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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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Friday, December 29, 2006

London Underground Fashion Victims

Fashion Victims on the Tube

After a bit of a break it's the final fashion victims of the year. Most Fridays I take a look at commuters on the Tube who're following a particular trend, taking astyle and "making it their own" or who could generally be considered erm ..... eye catching.

Zig and Zag Boots Return

We've seen a lot of these boots over the year and it never ceases to amaze me that grown women want to wear boots that look like
Zig and Zag.

Zig and Zag Return

Zig and Zag's Native American cousins

At least these were a different take on the Zig and Zag look

Zig and Zag Go Native American

Freaky Tights

Freaky Tights

I've still not been able to work out what is going on with the tights here. All I know is that they made my eyes hurt.

Colour Co-ordinated?

Finally, to end with a guest shot. It's great how a number of you have risked getting lamped to snap victims for me. So I must thank Chris "Awkward" McKenna for this shot of a lady with a love of colour. Just a shame that the colours are all competing wildly against each other.
My Eyes, My Eyes

Chris says "The photo doesn't show the leggings ended at mid-thigh to show tan-coloured socks and black ballet-style shoes." I'm kind of pleased about that actually.

Eagle eyed Chris managed to spot that she was wearing a little Legoman brooch and took a close up of it:

Legoman brooch

That's it for this year with the victims. The previous victims can be found here and the complete picture gallery can be seen on the following Flickr set.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 29, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Is it Art?

From Dave Knapik's photoset click to see moreCamden Town gets new paint job

Whilst the Tube network had its annual Christmas Day shutdown, a graffiti gang were hard at work playing with their new spray pounds beneath the streets of North London.

Having walked south down the tracks to Camden Town, they then set about covering the entire length of the platform walls, CCTV cameras and display panels with paint causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage. (See Bixentro's and Dave Knapik's photo sets and blogpost)

From Bixentro's Flickr set - click to see more
LU officials have said that the station will remain open and fully operational meaning that the clean-up could take several weeks as contractors will only be able to work after services finish each night.

Transport Police are hoping that CCTV images will provide clues to who did this however at Christmas this is a wide spread issue. Just looking through some of the discussion forums on the net such as yahoogroups, there are many reports of mainline trains running in service yesterday having been covered in graffiti over the Christmas break.

So is it Art? or just an illegal mess?

; Posted by Chris Thursday, December 28, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Pigeon's Eye View of the Tube

Unsung bloggers

Hope everyone had a good Xmas, commisserations if you're back at work today, or even if you're not, perhaps you could help BBC Radio Five out with nominating some
Unsung Bloggers of 2006 for a New Year's Day broadcast. Chris Vallance from Up All Night and Pods & Blogs is looking for some of your favourite blogs which not many people may have heard of. I had nominated Brian the Pigeon blogger and just before Xmas went in search of him in Trafalgar Square along with Salvadore Vincent from Smaller than Life.

The results of our search for Brian were on Radio Five at about 11.30pm Boxing Day Night and you can catch them on the Listen Again feature (if you skip to about 1hour 25 mins in - you'll hear the section on blogs). or for a speedier version, Brian who is far more technical than me managed to record it here.

We never found Brian, but I did manage to leave with a deposit from one of his mates on my hood. One also flew onto my shoulder during the recording and on to the microphone so they are bold little b'stards and not publicity shy.

I'll leave you with Brian's pigeon cam of an evening he spent on the London Underground. Hopefully looking at the tube from that perspective won't make you feel too weird as I think he was a bit drunk when he shot it as he spends too long focussing on a discarded can of Carling at the start.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 27, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santas on the Tube

Why do I ALWAYS miss Santacon?

Every year I try to remember
Santacon and every year I forget. Santacon for the uninitiated a mass congregation of Santas which must scare the Bejeesus out of little kids. There's usually one in London and not surprisingly they travel by Tube:

Amorous Santas from Santacon

Fortunately one of the blog's regular readers and commenters was around and snapped the following Santas getting up close and personal.

