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Snow Train Running

The more alert among you may have noticed that the rain has been rather fluffy and white lately. And given that this is the south of England this has naturally caused all sorts of chaos.

Much of the line now looks like this. The rails are dry, the current supply is pretty steady and we don't really have any problems. It wasn't always this way.

This is how the rails looked before the trains ran on them:

Not a huge amount of snow but certainly enough to start covering the running rails. That's not really enough to stop our trains running and we had trains out overnight to keep the rails cleared. We certainly struggled during the evening as the snowstorm made driving trains around difficult. But our biggest problem was transporting staff by road.

Taxis sent to take the late crews from sidings back to the depot didn't turn up for hours as the drivers struggled in the snow. This meant the late turn traindrivers didn't finish work until many hours after their shifts should have ended. Shifts are worked out carefully so that minimum times offshift are observed and the whole debacle meant that the late turn drivers had to come in later than usual the following day. LUL operate with a rolling shift system and this left us with a bit of a gap in drivers starting work.

Another difficulty was in people getting to work the next day. Most people in the south don't experience snow very often and are woefully inexperienced at driving cars in it. People took it slow and ultra-careful and quite a number from more remote areas weren't able to get in on time. And there was also the issue of this:

Yep, snow on the rails again. Although this is LUL track, the Train Operating Companies which use Network Rail track had exactly the same problems we had. Which meant that if our staff were travelling to work by train they had to wait patiently for the other TOCs to get their service up and running.

The stations had their own problems with snowy platforms. LUL's current method is to have as few staff in a station as they can possibly manage. Often there will be only one person on duty. That person has to do all their usual duties regarding opening up, dealing with customer queries, ticket machines and information management and also to pick up a shovel and start clearing snow to make the platforms safe. It's a big job for one person.

Of course, being the helpful person that I am, I spent a frantic ten minutes at the terminus "helping" to clear the snow.

What? It's piled up out of the way isn't it? ;-)


I thought of you when it snowed. Not so much the issues caused by it (well that's boring and predictable!) but rather the lovely views you would have.

One year when it snowed my first thought was to jump on the DLR (sitting at the front pretending to drive, natch) and admiring the undisturbed snow all around. Very pretty views of Docklands in the snow - sadly I didn't have a DSLR then so I just have a few grainy snaps. Might try it again if I'm well enough, but you need enough snow to look thick and pretty without being so much that you might not get home easily :-)

Anyway enough reminiscing - but this is why I thought of you when it snowed.

Too early for cute baby animals in the snow?
Oh now that you're getting more stamina you should totally get some good photos from the DLR. Better do a snow dance!

I certainly don't have any shots of cute baby animals. There's a lot of bird activity but it's a bit tricky to juggle a train and a camera at speed! I did see three of the fluffiest foxes ever today. Huge winter coats. There was a vixen and cubs in the same area last year so I wondered if it was the same family. Lots of small animals to eat there so probably not much need to fight for territories.
I treasure a memory of a journey on the Far North Line a couple of winters ago. That, as you can probably imagine, is a line that is quite used to snow; the rails aren't kept clear by running because there are only six trains a day, and I doubt that it's considered worthwhile to snowplough it (especially as that would presumably occupy one of those 6-a-day slots) Indeed, a few days after my journey it was closed for weeks until the weather improved.

At the time, however, the snow had only been falling for a few hours, and yet we were trundling at about 20mph. After a while, the driver explained "We're not going slowly because of the snow; we're going slowly because it's foggy, and my foghorn is full of snow". I found this entertaining, though I don't really know why.

We trundled for about another 40 minutes to the next stop, at which point the driver got out and kicked the foghorn until there was not snow in it any more. Then we carried on at a normal speed :-)