A briefly abbreviated trip report from London

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So, as promised a while back, here's a brief synopsis of my London trip a few weeks back....

The Metra & CTA ride out to O'Hare was as expected, Metra, clean and pleasant, CTA, filthy and blech (cigarette butts, stale cigarette smoke scented seats, etc). I travelled with one friend and met our other travelling partner at the gate (also arrived by CTA, from other side of town).

Our flight out on a Friday was full of packer backers and jam packed. But otherwise fine Dreamliner flight - very smooth and comfortable plane, quieter than my last transatlantic flight from the before times.

Heathrow is truly a delight and most delightful airport (sarcasm meter's should be screaming) - O'Hare is generally nicer, hard as that is to imagine, at least compared to some of the terminals at Heathrow.

So we made our way to the mainline/TfL station (I can't remember if the tunnel also served the Piccadilly line or not - definitely Heathrow Express and Purple Trains). Station was clean and my gifted Oyster card easy to load. Then down down down the escalators to the platforms. A mainline train came through first followed by our train...
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Heathrow Express - too lazy to photograph our train (and trying to get phone connected to local networks).

Boarded the Elizabeth Line to Paddington - immediately impressed with the smoothness and quiet of the ride - really impressive, nearly silent, fast acceleration, quiet and insanely smooth ride. Paddington transfer was rather a bother, one had to leave the fare control area and walk to the other side of the station and go outside and back through faregates. However, Paddington is a proper station with Victorian train sheds.

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Doc Beeching was right; the future is automobiles - nobody takes the train in Britain anymore...

Off we went and then down we went into the bowels of the new station for the rest of our ride to Farringdon/Clerkenwell to our flat. The Paddington Elizabeth Line station is impressive - and being new, still has that new building smell (Low VOC of course...).

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View down into Paddington Elizabeth line from escalators.

Once we settled in we took the tube back into the central part of the city and wandered around Regents Park, marveling at how a 150 year old mass transit system can be so clean - in comparison to Chicago anyway.

I won't bore you with the rest of the trip, but we did take the tube several times and even a Routemaster. One of my friends visited family and took a Thameslink train up to Cambridge - was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.

I'll stick to transit related topics here other than a few tidbits. Shopping was great - the weak pound - thanks Liz - made shopping feel like USA prices and it was nice to be in stores that were well stocked and had merchandise that appealed to buy - the English are far better at retail presentation and the shopping experience is generally better from mid-market stores on up. And a lot of clothes, especially good menswear is better quality and more available than here. London is also jam packed - forgot how cities feel when not riddled with crime and filth - looking at you Chicago. Mostly good food - best was hip east London pub lunch and runner up was seafood on Marylebone High Street. Only did a couple museums - Tate Modern, Mail Rail (see more below) and the Museum of the Home. Another unique experience was attempting to buy tea at what we thought was a specialist tea shop - only to find out it was their HQ and they don't sell via retail outlets. However, we were invited in for tea and learned about the company and that there are in fact tea plantations in England and the USA.

Anywho, back to transit. My friends got dragged to a canal - to twist Colin from Foxes Afloat's expression - BOATS! Not quite the narrowboats they lived on, but there were some, and some widebeams, along with posh houseboats, along the Regents Canal.

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Sharp bend in the canal at the bridge between Regents Park and Primrose Hill (more or less) - narrowboats swing on their axis to turn. And that is a Chinese restaurant in the background.

I also dragged my friends on Mail Rail - totally unique experience - although vaguely reminiscent of the Coal Mine at MSI (Museum of Science and Industry, but actually the real thing). Short ride in converted mail rail vehicles - lot of fun and not too long. Mail Rail was the Post Office subway - yes, really - built to reduce delivery times across central London. The system is still extent and is fairly large, but the ride was about half and hour - about the right length, but my friends enjoyed it to my surprise.

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Boarding platform at Mail Rail
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Not a great shot - but it does give a flavor of the ride.

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View from front window of Routemaster (Red London double-decker bus) - they're on the wrong side of the street!!!

And now, some random transit shots!

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Farringdon - our 'home' station - the other was Chancery Lane - just a deep level tube - this is quirkier.

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View into Liverpool St Mainline platforms from above.

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Early morning back to Heathrow via Purple Line - note the special moquette in purple. I got myself socks in one of the patterns at the TfL museum shop.


