Employment after the internship saw me taking 20 trains a week just to get to work and back. A few things happened that made me angry—one of those times was when I was at Slough waiting for a train and they did not give an accurate view of how delayed it was. It turned out that the train hadn't even left Paddington, despite them saying the train was just a few minutes away. The reason? The driver hadn't turned up. I wondered if they should even say that, even if it was the truth. Still... It is no good that the train is late because somebody (presumably, though not necessarily) hasn't done their job properly. I thought there must be loads of silly failures like this every day and that it would be good to get together a catalogue. Maybe it could become a weapon for improving train services. A big project idea was sparked in my head (but when have I ever taken a big project idea from an idea into the beginnings of a realised project?) Eventually, anyway, I started to write something very quickly called "The Train Diary", a log of my train experiences each day. (The title was never meant to be something serious. I needed a title and The Rum Diary, which I was reading at the time, helped to provide one that has stuck.)
It came to its natural end when I bought a couple of new notebooks in March with the intention of changing the way I write and make notes, and I had some kind of writing block going on for a couple of weeks. I didn't write anything, not even the train diary, and I haven't since. It has run its course. Some of the days have more description than others because they were more annoying days.
I am typing all of this from my notebook. It is not yet finished. I plan to do a lot of things when I get home from work, but often don't (like I plan to never eat when I get home from work but often do), but I will plan to type some of it every day to get it done as soon as possible.
It is copied here exactly as it was written in my notebook. Nothing has been changed, so there will be some numbers that were written as numerals, some as words, there will be a few too many exclamation points, some words are written in uppercase, and some words probably aren't quite right. In fact, the writing isn't very good at all for most of it. As a piece of work this would work better if my handwriting were presented; as a piece of writing, it would be better if it were longer and written and edited every day.
Here it is, anyway.
Monday 13 December 2010
We got to Didcot on time. When the train stopped, the train person said there is a problem with the rear engine carriage. All the way from Oxford to Didcot, just three or so seats behind me, three men were talking. One of them was particularly loud, boasting about his top manager who tried to stop him leaving a meeting on time, and ended up buying him two bottles of vintage champagne. When the announcement was made, he said, "Let's face it, it's had a fucking engine problem since [wherever]. And the wheel's about to fall off!"
The train person announced that they did not know how long we'd be waiting, that somebody would have to come out to the train and look at it. At the first half of the sentence I was prepared to sit and wait, but when he said somebody would have to come out I thought an engine problem won't take just five minutes to sort, I'll get on the other train to London as recommended. Most people did that. From platform 2, waiting for the train from Bristol, I stood and watched the broken train on platform 4 wondering when it would go. I and another person, a folding bicyclist, stood, mouths agape, as a whistle was blown. "It's going, isn't it?" I said. "Yeah... [I can't believe it is indeed going]."
I thought it was funny that such a thing should happen, I should have sat tight, I should have thought if I change my plan, change train, of course I'd be wrong. Then I realised it is this situation again—Worcester train breaks, everybody bustles on to already full Bristol train at Didcot.
On the train now.
"Open the door!"
"The doors are locked, sir!"
"I want to get off, SIR!"
"The doors are locked!"
"Oh, you berk."
"What did you say?"
It was all quite amusing, the whole silly train situation.
Tuesday 14 December
At Maidenhead, I went straight to platform 1 to wait for the HST to Oxford. I did not look at the board, I just assumed it would be there. When I got there, an announcement said the train is on platform 3. Even though the platform people were there, I did not think anything of the announcement; I just thought it was silly to assume, and made my way to platform 3. When I got to the platform, I felt extra silly, because there were loads of people there who apparently knew to be on that platform. As soon as I got to the platform, a real person announced that it is platform ONE, not 3. I said, "What the fuck? I just bloody well came from there", and went back to 1. When the train came, a passenger asked why it said 3 over the system, and the platform person said, "We know!! The system's crashed!" Right then.
Wednesday 15 December
Had to get a later train today. I arrived at the station at 0650. My train was cancelled, but the 0627 was delayed, so it wasn't too bad. It was an obstruction on the line between Worcester and Oxford causing delays.
In the end, the train to arrive first was the Didcot train, so we all jumped that, got to Didcot, and waited for the Bristol train.
