Trams & Trolleys
UCS on the Met:
Comments/corrections to: Dewi Williams
Wooden compartment trains at Harrow
the war, after the “11-plus” exam, I was accepted into University
College School (UCS), which was in Hampstead. To get there I had to commute
- by train. This was wonderful. Bus to Harrow, then a choice of
fast or stopping trains to Finchley Road. There were “modern” red
subway-style trains, there were older wooden compartment slam-door
trains, and there were locomotive-hauled trains that ran from Baker
Street out to Aylesbury, which sometimes deigned to stop at Harrow.
And all of them ran past the Neasden works of the former Metropolitan
Railway, where there were all kinds of interesting steam and electric
this period, my grandmother lived in a flat about three doors away
from us, and Aunty Bobbie lived with her for a couple of years.
Aunty Bobbie was then with the British Council, working in Great
Portland Street, and so she too would use the Metropolitan train
from Harrow. She would lend me her stopwatch and showed me how
to measure the speed of the train, noting the mileposts as we bounced
along the track.
compartment trains were actually hazardous, particularly when invaded
by a bunch of schoolboys. The door latches weren’t perfect. One
day, we were fooling around, playing tag in this small compartment,
when one of the group fell against the door - and it swung open!
Naturally, this happened at the point where the train was running
at its maximum speed of about 60mph: I’d timed it often enough
to know the speed. Now we could have pulled the emergency cord
to stop the train, but this would have meant admitting what we
had been doing. Almost without thinking, one of our group leaned
out of the open doorway, with two others holding him. The windows
of those trains were of the style that had hardly changed since
the days of stage-coaches: the window slid up and down, pulled
by a leather strap. The boy leaning out of the door grabbed the
strap and pulled. Unfortunately, this pulled up the window, increasing
the air resistance. Nevertheless, we managed to pull him and the
door, which we slammed with relief. And the train crew noticed
nothing! Or if they did, they said nothing about it.
rode on the Metropolitan trains as well as schoolboys, of course:
but custom demanded that girls and boys should ride in separate
compartments. One day, a member of our group dashed down the stairs,
jumped into a compartment and slammed the door just as the train
pulled out. To his horror he found that he’d climbed aboard a compartment
of (gasp!) girls - and he was stuck there until the train reached
Wembley Park. The next day he reported to us, still hardly believing
what he’d seen, that girls behaved just as we did - climbing around
on the luggage racks and on the seats.
|Copyright © Dewi Williams 2002|