A herd of Santas from theshangrila's fab Santcon set

Plus some Tube Santas caught in action on YouTube


; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 21, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Festive Greetings from Glamoursmith

Avoiding eye contact

Do you remember the days when ads didn't remind us about the delights of public transport?

Festive Wishes from Hammersmith

I'd love to think that this ad must have been written purely for Hammersmith as it has more than its fair share of weirdo's but I'm sure I'll be proved wrong.

Apart from drinking WKD (blue drinks are wrong, as are drinks that sound like a teenager's text message), they have a point though. Once you inadvertantly gain someone's eye contact on the Tube, I find it really hard to completely stop looking at them if you haven't got something to read. After you've done the quick look down to apologise for invading their eye space, one of the two of you will inevitably be drawn back to make sure they are still not looking at you. Then, the whole thing starts again until one you pretends to sleep, takes an unhealthy interest in the ads opposite or leaves.

I suppose an alternative is for the London Underground to sponsor staring competitions where you could be given an incentive for staring out the person opposite you. I'm not sure if World Records for staring at people without a break exist, but little kids or babies with no sense of Tube etiquette would win hands down if they did.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 21, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Meet the guy who overhears on the Tube

The Man Who Fell Asleep Virtual Book Tour

A Year in the Life of The Man Who Fell Asleep

This is the first time I've been asked to host a virtual book tour. But it's by one of the very first people that I linked to and gave a regular feature to on www.goingunderground.net in the days before I had a blog (ah .... the blessed days before I had a blog.... can't believe the blog will be four years old at the end of the year). So I'm going to step aside to Greg who more people have said - "Oh have you heard about the overheard on the Tube site" more times than I can shake a stick at.

"Hello, this is Greg aka themanwhofellasleep. Annie has kindly lent me her blog today to help me promote my novel, A Year in the Life of TheManWhoFellAsleep. Some of you may already know my website themanwhofellasleep.com, and in particular the tube gossip, which is used weekly in Time Out London.

Anyway, my book is good. Annie likes it. Other people like it. It's got lots of tube goosip. It's very London and is the perfect Christmas present for young and old alike. There. That's the plugging over and done with.

I thought I'd spend the rest of the blog writing about the London Underground. I love the London Underground. I should make it clear that I love the Tube in the way I might love an abusive relative: the relationship is painful, shameful and I’ve told myself a hundred times that I should leave, but the ties are too strong.

So, here are the best Tube lines, in order. I should add that this is all purely subjective. But I am right.

Number 1: The Victoria Line. You know what I like about it? It's straight. There are no forks or deviations. And there are just the right number of stations. It is pure in thought and function. It’s true that there are some alarmingly long gaps between stations, but no-one is perfect. And I love it for the simplicity of the platform to platform change onto the First Capital Connect (formerly WAGN) line at Highbury and Islington. It is all that a tube line should aim to be.

Number 2: The Piccadilly Line. Mainly for sentimental reasons. I grew up around Wood Green, and for a while lived 30 seconds walk from Bounds Green station. All the north London Piccadilly line stations are lovely old Art Deco buildings, albeit in terrible condition. The other end of the line is something of a mystery to me. I once did a day’s work at Sky and had to go to Osterley. It was quite terrifying. After I got past Acton Town, civilization seemed to have come to an end. The gap between stations was about 47 minutes.

Number 3: The Central Line. For the nice seats. And the lovely red colour of the line on the map. It's quite a posh line, really. Queensway – Notting Hill Gate – Holland Park. It's not for the paupers. Plus, there's a station called Grange Hill. I bet there's no train station in Newcastle called Byker Grove.

Number 4: The Northern Line. The Misery Line. Yes, it's awful, but I spent much of my youth traveling from East Finchley to Camden Town to go to Mega City Comics. It has far too many forks and splits. It’s a damned crazy line. It could quite sensibly have been split into two different lines, but that would have been too reasonable. Did you know: At some point in the distant past there were plans to extend the Northern Line all the way to Muswell Hill. Yes! Muswell Hill would have been on the tube map! Madness!

