Saturday 20 August 2011

As I mentioned there has been much going on at Chez Shrugged as the new paint job on the front of the house and the fully renovated sash windows testify. So busy that not only did I not bother swapping my early shifts this week but I failed to exchange my Waterloo and City line duties.

Sunday and Monday saw me crawling into work at a time I would normally be heading home from a night shift, much to the confusion of my colleagues. Equally when I walked in at the end of my shift the DTSM on the desk was checking his paperwork assuming that I was booking on rather than booking off.

And so Tuesday came and off I went to do my first ever full shift on the W&C. Why do Central Line TOps do the W&C I hear you ask; the reason is that the trains are basically the same as the 92s up on the Main and it was decided that Leytonstone depot would supply the crews.

Working the W&C is utterly unlike working anywhere else. You come out of Waterloo sidings, drive to Bank and get off. There’s a TOp waiting on the platform, they get on the other end of the train and drive it back to Waterloo. You wait for the next train in and drive that. This is called “stepping back”. You “step back” at Waterloo and repeat and repeat and repeat until the peak is finished after which you only “step back” at Waterloo, you bring the one you drove to Bank back again.

The trains are also different, down in the Drain it’s all manual driving, no Auto and while up on the Central speeds and signals are controlled by codes passed to the on board computer down there it’s simple speed limit signs like you get on roads with train stops and tripcocks to stop you going through a red signal

For those of you who have no idea what those mean every signal has a train stop, when it’s red it goes up, when it’s green it goes down. Under both ends of the train is a tripcock and if that hits the train stop when it’s up it will activate the emergency brake.

There are also train stops along the platform to stop you going too fast, they drop on a timing system and on my second trip I was going just a little too fast into the platform at Bank. Now as I said I don’t do the W&C very often so it took me a while to remember just what to do, in fact I had to ask the TOp waiting on the platform to check that I’d done everything. All this with an audience of passengers waiting to go to Waterloo.

By the time I got the damn thing moving the train stop had come back up again and activated the rear trip cock. We used the “butterflies” to get the passengers off, closed up again and got the train all they way into the platform. A technician was sent to check the train over, just to make sure that it wasn’t a fault on the train and he duly confirmed that it was indeed just a stupid TOp who can’t tell the difference between 10kph and 15kph.

While all this was happening the service was a train and a TOp short so the whole stepping back system was thrown out of sync, which meant that trains were not where they were meant to be on the timetable and were being driven by TOps who were on the wrong train at the wrong time. Things didn’t get sorted out until after the peak.

We were a train short the next day when we had a points failure in the sidings, so we had longer waits between trains at Waterloo and when the train did come out it had the wrong TOp on board. Finally on Thursday we were a TOp short so one train was left in the sidings. By the time they sent a TOp down from Leytonstone the whole “stepping back” process was so muddled that it wasn’t sorted out when I went home around 10:40.

If I do get sent down the W&C at least I know how things work but I’ll be in no rush to repeat the experience.

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