Sunday, May 2, 2010

Trip to England 2010 - return home

Sunday 2 May

It rained all night long and was raining as we left the hotel for the three minute walk to Paddington station and the Heathrow Express. A good day to leave London.

The Heathrow Express was fast and efficient as ever. The short trip out on the Great Western main line evoked many memories. In Paddington station we could see the the Directors' balcony above platform one. I remember hiding in the cab of “Clun Castle” on one of the last steam hauled passenger trains out of Paddington, the 16:15 to Banbury. I had to hide until we were out of the station because my boss was looking out from the Directors' Balcony and I should have been doing my training in the Accounting Department. I then got down to shoveling coal.

We left under the wires. On the left was the site of Raneleagh Bridge servicing point where the steam locomotives were turned and serviced ready for their return to an out of London location.

Kensal Green gasometer has survived and is now preserved under a good coat of paint.

Old Oak Common with the now deserted Eurostar maintenance depot on the down side. In the yard was a class 08 diesel electric shunter that was old when I was working. I once got one of these up to 14 mph going down the incline to Reading Goods. The driver was quite upset with me although I pointed out that the maximum speed was 15 mph. No sign of the four turntable roundhouse, of course.

We raced past the site of the former Acton marshalling yard which is now used only by stone trains. I caused an upset when I wrote my report about working there as I predicted that there would not be a place for it in the new railway. I was right.

At Ealing Broadway the Central Line was closed for engineering work for the weekend. There were two electric loco-hauled ballast trains and a lot of work men, materials and equipment.

The Hanwell Viaduct, made famous by John Turner's painting “Rain, Steam and Speed” is still carrying trains, although they are now a lot heavier and much faster than when it was opened.

Southall now has station signs in English and an Asian language. The steam shed still survives and a number of preserved relics are in there.

Hayes and Harlington was the site of a record making factory.

Then everything went blank as we entered the tunnel to get to Heathrow. Heathrow is a joy. The passenger circulating areas from the train are extensive, wide and easy to use. 45 minutes after we had left Paddington Station we had checked in and were through security and waiting for our flight to be posted. As usual, the Air Canada departure lounge was very calm and orderly and again there was plenty of room. We left on time and arrived in Ottawa a few minutes early.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Trip to England 2010 - London

Saturday 1 May

I had a shock this morning when I tried to upload some pictures from the first SD card out of the camera.  It looks as if the camera has corrupted the card.  The later two cards seem alright but no more pictures.  It subsequently turned out that I was able to recover a good proportion of the images through Dr. Data.  Will need to get a new camera when I get back.

London is a mess. The Underground is practically shut down for the weekend. There are posters everywhere saying before you go to the airport, before you go to the match, before you go shopping you had better check for the planned disruptions. The entire Jubilee Line is shut down as are the western sections of the Central Line and the eastern part of the District line. Many of the escalators are out of service or under repair - it is like being in a building site. The Oyster card is not much use if using it is a problem. There are lots of congestion points getting between the platforms and the surface or another platform and I don't understand why there are differences in height between the platform and the trains when they have been running the same trains for years. At least London Transport make it easy for one to find out about the planned disruptions through text, email etc., but better not to have them in the first place. This is the result of many, many years of underinvestment.

Of course these problems are not confined to the London Underground. Robert and Elora who were with our group planned to stay overnight in London before returning to Glasgow today. However, the West Coast Main Line is shut down for the weekend and they are being forced to go to Glasgow on the east Coast Main Line via Edinburgh and it was goping to take them about seven hours I think.

We took the underground to St. James park and walked across to the Mall and down to Trafalgar Square. At the St. James Park station there were 30 or 40 police vans full of London policemen, playing cards etc., At least they weren't kitted out in riot gear and none of them appeared to have firearms. On the way we passed a group of schoolchildren who were drumming - very entertaining. We walked past St. Martin in the Fields and along to Covent Garden which was a zoo being filled with tourists and people trying to relieve tourists of their money. We quickly left for the Strand and down to the embankment which was a little more sane. We crossed the river on the Millennium Bridge and had lunch at the cafe in the Tate Modern.
Messes/Fish and Chips and fried broad beans
English toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream/Caerphilly cheese and chutney.
Bottle of Rueda
We then had a look at the Tate and walked along to London Bridge which was another zoo. It had started to rain by the time we reached Canary Wharf but, with the help of an Auxilliary Policewoman, we found a pub where we had a very passable Fullers London Pride best bitter.

It started to rain. To get back to Paddington we took the Docklands Light Railway to Bank and changed to the Central Line. We lucked in to a car with a number of drunks of both sexes who were trying to entertain everybody with songs. The girls were trying to get everyone to join in saying "You will never experience anything like this again". This was certainly true as they were in danger of having wardrobe malfunctions. The Central line had quietened down by the time we got to Notting Hill Gate where the exit to the Circle Line was long, tortuous and arduous.

Neither of us has changed our opinion about London. We don't like it and much prefer Paris.

The first thing I did on getting back to the room was to check in for our Air Canada flight to Ottawa tomorrow. We are going home.