Number 5: The Hammersmith and City Line. So named to confuse youngsters and tourists: "So, is it the Hammersmith Line I should take? Or the City Line? What? They're the same line?!? No! My brain is melting!" Still, I am fond of the H&C Line. I don't know why. Maybe it's the pinkness. Incidentally, it may just be me, but I remember a time when all Circle Line train interiors were yellow, and all H&C Line train interiors were pink. Nowadays you can get on a yellow-painted train and it's a Hammersmith train and vice versa. You need to keep your wits about you.

Number 6: The Metropolitan Line. I must say, I like the colour. That deep, rich purple is quite sexy. Sadly, that sexiness is spoilt by the fact that the line goes to Watford. Still, the Metropolitan Line is unique in that it's the only line to have "fast trains" that skip stations. These trains confuse me. For years I have had a morbid fear of accidentally getting onto a fast train and not being able to get off until Moor Park. I begrudge these fast trains and their passengers. They should be forced to pass through every station en-route, like normal human beings.

Number 7: The Circle Line. If Camus and Satre were alive today (They aren't. They're dead), they would be traveling endlessly on the Circle Line. Nothing represents the futility of existence better than a bright yellow line that just goes round in circles all day (pausing for ages at Aldgate and Edgware Road for no apparent reason besides existential angst). For some reason I am very suspicious of any Circle Line station that isn't also on the Hammersmith and City Line.

Number 8: The Bakerloo line. It's an unremarkable line really, isn't it? When they were picking the colours for the map, the Bakerloo must have drawn the short straw. A slightly muddy shit-brown. It's not pleasant. But it does go through Willesden Junction, which is a place I am fond of. Harlesden isn't all just stabbings and gun crime.

Number 9: The Jubilee Line. It's grey. It is the greyness of London, of overcast skies, soggy chips and warm beer. It’s unrelentlingly grim in its greyness. In its favour, the Jubilee line extension has some fantastic stations, and the security door/barrier things on the platform are quite useful as they allow me to know exactly the doors of the train will be and therefore snaffle a good seat. Oh, and it’s good for disabled access. At the moment I don't need disabled access, but I like to plan for the future.

Number 10: The District Line. Is there anything skankier than a District Line train? The rolling stock appears to predate the London Underground by many centuries. And the line is green on the map. There's something wrong with that. Green in the colour of nature. And the District Line is an offence to nature. It's an abomination. It confuses me. There's a strange "V" annex between Kensington (Olympia), Earl's Court and High Street Kensington. The "V" just sits there like a vestigial limb yearning to be amputated. Also, any Tube line that goes to Wimbledon is not to be trusted.

Number 11: The East London Line. Just totally pointless. It's tiny, it's orange, and it's never open. Like an early-closing Satsuma.

Number 12: The Waterloo and City Line. Even smaller and more rubbish that the East London Line.

I'm sure one of the regular readers and commmenters who lives in Wimbledon will have something to say about the District Line definition. But I can't defend it in any other way. Skankier could be my new word of 2007! Cheers to Greg for the post and best of luck with the sales of the book.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 20, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas on the Tube

Snogging Tiger, Hidden Dragon

You know that it's close to Xmas when you see women being snogged by a stuffed tiger, under watchful eye of a bear:

Snogging Tiger

And vacuum cleaners dressed as Santa taking up busking

Mini Vacuum Busker

More signs of Xmas pictures on the way. If you've spotted anything particularly festive on the Tube please pass it my way.

Vandals or Passenger Action?

When does vandalism become passenger action? This morning the District Line was suspended between Richmond & Turnham Green due to people breaking up the copper lines at Gunnersbury. On the radio they were described as vandals. By the time I got to Waterloo it was described as "passenger action", but on reaching Leicester Square it was good old "vandalism" again. I always think of passenger action as some sort of commuting protest - with placards, loudspeakers and petitions. Not a bunch of hoodies ripping up the lines. And it the second time in two weeks. Pesky passengers!

