The last day of the 1959 Tube Stock
Thursday 27 January 2000

This page was last modified on 14 August 2009.

Special Notice: Several of the pictures on this page violate the “No flash photography anywhere on the Underground” rule. There was an unspoken lifting of the ban (and that regarding tripods!) on this one occasion but, under normal circumstances,
Flash photography is prohibited.

Arranged at the last minute

The “Last Train” of 1959 Tube Stock was arranged in something of a hurry, following a couple of weeks in which nobody seemed to know what was happening; it also came three weeks after the (un-publicised) previous Last Train which ran on Friday 7 January 2000, or indeed the previous Last Working on Thursday 14 January (see main 1959-stock page).

Mumurings began on Sunday 23 January, and I inadvertently jeopardised the whole operation by telephoning Northern Line HQ when the chap sending the letters to everyone had just half an hour to put them into envelopes and catch the post! He had only been told of the Last Train the previous day. The news was that Train 132 would be formed of 1959 stock on Thursday 27 January 2000 in the evening peak: this would be a run from Morden to Edgware and back, but on arrival at Morden it would then run a further unscheduled service to Edgware, before “returning empty to a destination as advised by Alstom”.

Publicity from this website (out of the archives)

Since the autumn of 1999 I had — with the assistance of various correspondents within LU — been keeping a close watch on 1959-stock workings, and I’d published an oft-updated webpage “The last days of the 1959 stock”; you are reading its successor.

The previous version contained the Train Numbers (Diagrams) that could still be operated by 1959 stock, and extracts from the working timetable to assist readers in catching these trains. It proved useful to several people who wished to experience ’59 stock for a final time. So when I’d received the information above from Northern Line HQ regarding this final working, I quickly removed the “s” from “days” and made my last update to the previous version of this page, passing on all the information I had and inviting folk to meet me on the Last Day.

Here is that last update of the previous version of this page, unaltered from the night before the Last Day. See also the Train times page giving the times of certain workings that were likely to be operated by 1959 stock (a printable version was also created). Finally, included is a link to the page I wrote to show the entirety of Train 044’s diagram, as T044 was worked by 1959 stock almost up to Christmas.

All four of the above pages have been left alone for posterity. Their content has not been touched nor have they been brought up to current standards; only some alteration to links has been made.

Entering service for the last time

PHOTO: 59 stock leaving Morden depot: 88kB

Above: The Last Train, ready to leave Morden depot

Having arrived a few minutes ‘before time’ at Morden station, I ventured across the forecourt and the main road to the parapet of the bridge; a few other folk were there (including no lesser figures than Fred Ivey and Jim Blake) and at 16:37, exactly as the sun set, the familiar sight of a bare-aluminium-clad train appeared round the corner, cruising very gently along No. 44 reception road up to shunt signal Y.28.

PHOTO: 59 stock waiting at exit of Morden depot, daytime: 93kB

There was an immense feeling of unreality in the air: surely this couldn’t be the last-ever journey? But the commemorative notice in the window of the ‘M’ door was clearly visible, as was the greater-than-average presence of enthusiasts and well-wishers at and about the station. As the rear of the train came into view, it was with a sense of relief that we saw the whole train was silver: nice as the Heritage units are, they are not truly representative of ’59 stock.

PHOTO: 59 stock waiting at exit of Morden depot, daytime: 103kB

I moved along the bridge and took another photo, realising that nobody would ever again see a service 59-stock train in daylight from the moment we entered the tunnel at Morden. Depot staff have clearly done a good job of cleaning up the train to give it a decent send-off, the aluminium all appearing pleasingly clean from this angle as it reflects the setting sun.

This photo was also published on the front cover of [Underground News] No. 460 (April 2000).

We rushed back across the road, through the barriers and down onto platform 5, where Train 132 pulled in very slowly after giving a blast on the whistle. It turned out to be formed of units 1187+1256, with 1187 at the north end; I’d been fortunate enough to have a cab-ride in both of these five weeks earlier, the pair having remained coupled for some months. In the leading cab was just the Motorman and one other person, Roger Mather (an Instructor-Operator at Morden who has had considerable input into recent “Line Information” booklets for staff). The starter signal cleared, a fairly hefty contingent of well-wishers got on, and we set off a couple of minutes late for Edgware “via the Bank”.

