Sunday, May 6, 2012

Part Two - Neasden Night

Road 32, with a new train on the left and an original train on the right being cleaned for the morning service.

Stepping from my Jubilee Line tube onto a deserted Neasden station, not long after midnight, the second part of the day was just starting.

Arriving at London Underground's Neasden Depot, like Bombardier's Derby site, the place is massive. Getting in, out of the rain (the frequent good omen!), I met Dan Jones, part of the Bombardier team at Neasden. The weekly delivery of a shiny, new S Stock train from Derby was scheduled for the evening of my visit.

The line map seen through the window of one of the 1959-built trains

With the rain pouring down, creating a thunderous sound on the roof, I stayed inside for picture taking!

A collection of other recently-delivered new trains were in stages of commissioning before being put into service. A steady stream of trains arrived in the cleaning roads and a team went through making them ready for service in the morning. This gave a chance to compare the old and new fleets as they stood side-by-side.  

Original brake-pressure gauges made by Westinghouse in the original A Stock trains.

The original 'A Stock' trains are a world away from the new 'S Stock' that's replacing them. First introduced in 1959, they have luggage racks for umbrellas and briefcases and the dials and controls in the cabs feels like stepping back to another age, not a computer screen in sight!

An A Stock train looking slightly worse for wear. The entire fleet will have been replaced by the end of July.

At around 2am, the newest train from Derby arrived, being pushed into the depot by two screaming diesel locomotives. These two engines, and the barrier vehicle (needed because the coupling the underground trains use doesn't match that of trains on the national system) were disconnected and pulled out of the depot quickly. Since the Underground is entirely electrically powered, Neasden doesn't have an extraction system for fumes from diesel trains and quickly the shed can fill up. 

The newest Derby-built Bombardier S Stock train to arrive at Neasden for use on the Metropolitan Line.


The Bombardier team discussing that evening's delivery just before arrival.

Immediately, the team swung into action, dismantling the length of hose that ran the length of the train, on the passenger cabin floor, (that provided the air brake pressure on the journey from Derby), and checking the parts sent from Bombardier.

One of the pallets inside the doors of one the cars, with the air-brake hose being removed.

Each car of the train had a pallet immediately inside the doors containing all the parts required for fitting the 3rd rail collection shoes to allow the train to pick up the electrical power to run. 

I took pictures inside the new trains, in the cab of the old ones, and even from underneath, in the inspection pit.

That pipework I had seen at Derby earlier in the day? Here's what it looks like underneath a soon-to-enter-service train. Never to be seen this clean again!

Imagining Neasden would be full of a team buzzing around, barely able to stop for a chat, it had a lot in common with what I'd seen in Derby earlier that day. Everyone knew exactly what time the trains had to start leaving for the start of morning service and Dan knew how many trains he was responsible for providing to the Metropolitan Line each day. There was no sense of panic, Bombardier and London Underground have got the overnight job at the depot down to a T.

With that evening's delivery on the left, the train to the right is nearly ready to run along the length of the line on it's 'rattle test' (to make sure everything works and no panelling or other fitting rattles).

The original power controller handle on the A Stock 
The modern equivalent on the S Stock

 I left for home, 24 hours after waking up, reflecting on the impressive teamwork, commitment, passion and skill involved at Derby and Neasden. From train building to service running, these people keep the UK running.

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