Art Judging or the Mechanics of 1959 Stock Tube Trains?

Judging has finished for the first art competition I have recently held at a local primary school and soon it will be prize giving.  I thought learning how to fix the mechanics and electrical systems of 1959 and 1972 stock tube trains was the hardest thing I had ever done, having not been blessed with the advantages of a scientific brain.  But judging an art competition has proved to almost surpass the taxing entities of even this experience!

1959 Stock Tube Train

1959 Stock Tube Train

1997, London, a 12 week intense course studying mechanical engineering, electrical circuits, rules and regulations, learning how to drive tube trains and the reward – passing out as a guard/emergency tube driver, one of only six women at a Northern Line depot of nearly 300 guards and drivers.

Life was a blast on the Underground.  Hours spent in tunnels and artificial light only to emerge after a shift into the sunlight and see true colour again, created a juxtaposed euphoria on the senses that has been hard to recapture.  Bursting out of the tunnel, clattering along open track through the leafy suburbs of North London, watching foxes play in the railway sidings. Writing my first novel on the back of a train. There are many tales and perhaps one day I’ll tell them!

1972 Stock Tube Train

1972 Stock Tube Train

It was a job I loved, full of extraordinary acquaintances both staff and passengers. Late nights going down to the depot to pick up your train, looking up at the stars alongside a guard who knew every constellation in the clear indigo sky of a London night.  Early morning rising with the pigeons and seeing a beautiful, soulful London few experience.  Assaulted, spat on, nearly pulled off a moving train by a drug infused passenger – such events were frequent during my time working on trains.  All these things were a catalyst to future inspiration.

I don't have any photographs of my time as a guard/driver but this image was for an art project around the time I worked on the Underground.

I don’t have any photographs of my time as a guard/driver but this image was for an art project around the time I worked on the Underground.

I left London in 2003 due to illness and came back North.  Four years of illness followed and art was everything, art was all I had.  Tough times come to most forms of life in varying degrees at some point, and those years after London were just one more tiny drop in the ocean of knocks alongside the cetacean splashes that others sadly experience.  I am indebted to art for staying with me through thin and thick.

Art is therapy.  To bring art to children of all backgrounds and abilities and see faces light up with the achievement of producing a beautiful drawing is a priceless gift.  Making art provides a means of escaping the world around us and is an integral tool for emotional expression – we are all capable of creativity in some form. Judging art is hard because art is subjective, but subjectivity creates the much needed spice of diversity. The greatness that is art, gives us I believe the opportunity to understand our expressive, creative needs; art is one of life’s necessities, to enjoy, revel in and marvel at the wonder of our senses.

'The Russian Doll', red, black, blue and green Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Russian Doll’, red, black, blue and green Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken



6 thoughts on “Art Judging or the Mechanics of 1959 Stock Tube Trains?

  1. During my service in the London Ambulance Service, I spent more time than I would have liked dealing with incidents at tube stations, and on or under the trains themselves. I can only applaud you for doing a difficult job, at a time before they received the large (and rightly so) pay deals that made the job finally paid what it was worth.

    Not only were you one of the few women drivers at the time, you were without doubt the most attractive lady I have ever seen on the London Underground network! I was still very active in the job from 1997-2001, so may well have been involved in an incident on your train, or been a passenger from Mornington Crescent to Waterloo. Funny old life…
    Here’s a personal memory.
    Good luck with picking the winners. Best wishes as always. Pete. X

    • Thank you so much for the link to a very familiar blast from the past Pete! In great admiration for the hard job you did! We dealt with the emergency services on a regular basis and were always glad of your support in testing times. There were hardly any women on the job then as you say and thank you for your kind comments. No doubt you were on my train at some point travelling between those stations on the Northern Line. I always felt like I was part of the beating heart of London, a small cog in the enormous mechanics of such a magnificent city. Life is strange indeed. Many thanks again for the link, very best wishes, Jane x

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