The One We Did For Charity
Yup ... we did the whole thing again - in the snow!
Why? Well, we might not have had another crack at it at all actually, had it not been for the charity angle of it all.
'Insert your favourite snow pun here'
It's snow joke. There's snow way we could beat our own time, etc ... there are so many - and they're all shite - so feel free to pick your own rather poor snow related pun than have me inflict one upon you.
So we were out to do it again - in the snow - all 274 stations, and claming a new unofficial record time for 274 stations.
Why unofficial? Well because I still haven't heard back from Guinness (and I'm not holding my breath either) about whether the record time for 275 station still 'holds' whilst Heathrow Terminal 4 is closed, or whether a new time for 274 station is up for grabs.
The only other person that we know who has done an attempt for 274 station is a chap called Peter Miller who back in January of this year did 274 stations in 19 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds. But the point was - that with our amended route, we were out to beat our own 18 hours and 35 minutes time.
Amersham : Dark, cold and snowing
The day started 'Ok'. It was cold. It was snowing slightly and there was a frost on the ground, and Amersham seemed a long way away from home and a nice warm bed. We were also wearing jogging trousers and several top layers, thinking that we might strip down a bit later when it 'warmed up', but of course - it never warmed up! It was cold all day.
The cold morning situation improved slightly though when Philippa, Megan and Matt turned out to see us off and brought us flasks of tea & coffee - much appreciated guys, thanks!
Chris (far left) was out main point man for the day - he would be joined later in the evening by Stephen.
The whole 'North West' bit of the map proceeded pretty much as normal, although we did think that the icy conditions on the tracks were making the trains start/stop and generally travel a little slower than we were expecting - or maybe we were just being paranoid.
Having got the top left of the Metropolitan out of the way though (and just before as we heard later there was a major signal failure at Harrow on the Hill!), we headed into the centre on the Bakerloo line.
And that's where it all went wrong - quite badly - so early on!
I later discovered that overnight engineering works had over-run, and there had been a points failure at Marylebone. The result: The Bakerloo line crawled along quite a bit, and by the time we got to Waterloo heading south the driver announced that 'There was congestion ahead and we would wait for quite a few minutes'.
This made us make an on-the-fly change, and being at Waterloo - connecting to both the Jubilee and Northern Lines, we then did the next part of our route in a completely different order to what we'd planned, but this also meant that we had to change more, losing more time as we did so - and at one point even had to let a train on one line GO without us getting on (because it really was that full - and I've never done that before), and by the time we were back on track (no pun intended) we knew we were way way down on our schedule.
We'll never know if it would have been quicker to stick it out on the Bakerloo train, or whether it was a smart moving changing when we did. I'm still wondering about it now!
Behind, behind and still behind
So that set the mood from quite early on then - we were behind! And my normal mid-afternoon malaise turned into a mid-morning one as we then also had to contend with the Jubilee Line terminating trains early, and a Northern Line train that we were on 'chucking out' early so that it could turn around and get back to where it was supposed to be as it was so late running.
The one slightly good moment we then had was changing at Camden Town to go up the High Barnet branch, and the glorious sign of 'Mill Hill East' being the first train brightened our mood momentarily, and a bit of high-five hand slapping then ensued. Maybe you had to be there to enjoy it as much as we did.
What's interesting though about continually checking the time on your watch all day as we do, is that you really do discover that when a display board say '1 minute' it's often 2, and when it says '5 minutes', it's really 7. The old joke about LU working in decimal and having 100 seconds to a minute often holds true.
Also on the Jubilee line where we made a change, a train was "Due in 1 min", which was true - it arrived within one minute, but then proceeded to sit at the platform (at a green signal) with no announcment from anyone for a further three minutes before it left. So one minute really equals four.
We ploughed on, and just got niggled by a lot of things (maybe because we knew we were so far behind it just pissed us off more, whereas normally it wouldn't have mattered), and everytime doors closed - then reopened - and closed again due to someone jumping on at the last moment or getting their bag stuck, it just pissed us off more and more. And it genuinely felt like that happened more so on this attempt than on any other attempt that I can remember.
We were still about an hour behind as the day wore on, but we kept repeating the mantra of 'can always make up time .. can always make up time', which was familiar to me, but as the day continued and I became more resolute, Neil seemed to get more and more grumpy and sink into a malaise from which he would not recover.
There was also an odd delay at Euston Square during the afternoon when the driver mumbled something on the PA about "Someone's lost property" - we couldn't hear it clearly - and the next thing I see is the station attendant working his way up the train looking in each carriage for something. "I couldn't see it" he seemed to say to a passenger at the front of the train - now delayed by 4 minutes - before it carried on. What on earth that was all about I'll never know.
