The One Where We Did It Again
We started at Chesham at 5am in the morning. None of the other guys that did it the first time could make it for the whole day, but Ross and Chris did make appearances throughout the day to lend some much needed support and general morale boosting.
The amount of stuff that I took was cut down dramatically. At various points during the day you have to run on foot along the street between stations, and figured that the less stuff we had with us, the faster we would be able to run and maybe make an all important connection!
Starting or finishing at Amersham/Chesham is really the only way that you can hope to achieve it as those stations are topologically a long way out from the centre of London. Even if you used the Nation Rail service to quickly get out or get back, you could never hope to make it in a day. I know that the previous record attempt ended at Amersham, so we planned a route that ended there too (well, at Chesham), and then reversed it round when we realised it would be quicker. And thus our day started at:
Chesham : 05.23 am
And 26 seconds! That's the time that the first Metropolitan line left a very chilly Chesham in the morning. We didn't take jackets - again to minimise on the amount of stuff that we wanted to take with us - so just in our 'tube' T-Shirts we were a little cold.
You get the whole 'North West Quadrant' (as we called it - sounds like something out of StarTrek) out of the way first. It's a little depressing because on a 'stations per minute' ratio, you seem to spend the first two hours not actually doing many stations - but they have to be done and it's good to get them out of the way.
At Amersham we were amused by the driver of the train who saw us get off his train and then not go anywhere (we were waiting for it to turn around to take us back), and he gives us a quizzical look and said to us "Where are you going?" to which I simply replied "All two hundred and seventy five stations!", and the quizzical look on his face just deepened.
Did you know that the majority of the London Underground is actually overground. Only 43% of the system is actually in tube tunnels or 'cut and cover' tunnels. And when doing the challenge, you don't have to travel everywhere by tube train, but you can take any form of public transport to take you between stations, which meant that we spent more than half the day above ground.
So we're on a bus between Canons Park and Edgware, and I've allowed 20 minutes for the change. The bus pulls in at a stop, and two old people proceed to get onto the bus really slowly. Now, there's "really slowly", and there's "really slowly", but you had to seriously see just how slow they moved to appreciate why I was mumbling under by breath "Oh for gods sake HURRY UP!". Apparently I was looking quite irritated.
Now hats off to old people, respect your elders, they won the war for us and all that, but just when I'd got over them spending what seemed like a week to get onto the bus and sit down (the driver didn't move off until he could see that they were seated), they realised quite quickly that they'd got on the wrong bus! Oh joy!
Which meant, that they immediately pressed the button (but quite slowly of course), and the bus then stopped at the next stop, and they spent an equivalent agonizingly slow amount of time getting off the bleedin' bus that they spent getting on in the first place.
Anyway, here's a picture of me looking slightly more relaxed (probably because they'd eventually got off and we were on our way again) on a number 307.
So thanks again to all of you that ...
Chatted to us. Best of all were just some of the comments that you heard as you ran past people through the corridors and up and down stairs. The old man (why are they always old men that complain about people rushing?) that called after us "Huh! All these people rushing about! Why don't you slow down?" as we raced up the stairs at Vauxhall. The lovely (but we think slightly mad) woman, who seemed quite concerned for our health outside Oakwood station. "Aren't you cold in your shorts? I don't think it's warm enough ... I'd love to be able to wear mine but I don't have the legs for it anymore".
Also a special mention to the 11 year old kid that didn't want to mug us (despite the great interest he showed in my digital camera) whilst coming back on the National Rail train between Upminster and West Ham. This is Nathan, who eventually understood (I think) after a few minutes what it was we were doing.
What he couldn't understand though is that the money we were collecting for doing it we weren't keeping but giving it to charity. We also never found out the name of the girl that he fancied that he had written on his hand in pen, but it began with the letter 'H'. Good luck with that one Nath.
Somehow we managed ...
NOT to encounter at any point during the day a) Buskers, or b) Any beggars coming round the train trying to prise your pennies from you. Quite a feat in itself I think. I also managed not to knock anyone over this time, in fact I don't think I even bumped into anyone all day. Again, this was probably down to the fact that between the two of us we only carried one small bag this time.
This meant that we couldn't carry as many supplies as we did before so we got people to meet us at strategic points during the day with coffee, sandwiches and on the South West Train down to Wimbledon, I swear a Burger King milkshake has never tasted so good as it did then.
Coming up the District line from Wimbledon through Southfields the train was flooded with Americans who had obviously spent a nice day out at the Tennis. Somehow they managed not to wind me up - perhaps because I was thinking that we were coming up to the moment where it had all gone wrong last time. We came into Earl's Court, got a swift connection up to Kensington Olympia, and then ran on foot down to West Kensington.
It was here last time that we found about the signal failure which meant that we couldn't go to Richmond. Well, the gods appeared to be smiling on us this time, for not only were Richmond branch trains running fine, but as we ran down the steps of West Kensington to the platform, a Richmond bound train itself glided majestically into the platform ... it was a nice moment.
The Hammersmith, City & Swearword line
So it's going good and we're over three quarters done. I've got my previous set of times with me from the first attempt, and all day I've been comparing how we were doing today compared against last time.
At one point we were 30 minutes behind, and then at one point we were 10 minutes ahead. It's weird though how it balances itself out over a whole day. Being ahead by 10 minutes can get eaten up with one bad change - we felt this particularly so when we had to wait for thirteen minutes at Hainault for a Central Line train, and later on, a whole 16 minutes for a Piccadilly Line train when changing at Acton Town. That's what makes me think that it can be done even faster.
We were in fact 5 minutes behind the previous times when we got a Hammersmith & City line train from Paddington down into Hammersmith where we had to turn around and go back up to Shepherd's Bush to connect with the Central Line. We absolutely needed either an immediate connection or a fast turnaround if we were going to make it.