Loads of confusion again. The train through Oxford eventually arrived at Didcot. The tannoy announcement said the next train to Reading and London is the whatever on platform 4, but then a little man came along saying, "This one's leaving first!" He was wrong, which was fucking annoying, but I think my train overtook the other one which came in on platform 9, and I got to Reading with only 4 minutes to spare and wouldn't have been able to get over to platform 6 in time.
On the way back, I changed at Maidenhead, as I now do. I went to platform 1 for the train to Oxford and, as on Tuesday, the announcement said the train next on platform 3 is the Worcester train, calling at Reading, Oxford..., but this time I knew better.
The screen at Maidenhead was showing trains from the morning. Why is that? And why do the platform screens say to see the summary board? Would it be so hard for them to stick details of the next train on the platform up there?
At Oxford three buses turned up. That is VERY annoying.
Thursday 16 December
The train from Oxford, the 0627, didn't arrive until 0627, but other than that all was well.
Oh, but the journey home! Checked the National Rail website at about 1600—it said there were delays due to signal failure at Didcot. The live travel board said the 1809 from Maidenhead was on time. Okay, great. I picked up a late Reading train from Iver and got off at maidenhead at 1800. Big mistake!
I should have gone to Reading! Basically, I ended up fearing I'd be stranded in Maidenhead; I did not get a train until 1951, and that was only to Reading. What a disaster. My feet for NUMB, I was shivering, it was snowing; the train person kept SHOUTING OVER THE TANNOY, there were no staff on the platforms, all the announcements seemed to concern only Marlow and London journeys; fuck all the people that live in Oxford, all the people that go through Oxford to their villages. Got on a train, anyway, to Reading, waited several minutes for an update, was walking to the station entrance to find food, and heard an announcement about a bus. Briefly thought about quickly going in WHSmith on my was past it to get crisps, but thought better of it and went straight to the rail replacement bus. 2030 it left Reading, 2120 it got to Oxford. I sat right at the back, the one in front, on the left side. It was nice and dark, and would have been enjoyable under other circumstances. I started to feel sick, though, and wished I kept Dramamine on me.
Friday 17 December
The train left Oxford 5 minutes late. I sat in coach C, which I thought was the dark carriage; I realised after a couple of minutes that it was the dark EMPTY carriage! But then it turned into the torture carriage—the kights were broken (yet more problems for a FGW train), and kept switching on and off. It was pleasant sitting in the dark. It was like being on a coach but going twice as fast. You get to look out of the window and see more than your reflection. There should be a dark carriage on all trains, where the lights go on at every station, then go off for a few minutes. When I was waiting to get off at Reading I heard a couple of people talking about it with the train man; they, too, thought it'd be a good idea, a sleeping carriage.
It snowed. It started snowing in the early afternoon. On my way to work I knew if it snowed it would settle; the ground was bone dry. (Also, it was so cold the night before that the puddles were frozen.) At one point, it was as close as I've ever been to a blizzard, it was a white out (through one window, at least). It wasn't too bad, anyway. The most annoying thing was that the BBC's website did not, at any point, say snow, even when it was actually snowing. It's disappointing that they are not even close with their forecasts sometimes (it said SUNNY for the day). The train was slightly delayed, and I worried that I would get left in Maidenhead for a while, but it turned out that the Worcester train was delayed, so I just met up with it. Very good. The board and announcements at Maidenhead were still saying platform 3 for the Worcester train, though.
Tuesday 4 January 2011
Got to the station and there was hardly anybody there. Are people taking today as holiday, too? Perhaps people are now working from home more to avoid the train fare increases (Oxford to Iver return – £15.90). The train was on time today, a good start to the (working) year.
The buffet man made his announcement, and said there is no hot water for hot drinks. He said that this is the first time the train has been out since the cold snap, and the pipes had been drained. Addressing the first class travellers, he then said there is no trolley to bring them their drinks, and he said he knows it's "not a good start to the year".
On the way back, the trains (the 1741, 1809) were on time. At Maidenhead, the 1809 was even announced with the correct platform! It was delayed outside the station at Reading, and was four minutes late into Oxford, but it wasn't bad at all.
Wednesday 5 January
The train appeared on time, but did not leave until 0629. The next three trains were alright! Looked a bit busy from Maidenhead to Reading, so I stood until Reading, eating my hummus and spelt matzo.
