This page was last modified on 17 January 2013
This photo was also published on page 489 of [Underground News] No.572 (August 2009).
The A stock is a full-size subsurface-stock train which was built in the early 1960s by Cravens of Sheffield in two batches, designated as A60 and A62. It is used on the Metropolitan Line, from Aldgate and Baker Street to Amersham, Chesham, Watford and Uxbridge; it used also to operate on the East London Line, until LUL service was withdrawn in 2007.
The A subsurface stock is the oldest type of train in passenger service on London Underground, and the only one old enough that it has separate controls in the cab for motoring and for braking.
Although it is about to be replaced with the generic S stock for all of the subsurface lines, this will not be completed before the stock’s 50th birthday which will fall in June 2011.
The stock is formed of four-car units, each consisiting of two Driving Motor cars sandwiching two Trailer cars. The train used for the Chesham shuttle is a single 4-car unit, as were those previously used on the East London Line. All other A-stock trains for passenger use are formed of two units coupled together to form 8-car trains.
Unlike all passenger stocks on the Underground since 1967, these trains do not use the motors to assist with slowing the train (rheostatic/regenerative braking); so, like with 1959 tube stock, all braking is done using the friction brakes operating on the wheel treads. This can generate sizeable clouds of murky orange brake-dust which envelop the train and cause the lighter parts of its bodywork to take on that hue.
Following modifications to slightly more than half of the driving cabs to equip the stock for One Person Operation (OPO), most units can be driven from the “leading” cab only: the “middle” cab is not fitted with door controls or train radio, and units can only be driven from it in depots or, on the main line, out of service and with the driver equipped with a hand-portable train radio.
The fact that not all cabs were equipped for OPO is not a particular hardship until Neasden depot should run out of units having A-end leading cabs, but be in possession of two serviceable D-end units with no way of deploying them, and one more train required imminently…
As with 1973 tube and D stock, there are some double-ended units of A stock, having a working cab at both ends, to give greater flexibility and to provide reversible trains for the Chesham branch (and previously the East London Line). On A stock (as on 1967 and 1972 MkII stocks), “leading” cab-ends are painted red while “middle” cabs carry the blue and white livery of the bodysides.
Metropolitan Line journeys can be more lengthly and less crush-loaded than, for instance, Circle Line trips, and so all the seating is transverse 3+2 with headrests. A bone of contention at the time of customer acceptance for the A stock was the provision of parcels racks for briefcases and coats, and especially umbrella hooks which are still in place today. These features, together with the pattern of stopping, semi-fast and fast services over the line, all help to set the Met apart from the other Underground lines and give it its suburban-line feel.
The heavy refurbishment of the entire fleet was completed during January 1998, and entailed the repainting of LUL corporate livery, redesigned interiors and, equally importantly, improved suspension and brakes. The quality of the work was such that, in the early 2000s, it was easy to mistake the trains for new despite their being already some 40 years old! By 2010 the trains have begun to show their age again, not least because of the deleterious effects of paint-stripper applied by vandals.
Just behind the caged-in ladder leading up to the cable-gantry on the left, a gap in the sequence of red doors can be seen: this is where the two single-ended units are coupled back-to-back, and the middle-cab ends are painted to match the bodysides. Careful examination also reveals that the motor cars at either end of each unit have a single-leaf door right at their non-cab ends, whereas the trailer cars have three evenly-spaced sets of double doors. The single-leaf doors are a reminder that Guard’s positions used to be located at those points (as on other stocks), prior to disuse after OPO conversion and removal during refurbishment.
The track worker wearing a hi-visibility suit is acting as lookout-man for a signal engineer who is working out of shot to the right; the lookout blew his whistle and waved his flag about ten seconds before this picture was taken, and the Train Operator also gave a quick blast on the train whistle on spotting the lookout-man.
Although 5006 is an A-end unit and so nominally should be facing northwards, in practice any train in the A-stock fleet is liable to become ‘turned’ on the Watford triangle, usually in the course of working an early-morning one-way service over the North Curve between Rickmansworth and Watford. No particular attention is generally paid to ensuring that trains are “turned back again”, except when this is specifically required by Neasden depot.
