Last month I recalled my childhood enthusiasm for London Transport and a week spent travelling to the outer reaches of the tube network, just before my 11th birthday. In recent weeks my 13-year-old son has also started taking an interest in London’s iconic tube map and the connections between the lines. Before his school holidays began I suggested that we spend a day going to as many distant places as possible and we did, last Monday. He was more enthusiastic about this than me, honest.
He was especially keen to go to Epping, at the end of the Central Line, because that’s where Bradley Walsh lives, but I warned him that we were very unlikely to see him, or anyone else involved with ITV quiz show “The Chase”. We boarded our first train at Turnham Green station just after 10.30am, a District Line all the way to Upminster (38 stops). It took over an hour, and for the last two or three stops we were the only two passengers. You can tell these days, now that there are no doors between the carriages. We could look right through all seven carriages to confirm that everyone else had gone. We hung around Upminster for a few minutes, took photos outside the station to prove that he’d been there, and then headed back west. Rather than head through to the City and West End we got off at West Ham, 10 stops down the line, and changed for the Jubilee Line, one stop north to Stratford.
At Stratford we went to the Westfield shopping centre, had lunch and then took the Central Line direct to Epping (10 stops). Some trains go round in a loop to Woodford, through places like Redbridge, Fairlop and Chigwell, but we missed out on that part of the line, on our way east and north to the end of the line. I thought that there would be something to do at Epping station but there was nothing, just a car-park and a bus-stop: no shops, no cafés, no pubs. We had made it to Epping just before 2pm and were back on the train within 10 minutes, for the 10 stops back to Stratford. Again, we took the direct route rather than the loop through Fairlop and Redbridge.
Back at Stratford we changed to the Jubilee Line again and this time travelled the whole length of it, all 26 stops to Stanmore. We arrived around 3.40pm and went for a walk, in search of some kind of refreshment. I had visited Stanmore before in the last 20 years, just once, and it was nothing like I remembered. I thought that the station was close to the High Street but the centre of town was more than five minutes’ walk away. We walked for nearly 15 minutes and didn’t see a single pub, though two of the restaurants looked like they used to be pubs. We had hot drinks and snacks at a Caffe Nero and were back at Stanmore within the hour.
We headed down to Wembley Park on the Jubilee Line (4 stops), noting that Barnet FC now play their games very close to Canons Park station (that was news to me). At Wembley Park we took the Metropolitan Line north and west as far as Uxbridge (11 stops). We passed through Preston Road, a station that I had never noticed before. At Uxbridge we took another stroll and found a pub called the Queens Head, which dates back to at least 1544. The sign outside has a picture of Anne Boleyn. “Pointless” was on the big screen, with subtitles on, and we considered stopping for a drink. We waited a minute or two, and would have waited a few minutes longer to get served, so I decided that we should move on, back to the station and the Piccadilly back to Acton Town (14 stops). We changed to the District Line, two stops to Turnham Green, and ended up where we had begun, eight hours and 126 stops later.
The next day I dug out some old tube maps that are kept in the same box as the pocket diaries from my childhood. One map, from 1935, pre-dates the famous Harry Beck design, and shows the Central Line finishing at Liverpool Street. There is no Victoria Line. Another, from 1968, shows that newly-built light blue line spanning just six stations, from Walthamstow Central to Highbury & Islington. The rest of the line down to Victoria is shown as under construction, and there’s nothing to indicate its eventual destination, in Brixton. The Jubilee Line did not exist but the stations that would form its northern branch, beyond Baker Street, are all there, as part of the Bakerloo Line. My son might have been keen to travel to the end of various tube lines, but the enthusiasm for comparing old and new maps of the network was all mine.