Thursday 6 January
The train left at 0630. Carriage C smelled pleasantly as though shomebody had sharpened lots of pencils.
The meeting went on until 1845, so a lift to the station was appreciated. I waited three or four minutes for the delayed 1849, dude at 1851, for off at Slough and waited about five minutes for the 1906 to Oxford.
Friday 7 January
The train was delayed; it did not arrive until 0627, and left at 0628:40. I got on in carriage D, and did not bother to go to carriage C because D was looking quite sparse. I think I managed to sit in the only seat without television screens.
Monday 24 January
It feels good to be getting back to the train diary.
The 0627 arrived at 0626 and left at 0628. It was late, of course, but it didn't really seem to matter. It arrived exactly on time.
The 0710 from Reading left at 0711. I don't know exactly why, but that train often leaves late, with the latest it's ever left being 0715 (but never when that would work out for me).
I'm now planning to get my usual 1720 train home, rather that the 1741 I've been taking for a few weeks. Yesterday I got the 1720 and got to Reading just in time to pick up a delayed Hereford train. I got home at 1900, having walked straight onto a bus at the train station. If only that would happen every day!
Tuesday 25 January
I caught the 0559 train so that I could be on time for an 0800 meeting (the usual 0627 should have seen me 5 minutes late, but the meeting didn't start until 0823).
I'd forgotten that the 0559 arrives very early. It's very good. It left on time. It called at Didcot, Reading and Maidenhead before Slough, but I did not have to let anybody sit next to me. The train from Slough might have been one or two minutes late.
I got the 1741 to Maidenhead on the way home, and the 1809 from there to Oxford. It's impossible to know if the trains leaving from anywhere other than Oxford, maybe Didcot, Reading or Slough, are on time because the stations don't display the time! Very useless. But I do know that when the train got to Reading it was one minute after it should have left (at 1823), so let's assume it was three minutes late. When it was pulling out of Reading, the train braked sharply to a halt. I noticed there were two people driving, didn't think it was normal; maybe a trainee was being shown how to brake in such circumstances? The train seemed to move slowly for a few minutes afterwards.
Wednesday 26 January
The trains left on time, all four of them. The most remarkable thing of all four trains was that the 1811 from Reading arrived at 1802—that is the earliest I've ever seen it arrive (I only had to wait about 3 minutes after I got off the first train).
Thursday 27 January
All the trains were pretty much on time. Only two notable things—the display at Iver said the 1720 was due at 1722, but the screen on the platform said it was on time (the screens at most stations need sorting out); I stood on the 1811 Cross Country service to wherever it goes ("the north"; always busy trains).
Friday 28 January
The morning was not notable as far as I remember. The evening was fucking annoying—the 1811 was late. It did indeed turn out to be crowded, so much so that I could not get on. It left at about 1816, forcing the 1818 local on to platform 9. I was so cold that I did not want to wait a few minutes for the 1823 Worcester train, especially as I had noticed the train due on platform 4 before it was delayed; I thought the 1823 would be delayed, too.
So off I went to platform 9, just managed to jump on. BUT, it was not the empty train I knew from before, which made me curse myself for not hopping the 1811 when I noticed a relatively empty vestibule, even though the doors were beeping that they were about to close. Just not enough conviction.
Annoyingly, when I got off the train at Oxford, it was empty; I had stood all the way, though, not knowing this.
Monday 31 January
Train number 1 left at 0629. Train number 2 left at 0713. Train 3 was on time, as far as I know (no clock at Iver!) Train 4 was delayed by 24 minutes. It took everything I had to resist getting on the 1811 to Carmarthen and waiting for a train at Didcot, but I managed to do so and wait for the 1822 to Worcester. There was a train to London—the 1802—that was delayed by about 20 minutes, and it ended up coming in on platform 4. That meant the Worcester train was held up, and it did not leave until 1828.
Tuesday 1 February
1. Doors took a few seconds before they were unlocked; train left at 0630.
2. Train was bang on time.
3. The train (I think!) was on time. Or was it? It arrived at Reading at 1801.
4. The 1811 left exactly on time, allowing me to walk straight on to a bus, a bus that left almost immediately. At 1855 it was at Carfax; I got home at 1915.
