In the second part of my All 112 Overground stations challenge, I will write my story of how it went. In the third, I will discuss the conclusion and tips if you plan to do it.
On 28 April 2022, I did a challenge to visit All 112 Overground covering all routes.
I woke up 30 minutes before my wake up time because my son had a bad dream and partly because of the excitement. While I woke up on time, my taxi arrived a few minutes late. I managed to Watford Junction almost on time (4.55am).
I did practice recording because I was thinking about uploading this story as a video on YouTube as part of my goal to do it before 40 years old. However, I sounded so horrible that I thought my ears would start to bleed :D. I gave up because I was thinking, let’s me enjoy the trip and don’t get to stress about talking.
My trip started at 5.12 at Watford Junction.
I checked my updated plan for the journey. I modified my plan a lot because I thought it would be smoother. The biggest problem with this challenge was to catch the 6.33 Overground train from Battersea Park to Wandsworth Road. It was promising because we were 4 minutes early, so I just needed to catch the Victoria line and … I was waiting 8 minutes, and when we arrived at 6.18 to Victoria. It means for the change, I arrived a bit late, and the train departed on time (6.16). I caught the next one, so when I arrived at Battersea Park, I saw the departing Overground train from the station :(. The bad news is I can’t be added to “Top Times: London Overground Challenge”. The good news is that I was doing this challenge to visit all stations and discover all the Overground routes.
At least I have enough time for a quick visit to the loo. I guess eating spicy food the night before was a bad idea.
A quick tip: When you do this challenge, plan your loo breaks as the Overground trains do not have a toilet on the train.
I walked to Wandsworth Road (as that was my alternative if this happened). On the way to the station, I tried to take a picture of the station while on the road. I checked the road, but after I finished doing the photo, I noticed a big car behind me with a guy looking unfriendly towards me. I apologize and .. run away to the station.
I took the Overground to the Clapham Junction, where the next Overground train I needed to catch was ready to depart. I ran to the train. The good news is I knew I would come here again, so I didn’t need to take pictures. Speaking of arriving at the same station again. I arrived at Willesden Junction (I already passed this station when I travelled towards Euston) to change to train to Richmond. It is not my last visit to the station as I will be here on the way back to Richmond.
I skipped first the train at Richmond, about to leave to buy some breakfast and catch the next train. My next part of the journey was from Richmond to Stratford during peak time. The train was quite busy. It looks like passenger numbers are back to normal after the pandemic. At least on the Overground.
My original plan was to do the south part of the network, but I changed my mind and decided to do Gospel Oak – Stratford – Romford – Upminster -Barking – Gospel Oak loop. It reduces the number of changes and allows me to avoid travelling on overcrowded trains. I had the opportunity to travel.
On the way to Stratford, we pass through some green places and travel on wonderful brick viaducts. I think Richmond to Stratford is the most interesting route. You can see different styles of London; green areas, industrial areas between Acton Central and Willesden Junction, travelling on the viaducts to enjoy views of central London, quirky but vibrant Hackney and arrived at modern Stratford. You even will pass through street crossings ( I wasn’t aware of any in existence in London).
At Stratford, when I arrived, I just saw Crossrail departing from the station. I waited around 10 minutes for the next TfLRail service (also known as Crossrail, Elizabeth line) to Romford. I took this train, and it was my third time on this type of train. I had as well ability to compare new Overground and Crossrail trains as they are the same type. While the technical specification is quite different but body and inside are the same. The main difference is a mix of transverse and longitudinal seats on the Crossrail, while Overground has longitudinal seats only. The seats are exceptionally uncomfortable and awful. They are well designed to torture people’s bottom. (Spoiler alert!) Mine one still hurts the day after the challenge. The church pew is a luxury seat in comparison. The ambience is better on the Overground trains thanks to more warm orange colours.
They are good looking trains except for the front/rear cabin.
Anyway. Let’s go back to the challenge. I arrived at Romford, and I needed to wait 17 minutes, so I spent some time watching the new Greater Anglia train passing by.
The Overground route from Romford to Upminster takes 8 minutes and 33 seconds.
At Upminster, I went out to buy some food, but the local shop had tons of food full of sugar and nothing meaningful to eat, so I went back, and I took District Line to Barking.
At Barking, I changed to the Overground line between Barking line to Gospel Oak, known as Goblin (From its name Gospel Oak to BarkINg).
When we arrived at Gospel Oak, my train towards Highbury & Islington had just departed. At this point, it looks like as theme of my adventure. I came, so I could see the next train was leaving. Luckily, I am not in a rush :D. My task is to complete my challenge. It gave me a few minutes to find a hidden toilet and take another train.
