London Underground trip 1970
by Colin Rosenstiel

Copyright © Colin Rosenstiel 2003.
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The "Underground trip" 1970

I was one of a group of 6 Cambridge Liberal student friends who attempted the trip in the spring of 1970. A seventh friend was involved in the planning work (in chinagraph pencil on a plastic film-covered underground map which I still have somewhere).

We conceived the idea mainly to see if we could get round within a day. We got ourselves sponsored for charity (Save the Children Fund) because we considered it too much of a self-indulgence otherwise. The roughly £100 we raised was a lot of money in those days. The network was undergoing so much change around then that the periods between network changes seemed to be measured in mere months. We set our own rules, requiring use of public transport only and requiring us to visit every LT-served station by LT train stopping there. I notice the modern rules would have allowed us to use BR trains to Watford Junction for example. That seems wrong to me.

We weren’t too aware of the world record at the time. I seem to remember that the published record at the time was from before the opening of the Victoria Line. But people rarely looked beyond the printed Guinness Book of Records then.

In 1970 the Victoria Line extension had yet to open, though it was under construction, and the Northern City Line was still part of the Underground but with Drayton Park as its Northern terminus. Watford Junction was still served, but by only 4 trains a day. One of our major constraints was fitting in all the peak hours only services. The Olympia service was so irregular we had to make our attempt during the Ideal Home exhibition to get a sufficiently frequent service.

Things started very well, beginning on the 04:59 from Upminster via Ongar at dawn(!) but the bus from Cockfosters (Oakwood) to High Barnet let us down badly, losing the whole 40 minutes we were up on our timetable.

What actually thwarted us, however, was lack of timetable information. In those days there was a published “Underground Guide” with first and last times and service frequencies. This was excellent in general. We made a few site planning visits for more detailed information that appeared on platform departure posters. We also made a trip to North London to get the dratted 107 (20 minute interval) bus timetable but it still let us down by a cancellation followed by late running.

Our catastrophic omission was failing to visit South Harrow for departure information. The gap there between the regular interval timetable and the last trains table was our nemesis.

We omitted the Richmond branch and finished at Hounslow West as planned but half an hour early, allowing us to visit all but three stations and maximise our sponsorship income. We soon worked out the timetabling change necessary to deal with the South Harrow problem but never tried again. It was all very galling!

Rover Tickets were no use because they were not valid all day. We negotiated a special ticket.

I have a photo of the rest of the team at Mill Hill East during the trip and some of the timetable information (and the Underground Guides) but no other records. A number of the team have had interesting political careers since leaving Cambridge!

The other members of the team were Andrew Ellis, Andrew Gore, John Haynes, Tim Jones and John Watton. Neil Gray was the one who helped with the planning but who didn’t in the end make the trip.