The One Where It Was Quite Hot

Two significant things happened on this day that I made a solo attempt:

1) London Underground moved under the control of Transport for London. Uncle Red-Ken got his grubby mits on The Tube, and lots of little changes started happening straight away, including the 'Tube' website moving, which is no longer, but now at instead.

2) It was the hottest day of the whole year so far! Here's the front page (left) of the Evening Standard from the day which I saw many commuters carry around with them on trains!

And it was hot - and as the day wore on I became very hot, grimy and sweaty quite quickly - obviously the running between stations didn't help much. And I was looking rather worse for wear at the end of the day with my poor clothes suffering through me sweating so much throughout the day.

So who went?

Well, I was by myself, but I had some help. My main partner in crime was Dave, who'd accompanied me on Tube3, and been a supply and point man on his bike in Tube4.

This time, he was being a supply and point man again - but he would come around with me on the tube for various bits, but not do all the horrible running parts and boring bits where you go to somewhere, and turn around and come back again.

I also had my friend Lesley meet me on the Central Line at West Ruislip, with a most welcome cold drink, and a slightly melting Kit-Kat. Another friend from work - also confusingly called Dave - came out and met me for a part of it, as did my lovely girly who joined me for the last few hours.

Paul in Chesham came out for the last few stations and and took some photos as he did last time, and last but definitely not least was Chris, who'd either been around or participated on all four previous attempts who met me at about 8pm in the evening, and did the last 4 hours with me, and provided some much needed calm to the proceedings just as I was working myself up into an agitated state.

So how did it go then?

Well I was comparing times all the way, all day with the previous attempt (Tube4) in my logbook, so I could see at a glance if I was ahread of behind of last time. My target was to be half an hour ahead by the end of the day.

But, I was down by 10 minutes quite early on due to a train not arriving as per the timetable, but by 08:30 I'd got some good changes and got the time back.

Then I had to wait 9 minutes for a District Line train when 2 or 3 would have been more expected, and this made me miss my next connection, and put me back about 5 to 10 minutes on average for the few hours - but I could live with that because I knew that the time would be made up if all went smoothly from now on, as on the last attempt we'd had a lot of delays in the evening which I was hoping I wouldn't get this time.

There were a few cool changes ... another mate of mine from work (also called Dave!) came out and met me for the High Barnet brach of the Northern Line. He waited for me at Finchley Central whilst I went up to Mill Hill East and back, and as I came back into Finchley Central on platform 1, a train to High Barnet came into platform 2. I would so definitely not have made it if Dave had not been standing in the doorway holding the door open for me which allowed me to squeeze on! Thanks for that one Dave, it was quite a cool moment.

I also had an odd change at Edgware Road .. where I got on the wrong train! I wanted to go south down on the Circle/District line towards Notting Hill Gate, but for reasons that I'm not going into here, I ended up on a Hammersmith & City line train going west, and came into Paddington where I though "Eh? .. this isn't right!". And stood on the platform for a few seconds before realise what and done and then thinking "Shit .. I'll have to wait to get an eastbound train back again", when I realised that I could get to the Paddington platforms of the Circle/District lines here, and ended up running through all the passengers and the main concourse of Paddington station itself ... but in the end probably only delayed myself by a couple of minutes.

I also turned around at Goodge Street as usual - Dave is with me at this point - and we have the obligatory 'Goodge Street photograph'.

And we're looking good. We're only a little down on last time. I know I can get some time back later in the day. I'm happy. Confident. Nothing big time has gone wrong.

Until ... the big major delay of the day!

Ah yes .. just when it all seemed to be going to well .. something had to go wrong. And it did. And this time it was the turn of the Central Line. I'd heard earlier via friendly text messages that there had been a problem at Bank on the Central and that the line had been suspended between Holborn and Liverpool Street, but I'd hoped that the service would be back up and running by the time I had to go on it.

Well, trains were running by the time I had to use it .. but the whole pattern of service was out of sync to what it should of been, and a series of things then proceeded to eat away at my time.

1) At Debden, going north up to Epping the train sat at the platform going nowhere (with the signal on green all the time) for a whole eight minutes. Just sat there, in the blazing hot sunshine with me exchanging raised eyebrow looks with the lady sitting opposite me who had her cute little four year old boy asleep on her lap.

2) I just missed a train leaving Epping as I got there (which I would have got had I not been delayed at Debden) and had to wait 10 minutes for the same train that I'd just come in on to go back out again.

