The One Where We Raced Around The Underground
And so it was that on Thursday May 22nd, we were at Heathrow Airport at 4am in the morning ready for the first train of the day!
Jono who had come with us on the first time was acting as a supply man for the day, bringing us much needed food and drink at lunchtime, as well as Dave who'd come with me on the third attempt who spent the day driving around London on his motorbike, getting to stations before us to act as a point man, and be another supply man.
After some filming of us 'arriving' at Heathrow we started on the 05.04 from Heathrow Terminal 4 - The exact same timetabled train that we know that Jack travelled on for his successful record attempt.
And no ... we didn't just blatantly copy him, but after many many hours of more research and planning we realised that it probably is the best place to start.
And yes, we'd be finishing at Amersham too - just like he did. We actually think that the first few hours of our route might be the same as his!
The Northern Line has a lot to answer for!
The day is going fine - so fine in fact that we're ahead of our planned schedule by almost 15 minutes when the Northern Line decided to fuck up our entire day. It really was that bad. At Golders Green we got stuck for 10 minutes when the train sat outside the station for no reason that we got told about. Camden Town was a nightmare, as at NO point going through it did we get the train that we wanted first time - we always had to change.
Also, at one point at Camden Town, the train indicator boards were blank and we had to resort to me standing on one southbound platform, with Chris on the other and Peter in the middle, and we're all talking to each other via walkie talkie radios which we'd brought so that when a train did come in we could contact the other person on the other side and tell them what was happening. And we had to do all that, just because our brand new route still incorporated changing at Goodge Street - essential for that all important 'Goodge Street photo opportunity' which had become synonymous to the three previous attempts.
There was also a major points failure at Kennington, which meant that the southern end of the Northern completely screwed us up as well. We had to change twice at Kennington and waste loads of time. We later found out the LU had decided not to fix the points problem during the day, but to go with running a poorer service via one set of points, and fix the broken set overnight. That alone probably cost us the record.At Arnos Grove on the Piccadilly Line, we had trouble from some officious LU staff people themselves. We had the entire TV crew (pictured) with us at that time (Jacob the director, plus two cameramen and soundman, and two other people), and despite the fact that they had filming passes and permission in advance they held us up for 5 minutes as they argued that they shouldn't be there.
More filming problems came late in the day at Stockwell. We had to change to go down and do the one stop to Brixton .. a train came in, stopped, it's doors didn't open and left again!
Somewhat amazed and pissed off, I went looking for a member of staff to see if there was a problem. Darren - the cameraman that was following us about for the entire day (madman!) - came with me, and when I found a member of staff up by the barriers and I asked him politely if there was a problem, he completely ignored me and got more annoyed about Darren with his camera - despite again that fact that we had permission and a filming pass which Darren showed him.
"Stop filming on my station" he said. "Or I'll sue your arse off". Nice. I must go back one day and compliment him on his customer service skills.
Although we had a brand new route, there were some bits which were done the same way as on previous attempts as there is no other realistic way of doing them, which meant that we did the run between Ickenham and West Ruislip again.
Weeks after doing it, I got an eMail from someone at work saying "I saw you at West Ruislip the other day! You jumped into my carriage looking out of breath and very focused, and then jumped out again and ran further down the train!".Yup. That was me !
There was a very high point at West Ham during the afternoon when we changed, and Dave had got their before us on his bike, and had bought us some Fox's Biscuits and cups of tea! A marvellous moment that was most appreciated, even if we didn't say so at the time. Thank you Dave!So we clawed some time back as the day wore on, but we would still have some amazing bad luck.
We missed a train connection somewhere on the Northern Line by literally 5 seconds ... and had to wait nine minutes for the next one.We changed in the afternoon somewhere onto the Bakerloo Line ... just missed a train by a few seconds again and had to wait seven minutes for the next one. That's appalling - That's the sort of amount of time you expect to wait for a train in the evening or late at night, and not during the afternoon. Then, just to top that all off, I think the most galling part of the day was when at about 7pm in the evening we ran on foot down to a District Line station only to find that station doors were shut - CLOSED! And about 100 people milling about waiting on the pavement outside.
