Thursday 6 August 1987

…I made a map of the London Docklands Light Railway…

We’d just returned from another visit to London, and I was clearly inspired by the publicity I’d seen for the newly-opened (although not yet operational) network.

Here’s a picture of the Queen, taken at the official opening ceremony, which was probably Her Majesty’s only experience of public transport during the entire 1980s:

"And when one does this, one can pretend that one's actually driving!"

What on earth has that woman behind the Queen got on her head?

Anyway, it’d be years before I’d actually get to ride on one of the trains, and when I did I naturally made sure to sit right at the front, loving the novelty (as I still do) of there being no driver.

The DLR’s grown a lot since then, but in the right way. And every time I use it I fall in love with it all over again. The way it threads in, out, over and under the most astonishing extremes of wealth and poverty, and the very old and the ultra-new, makes it the most beguiling way to get a condensed visual summary of the whole of London.

Plus you can pretend that you’re in charge of the controls.

Come on: I know I’m not the only one.

2 thoughts on “Thursday 6 August 1987

  1. I used to think that too – until I worked down in the Docklands in 1989 and was forced to get it every day from Tower Gateway to South Quay. It NEVER worked. It was a total nightmare, so much so that someone from the DLR came in one day to give us a reassuring talk that it would one day get better, but that it was a work in progress and the staff who sang Happy Days Are Here Again over the tannoy to highly disgruntled passengers had already been sacked.

    By the time I left 1995 it was better, they’d opened the Bank branch and Canary Wharf was up and running (sort of), and no one has ever looked back.

    I’ve not been on it for years, but I too still love the novelty of pretending to be the train driver.

  2. I remember going on it when it very first opened. I grew up in Greenwich and I pestered and I pestered my parents to take me on it, until they relented and we went under the river in the foot-tunnel and waited at Island Gardens. We got off at some station in the middle, probably where Canary Wharf is now. There was nothing there, just a station on a concrete sort of runway between two massive empty docks. There was a marquee I remember with an exhibition about what was planned and a model of what was coming (which as far as I can remember was actual quite modest). I remember being absolutely blown away by the futuristicness of it. However, abiding memory of that day is of cutting myself as I played in the pond outside the pub on Blackheath that evening while I waited for my parents to come out.

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