I'll add a few more photos from the Elizabeth Line stations in part II, probably tomorrow. We really didn't use transit much - I walked from Farringdon to Regents Park and back via Mayfair and Soho one day. Most of the time it was short sleeve weather in the sun with no rain.
 

cirdan

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Thanks for the great report and pictures.

I visited MailRail once back in the 1980s when it was still a working mail line. I managed to underexpose an entire film which was frustrating seeing those shots cannot now be repeated. At that time guided tours were offered to the public who wanted to see Mount Pleasant post office, which was one of Britain' main postal sorting centers at that time. The tours were quite sporadic and poorly announced so finding out about them was a matter of pot luck. The tour mostly focussed on the above ground stuff but at the end we got to ride the elevators and had a few minutes on the platform of MailRail watching the hustle as trains were loaded and unloaded.
 

cirdan

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Great report. Hoping to be there myself in a few weeks as part of larger European rail adventure. I'm trying to find a way to ride a "Purple Train" but currently it doesn't fit in plan. There are a couple of good videos on YouTube regarding the preservation of the mail train. Thanks for sharing your impressions.
Going to see Windsor Castle might be a good excuse. You would ride the Elizabeth Line to Slough and change to a local train for Windsor there.

If you're interested in railroad history and industrial archeology, you could ride the Elizabeth Line to Maidenhead and walk down to the River Thames to see Brunel's flat arched bridge, which is to this day the flattest brick bridge in the world, and pretty groundbreaking when you consider its age.


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Thanks for the positive comments everybody!

I found out about Mail Rail from either the Tim Traveler or Jago Hazzard - definitely a unique experience.

I would think it would be easy work in the Elizabeth Line - especially if you are changing modes of transport it links to a lot of them.

I'll post some more photos later today. If anybody has any requests - obviously limited by what I took - let me know (lots of buildings and shopping street shots).
 

jis

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Going to see Windsor Castle might be a good excuse. You would ride the Elizabeth Line to Slough and change to a local train for Windsor there.
Aren't there two ways to get to Windsor from London? One from Paddington/Elizabeth Line as you suggest, and the other from Waterloo?
 

cirdan

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Yeah. I have used both on an impromptu circle trip I did. Arrive at one and depart from the other.

Apparently there is a plan to make it a real loop by connecting up the two stations.
This is one of those plans that people have talked about since time immemorial.

I'm not holding my breath.
 

cirdan

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Aren't there two ways to get to Windsor from London? One from Paddington/Elizabeth Line as you suggest, and the other from Waterloo?
I guess most tourists prefer the Waterloo option as Waterloo is obviously closer to central London and most tourist attractions than Paddington, and furthermore the Waterloo train provides a one seat journey whereas the Paddington trip involves changing trains at Slough.

But of course if you're looking for an excuse to try the Elizabeth Line, there it is.
 

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I guess most tourists prefer the Waterloo option as Waterloo is obviously closer to central London and most tourist attractions than Paddington, and furthermore the Waterloo train provides a one seat journey whereas the Paddington trip involves changing trains at Slough.

But of course if you're looking for an excuse to try the Elizabeth Line, there it is.
There is a longer Paddington to Waterloo or vice-versa trip available via Reading too. The Reading - Waterloo service is slower than Molasses though.
 

cirdan

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There is a longer Paddington to Waterloo or vice-versa trip available via Reading too. The Reading - Waterloo service is slower than Molasses though.

London to Reading is 1hr and 23 minutes from Waterloo on Southwestern, versus circa 1 hour from Paddington on Elizabeth line or 23 minutes on fast train from Paddington.

But if you are starting in central London you need to factor in the time to get to the respective stations and depending on where you start, the Waterloo service may be faster. A lot of commuters do prefer to travel that way.

Especially if you consider that on the Elizabeth line there is no stop after Reading until Twyford, which isn't really part of Reading by any stretch of the imagination, whereas the Waterloo service makes several suburban stops in Reading proper, and this is actually the side of Reading that is most built up and expansive, so for many people this will be the more attractive alternative.
 

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London to Reading is 1hr and 23 minutes from Waterloo on Southwestern, versus circa 1 hour from Paddington on Elizabeth line or 23 minutes on fast train from Paddington.

But if you are starting in central London you need to factor in the time to get to the respective stations and depending on where you start, the Waterloo service may be faster. A lot of commuters do prefer to travel that way.

Especially if you consider that on the Elizabeth line there is no stop after Reading until Twyford, which isn't really part of Reading by any stretch of the imagination, whereas the Waterloo service makes several suburban stops in Reading proper, and this is actually the side of Reading that is most built up and expansive, so for many people this will be the more attractive alternative.
I used to commute from London to Bracknell and then later Winnersh Triangle, and naturally I did that mostly on SWT via Ascot out of Waterloo. But specially coming back from Winnersh Triangle I would often go wrong way a couple of stops to Reading and then hop on a fast train to Paddington, just for the thrill of riding a fast train I suppose :D , considering getting from Paddington to my hotel in the Russel Square area was a pain in the patoutie.
 
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This is one of those plans that people have talked about since time immemorial.

I'm not holding my breath.
Having seen the one station where it terminates I would think the cost of connecting the two would be staggering given land acquisition costs alone, before even considering the "NIMBY" issues, political interference, etc. Cost-benefit analysis would have to show an amazing increase in ridership for a circle train to be justified.
 

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Having seen the one station where it terminates I would think the cost of connecting the two would be staggering given land acquisition costs alone, before even considering the "NIMBY" issues, political interference, etc. Cost-benefit analysis would have to show an amazing increase in ridership for a circle train to be justified.
Circle train was never the justification, so that is a Red Herring.

AFAIK, the current incarnation of the porposal was first made in 2009. Fortunately there is a pretty detail Wiki page on this discussing the pros and cons and what the actual pans called for...

 

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Having seen the one station where it terminates I would think the cost of connecting the two would be staggering given land acquisition costs alone, before even considering the "NIMBY" issues, political interference, etc. Cost-benefit analysis would have to show an amazing increase in ridership for a circle train to be justified.
A quick tunnel under Windsor Castle would sort it. What could possibly go wrong?
 

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So, as promised a while back, here's a brief synopsis of my London trip a few weeks back....


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Farringdon - our 'home' station
Nice report. That overall roof at Farringdon is typical of a surprising number of stations on the sub-surface lines, where the station is just in a cutting. Earl’s Court is a particularly good example. That’s a train of S-stock in the picture - a great improvement, with full-width links between cars, and aircon.

The scrum you endured at Paddington should be a thing of the past from this coming weekend, when through running starts.
 
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So a few more transit shots to entertain all of you.....

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Another view of the end of the trainshed at Liverpool Street where there is a park over the mouth of the tunnels
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Oxford Street Elizabeth Line (if memory serves) - all of the new stations have platform edge doors
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Heading down into the bowels of Farringdon Elizabeth Line station

There are actually two station entrances here - one Victorian to the tube (and mainline) and one massive and new into the Purple Trains (and mainline ticketing) off of a pedestrianized street section (with obligatory Pret, Costa and Boots [Part of the Walgreen's Empire] lining it}

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Second - longer - set of escalators down to platform level at Farringdon. Notice the digital billboards - Tube stations have small format billboards lining the escalators - broadsheet sized I'd say. Lots of ads for plays and entertainment sorts of thing (Mary Poppins is playing in London for example, or comic David Mitchell playing Shakespeare but looking more like a Klingon....)


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Platform level - there are three tubes down here. One for access - elevators and escalators and two running tunnels with multiple cross passages. Similar at all the deep level stations.

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New and old together at Paddington (note bear by purple shirt).

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View east-southeast from Primrose Hill (iirc this is where the Evening Barking was in the book 101 Dalmations)

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I think this is called Queen Mary's garden which is a small part of Regents Park - this one is for MRD. Yes, still lovely and well used. This was Tuesday - on the weekend it was packed with families and couples strolling and sunning. One thing we noticed - and my friend who lived there concurred, people have better behaved dogs. No crazy barking and no cowering non-dog owners like here - dogs off leash heading to their owners obediently and happily was really nice to see.

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Heading home from Heathrow with the snow-capped Chilterns in the background.... oh, wait, somethings not right here.... Stay tuned...
 

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So a few more transit shots to entertain all of you.....


View attachment 30270

New and old together at Paddington (note bear by purple shirt).
The locomotive has arrived with the sleeper from Penzance. In normal working, this is now the only time diesel traction is used under the roof (the 8xx trains are all in electric mode at this point). That Class 57 is indeed “old” - a few re-engineered from the original Brush Class 47 of the early 1960s.
 
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