Wednesday 2 February
The first train was delayed. It left at 0634. We were told that was because the train was running on only one (the rear) power car. He said the train would lost even more time between Oxford and London. When we left Oxford, the man said the service was 8 minutes late; when we got to Didcot, he said it was 12 minutes late, so it had taken, perhaps, a third extra time. Got to Reading at 0707, so it was good that I made the train. Second train left on time (early, even, chugging away at 0709:45). Third train left on time, I think. Fourth train left on time, and yesterday was repeated in terms of the bus, except I got home at 1905.
Thursday 3 February
2. 0712, or something (held up by an obviously far more important high speed train that was late departing).
3. Delayed by two minutes, according to the displays (though did actually arrive at 1803, which seems to be 2 minutes late).
4. Couldn't see the time, but I'd say it left bang on time because it arrived at 1833, one minute early. Didn't manage to walk straight on a bus, had to wait a couple of minutes but still got home at 1915.
Friday 4 February
The first train left at 0630. The second train left on time. On the first train, I walked past an empty carriage D to go to my usual, preferred, C only to find it less empty than D. I got a seat, anyway. The third train was the 1822, delayed by 5 minutes, according to the platform's display. The fourth train was the 1911, which left on time.
Monday 7 February
1. Left at 0628.
2. Left on time.
3. Arrrived at 1803, so must have been two minutes late.
4. Left on time, but arrived 6 minutes late. I was aware of it going very slowly when it felt as though we'd been travelling for so long that we should have been in Oxford. In fact, we weren't even at Didcot, only passing Cholsey at the time.
Tuesday 8 February
All the trains were fine today—the first train was two minutes late leaving, and the third train, the train from Iver to Reading, arrived at Reading at 1758. I don't know what happens when it arrives that early. I hoped there'd be a delayed train on the board, but there was not, so I just waited for the usual 1811 (on which, as usual, I did not get to sit down).
Wednesday 9 February
The train left Oxford at 0631. On leaving Didcot, the usual buffet man said the same thing he said one day last week—he told the passengers in first class that they will "hopefully" have a buffet trolley coming through. On the way back I caught the 1741, and the 1809 from Maidenhead. At some point, the buffet person announced, in a flat voice that sounded like he had had enough of FGW's poor service, hat the buffet has a "selection of... and cold drinks. And when I say 'cold' they are not particularly cold, as none of the fridges on the train are working".
Thursday 10 February
The 0627 left at 0628. The person who would normally sell people their tickets (the conductor? the train manager?) said that his ticket machine had broken on the way down from Worcester so he couldn't sell tickets. Anybody wanting to buy a ticket would have to do so at the other end.
The 1720 on the way back was only two carriages—that was announced on the list of departures. When the train arrived, it was a new train, and I got on at the front, as usual. I expected there would only be room for me ti stand up on this smaller-than-usual train, and there was. But as the train approached, I counted the 16 empty seats in the so-called first class bit of the train and noted the several people in the vestibule standing up. I thought it was strange—people always rush to go in there, but I assumed that all those standing people were just like me. I wanted to sit down, but didn't really want to squeeze past anybody to get in. At Langley, though, enough people got off for me to get through the door easily enough. Me and the deaf labourer boy went in and sat down. I noticed one person standing up, doing a crossword, or something, so I thought. He was at the back of the "first class" section and I was at the front. I thought it was odd he stood up, but I didn't think about it for long. After a few minutes he asked the boy to see his ticket. I thought that was odd, and I considered leaving and going to stand up again, but I thought it couldn't possibly be that these slightly different seats were seriously seen as first class, as any different to the rest of the train... He asked for my ticket , I showed him, he told us both to leave because we only had standard tickets. I thought that was incredible, but it explained why nobody was sitting in there, anyway. I also thought it was ridiculous to stop people sitting in there when there were obviously no first class ticket holders to sit there whilst there were a lot of other people squeezed onto a 2 carriage train.
Friday 11 February
When I got to Oxford station in the morning there was a turbo train on the platform and two trains on the board before my 0627. There, apparently, was signal failure between Oxford and Didcot. AS USUAL. As usual. We were told this by a man on the platform. Up until then there was nothing said at all. A few minutes later there was an announcement that none of us could even hear. It wasn't loud enough and it was breaking up.