3) Then, I got back down to Woodford and got out to change and wait for a Hainault train, and.. the next one was nineteen minutes away. NINETEEN!

At that point it was all over as far as I was concerned. Failed. Impossible to complete. I'd just wasted twenty minutes, and here was another twenty minutes which would put me behind by a whole forty minutes. I couldn't at all see how it would be possible to get back that time. I'd have to be amazingly lucky or perhaps have everything else run perfectly just to get round all the stations now. And either way, the record was now not going to be beaten.

So it's a beautiful sunny day ... people are coming and going at Woodford station in a happy summer mood, and I'm standing gazing at an indicator board which is delivering me the most depressing piece of information that I could see that day. To put it bluntly, I'm totally fucked off.

I decide this is a good time to fire off a few winging text messages to the others, to Dave, to Chris and to my girlfriend about my current mood. At this point the, a friendly station assistant sees me, or she's seen that I've watched two Northbound trains and one Southbound train go through and I haven't got either of them, so she comes to talk to me. "Hello sir, where are you trying to get to?"

Ah! God ... no - that question. Do I tell her? I sort of want to laugh & smile, but my mood isn't having it. So I force a smile out of my face, produce my logbook from my bag and say. "Well, Hainault initially, but then after that I need to complete the rest of the tube system, as I'm trying to do all the stations in one day".

She looks at me funny, but I am sooo used to that look now that it doesn't phase me. So I tell her about it, and we start chatting, and in the end we end up talking pleasantly for five minutes about it all, and about a variety of other things, and you know what? It cheers me up - it completely take my mind off of things, and helps to pass away the nineteen minutes that I have to wait for the Hainault train to eventually turn up, and as she turns to deal with a customer about their ticket not working in the machine I say possibly one of the most genuine 'thank yous' that I've ever said in my life, and I trudge over the steps to the the other platform to get the train which is now coming in.

And it got worse

Oh yes, of course it does. I was hoping that (as on all other occasions when we've got a Hainault train from Woodford) that it'll carry on into town .. but it doesn't, it terminates at Hainault and I waste another 7 minutes waiting for a train to come in from the south and then go back into town again.

Even then, it's a painful journey as either the driver is a bit crap, or the train is knackered as it does that thing when it comes into a platform, stops ... waits a few seconds ... doors don't open, then you hear the brakes go off, then the train moves forward a few inches very slowly, stops again, and then eventually opens it doors. Which is not to bad if just happened the once, but it does it at FIVE different stations going back into town, and it gets me more and more agitated each time.

At Stratford I get a text message back from Chris (who is meeting me later). "Keep going" it says "You can always make up time, remember?", which is a nice thing to say, but I know it's hopeless because I'm now 50 minutes behind and whilst making up 10, 20 or perhaps even 30 minutes is possible, being almost an hour down is psychologically draining, and I'm convinced that it's already hopeless, and I contemplate giving up and going home now.

But I do carry on - maybe due to Chris's messages or maybe just because I don't know what else to do. Mentally I've prepared myself to spend all day on tubes, and I seem like I'm just programmed in the mode to continue, and so I do - I head back into town, change and meet Dave who's sitting outside a pub in the sunshine near a station that I run to waiting for me to turn up, now almost an hour behind.

I tell him the bad news and there's not a lot he can do to cheer me up, but we just keep going all the same, resolutely and we'll see what happens.

And so on we go ...

Over the next four hours then, bizarrely, things do pick up.

And as I compare my time this time to the previous attempt, I realise that late in the day last time we had several small incidents wear away at our time which don't happen this time. In fact, I have some particularly sexy changes - about three in a row where the train is either coming in already just as I run into the platform, or it arrives in less than a minute.

And on ...

I have some excellent luck on a couple of bus journeys as well .. and bizarrely down on the East London Line between New Cross Gate and New Cross I get a bit of luck .. I go into New Cross Gate first which means I'm on the right side of the road if a bus should come along - and it does!

Always before on previous attempts I think I've come into New Cross and have run to New Cross Gate. This time, I got to New Cross Gate station, and there's a 177 bus coming along! So I hop on it, for literally two stops, and although I've probably only done it about a minute quicker and caught the same train out of New Cross, I have saved myself not having to run for four sweltering, sweat inducing minutes in the scorching sunshine, and saved some energy for later.

And on ...

