As you may have read, I went on a trip on a 1938 tube train a few months ago – but today was THE BIG ONE, where the train did a full run along the entire Northern Line from Morden to High Barnet and back again as part of the 70th anniversary year. Woo!

Made my way down to Morden and waited to be let on – and they took us down to a separate platform to wait for the train, which duly pulled in and after a short delay – we were off.

Unlike the previous trip, this train was absolutely packed without a single spare seat. I sat opposite a couple + baby who is probably the youngest “tube anorak” ever.

The train positively hurtled through the tunnels, and actually seemed faster than a modern train. I think that was due to the slightly more bouncy journey though. As the train passed through the stations it slowed down as they have to and then accelerated away – only occasionally stopping to wait for clearance ahead on the track.

We were supposed to go via the Bank branch, but thanks to problems in the morning they decided to route us via the West End which was a double treat as we came back via Bank and hence got to go right round the entire line.

As before though, one of the nicer aspects of the trip is sitting on the train as it goes through stations and seeing the looks of shock, puzzlement and delight on the faces of the people on the platform as this strange old train pulled in. Out came a veritable forest of camera phones as people took snaps to show to their friends. What had been just a normal and probably tedious wait for a train had become a matter of delight and something to talk about.

Many expected to get on the train, but the doors never opened.

There were also a fair number of train spotters taking photos at the ends of the platforms as well.

The train proceeded along towards High Barnet – and in probably a first for London Underground – the train actually arrived early, so we all had plenty of time to stretch legs and take photos before the return trip to Morden.

It was a really enjoyable trip to go on and I had an idea to head back to Clapham Common, which has the famous central platform and try to get photos of the second run of the day – hopefully with both the old and a modern train at the station at the same time.

Alas – this was to prove to be a huge disappointment and the events there really spoilt the day for myself, and quite a few other people.

After a coffee and a wander around Clapham, I went back down to the platform to get ready to take some photos. I really wanted to do it at the top of the steps, but that would have caused a blockage so was not really viable. So I wandered along to the near end of the platform and met up with another chap who had been on the previous heritage run – and there were a small group at the far end of the platform also getting ready to take photos.

I took a few sample photos to make sure everything worked, and then the tanoy bellowed out that photography was banned on the Underground. It kept repeating this – and several staff came down to stop the group at the end of the platform taking photos. They were utterly contemptible in their manner in dealing with people and it really annoys me that hundreds of people were taking photos all along the Northern Line – but here at this station, a bunch of jobworths were spoiling the issue.

In the end, I actually caught another train to the next station along, which is similar to Clapham Common but not quite as good – and there took my photos without any trouble whatsoever, although they didn’t come out too well as I didn’t have time to set myself up properly.

Transport for London naturally requires permission for commercial photography, and students can also get a photo-pass, but there is no explicit ban on photography for personal use. Indeed the policy seems to be based entirely on the mood of the station staff, and in this situation it seemed that a small group of people, causing absolutely no obstruction or problems whatsoever was worthy of four station staff descending on them to prevent our hobby.

To have spent over an hour on a special train full of tube staff allowing people to take photos with gay abandon – to then be told that photography is forbidden is inconsistent and frankly put a really sour end to the day.

I’ll be sending a more thoughtful letter to TfL on this issue later in the week.


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One comment
  1. Sharni says:

    Thanks so much for the article Ian.

    I was one of the pleasantly suprised commuters at Camden station yesterday, and have been scouring the net (almost) in vain to find out what it was that I’d seen.

    I’m no train nerd nor history buff by any stretch of the imagination, but being lucky enough to see that gorgeous old train was a total delight.

    Further adding to the amusement was the fact it took many of us on the platform (myself included) a good few seconds to figure out why the doors weren’t opening. Nothing like an historic train to switch off the autopilot.

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