At the point I did actually give up. I could have almost burst into tears. 14 hours we'd been going and now some damn stupid station was closed due to overcrowding. I rang up Jacob and told him that "It was game over" and that "There's no way we're going to do it now". And yet, at that moment, the station reopened, so we rudely pushed our way through to the front, and jumped on a train that came straight away and was going where we wanted it to!
Suddenly, it was all back on again. Even then we still had time for the Stockwell train-doors-don't-actually-open incident (above) and a change onto the infamous Hammersmith & City line where has to wait seventeen minutes for a train. SEVENTEEN minutes - that's terrible! On a line that's supposed to run once every eight minutes - quite dreadful LU, please take note. Still .. we did avoid the whole of the Metropolitan line have a major signal failure at Baker Street that morning though, meaning that no southbound trains went further than that.
And in the end ...
So we carried on. Making up the time slowly that we had lost out on early and we realised that it was going to be close as to whether we were going to do it or not. And it was close - very close. To the point where we did manage to be on the same scheduled last train home that Jack had got .. i.e. we would either be just a few seconds ahead, behind - or maybe match his time!
But, the last train was late by a couple of minutes. It was due at Chalfont & Latimer at 0018, to arrive at Amersham at 0022. But it was running slightly late, and in the end, we were just four minutes out. Four measly poxy minutes away from breaking the time.When Jack did it, his train had actually ran two minutes earlier than scheduled, and our same train was actually running two minutes behind, meaning a difference of exactly four minute (to the second!) overall.
But, we weren't completely pissed off. It was weird. I think it was because at one stage during the day we didn't think that we were even going to get round the whole system.In fact, judging from the reports we saw afterwards, it was I'd have to say the worse day out of all four possible attempts that we've made so far in terms of delays, problems & signal failures etc.. And it's because of that, and the fact that we DID get round and do all 275 stations and miss out on Jack's record by such a short margin that if we had another crack, we could well do it.
We had one thought occur to us as we drove round the M25 on the way home... If our Heathrow train had left just a couple of minutes late instead we would have matched Jack's time, and possibly beaten it by just a few seconds as well.That's how close it was. Maybe next time it would be worth getting the second train of the day from Heathrow, and not the first !
Peter got interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol the next morning.We have no idea how they found out we were doing it. They actually called Peter during the day when we were travelling on a bus between two stations! And he arranged for them the next morning to call him up at my house (where he stayed) and they spoke to him.
Also, my friend Paul who lives in Chesham came out to meet us for the last few stops and took these photos of us! (44, to be precise which is a lot considering he was only with us for three stations!)
Including this one of Peter, me (upside down), Chris and Jono who came to pick us up! What a nice man. Dave arrived on this bike as well a few moments later and just missed the photo. Sorry mate!
Tube 4 stats
Stations visited: 275/275
Start time: 05:01.49 Finish time: 00:24.45
Time taken: 19 hours 22 minutes 45 seconds
Jack Welsby's Record time: 19h, 18m, 45s.
Time off the world record: 4 minutes, 0 seconds
Number of people: 3
Support team: 2
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 | Tube 20
My first three attempts used the same route of a Chesham start and a Morden (!) finish. For this attempt and the next two (Tube 4 to 6), a new route was used, that started at Heathrow and finished at Amersham, it went like this:
Start at Heathrow Terminal 4 on the Piccadilly on the first train of the day at 05:04, and go round the loop - stay on the train all the way through to Hammersmith. Change onto the District Line and head west down to Richmond. Reverse at Richmond and go back up to Turnham Green,
Get back on the District and go through to Ealing Broadway, change onto the Central Line and go east one stop to West Acton, get out and run on foot down to North Ealing. Head north on the Piccadilly to Uxbridge changing at Rayners Lane if need be.
