5 Things We'll Miss About Thameslink's Old Trains

By M@ Last edited 18 months ago

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5 Things We'll Miss About Thameslink's Old Trains
Image by Train Photos under CC licence.

Thameslink is the much maligned service that runs through St Pancras, Farringdon and Blackfriars before heading off to mysterious non-London destinations like Luton, Brighton and something called 'Bat and Ball'.

At the time of writing, the route is part-way through introducing a new fleet of trains, which should offer passengers more reliability and comfort. Yet the rickety old rolling stock they're doing away with has its own charms. Here's what we'll miss about the Class 319 experience.

1. Are we there yet?

Who can say? The older Thameslink trains offer no announcements about upcoming stations. To add to the mystery, platform signs are poorly lit, making it a real challenge to work out which station you've reached at night time. This is brilliant, in many ways. First, it gets passengers talking to one another, something you just don't see on other routes. Second, it's a blessed relief to travel on a train that doesn't bombard you with aural dinformation every 2 minutes. And third, it helps justify that expensive smartphone purchase you recently made — no experienced Thameslink passenger ever boards the train without a functioning GPS device and backup compass. As The Beautiful South once sang, while riding on Thameslink: "This could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome. Mill Hill or Cricklewood. I better check my phone."

Why we'll miss it: Nothing tests one's resolve quite like an accidental disembarkation at Radlett on the last train home.

2. Improving information

Thameslink's solution to the lack of announcements was to install these cheap plastic brackets in every carriage. The non-digital displays have been promising 'New - Improving information' since early 2016. You can, of course, check your smartphone for up-to-the minute information, but it usually looks like this:

Why we'll miss it: We were really looking forward to that 'improving information'. Would it include tips on maintaining the correct posture? Dinner party etiquette? How to keep a positive outlook in the face of constant rail delays? Alas, the new trains — while finally carrying decent information about the route — are silent on these matters.  

3. The comedy end-of-carriage doors

The retractable door latch has been in widespread use for centuries. This simple device, familiar to any three-year-old, keeps the door shut until someone turns the handle. Thameslink uses a modified type of latch in most of its older carriages, one that gives a convincing impression of firm closure right up until the point where the train accelerates. The door then swings open, to the surprise of whoever just sat down in the neighbouring seat.

Why we'll miss it: Pure schadenfreude. After failing to secure the door ourselves, it's fun to watch the reaction of newcomers to the carriage. First they'll tut, because nobody in the surrounding seats is making the effort to close the door. Then they'll look sheepish when their own efforts end in defeat.

4. The unique colour scheme

Like a bloom of azalea, the pink stanchions and seat handles are a distinctive feature of old-style Thameslink. The moulded, concave plastic above the seats puts us in mind of that kid at school who'd lost the nail on his big toe and delighted in showing the withered digit to everyone. The yucky pairing of this pink with deep-blue seat covers — with both colours recapitulated in a Pollock-esque floor pattern — induces 34% of all vomit incidents on Thameslink trains. As Eddie Cochran once observed: "Sometimes I wonder what I'm a-gonna do. But there ain't no cure for the Thameslink line's hues."

Why we'll miss it: Actually, we won't.

5. Train-length lottery

You wait 9,999 minutes for a train, and then it turns out to be only four carriages long, and no one can fit on. Sure, the platform indicator boards do (sometimes) hint at whether you'll be getting an eight-car or four-car experience, but it's often a bluff. The new trains will all be at least eight carriages, which should ease the problem.

Why we'll miss it: As veterans of the 'service', we've long worked out the best place to stand on each platform so we can quickly change tack if the promised eight-car turns out to be four-car. It's survival of the fittest, mate. If people want to risk standing right down the end of the platform, only to have to sprint back to the middle when a short-arse train arrives, that's their problem.

The last Class 319 trains will be withdrawn from the Thameslink route in 2018, in favour of the shiny new Class 700 trains.  

Last Updated 15 May 2017