Another bit of London lore has become a thing of the past. Staff at Clapham Junction station, the BBC reports, are to stop honouring the secret shortcut password.
The password has long been a piece of useful local knowledge for Claphamites heading home after dark. The junction sprawls over a huge area, and navigating around it requires the use of a road tunnel that is dark and distinctly threatening at night. In order to let worried locals dodge this potential hazard, Clapham Junction staff would let them cut through the well-lit and busy station without paying if they knew the right password - which was usually the name of a cartoon character.
Howeve, too many people got to know of this dodge and it has been dropped to avoid its abuse.
Network Rail's decision is understandable, but still sad. These nuggets of insider knowledge add richness to the cityscape. They infuse an often hard-edged built environment with a sense of humanity, and give those "in the know" more sense of belonging and place than a thousand government papers on Sustainable Communities and Urban Regeneration.
This is an unexpected and in some ways unfortunate side-effect of the coming of the internet and the plethora of London-based blogs. As site like Annie's Going Underground and the Diamond Geezer demonstrate, bits of Tube-related trivia are golden blogging material. Who would have thought that there is a route you can take that takes you through 10 stations beginning with H without changing trains. And is there any Londoner left who doesn't know the identity of Inspector Sands?
This popularity of this sort of Rail Lore means, however, that a secret known by, say, 300 Claphamites before t'internet can now easily be spread to thousands of people, leading to abuse of the system and its termination. The consolation is, of course, that things like this are created as quickly as they disappear.