Greetings to ...
It would seem rude not to give a mention to some of the characters that we met on the way round, as I've done before. They all got a piece of paper plugging this website, as well as the tubechallenge.com one.
The first gentleman to ask us what we were doing at Mornington Crescent wondered if "We were some sort of train surveyors". We explained what we were up to, and gave him one of our pieces of paper.
A lady who'd been at a business meeting at Euston and was returning to her car at Totteridge & Whetson enquired as to whether we were doing a timing survey or perhaps investigating as to why they 'held' trains at stations sometimes without explaining.
A chap who I can only have assumed was a professional photographer judging by the tripod sticking out of his 'Nikon' labelled bag, was also most interested and commented that "He'd seen some people on London Tonight doing something like this before". Er, that would have been us - here!
The only time we pissed someone off too was when running into Great Portland Street station, and I apparently cut right in front of someone by the ticket barriers.
I heard a womans voice behind me say "Do you mind? You almost just knocked into someone carrying a cup of tea here", and it wasn't until I was down on the platform that Neil concurred that she had been talking to me.
He'd given her a suitably drole reply though on my behalf as he went through the barriers after me though, so that was that sorted then.
Trouble was, she'd said the magic word 'tea', and from that point onwards from the rest of the day I really wanted a cup of tea! (Staple diet for most of the day consisted of still mineral water and chocolate bars!)
And on we went (still behind)
And on we went, through the 'tube' sections which seemed to work properly, but out on the surface on the overground sections, trains just seemed to go that little bit slower due to the weather conditions.
At no time did the snow appear to settle, but doing the connection between Wimbledon and Morden (on foot) will be memorable as the sleet and snow magically dropped from the sky and refreshed our hot sweaty faces as we ran down the road.
Chris (our pointman) also came into his element with some rather rude door-holding in places where he should have never of got away with it.
The walkie talkie radios (the yellow thing strapped to the front of me) were invaluable at Stockwell where we would have never of made a connection unless Chris had shouted at us on the radio to "Move it!" as our Northern Line train rolled in, and he enabled us to make the Victoria Line train that was leaving on the adjacent platform.
We slowly made up a bit of time, but Neil was looking more and more despondent - especially on the running where I seemed to always be ahead of him.
After a not-quite-as-good-as-it-should-have-been change at Stratford to head up to Epping, Neil conceded that he was feeling ill, and not at all 'with it', and by the the time we were coming back down from Epping he decided that he was going to withdraw and leave me on my own!
So he got off and was picked up by Chris in his waiting car at Woodford, and I went round the Hainault loop - alone - and wondering whether I'd have the resolve myself to finish the rest of it off.
I did some calculations in a completely empty and very lonely carriage on that Hainault loop.
I was about half an hour behind where I wanted to be, so no - I wasn't going to beat the 18 hours, 35 minutes time - but if everything went 'ok' from now on perhaps with a couple of sweet changes, then maybe a respectable time of around 19 hours would be on the cards - and hey ... it was for charideeee right? I would carry on.
Evening approached and I met pointman Stephen who had now come out to help, and seeing him buoyed my spirits somewhat. It now felt like I had a whole team of three people helping me, and I wasn't completely on my own.
It's good to have point-men ahead at crucial changes who you can call or raise on the radio and find out that you don't have to do a leg-muscle breaking run, and instead saunter at a slower jogging pace instead and still make the connection.
West Side Story
So it's getting late and I'm still working out what my possible finish time and overtime time might be. I might be able to get under 19 hours after all, but I'm going to need some good changes ... and I get some!
Heathrow 123 is done is and out - no messing - with practically no time wasted, nice. And then it's up to Acton Town where Stephen is waiting for me and I have another relatively swift change. That just leaves the whole of the 'west side' of the map just to do before the finish through to Upminster.
It's no big secret that the last bit of our route involves the 'West side', and doing the Uxbridge / Ickenham / West Ruislip section, before coming back down into town and heading up to the finish at at Upminster.
There was a lovely lady travelling home that I got very chatty to just before she got off at Sudbury Hill. I don't think she had a computer to look at the website, but she comment that "You want to be as old as me - then you'd travel for free", and proceeded to show me her freedom pass. Tube Challenging when you're 60 years old? Hmm... dodgey. Chatting up sixty year old women on the tube in the first place? Perfectly acceptable!