At 0624, it said the 0627 was on time, which I seriously doubted. I got on whatever train was standing there and it left at 0631. At lesat it was 5 carriages, both new trains. When we left there were 4 delayed trains on the board (one of which, I noticed earlier, was the 0710 from Reading). I wondered why the train that comes in from London at about 0625 and terminates couldn't just turn back to London instead of using the small train. Anyway, got to Reading and the 0710 said it was due at 0734. I decided to get the 0702, which stops at Langley and West Drayton but not Iver. I was thinking, for the first few minutes of the journey, whether I should get out at Slough or get off at Langley and walk or get a taxi. In the end I got a taxi from Langley for £6. I asked him to drop me off somewhere that looked familiar to me, the road with the bench and the bin. I walked from there to work and got there at 0805. When the train got to Slough they announced the 0710 from Reading (that's the 0735 from Slough) was cancelled. I was really pleased with myself that I had decided to just move forwards and get myself as close to where I was going as I could get, that I didn't make a decision that would have annoyed me and left me late for work. The best thing, though, was that the decisions I made seemed to come naturally, so perhaps I'm starting to get used to working the trains.
Monday 14 February
The first train left Oxford at 0630 but got to Reading at 0654. I missed the 1741 home so I had to get the 1750 but it was late by 5 minutes. The 1841 to York got in at 1913, one minute after it was scheduled to leave.
Sunday 20 February
I went to London today. I went to see Emily. I missed the 0909 and got the 0948, a refurbished train, 3 carriages long. I stood up until Reading then sat down alone and at Slough I let somebody sit on the inside. The train was very busy. Not so busy that people were standing in the aisles, but busy enough for the vestibule areas to be full. The train had to do some maneuvering around Didcot to get round engineering works, driving past the station before driving back to the platform. The train back was a turbo, six carriages long, both old trains. It was going to Great Malvern and only half of it continued beyond Oxford. I sat at the very front of the train; it did not get very busy at all.
In London I ate the #2 again. It is enjoyable to eat—brown rice, meatballs, coleslaw, and hummus and flatbread. I had the blackcurrant quencher with it, as I have chosen before. The hummus was very nice this time, slightly different from what I have experienced before. It had the olive oil, chickpeas and paprika on the top but it also had what I thought was red peppre. I bought a pot of the chilli sauce, too, which is nice to mix in the the meatballs and rice.
Monday 21 February
The front train left at 0630, but made up time (though I still don't know what time it is due in at Reading). The 1811 home was delayed—it did not arrive until 1810 and probably didn't leace until around 1813. I stodd alone right at the front of the train, outside first class, eating my hummus. The 1818 local stopping service to Oxford was announced to be delayed but still said it was expected at 1818. I suspected that, for the 3rd time in two weeks, the train was delayed by an unspecified amount of time (and they just put "delayed" on the board instead of the time it's expected).
Tuesday 22 February
The first train was late leaving, two minutes late. It'd probably be more notable if it was on time. On the 1720, a FGW first class ticket-checker got on and went into first class. There was a man in there who was ready for him and got out his pass before he was even asked, showing it to the ticket-checker with a kind of smug irritation.
Wednesday 23 February
On the 1811 home, I stood in the space at the front of the train, outside the first class accommodation. That's getting to be my habit, one way I can almost guarantee enough space for myself. I saw a stack of The Independent inside the carriage, by the door, and I decided to get one whilst the ticket person went off to solve a problem. I will make that my abit, too, if it is possible, even though that newspaper is not the most interesting for me (even though I made a habit of buying it around election time).
Thursday 24 February
The trains were fine. That is, they were not too bad. The 1741 is the train I got, so I got the 1809 from Maidenhead to Oxford. I think that one left Reading a couple of minutes late.
Friday 25 February
The 0627 arrived on time (0625) but left a minute or so late, if I remember well. The 1811 was packed and didn't leave until 1817 for some reason. A man told me I couldn't stand in the space outside first class. I told him I'd never been told that before. He said it's because of the trolley, and I told him I'd been on a train just that week where there was a trolley. He asked me where I was getting off, I told him Oxford, and he said alright. He then made an announcement that, because of the train being busy, he'd not be taking the trolley through the train, so people should come to him. I failed at that moment to see why it'd be a problem for me to stand there.
