The Morning Tube


Queuing at the ticket office

While eternity passes by

Then running through the barriers

Under the ticket collector’s baleful eye,

The gathering on the platform

Waits with bated breath

For a train to carry them southwards

And down into the depths


Observers of indicators

Read the story in lights

Of the next train coming

Bank or Charing Cross…We will be…

If it doesn’t come… soon

For every second brings more passengers…

All of them trained to be

Observers of indicators – don’t you see?


A rumble announcing

the train is here

The driver looking forwards

with a vacant stare

doors slide open

revealing seats…all gone

we’re going to have to shove

if we want to get on


Pushing, squeezing

Mind the doors please

Stabbed in the knee with a brolly

hope he isn’t KGB

Commuters sharing briefcase bruises

Mementoes of the daily rush

As every week becomes five days

Of going to work in a crush


Standing…Pressed into a corner

Someone’s paper scraping an ear

Armpits wrinkling noses

With yesterday’s sweat

And last night’s beer

Heel to heel, toe to toe

The daily square dance

Off we go


Then suddenly…It’s our stop!

Open the doors, let us off

The escalators carry the

Dancing feet

Of breath-starved commuters

Desperate for the street

Where the air seems fresh

And the fumes are sweet


Commuters - Aldgate Station
Commuters - Aldgate Station

Martin Addison, 08/07/2011
The reference to the KGB recalls the assasination of Georgi Markov with poison administered by an umbrella though it is believed to have been the work of the Bulgarian Secret Service.

I recall that my Father, when I was a small child, had a fading black & white photograph on the bedroom wall.  It showed a small party of huntsmen preparing to cross a river as they rode in the shadow of the Ochil Hills – indeed, I believe that the title of the photo was ‘Ochil Hills’.   He was born in Dundee – not so far from those hills.    I have no idea where exactly it was taken – I believe it came from a newspaper originally.   There was an island in the river and the long shadows from the trees and riders, dwarfed by the distant hills, strode across the farmland in the foreground.   As a contre-jour shot it created a lasting impression on me – I still love to point the camera against the sun, though my choice of subject matter tends to be more industrial/urban (maybe that’s more from available subject matter than choice?).

As a child I travelled to Scotland to visit relatives every other year from my birth until I went to work – the alternate years were spent in Norfolk where my Mother had family (another part of Britain that has great beauty).   We stayed in Aberdeen with my Uncle Chris, Edinburgh in a hotel and Earlston with Aunt Jeannie – the Addisons are a sept of the Gordon Clan so Aberdeen and Earlston should come as no surprise as they are in the ‘Clan’ lands.

My Grandfather was an engine driver, initially with the North British Railway and subsequently with the LNER and BR.   Some of my earliest happy memories of Scotland involve the railway journeys to get there and to travel around.   Names of places come to mind that are no longer on the rail map.  Melrose, Hawick and Ballater.  We travelled on the prototype Derby Battery Electric Multiple Unit up the branch to Ballater.    I can remember travelling to Hawick behind the old LMS locomotive named Princess Elizabeth – good lord! She’s our  Queen now and has been on the throne for all my life!!!   Melrose was an early diesel locomotive experience – the train back to Edinburgh was hauled by an English Electric Type 4.   The whistle on idle and the grumbling roar when the throttle was opened made a lasting impression – they remain one of my favourite locomotive  classes to this day.   Railways remain a fascination with me.   I guess it’s in the blood, though when it became time to work I went to the Telecommunications side of the Post Office!   I’ll never know why – perhaps it was the size of the pay cheque at the time?

So – This year I took my son to the land of my Fathers for the first time – it feels strange that he had already walked the dusty land of Zimbabwe, somewhere my Father never went.  I think he enjoyed the view he had of the country in the short time that we visited.   I hope that we will be back again regularly to see more.   There is so much beauty in Scotland that I cannot possibly show it with a few photos from one holiday, but I have selected a few for here and I have provided a link to my Flickr photostream to allow you to enjoy the full size versions and more…

These and more at Scotland on my Flickr Account

For Railwaymen Red means Danger.   The Red light at the rear of the train tells the signalman that a train that has passed his box is complete and has not become separated along the way.   The Red light on the signal tells the driver he must go no further for fear of an accident.

In 1876 a terrible accident at Abbotts Ripton involving three trains resulted in far reaching changes to the way that British Railway signalling operated.   In a driving blizzard, snow prevented signals that showed as clear to the driver from being pulled to danger and the southbound Flying Scotsman collided with a freight train that was reversing to get out of its way.   A northbound Leeds express – ironically running to time in the terrible conditions – then ploughed into the wreckage.   Fourteen people lost their lives.

The crucial change made was that all signals should by default show Red for Danger rather than clear and that they should always be visible.  The most obvious  example of the fallout from this accident on Britain’s Railways today is that the Red light is at the bottom of the colour light signals where it cannot be obscured by snow piling up on the hood of a light below.  Simple but so very important…

Red For Danger
Red For Danger

For those who would like to read more about railway accidents and how the investigation into their causes is used to promote improved rail safety, I recommend Red For Danger by L.T.C.Rolt.