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 18, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, December 15, 2006

Interesting Christmas Gift

Re-build the London Underground Game

I'm sure many of you look at the problems we face on the Tube each day with over-running engineering works, broken escalators, delays, dust, broken lifts, dust and the general misery of the Northern Line and think to yourself "If only I could run the Tube, I'd do a far better job of it than TubeLines and Metronet ....."

Well now, thanks to Sebastian Bleasdale you can. He's created
On The Underground - "a board game about building the London Underground - the way it should have been built. Each player takes charge of a number of lines, building them to connect to key stations and to help the Passenger in his quest to visit the whole Underground system."

On the Underground On the Underground

The rules look pretty simple and don't seem to involve PPP or major advertising & PR campaigns or dealing with Ken Livingstone, although it might be quite fun to add these various wranglings to bring it more in touch with the real world. It would be nice to have the sorts of Risk cards that you get in a game of Monotony. "Your maintenance men are going on strike as it's almost Christmas, lose 3 points", "One of your contractors is the son of a terrorist, lose 4 points."

Instead the rules are as follows: "Build Track: Each turn a player builds four lengths of track on the board. The first length of any line can be built anywhere, but later lengths must extend the existing line from one of its ends. You may branch your track by paying branch tokens, which you collect by skipping track builds and by building to termini. You get points by building track to National Rail stations or termini, by linking connection stations or by building loops.

Move the Passenger: Then each player moves the Passenger to one or two destination stations. The Passenger is lazy, and chooses his route to minimise the distance that he has to walk, and the number of lines he has to use. For each line that he uses, the owner of that line gains a point. The visited destination cards are replaced, and it is the next player's turn.

When the deck of destination cards has been exhausted, the game ends, and the player who has gathered most points wins

From Board Game Geek's picture gallery

Here's what some reviewers of the game from Board Game Geek have said:

"I thought 'oh joy, yet another train game...'. However I was very taken with it. Everyone was engaged throughout (it played out in about 90 minutes), scoring was pretty close (though I was last in each game...no change there then), and there there are plenty of game and scoring options to deliver a decent amount of replay value. It's well produced and attractive, and will probably appeal to both my lighter and more gamey groups.."

"For anyone conversant with the "traditional" London Underground map, the end result of each game of OTU results in a wonderfully plausible "alternate universe" map but with all sorts of odd quirks (just like the real one.) And that makes it stand out from the usual "rail game" crowd."

Interestingly the rules are in English and German, implying that On The Underground might be going down a storm in Germany. It's £25 plus £3.75 post and package to buy. (Cheers to Neil for the heads up with this).

London Underground RugUnderground Rug (Thanks to Martin Ellwood for spotting this)

If you are looking for a Tube gift and have fairly large pockets you might want to shell out £749.99 for a designer rug. No, that's not a typo and is obviously for the person who has everything (well, everything but a London Underground designer rug). Although perhaps after several plays of "On the Underground" you might feel like you have a winning Tube system on your hands and can apply to be Chair of TubeLines, then I'm sure that almost 800 quid would seem like small change and you could carpet your mansion in designer rugs.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 15, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oystercard & Barclays tie the knot

Oystercard walletBuying Oysters with your Oystercard

If you're a Barclaycard customer watch out from some trials in February where you can use your Oystercard to buy low cost items in newsagents, pubs, and coffee bars, as well as car parks. So in a matter of seconds you can potentially pay for sarnies, beer, coffee and your paper by waving the card over a reader just as you do on a Tube or bus. TfL have been in talks with Barclays for some time now about exclusive rights for "wave & pay" technology. If the trials are successful the service will be rolled out for all Barclaycard holders and I'm sure it's something that other banks will want to cash in on eventually.

According to the BBC "The trial will combine two distinct elements; one for the combined credit/Oyster card and the other for the contactless technology.

But the Oyster and credit or debit accounts would still remain separate.

"If you tap the yellow Oyster pad at a tube station, to buy a ticket, money will be deducted from the Oyster account," said Barclaycard's Ian Barber.

"But if you pay for a coffee and a newspaper in a shop that will come from your credit or debit account."