Point man Chris had joined me by this stage, and I have to say I'm getting rather disenchanted about the South Harrow part of London now, when both of us sniffed our noses and turned to look at a guy casually lighting up a joint just down from us, giving the carriage that sweet aroma before stepping off the train. On a previous attempt, I saw some drunken and stoned kids argue with the station assistant and the driver here, and the emergency 'stop' handle was pulled to stop them from travelling on the train. Is South Harrow full of complete tossers or what?
We then had to change at Rayners Lane (and wait for a Met train) and there were two people on board asleep in a drunken sort of way. "Two on a Wednesday night!" said the driver to the station assisant who was helping him empty out the train, "What's it gonna be like Friday!", he chuckled, and he then gently shook them to wake them up.
I then got chatting to some guy who asked me what I was up to. "Well I would wish you good luck, but you appear to be a Tottenham fan!" he said when I explained, nodding at my hat that I was wearing. Note to self: Remove hat when travelling through Upton Park (West Ham fan territory) later.
Stephen then failed quite dramatically in his point man duty (tsk!) at Uxbridge, where he could have held an outbound train for just ten seconds as my inbound one was coming in ... he had tried to put his foot in the door but it had "Hurt him!" and so he took it out! Oh bless.
Whilst initially angry, that only cost me ten minutes as it meant that after my leisurely run to West Ruislip from Ickenham I merely got the Central Line train ten minutes later that the one I could have got. This did however effect my overall time by quite a key point (see below for why!), but in the end I wasn't that pissed off by it. So don't feel too bad about it mate!
It was snowing quite nicely at West Ruislip where Chris was waiting for me, and the train did then proceed to leave two minutes late, then waste three minutes at Ruislip Garden during a driver change-over, and then more time lost at Hangar Lane where some unsavoury 'youths' were hanging about on the platform and I think the driver faffed for a moment about whether to open the doors or not. In the end he did - and closed them again immediately and shot off!
And then it was all fairly straightforward with the last bit in the middle that we do (deliberately not being specific) before heading to Upminster and home.
And how about this for a weird coincidence. The driver of my Upminster train was the same guy that drove our train back in May of last year when we got the record time, I recognised him as I have a photo of him! He gave me a funny look as if he thought he knew who I was, but I didn't say anything.
And I rolled up the District Line - no problems - and got to the two hundred and seventy-fourth station on the trip at thirty three minutes and four seconds past the midnight hour, which - oddly - meant that I had a 'zero' in the seconds column for the overall time:
19 hours, 5 minutes and 0 seconds.
Then as, Chris drove me home (thanks mate) and I started to fall asleep being exhausted as I was, I realised that if I had just of caught that train ten minutes prior at Uxbridge I probably would have had a sub 19 hours time, maybe 18 hours 55 minutes!
But considering that we'd been an hour behind, I thought that 19 hours and 5 minutes was extremely respectable. Amusingly it also 'beats' the long standing Jack Welsby time of 19 hours, 18 minutes that I had six unsuccesful attempts at beating - and now I've beaten it twice in a row.
It's also faster than the other unofficial 274 stations time of Peter Miller, and thus sets a new 'unofficial record time' for the 274 configuration.
This may become official if and when Guinness ever pull their finger out of their bottom, but until they do and let us know what they've decided - the 18 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds is still the official record time to beat.
It also goes without saying (as I'm sure it's occurred to you by now) that If we'd have had no delays - a near to perfect day - then we'd of been much much quicker - probably about 18 hours and 20 minutes in my estimation is the 'perfect' time that I think our route can reasonably get.
Maybe we'll do that another time. When it's not freezing cold and snowing.
Tube 8 statistics:
Stations visited: 274/274
Start time: 05:28.04 Finish time: 00:33.04
Time taken: 19 hours, 5 minutes, 0 seconds
Number of people: 2, then 1 (Neil retired early evening)
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
I've said it before and I'll say it again (just to remind myself if nothing else)
Even if you are an hour behind, it's still possible that you can make up time. I was an hour down at 6pm and it still came quite good. No matter how bad it gets, you should probably never ever give up. As long as you have a way of getting home at wherever you finish up I would say: Carry on regardless, because you never know what's going to happen.
I would also not do it in February again - or at least, when the weather was so cold a nasty. Also - you don't get to see much daylight at all and this perhaps just makes you very tired I think. Ultimately, April, May and September remain the good months for doing it.
Don't under estimate just what a long slog the day can be (look at Neil!). I had a headache the morning after as if I'd been drinking the night before! Perhaps a fatigue headache? My voice is all croaky too (too much tube-dust breathed in??) and my hamstrings are slightly achey as well - but not as bad as they've been in the past mind
Tube 8 / Africamp Charity Run
Wednesday, February 23rd 2005
Other Attempt Writeups:
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