PHOTO: flash photo of 59 stock in trainshed at night: 63kB

The journey was easy enough up to London Bridge, but at that stage it was just gone 5 o’clock and the whole train became truly packed with commuters: just like old times! They gradually dispersed, although not until Colindale was it possible to find a seat again (I wasn’t even in the rear car, by the Guard, at this stage). At Edgware we were about ten minutes behind schedule and were ready to leave within a couple of minutes of arriving: just time for the crew to change ends. At this stage I was recognised from my self-description on uk.transport.london by two fellow netizens, and there was just time to take this photo before we had to pile into the front car and head back to Morden. Note that the train number and destination blind are not yet illuminated; although the J door is open in this photo, it remained resolutely closed throughout the journey (at this end, at least).

The very last trip

PHOTO: close-up at rear of train, nighttime: 73kB

Several other folk from the ‘virtual’ community had turned out to travel (making a much better turnout than any scheduled uk.transport.london meet-up!), so there was plenty to keep us occupied in the journey back down to Morden; the train was standing-room only from Camden Town (via Bank) to at least Balham. We clearly heard the last-ever statutory Westinghouse brake application at South Wimbledon; once arrived in platform 1 at Morden, the train would normally have disgorged all its passengers before running empty back to the depot. Instead, it was to work a special journey back to Edgware, via Charing Cross. Perhaps it was a shame that it could not have gone to Barnet instead (for variety), but never mind!

PHOTO: Train Number close-up: 36kB

As I had predicted, the Train Number got changed to something more light-hearted and suitable, although only at the “rear” of the train (in any case the PTI selectors inside at the leading end would still have registered Train 132, for the benefit of the signalling system). Train numbers in general cannot have 8s or 9s in them, as these are beyond the scope of the octal notation on which the programme machines operate; to see this on a service train is therefore pretty rare nowadays. Note the interior of the cab above, and part of the car number 1256 at left.

PHOTO: view along side of car towards guard, night: 70kB

This wasn’t just the swansong of 1959 stock, but also that of the Guards on London Underground. Guard Mark Wheeler (in fact an ex-Guard, having already become a Train Operator, currently on the Central Line) worked the rear of the train throughout the event; he has noted the repeater showing green, and checks behind him before closing the doors. Just prior to this, I’d collared Instructor-Operator Peter Day who was acting as Motorman for the duration, and asked if he wouldn’t mind using my reverser key instead of his own for the final journey. By this stage in the proceedings he was making announcements from time to time, about the historic nature of this journey.

PHOTO: portrait of proud Motorman prior to final journey: 54kB

Many thanks to Donald McGarr for this photograph.

Just a couple of seconds after I handed my (grey-painted) key to Peter Day, he passed Donald who was changing ends in the opposite direction. Note the out-of-use middle cabs in the background, another feature not seen on the newest stocks.

PHOTO: Guard's area, train in tube: 76kB

The whole 1256+1187 train has for some while been kitted out with special strap-hangers which advertise NutriGrain cereal bars; a few had presumably been damaged and so the occasional plain grey one was to be found. The guard leans on his “No entry — Guard only” bar for the very last time, and the white-on-red “No admittance when in use by guard” sticker is visible on the draught screen to the right. For the whole journey this car was packed full of people, as might be expected, witnessing the very last operation of an Underground train by a guard.

PHOTO: Guard(s) operating the train in tube: 73kB

Donald McGarr trained as a guard with Mark Wheeler but, by this time, had become ‘redeployed’ as a Station Assistant; like others in this situation has since had the opportunity to become a Train Operator. Former Guard McGarr rode for the latter half of the evening with the official guard and “assisted” at several stations: he is seen here checking that the doors have closed — they have, and the blue Pilot Light (immediately above bar) is lit. In the next instant, he will lean in and push the “Signal” button, sending a “Ding!” to Motorman Day at the front. The famous “microwave-oven” sound of the starter bell giving a single beat is another experience that was being savoured for the very last time. At the extreme top of the picture, note the car-number (partially obscured by strap-hanger) written onto the aluminium ventilator grille in marker pen: souvenir-hunters had presumably stolen the proper (white numerals on blue background) number plate.

PHOTO: flash photo of 59ts in station, tiled name visible: 74kB

As we neared the final destination, people were hopping out of the train at any or all stations to photograph the guard in action; this shot also shows the last ’59-stock train to call at Mornington Crescent — and fewer trains have ever called there than at any other zone-1 station visited that day. Note the station name written into the tiling. The CCTV monitor above it has just seconds of worthwhile existence left: after the guard presses the “Signal” button in a moment, the monitor will become an evolutionary relic. I wonder how much longer it will continue faithfully to show those at the rear of the train what’s happening round the curve?