I've only just got my head around using an Oystercard, so I can't see myself rushing to get a Barclaycard for this. Industry analysts also believe it might take card users might take some time to get to grips with the idea.

"This type of innovation is very much welcomed in the cards market," said Robert Kenley, head of credit cards at Moneysupermarket. "However, the convenience of having three payment types on the same card could potentially lead to customer confusion about which part of the card is being debited."

As usual with anything Oystercard related, Sheriff Ken is a happy bunny as he reckons it will save us having to carry as much cash around. Any thoughts? Plus if anyone's used Hong Kong's Octopus card - you might be able let us know how it's going down there.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 14, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Not on the London Underground

More Tube Roundels not on the Tube

Thanks for sending in some more roundels not in their natural home. Firstly, from Jon T, we have a taxi firm in Bronxville who may be trying to imply that their service is as fast (or as slow) as the Tube

Taxi Firm's fridge magnet

But my favourite is from Jo Oakley who had been meaning to send me these for some time. The roundel is used to pretty good effect to front a clothes shop in Tokyo which seems to think that London is very er... hot!

Tokyo Shop Close Up
Tokyo Shop

I'm sure the Tube's lawyers will be shuddering to see the beloved roundel used to promote raunchy explosives.

Thanks, Jo & Jon. Keep 'em coming and I'll add to the set.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 14, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Great Tube Fine Dodging Excuse

Rocker Dave Red Faced on TubeTory Leader Escapes Fine on the Tube

Has David Cameron read some of the tips for dodging fares on the Tube? Or is "I don't routinely break the law. I can assure you I did buy one," a good enough excuse for not having in valid ticket? Apparently so, as the London evening papers and the Mirror took great joy in reporting that Cameron managed to talk his way out of getting a fine for not having a ticket on the Tube.

Cameron was on the way to a Morrisey concert and by the time he reached Wembley he had somehow lost his ticket. The LU employee he approached gave him a telling off saying "Surely in your line of work you would have the money to buy a second ticket?" I would have been tempted to say "Surely in your line of work you have the money to pay a twenty quid fine".

But Cameron, the wag, replied: "Yes, I can, but there's not much job security in my line of work." Which says a lot for his position. Cameron's spokesman said "He wasn't trying to dodge his fare, which is why he wasn't fined."

Well lucky old David, as Cherie Blair wasn't so fortunate back in 2000 when she was fined £10 after being caught without a ticket at Luton station. So just remember if you are even caught in a similar situation as long as you are not trying to dodge your fare, you won't be fined.

Has this happened to you? Have you, or someone you know or passed by, been let off paying a fine by saying you've lost your ticket? Or is it really only a gambit that can be used by the leader of the Opposition?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 12, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 11, 2006

Milan Poledancer on Subway

Milan Subway Pole DancerHow to brighten your commute

There seems to have been a new twist on the subway busking with the arrival of poledancer in Milan. Last week, a woman in her twenties looking fairly normal with the exception of some cat ears, boarded trains wearing a long black overcoat and carrying a portable boom box. When the doors closed she ripped off her coat and danced to the stereo in a black latex girdle, black fishnet stockings, black boots and shiny, black, fingerless gloves.

After a bump-and-grind routine using the carriage's vertical poles and strap hangers she takes a collection and leaves the train.

My Italian's not good enough to tell whether Lisa Ragazza's antics were a publicity stunt for some sort of "art installation" or if she's simply a bit strapped for cash and needs some money.

However in case anyone's thinking of trying the same on the Tube, I'd put away your latex gear as soon as possible as London Underground said "We would frown upon any behaviour that would upset other passengers."

But from the look on the faces of most of the commuters, no one seems to be particularly upset. Maybe the Italians are more receptive to pole dancing commuters than the Tube think we might be. The Italian journalist who was one of the first to write about the woman said "All the passengers seemed to enjoy the show. It was not at all vulgar — everyone was smiling and laughing."

