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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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