My working life – Part 2

Did you miss Part 1 of Geri’s working life.  If so click here

Geri continues the story of her working life………


Charing Cross Underground Station booking hall

After “hobnobbing” with the stars, I became responsible for the redevelopment of Charing Cross Underground station booking hall, located under Trafalgar Square, and the Bakerloo line platforms all  for the London Transport Executive (LTE) now TfL This project had particular difficulties as the ticket hall had to allow for public access through the subways and whilst these works progressed during the day the platform works were carried out at night. Overall the project was of 2 year’s duration.

Deliveries to the platforms had to be at night by battery loco from a LTE depot, booked 3 months in advance. The Neasden depot was used. Materials were delivered there, loaded on to cars for delivery in the early hours of the morning when they had to be unloaded and placed in secure storage as the platforms were open to the public during the day. Nothing was allowed within a designated distance from the platform edge and that was policed by the LTE ‘flagman’

Charing Cross Station Bakerloo platform

To work on the platform or rails required a “possession” which was granted by a LTE employee called a ‘flagman’ and his word was law! If we were unable to secure a possession, we were paid an hourly rate for each operative. These rates were stated in our tender and were quite generous, leading to the comment that we could make more profit from not working than being productive. I believe it was the last contract LTE awarded on those terms. I wonder why?

Anything put down in the platform area overnight would be covered in a thin black layer of dust the next morning from the train braking systems. Working overnight got to be very hot as the ventilation was largely provided by the movement of the trains themselves.

Each station had at least 3 identity references. Firstly, the familiar roundel used to this day, secondly the line colour – Bakerloo is brown – and thirdly some local connection. On the platforms, just above head height there is a service duct carrying cabling. This duct was secured with brown laminate covered doors bearing the roundel, the station name and other information such as exit signs with arrows. The rear wall of the platforms is clad with large murals taken as extracts from the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery both based close to Trafalgar Square. The panels were produced in laminate and bonded to multiple layers of thin plywood. The laminate was produced in Newton Aycliffe, Durham and the panels were bonded by Swan Hunter on Tyneside.

To make laminate, multiple sheets of paper are impregnated and then pressed under enormous pressure and high heat. Due to the different rates of expansion of the inks/dyes used in printing, different rates of expansion can be seen and this is uncontrollable. A joint between panels of a face may align at the bottom lip, misalign at the top lip, be considerably out at the nose yet re-align at the eyebrows. When this was first discovered, a visit to Swan Hunter was needed. An early morning flight saw me in Newcastle by 08:00. Their joinery works, over three floors and each about the size of a football pitch, had the panels erected and the LTE architect made judgements on each joint with multiple panels being erected for this purpose and some rejected. I was taken on a tour of the premises and was overawed by the sheer scale of things. Well, they did produce very large ships!

The next issue was the location of equipment within each panel. For example, I recall a knight in armour trying to beat his adversary with club ending in a bright yellow electrical outlet!

One night I gave my son a treat as I took him to site and he walked the “live” rail.

Old Public Offices now the Foreign Office and Home Office

I was appointed to manage a contract in the old Home Office in Whitehall, opposite the Cenotaph that involved removing substantial brick walls at the ground floor and providing new steelwork supports. The main steel support sections were 12”x36” RSJs: very heavy, and had to be manhandled into place. To ensure adequate contact with the brickwork above flat jacks were used. These were like 2 dinner plates face to face into which resin was forced at pressure then allowed to set. The Structural engineer predicted a 3/8” deflection in the beams. Really? In the event, the soft lime mortar in the walls above was compressed and caused slight damage.

Special communications were installed by the army in advance of the Memorial Service at the Cenotaph to track the Royal party who were to watch from the first floor.

Soon after I took over as CM from a colleague for the creation of a new Covent Garden restaurant: Poons, which subsequently won a Michelin Star. The house speciality was wind dried duck and this was simulated by creating large walk-in fridges but instead of cooling, warm air was fed in with many air changes per hour. There was some difficulty in finding a light shade to withstand the temperatures and an inverted Pyrex dish was used! There were also issues in trying to create a glass screen between the kitchen and diners due to the fire resistance capabilities, but the owners Lord Tanlaw and Bill Poon were adamant the kitchen should be on view to diners. At lot of specialist equipment was imported from Hong Kong but the electrical contractor refused to connect it without full testing as they deemed it “of questionable origin.”


It makes my working life very boring indeed!

Final part coming soon -Maggie, me, decorations and Scotland

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