The signal engineer who was being protected by the lookout man in the previous shot can be seen in a Place Of Safety(1) on the left; he was lubricating and inspecting the train-stop seen beneath the right-hand side of the train. The signal commanding that train-stop is MD27, part of which can can be seen to the top left; when it is cleared, a train in southbound Metropolitan platform 4 could depart northwards via crossovers and onto the northbound Jubilee Line track—a move only done once in recent years as far as I know.
MD is the Cabin Code for the Finchley Road (Met) signal-interlocking area. Beneath the signal and partially obscured is a Rail Gap Indicator, which displays a triangle of red lamps if the traction current is discharged in the section ahead; the unsightly cabinet obscuring part of it is an anti-glare box containing CCTV monitors, installed for OPO, which show the Train Operator what is happening on the platform.
Visible are the Automatic Coupler and the sprung buffer above it (unlike 1959/62 stocks on which the buffer was only sprung on D-end cars, on A stock the buffer is sprung on all Driving Motor cars). On the headstock can be seen the red Dead-Man Valve Isolating Cock (at right hand side), the TripCock Isolating Cock (just below headlights) and Coupler/Unit Isolating Cocks below that. The white-painted pair of step-rungs provide means for the driver to get into or out of his cab from track level. All Underground trains—except the 1967 tube stock on the Victoria Line—are fitted with Correct Side Door Enable (CSDE), which prevents the passenger doors being opened when there is not a platform alongside all of them; this is usually done by a loop of cable on the platform-edge (or opposite it, on some lines) whose magnetic field is picked up by a sensor on the train. The A-stock’s sensor, a little probe that looks rather like a geiger-counter, can be seen pointing sideways from its mounting-bracket just below and to the right of the white steps.
In sharp contrast to the cabs of all other service stocks (eg C stock cab view), this type has separate controls for motoring and for braking the train; it is also the only type to be fitted with hinged cab-side doors (all the other stocks have have air-operated sliding doors similar to those found in the passenger areas, or no cab-side doors at all).
The cab interior was painted a “restful” (?) shade of sky blue during refurbishment, but the equipment has remained essentially unchanged. On the back wall beyond the fold-down driving seat is a panel with controls for the head and tail lights, destination & gauge lights, control governer, EP brake, and compressors. The sticker at the bottom of the ‘M’ door (at right) reminds the driver of the need to follow correct procedure when passing signals at danger, and also that “Unauthorised persons are not allowed in this driving cab”; the outward-facing reverse side of the sticker carries the Metropolitan Line legend.
In the foreground is the upward-sprung deadman’s handle of the Master Controller; when Forward 1, Forward 2 or Reverse are selected using the Reverser key (hidden behind deadman) the handle must be kept depressed or else the pressure in the Brake Pipe will be exhausted to atmosphere and the brakes applied. If the driver wishes to rest his hands when stationary (eg at a station) he must move the Reverser key back to the Off position, after which he can safely release the deadman.
The brake handle (or, to give it its full name, the Driver’s
Brake Valve) is under his left hand and difficult to see from this angle
as it is facing away from the camera; its hexagonal brass domed nut can
be clearly seen. To make a brake application the driver would rotate the
handle anticlockwise, the amount of rotation determining the amount of
brake applied at any time; this caters for the normal, Electro-Pneumatic
(EP) braking. However, if he wishes to use the Automatic Westinghouse
brake (which is fail-safe and is applied automatically under various
fault conditions) he must “throw” the handle to
which is near the seven-o’clock position and then control the
pressure in the Brake Pipe from there. Finally, an Emergency position is
provided (at about five o’clock) which exhausts the Brake Pipe to
the atmosphere and additionally gives a continuous maximum EP brake
Other things visible in this cab include the pressure gauges, pilot light, speedometer and car number (5014), on the corner pillar; newly-resited door controls on the panel beneath the driving window; and Train Radio controls at top right.
Since these photos were taken in 1999, these cabs have been fitted with the Connect radio system which has caused the Public Address handset to be moved, and much of the panel at top right to be altered.