And on I go .. and amazingly, somehow, somewhere I claw back time, Only 35 minutes behind now... now 25 minutes behind ... and on I keep going. By 8.30pm in the evening I've almost completely caught up and I'm just 5 minutes behind. Chris comes out to meet me on the Victoria line, (I lost Dave back at 5pm, but he catches up with us again at Northwick Park later) and he helps me out over the few stops.

Then, where there is an option of our planned route of doing a certain part one of two ways depending on which train comes along first (Can't say where or I'd give it away), we realise that the option that we get this time is much better and more likely to be quicker than the option we took last time, and at 9.15pm, in the evening as we head for the Bakerloo line for the home run I realise that I'm 10 minutes ahead of where I was last time!

This quite frankly is nothing short of remarkable as far as I'm concerned and I tell this so to Chris repeatedly.

The Bakerloo slows us up a bit, I get a bad turnaround at Harrow and Wealdstone, and by the time I get to Northwick Park and do Preston Road, I'm just a couple of minutes ahead of where I am last time ... and because the timetables are quite rigid (and usually adhered to!) then by the time I got to North Harrow, I knew that yet again - as per last time! - I would be on the same scheduled train into Amersham, as we got last time, and as Jack did on his record breaking attempt.

But there was just one slight added twist in the tale

The Metropolitan stretch wasn't without its difficulties as there was a signal problem at Moor Park which meant that Amersham trains were switching to the Watford tracks, calling at Moor Park, and then switching back to the Amersham tracks, which of course was slowing down all the Amersham trains.

So yup, you've guessed it, we go up to Watford and back, then to Chalfont & Latimer, to Chesham (Paul comes out again and meets me at Chesham and takes a whole load of photos), back to Chalfont & Latimer, and we're there by 00:14. The Amersham train is timetabled to arrive at 00:20, to get to Amersham at 00:24.

When Jack did it, he was on this train but it came early at 00:18 and arrived at 00:22.

We needed the same to happen - for there to be an early train. In fact - we needed slightly better to beat him .. i.e. if the train came early at 00:17 and got to Amersham at 00:21 then we still might beat Jacks record by just a few seconds.

But it doesn't happen. In fact, due to the Moor Park signal incident, the train is quite late, doesn't get to Chalfont until 00:25, and gets us into Amersham at 00:29 and 49 seconds .. giving me an overall time of 19 hours, 26 minutes and 40 seconds.

Which is four minute worse than the last attempt, and just eight minutes off of Jacks record.

So, another attempt complete. I drive Dave home and crawl into bed at almost exactly 2am. I've been up for 22 hours. I'm dirty, smelly, and completely knackered, and I have to be at work the next day for a 9.30am meeting!

The next morning, my legs are killing me, in fact they hurt for two days solid - all the hamstrings down the back of my legs ache like hell, and when I take the tube home that evening from work, I see a train coming in on the platform ahead of me, and I'm actually incapable of running to catch it because I physically cannot run, and miss the train! Oh, the irony.

And finally ...

I email Jack a few days later, and tell him about it. He commiserates me without being smug which I think is nice, and I tell him some of my exploits without giving away my route.

We send eMails back and forth for a bit, and finally he send me a message which right at the bottom simply says -

"Any plans for a sixth attempt then?"

Now there's an idea ...

Tube 5 statistics:

Stations visited: 275/275
Start time: 05:03.09
Finish time: 00:29.49
Time taken: 19 hours, 26 minutes, 40 seconds
Jack Welsby's Record time: 19h, 18m, 45s.
Time off the world record: 7 minutes, 55 seconds.
Number of people: 1
Support team: 4

Other attempts:

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


Tube 5

Tuesday 15th July 2003.

Tube 5Yup, we did it again, well actually - I did it again, as I went by myself.

Well, sort of, as I did have a support team, but I was very sneaky as I hardly told anyone in advance that I was doing it, hoping that I could suprise people out of the blue if I did get the record time.

And so, for the first time in all the attempt so far, I went on a Tuesday - the 15th of July.

Other Attempt Writeups:

Tube 1 | Tube 2 | Tube 3 | Tube 4 | Tube 5 | Tube 6 | Tube 7 | Tube 8 | Tube 9 | Tube 10 | Tube 11 | Tube 12 | Tube 13 | Tube 14 | Tube 15 | Tube 16 | Tube 17 | Tube 18 | Tube 19 | Tube 20

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