Last year, to celebrate 150 years of the tube, I made these postcards which are plans of the depots on the London Underground network. Last week, as a result, I was invited to look around Stratford Market Depot, which is where the Jubilee line trains sleep when they’re tired. I mentioned it was my favourite (that and Morden, hint hint) and it also happens to be my closest depot… so I gratefully and nerdily accepted.

Here’s just a handful of interesting things I learned:

  • The Jubilee line is 36.2km long from Stratford to Stanmore and a little bit over half of this is in tunnels.
  • There’s 63 trains (with seven carriages each) but due to maintenance, etc there’s only typically 57 (plus two spares) available to run at any one time. These all run during peak hours.
  • There’s a maintenance schedule for each part of the train and though I can’t remember the exact details most of the timelines were in days/weeks rather than months/years. The trains get a lot of looking after! Currently the windows are being replaced and I saw some new wheels being fitted. It takes about 6 hours to fit new wheels to one carriage and the wheels are filed to match the profile of the track so they don’t make hideous and alarming squeaky noises.

Here’s some trains hanging out being maintained at the depot. The roof of the main shed is pretty impressive:

depot roof

Trains being maintained at the depot. There are pits below the trains for people to get underneath.

  • The main shed is about 200m long and is surprisingly (though not that surprising when you really consider it) clean and spacious. I’m reliably informed that a lot of the older depots are less so – the Stratford depot was built in the 1990s.
  • When the depot was built, 683 skeletons were unearthed in the process as the cemetery of St Mary’s Abbey (built in 1135) was inconveniently underneath one end of the site.
  • On an unrelated note, the control tower smells deliciously of bacon sandwiches at approx 10:30 in the morning.

Here’s a bonus picture of me pretending to drive a train. Pleasingly, there was just enough room to manoeuvre my hugely pregnant self into the seat without getting stuck!

driving a train

Me driving a train in the biggest sized orange hi-vis available!

  • That red thing I’m holding is the “dead man’s handle” – it will apply the brakes and safely bring the train to a stop if it’s released. The drivers cab has air conditioning to stop them falling asleep.

I’m not sure of the plans for this year but last year the depot opened as part of Open House London – if you fancy a look round then check the listings nearer the time.

Thanks very much to Sam for showing me round.