds these differences,

…. there are some very big holes in the [Parisian] network. Consider the vast gap to the east of the city, which on this map covers Tower Hamlets. No other trains serve that district.

Two thoughts stem from all this. One is the difference in functions performed by these different networks. In Paris, the Metro moves people around the city centre; the RER and Transilien ferry them in from the suburbs.

In London, though, there’s no such division: the Tube plays both roles. The Central line, say, acts like an RER route in the Essex suburbs, but a Metro route in Zone 1.

The other is that this might be one reason why so many Parisian banlieues are depressed: it’s much harder to generate a vibrant economy when there’s no way of getting to a job.

NOTE: Transilien is the equivalent of National Rail, and the RER is the regional express underground rail network serving Paris, it’s suburbs, and the Île-de-France région.