Comments from the YouTube clip above range from - outranged of the Internet to Italy you rock. I suppose the secret's in the timing. As far as I can tell she was poledancing on fairly late night trains. Problem is that those poles are crying out to be poledanced around and I'm really surprised that we don't seem to have had any known reports of this on the Tube. I've seen a few girls larking around and doing this and it's a lot harder than it looks. But maybe you've seen people doing it more professionally....

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 11, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Air Conditioned Tubes on the way

2009 sees cooler Tubes

Firstly thanks to
Chris n Neil for looking after the blog while I've been away, but what a welcome back from Cuba to read what seems like a science fiction headline in the Evening Standard. "Air-conditoned Tubes on way". It's not jet lag, or an illusion caused by too many mojitoes:

Air Conditioned Tubes - Evening Standard

Sheriff Ken who's also not been long back from a trip to Cuba (at least mine didn't cost 30,000 quid) said the £3.1billion upgrade "is the next stage of TfL's investment in the renewal and improvement of LU. Passengers will benefit from air-conditioning and extra space on the trains" (see Metro for more on this)

The cooler, longer, newer trains will only be on the Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and (hoorah, hoorah) District Lines which are used by more than one million people each day and it will take until 2013 before all of the new trains are in service. But it's the first time that the entire fleet of 177 trains on the four lines will be replaced.

Quite how the air conditioning will work on the new fleet tailor-made by Bombardier in Derby, I haven't managed to fathom out yet. End-to-end open gangways and wide aisles will allow each train to fit 340 more passengers than current maximum of 3,881.

There's always a Cassandra in the wings wringing their hands with tales of doom and gloom and this time it's in the shape of Geoff Pope, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman on the London Assembly who predicts that works to extend platforms would cause disruption.

"The last thing we want is the kind of mess-up that occurred recently due to contractor overruns when Tube lines were not handed back in time for the morning's rush hour.

"London already has one misery line, we don't need another four."

Damian Hockney, leader of the One London party on the London Assembly was in a similarly cheerful mode "Adding a seventh carriage to the Circle line could mean closures and disruption for years. Rather than looking too far into a crystal ball and proposing more disruption, we need to start with the major problems we have at the present."

And Brian Cooke from London TravelWatch added "Obviously, better trains mean better journeys for passengers, but we do question whether the same interior seating design is suitable for the long journeys, of over and hour on the Metropolitan Line and for the short journeys that are the norm on the Circle Line."

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 07, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 04, 2006

Splitting Headache Relief?

Is a Northern Line Split on the Way?

The Mayor last week launched his Transport 2025 policy document looking forward at what capacity improvements (amongst other issues) could be achieved on all of London's transport systems.

One of the suggestions to help lessen the capacity issue on the inner south London to central London corridor is for the Northern Line to be split into two separate services - permanently.

By 2025, Mordern-Stockwell will be operating at 30tph (trains per hour) however the West End and City branches will only each operate at 22tph because of the allowances needed at the junctions around Kennington/Camden.

The answer is to split the Northern Line with 30tph running Mordern-Bank-Edgware and 30tph running Kennington-High Barnet. This avoids using the junctions at Kennington and Camden. Late Night/Early morning service would still run through.

There is however the requirement for extra rolling-stock/stabling [Chris' note: By 2025, the Northern Line stock will be 30 years old and probably falling apart] and capacity improvements at Camden Town.

; Posted by Chris Monday, December 04, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Just another Metronet Monday on the Waterloo and Pitty Line

Tfl website earlier todayDust, anyone for some dust?

After a weekend where The Tube has generally managed to avoid major disruption due to the high winds and rain, a small breeze may have been useful as the City returned to work this morning.

The latest in crazy excuses for the Waterloo and City line was that it was closed due to "excessive dust on the platforms" and was expected to remain that way for the entire morning peak period.

Update: 05/12/06 12:30

The line finally opened mid-afternoon yesterday but was again closed this morning following some drivers still complaining that their vision was being obscured by dust. The line has since reopened at 11:30.

Tim O'Toole said Metronet had failed to carry out enough dust suppression leaving a "terrible mess" on Monday. The dust had been caused by rail grinding over the weekend.

; Posted by Chris Monday, December 04, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE