Postcards - Transport In London

A brief visit to the capital allowed me to sample a wide range of transport modes.

Boris Bus

The NB4L (New Bus For London) a.k.a. "Boris Bus" has just started service on the 24 route across London, and I went for a ride. The designers seem to have cleverly captured the curvy styling of the Routemaster to produce a rather attractive appearance, but with three doors and two staircases it's woefully short of the most important thing in a bus - seating space - and I had to stand on my journey. On the rare occasions where the heavy traffic allowed, it seemed quite nippy on electric power.

Epping and Ongar Railway

Back in 1994 I rode on the very last London Underground train from Ongar to Epping, before London Transport closed this outpost of the Central Line. The railway has now been partly re-opened by a preservation group, and this weekend they were welcoming some special guests as part of the celebrations of 150 years of the London Underground.

Firstly, here's a shot from the "last day" in 1994:

Back in the 21st century, the trains no longer run beyond Epping, so the connection with the Central Line is provided by a fleet of preserved buses which carry passengers from Epping to North Weald.

The first train out after I arrived happened to be a diesel powered service to Coopersale, which is the nearest the preserved railway currently gets to Epping. As you can see there's nothing there at all, the line ends in the middle of some trees. The railway has plans to extend further, to an interchange station within easy walking distance of the Central Line at Epping.

Back on the main part of the line, between North Weald and Ongar, there were no less than four steam locos in action, including celebrity Metropolitan No. 1. Built in the late 1890s for the Metropolitan railway, this loco survived long enough to become London Transport's L44. It hauled their last steam hauled passenger train in 1961 and continued to work until 1965. More recently, it hauled the steam trains on the circle line earlier this year celebrating 150 years of the London Underground.

Other special visitors to the line were some restored Metropolitan Railway "Dreadnought" coaches, which were constructed in about 1910. These two examples now normally reside at the Vintage Carriage Trust at Ingrow on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire. Note the curved tops to the doors, intended to reduce damage if they were opened in the tunnels. The interior door catches feature an advert for Metroland.

The final celebrity visitor was this wonderfully restored Metropolitan "Jubilee" first class coach dating from 1892. The star of the Underground 150 celebrations, it is now on tour, and I was very pleased to get a ride in it. The carriage number, 353, can be seen surrounded by gold leaf on the inside of the door. Apparently many thousands of pounds were spent on gold leaf during the restoration.

Finally, North Weald and Ongar in 1994 and today.

Emirates Air Line

For my next mode of transport I headed to London's docklands for a ride on the cable car across the river, which is one year old this week.

Views of the Olympic Park in the distance, and that great tourist attraction - the local refuse recycling plant!

The dome, and some unusual buildings next to it.

A look back along the cable as dozens of mostly empty cabins follow me, and a view downriver, with the Thames Barrier in the distance.

Thames Clipper

Leaving the cable car in North Greenwich I decided to select another different form of transport, so I took the Thames Clipper ferry back to central London. This speedy ferry service provides some excellent views of the Thames.


The Mayflower? That rings a bell. Ah, yes, I had a drink in there in 2011.

The Shard, and Tower Bridge.

The Tower of London.

HMS Belfast.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

The OXO Building.

The London Eye.

And finally we complete our Thames tour with the Palace of Westminster.

June 2013

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