Reverse at Uxbridge and get out at Ickenham and do the run to West Ruislip. Go south down the Central Line all the way through to Notting Hill Gate. Take a Circle/District train south. At this point depending on what time it is you do Olympia at High Street Ken, either by getting out there and running to Olympia (and get the train down to Earl's Court), or get on the Olympia service at HSK and once you get there, run to West Kensington.
Head west on the District Line to Hammersmith, get out and cross over the road to the H&C line. Go up to Edgware Road, change and get a train down to Bayswater. Get out, and run down the road and rejoin the Central Line at Queensway.
Go only as far as Bond Street where you change for the Jubilee Line - head north up to Stanmore, reverse and come back to Canons Park. Get a bus to Edgware.
Come down the Northern Line changing at Camden Town if you have to to get onto the Charing Cross branch and go to Goodge Street and reverse. Go up north the other branch of the Northern Line and knock out MIll HIll East and then head to High Barnet, from where you get the 307 bus to Oakwood.
From Oakwood, go up one to Cockfosters and reverse, and come down the Piccadilly Line. Change at King's Cross onto the Victoria Line and go north up to Walthamstow. Get a bus from here to Leyton to join up with the Central Line.
Do the loop and Epping (whichever comes first, changing at Woodford obviously), and come back down south again. Come all the way through the middle to Oxford Circus where you change onto the Bakerloo Line and go down to Elephant & Castle. Onto the Northern and knock out Oval and Borough, get out and go on foot to Southwark.
Head east on the Jubilee line to West Ham, where you connect up with the District & the C2C trains. Do whichever one takes you to Upminster first, and get the reverse back. Go through on the District west of West Ham and change at Whitechapel.
Knock out the East London line by usually going up to Shoreditch first, reverse, come down and do the New Cross's, walking between the two. Come back up again to Canada Water, and go west to London Bridge.
Go north up the Northern Line to King's Cross, change onto the Piccadilly. Head south coming down to Knightsbridge. Run on foot from here down to Sloane Square. Head west from here on the District down to WImbledon. Use either the tram and/or combination of bus down to Morden.
From Morden, you to go to Stockwell, Brixton and Victoria, where you go east to Aldgate and ran to Aldgate East. Get an H&C train back over the top through to Great Portland Street and run to Regents Park.
On the Bakerloo, you go up to Harrow & Wealdstone, and from there it's the 'standard' finish of Kenton to Northwick Park & Preston Road, and then up the Metropolitan Line to Watford, Chesham, and finally Amersham.
Tube 4/ Race Around the Underground
Thursday May 22nd 2003.
The TV programme was show on ITV1/Carlton on Thursday 16th October 2003, and is the story of our 'Tube4' day.
This is not the programme that is now often repeated on Sky Travel - that was our Tube3 adventure!
Well - the first thing you need to know is that I was given the opportunity for it to be on TV again. ITV (Carlton) run a series of programmes each year under the collective name of 'Metroland' - stories that are London specific.
And so just before before Christmas 2002, an independent director/producer and a very nice chap called Jacob phones me up out of the blue and told me that he wanted to submit the idea of following us around the tube again - provided that we were prepared to do it again.
I had to point out (he didn't know!) that we'd already been filmed on the previous third attempt and it would be going out on TV in January. But this didn't cause a problem for either him, or Carlton, and so I said 'yes' and a few weeks later, the programme idea was accepted.
There was a lot of planning (and a lot of free lunches all paid for by ITV - thanks guys!) and a brand new route that we worked out (mainly thanks to Chris to be honest) which we would be following on the day.The TV crew also came and filmed me at my house for an entire day, interviewing me, as well as spending a whole afternoon down at Camden Town tube station getting some 'moody' looking shots!
They also interviewed Jack Welsby (the current record holder) and Bob Robinson (the long time holder of it prior to Jack) both of whom will be appearing in the programme.
Other Attempt Writeups:
Buy my Station Master App on the iTunes Store which I've created, it's the definitive guide to travelling around the London Underground, with everything you need to know.