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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

London By Train

I caught an early train today, so I could be on-site ready to start work at 7am. As I started my journey it was dark and I quickly fell asleep on the train. When I woke up the warming autumn sun was just rising above the horizon and I recognized the various buildings as we passed by. There was the recycling centre, Millwall FC's ground (The New Den) and various other buildings, both new and old. As we approached London Bridge we passed the signal box that I know so well. Over the years I have spent many days and nights working there. At one time it felt like my second home. The new Shard at the station is almost complete now and when it's finished it will be the tallest building in the UK. When it was half finished it reminded me of the cooling towers at the ill fated Chernobyl nuclear power station. I will probably always remember it that way too.

Continuing north from there I remember that my Grand Father, whom I never knew, was born on Blackfriars Bridge Road in the latter part of the 19th century. The building in which his parents lived has long since gone, but somehow it's seems important to remember where my ancestors came from. My Father, another Londoner was born slightly further south in Kennington, Lambeth.

The next station we pass is Blackfriars, which is currently being rebuilt and only the through platforms are currently open. It doesn't feel very welcoming at all, but hopefully this will improve once the building work is complete.

Next we stop at City Thameslink, formerly know as St. Pauls Thameslink. It's a strange subterrarium station which always feels cold and uninviting. The white walls seem so drab and dull. For some reason it has a very long platform, which has two signal sections and can probably accommodated two 12 car trains at once.

We then visit my favourite station on this line, Farringdon. I love the warm sandstone coloured bricks and the beautiful light that comes in through the high glazed roof. It somehow feels as if I have travelled into the Victoria age and all that is missing are the steam trains. When I used to work at Euston I would changed onto the tube here, which meant I could avoid the huge crowds at London Bridge or Victoria. I used to hate trying to get on the Northern or Victoria tube lines in the mornings as there was always such an oppressive amount of commuters trying to do the same. At Farringdon it's a short trip across the bridge to the other platform and the tube trains were never crowded.

St. Pancras Domestic is the next stop, which takes you directly into the beautifully refurbished St. Pancras station. The designers and engineering have done a wonderful restoration job on the train shed roof. It lets in such a lot of soft light. That is truly the best station in the world bar none. The subterranean Thameslink platforms however are all concrete and stainless steel. It is very unwelcoming and for me, lets down the rest of what is a quite amazing station.

I final get to West Hampstead Thameslink station at 7:09, which is where my journey ends today. This station is also being rebuilt, with new over bridges and station entrance. It is due for completion later this year and should improve the passenger experience. I wonder when I will get a chance to see the finished product?

In 12 hours time I will be reliving the whole journey in reverse order. By which time it will be almost dark once more.


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On Loan

This week I am working in West Hampstead London. My previous employer, the one who made me redundant 19 months ago, don't have enough qualified engineers to fulfill their requirements to their main customer. My ex Boss called me a few weeks ago to ask if I would mind helping out for a while. I of course said yes as my current position is currently far from exciting and I jumped at the chance to feel useful once more. Emails were exchanged, numbers were crunched and a contract was signed between our two companies and here I am on temporary loan.

As soon as I arrived on site I was greeted by numerous familiar faces and was warmly welcomed back into the old gang. Within minutes I had solved a minor problem and it was as if I had never left. I felt at home and at ease.

That was a night shift last Friday night and two more followed in quick succession. By the early hours of Monday morning collectively we completely replaced one Signalling control system, provided one new system and up dated two more. I personnel had over seen one of these upgrades, thoroughly tested it and brought it into use. If you have travelled anywhere between West Hampstead Thameslink and Blackfrairs stations since 4am on Monday morning, I have helped your journey go as smoothly as possible. If you have experienced any details, they were not of my doing as the equipment I have worked on has behaved itself beautifully.

This week I am working days monitoring all these new and upgraded systems. So far I've been very bored, sitting around just in case something goes wrong. Of course I hope nothing does fail, but if it does at least I'd have something to do.

While I sit here writing this I suddenly feel quite sad that I was made redundant from a job I loved. I did however walk straight into another job with a company which treats it's staff very well indeed and I suppose I should be grateful that I have a job at all in the current economical climate. The fact remains that after 19 months, I still feel like an outsider. A round peg in a square hole. I feel that my current employer is wasting their money by not using me and my skills to their full potential. I want to shine and excel, but I cannot. It could of course be my own fault for not speaking up. Maybe I should stop feeling sorry for myself and push myself forward.

The fact remains that I have enjoyed this last weekends work and I would be keen to do more if asked. Being a "hands on" engineer is far more rewarding than driving a desk all week.


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