I wasn't sure if we'd have to change, or just stay on the same train for a few minutes and go back out on the same train. My question was answered as we slowly trundled into the platform at Hammersmith, and there was a train on the other side with lots of people on it, and very obviously was about to leave.
The station layout at Hammersmith is such that the trains aren't adjacent, but you have to run around the buffers at the end. The second that the doors opened we were off running around to try and catch it, when a member of the platform staff spoke to me as I ran past him. I wasn't sure if he was trying to help me or not - it turns out he was just confused as to why I would get off one train and run for other - but in the two or three seconds that I slowed to speak to him, I heard the 'beep beep beep' of the doors on the train as they started to close. "NOOOOO!!!" I screamed and literally slid up the platform scraping my shoes as I went to the train just as they doors went "Clunk!", and shut in front of me.
[NB: Sensitive readers should turn away at this point if they are not familiar with coarse language - and that includes eleven year olds called Nathan]
So what would you do? In your mind you absolutely have to be on this train if you're going to do it. Otherwise you've spent almost 18 hours on trains for nothing. So what do you do? That's right! You swear and shout at the top of your voice whilst banging on the train door. [Last chance for sensitive readers to turn away now]
"OPEN THE F**KING DOOR!!! PLEASE!!! HELLO!! FOR F**KS SAKE PLEASE I NEED TO BE ON THIS TRAIN!!!"
(Bangs on door, and all passengers in the carriage turn to stare at me) I look desperately down towards the front of train to see if the driver has seen or heard me.
There's a gentle "Whirr" and "Click" as the units electric motors spin into life, and the train gently pulls out of the platform.
More swearing required methinks.
"OH YOU C**T! FOR F**KS SAKE!", I scream in frustration, and with no train doors to now bang on I vent out my frustration on the nearest inanimate object to be which just happens to be one of those big yellow 'SALT' containers that they used to hold grit for when the platforms are icy.
At this point I think I wasn't really aware of what I was doing as I was later told that I was banging my fist on the concrete platform as well, but I don't actually remember doing this at the time.
The platform guy who had delayed me by those few seconds now looked visibly worried at my agitated state and is now talking to me trying to get me to calm down. He sees our 'tube challenge' T-Shirts and explained to him what we were doing.
I don't think he completely believed us until I showed him the logbook that we had with all the times in that we'd written down during the day.
He told us that the train that we'd just come in on would be leaving in 8 minutes time.. wouldn't that do?
I look at my clock and work it out ... no ... it's not going to work, as If we're not back up at Shepherd's Bush in 6 minutes then we're going to miss our connection and we're not going to make it.
The platform guy mumbles something else and wanders off and tells us that he'll be back in a minute. We're loitering by the doors of the train that we'd just got off when I notice that the signal at the end of the platform turns from red to green. And a few seconds later there's that familiar "Beep beep beep", and thank god we're standing right by the doors as we jump on as they start to close, and for a reason which we'll maybe never know, it leaves earlier than the platform guy said it would.
And that I think is when we both realise that maybe, just maybe providing there's no cock-ups or delays that we could be on our way to doing it.
We'd had Morden enough
It works out better than expected. Not only do we make our Shepherd's Bush connection, but we get the penultimate train instead of the last one which means we make our Northern line connection ahead of schedule and again get the penultimate train of the night instead of the last one as planned.
So there's this weird silence as we trundle down the southern reaches of the Northern Line. Stockwell, Clapham, Tooting ... they all tick by and quietly and with a growing sense of confidence we write down the times that we arrive and depart and neither of us dares to say the phrase which we fear could cock things up if we do, ie. "I think we're going to do it...".
And what do you know ... We do! And it's actually a bit of an anticlimax.
We get worried for a split second when the train does it's obligatory stop just outside Morden station whilst still in the tunnel whilst the points change to put it in on the right platform ... but a few seconds after that the train comes into Morden, and the doors open and we're on the platform at exactly 59 minutes and 9 second past the midnight hour on the Friday morning.
So - we left Chesham at 05:23:26, and got to Morden at 00:59:09 going via 275 stations on the way. That's a total of 19 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds. And as far as we're aware that's a new record time!
But, we hadn't reckoned on someone else doing it faster ...
Tube 2 stats
Stations visited: 275/275
Start time: 05:23.26 Finish time: 00:59.09
Time taken: 19h, 35m, 43s
Robert Robinson's Record time: 19h, 59m, 37s
Thought we'd beaten the record by: 23 minutes, 54 seconds but hadn't ... (Read on!)
Number of people: 2
Support team: 4
Tube 1 | Tube 2 | Tube 3 | Tube 4 | Tube 5 | Tube 6 | Tube 7 (World Record)
Tube 8 | Tube 9 (Tube Relief) | Tube 10 | Tube 11 | Tube 12 | Tube 13 | Tube 14 | Tube 15 | Tube 16 | Tube 17 | Tube 18 | Tube 19
Thursday, 27th June 2002
After the first attempt (Tube 1) had failed when we missed out just three stations, we thought it would be daft not to try it again considering how close we came.
275 stations. Just read that number again - two hundred and seventy five. It's a hell of a lot when you think about it.
And now just picture the tube map. How would you do it if you had to travel round all of them in the quickest time possible?
Well, I'm not giving away the route here - not just yet anyway! Why? Well, bizarrely enough, I reckon that on a good day if I were to have a little more luck with some of the changes, then I could do it even quicker! Yup, I reckon that if all went perfectly well then I could beat it by about 30 minutes. Therefore in the story below I've deliberately been non-specific about certain parts of our route.
Other Attempt Writeups:
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