Monday 28 February
The trains were not notable, exept the 1809 from Maidenhead, perhaps, which arrived at Reading on time. The train seemed to crawl from Radley to Oxford, but it wasn't too bad.
Tuesday 1 March
I got the 0559 to Paddington because we are at Ecobuild this week. It left BANG on time, seconds and all. The underground I knew would be busy, but I don't think I expected queues of people at whichever Jubilee line stop it was, one of the stops with the doors on the platform. The the train emptied at Canary Wharf, as I thought it might. It was great to sit down! The DLR at the end of the day was packed full of people who had the sense to get on at Prince Regent when it got to Custom House. I'm not sure what I'll fo this evening, whether I'll try to catch one of the free buses to Canning Town specially put on because of Ecobuild, or whether I'll walk down to Prince Regent and get the DLR from there.
I got the 1830 and changed at Didcot. The 1830 was 9 minutes late out of Reading by my time (only six by the train manager's), and the 1925 from Didcot was three minutes late leaving.
Wednesday 2 March
The 0731 was unpleasant, I found. It used to be the 0733, and I used to take that train when I was doing the internship. I left the house at 0650, in daylight. That felt strange. The train station at 0710 is busy, noisy, not muted like at 0618 when I normally get there. I don't like it. The 0731 starts at Oxford and calls only at Reading. At Reading, the train fills up. It gets full of people to the point that the aisles are packed with standing Metro starers. I think the train got in to Paddington 3 minutes late.
At Baker Street, I got on the third train. It is very busy at that time of day, made busier by Ecobuild, no doubt. I got to the stand at about 0940, probably.
On the way back, I went to Custom House; the thought of walking down to Prince Regent was not a good one. Again, I got on the 3rd DLR train. This time, perhaps because it was slightly later than the first day, there was an empty Jubilee line train just pulling in as I was going down the escalator. I jumped on and sat down. The train filled up but I managed to get off easily enough at Baker Street. The Bakerloo line from there (from Piccadilly?) was closed as far as Paddington, so we all packed on to the Circle line platform, got to the next stop and we were told the train would be delayed by a couple of minutes, that the District line train would be leaving first, so some of us hopped across to that train. Finally got to Paddington and got the 1922 to hereford. I don't know if it was delayed but it was delayed between Reading and Oxford because it was stuck behind a local stopping service to Oxford. We eventually overtook it.
Thursday 3 March
The 0559 left bang on time again, to the second. The underground trains were fine. On the way from ExCeL I got the free bus to Canning Town, since I was already outside. The 1822 was five minutes late by the time it got to Reading (though I'm not sure why) and it was still 5 minutes late when it got to Oxford.
Friday 4 March
The 0627 was a minute late leaving, if I remember well. The 1722 I missed and I think the 1741 was one or two minutes late arriving. The 1809 was on time.
Monday 7 March
The train to Reading left at 0628, as I remember. The 1809 from Maidenhead arrived a minute early into Oxford.
Tuesday 8 March
The 0627 arrived early, at 0624, and left bang on time. The 0710 left at 0713, for reasons untold. The 1720 stopped for five minutes outside Twyford, or somewhere, but the driver said nothing at all. Also, two of the first class ticket checking people got on and kicked out a couple of people. I heard one of them saying to a customer that if there are no seats in standard class a standard class ticket-holder must stand and wait for a seat to become available. He also said that the only time they allow people to sit in first class is when the train is really packed. The train got in at 1802, and the 1811 to Oxford was just approaching. It left on time.
Wednesday 9 March
The train arrived at 0624 again, leaving on time (again!) The 1811 arrived at Oxford 5 minutes late; the 1720 got to Iver at 1723 (according to the board).
Thursday 10 March
The 0627 left at 0628. When I got back to Oxford in the evening, there was an announcement that the train to Bournemouth was 34 minutes delayed. In fairness, I realised, huge delays like that rarely happen, though that is based on my own travel experiences and what I hear of other trains when I'm at stations. Well, maybe it's not "rarely", but it's close to that.
Friday 11 March
The 0627 arrived at 0624 but did not leave until 0632. After a couple of minutes, the train manager said "...sorry for the delay... looks like we're trying to find ourselves a driver". The 1809 arrive at Reading on time, but did not leave until 1827.