At Highbury & Islington, I got confused and messed things up. I planned to travel to New Cross, then come back to Surrey Quays and then carry on towards Clapham Junction, but first, I almost got to the train that was going towards Clapham Junction but via Willesden Junction. Luckily for me, I noticed it a few seconds before the train departed. I took the Overground service to Dalston Junction, where I changed train to Clapham Junction. I realized my mistake on my way, which meant I would skip the route between New Cross Gate and Surrey Quays. It wasn’t a big deal for me as routes from New Cross Gate to Surrey Quays and New Cross to Surreys Quays are almost identical, but it breaks my rule.
At Clapham Junction, I had 15 minutes before I caught Southern service to West Croydon. I decided to have another coffee and some sandwich that tasted like it was about to expire shortly. The coffee and Staff were very friendly. Clapham Junction station is MASSIVE. The corridor between 17 platforms felt endless, like I was in a big airport. Another thing, I have noticed that my Oyster card funds started to disappear rapidly as I was charged 6 pounds per trip!
Fun fact, for whole trips, I was charged almost 58 pounds instead of the theoretical 27 pounds 😀
While Southern’s British Class 455 looks plasticky, their seat was super comfortable compared to seats on Overground, even if they are … so-so. While I was writing this story, I learnt that Southern’s British Class 455 units would be withdrawn following the timetable change planned in May 2022. Southern will replace these trains with Aventra trains (The same train runs on Overground and Crossrail services. I hope they will NOT use seats like on Overground or Crossrail trains. It means less train type diversity in London :/.
In West Croydon, I didn’t have a chance to see trams as I needed to catch the Overground train in a few minutes. The only thing I have noticed is that West Croydon looks ugly and “patched”. At Sydenham railway station, I changed to Overground to Crystal Palace.
Crystal Palace railway station looks spectacular. I think it is best looking Overground station. The side of the platform has this massive brick wall with arches. Even if you don’t like trains, Crystal Palace in London is a fantastic place for a day out.
From Crystal Palace, I travel to New Cross Gate. I had a few minutes only to catch my next Overground train from New Cross, so I needed to run to the station. I managed to catch it (for a change), and then I started feeling very tired, and I noticed I smelled like a brewery. I guess this is what happens when you are travelling the whole day to the Overground.
I travel to Dalston Junction railway station, where I leave and Walk to Hackney Downs, my final stop, but .. not yet as I will pass it two times.
I took the Overground train to Liverpool Street, which does not stop at London Fields and Cambridge Heath on the way.
When I arrived at Liverpool Street station, I wanted to buy some food. Sadly, it was a bustling and crowded station, and there were long queues to most food shops except crap ones like MiCasa ( Bias: I had a horrible experience there once). I decided to skip buying food because I am obese, so I have excess energy :D. I had two options for the last part of my journey, covering three branches; Cheshunt or Chingford. I decided to take the Overground train to Cheshunt.
When I arrived, I had enough time to buy coffee, but the place was closed, so I enjoyed the views of passing trains and went back to the train to Edmonton Green, where I could change to the train to Enfield Town. At Edmonton Green, I wanted to buy coffee and some sandwich, but the food offered was limited to pure sugar and fat options. It looks like I was out of luck in my quest to find a decent sandwich. At Enfield Town, I had only 3 minutes to find the bus stop and catch the bus. When I arrived, the bus should be in 1 minute.
Twenty minutes later, the bus arrived. At this point, I was exhausted. However, I know my train will depart at 18.09, so if there is not too much traffic during peak time, then I should be able to catch it. The trip went so smoothly that I caught the previous train, implying I should finish 15 minutes faster.
I was sitting and admiring views on Chingford – Liverpool Street Branch branch. It gives me time to reflect on the whole challenge as well. I had great fun. I saw many diverse parts of London. I explore new parts of London like West Croydon. It was awesome. It was also … very exhausting.
I arrived at Hackney Downs. I quickly jumped out, stopped the stopwatch and jumped back onto the train as I was ready to get to Liverpool Street, buy some food and come back home.
I completed the challenge in 13 hours and 10 seconds. The total distance I did was 254.5km. My average speed was 19.6km/h. I did 8.6 stations per hour after this trip. I passed all 112 stations (100%). I visited 16 stations this year(14%). I visited 18 stations (16%).
I will write a retrospective on this challenge, trips the conclusion, and tips in the next part.