PHOTO: Guard and rest of rear car at tube station: 72kB

“Miner Doors!!”: Guard Wheeler poses for the camera. He was extremely obliging to all of us who kept ‘annoying’ him with our cameras and flashes, jumping out at stations and trying not to get left behind; he seemed quite proud to be the Very Last Guard, was immaculately turned out in full uniform (as was Motorman Day), and caused a few chuckles by over-exaggerating the famous warning call for our benefit! Note the “porter” button on the end of the car, which has already been used for the last-ever time (the platform at Edgware would be on the other side of the train).

PHOTO: The zoo effect: the photographed one photographs back! 88kB

Many thanks to Donald McGarr for this photograph.

Car 1256 was full right to the end, with many people wishing to witness the last-ever Guard in operation. Donald took the opportunity to record the final journey from his unique viewpoint in the Guard’s area. It is noticeable that, although clearly otherwise full-up, the car would have held several more passengers had they taken the oft-heard advice to “move right down inside the cars”!

PHOTO: Portrait of last-ever guard, five stations from the end: 58kB

Five bells to go: at Golders Green we ran into the middle platform, via the No. 22 crossover (all NB depot-bound trains do this, but the northbound loop (not used here) sees only a couple of workings per day), the doors opening on the left (platform 3). We were held at the signal for a while, during which time another Edgware service called on the other face of the platform (2); at this stage, an announcement was made on the ’59-stock train that “anyone actually wishing to travel to Edgware is advised to take the train on platform 2”! I certainly didn’t notice much of a surge across from one to the other… Two generations of red/white “No entrance when in use by guard” notice can be seen at extreme right.

PHOTO: Guard's panels, nighttime interior shot: 71kB

The final bell, at Burnt Oak, passed without undue ceremony, and after a brief bit of motoring we coasted into Edgware platform 1 some 20 minutes late, at 20:44:15. The doors opened, the motorman carried out the Shutdown/Blowdown procedure to destroy all air-pressure in the brake system, and the unique rush of air (and subsequent “burping” noise from the blowdown valves!) was heard from a service Northern Line train for the very last time. I ran to the front to collect my reverser key from Motorman Day — who assured me he’d used it all the way — before taking some more photos. Now the guard’s panels are unmanned, and there is no more “Ding!”.

PHOTO: flashless nighttime view of front: 73kB

On arrival, the Guard completed his duties (also calling on Donald McGarr to assist by going to the back cab and changing the head/tail lights); Motorman Day is now seen in the act of inserting his own reverser key (retrieved from his bag) into the cab door to open it.

PHOTO: flash nighttime view of front: 46kB

Motorman Day (visible in M door window) converses with another member of staff, and Guard Wheeler (behind gate) peers through the side door as Donald McGarr looks on. The notice in the window says “LAST ``1959`` STOCK TRAIN ON THE NORTHERN LINE 1975 — [roundel] — 2000”. A few minutes later the train was ready to leave; one of the staff telephoned the Station Supervisor from the signal-post phone (the cab radio didn’t work!), the route was set and the signal cleared.

With a call of “Thank-you gentlemen very much, we do appreciate it: Cheerio, Goodbye!!”, Train 059 pulled out of the platform. As it did so, the leading bogie ran over a couple of well-placed “shots” (detonators), creating a terrific send-off in the age-old manner. Parallel was reached as the rear of the train passed the end of the platform, and 1256+1187 clattered across the pointwork and out into the night, empty plus Staff to Morden depot.

The days of the 1959 Tube Stock are at an end.

London as a whole has dispensed with the final service example of a type of train which has its design roots firmly planted in the early 1930s. No more will the tunnels of the Underground echo to the unmistakable sound of LT112 traction motors, and the Northern Line traveller will never again walk on maple-wood slatted flooring, nor sit on orange/black/white Northern Line moquette; nor will he ever again be able to watch the guard at work on the back of a train. Westinghouse air-brake applications at penultimate stations (and often Highgate) he will never experience another time, likewise the hammering-in-the-feet of Westinghouse reciprocating compressors, the “Pop!” of line-breakers, and the urgent “Tik-tik-tik” of the camshaft mechanism.

Long-held fixtures in the London transport scene, such as the evocative title of “Motorman”, a cry of “Mind the doors!” from a Guard, the creaking noise as the car-bodies flex, the comfort of a transverse seat (in any car of the train) with a window-ledge for an armrest, the distinctive darker-aluminium colour of the (cast) cab-front door, have all disappeared for good. The hiss, clunk and clatter of doors being re-opened because one is stuck somewhere, the “Ding!” of the starter bell, the shrieking of steel on dry steel as the wheels spin at Belsize Park station, and that smell of dragging brakes, already endure only as memories.

Go to main 1959 stock page

Go to ‘Heritage’ 1959 stock page