There’s not a great deal you can say about tea that hasn’t already been said in this quite wonderful article. I could witter on about how the railway and the British workforce in general wouldn’t run without it etc but that would probably be incredibly boring to write. Instead I’ll provide two small facts regarding LUL and tea.
Firstly, I should probably point out that I am not overfond of tea and would far rather drink coffee. It is unfortunate that we installed a generic drinks machine because all the labels still say things like ‘tea’ and ‘coffee’. This is fine with regard to the tea but the stuff that comes out of the coffee shute is…different. It’s most certainly not related to coffee and the taste is…very difficult to describe actually. I’m not sure I can. If I say it reminds me of Caramac bars please don’t think that means it tastes in any way similar to them. I just mean that it is such an unbelievably noxious and artificial taste that I feel obliged to have some every six months or so. Not because I want to but because my mind refuses to believe that something can be so awful. I think there’s a part of my brain that keeps saying ‘surely it couldn’t have been that bad!’ and then I have to try Caramacs or work coffee again. At which point I make some very interesting faces and wander around looking stunned that anything can taste quite so nasty. After that I don’t go near either until the stupid part of my brain pipes up about six months later.
So generally if I need a drink at work it will be tea. Tea Fact number one: Tea is at optimum drinking temperature 3 stops after it has been poured and is only drinkable for a further 2 stops. There are various tea points up and down most lines although typically there will be one at the end of the line. Go and find yourself a tea point. Then catch a train six stops down the line and you will undoubtedly see large amounts of plastic cups littering the tracks where an absent-minded driver has sipped his tea too late and has thrown it out of the train in disgust.
In such small ways do we witness the way in which tea directly impacts upon operations. Now for Tea Fact number two: trains are often driven in accordance with the concept of tea. It is interesting that there doesn’t actually have to be tea present on a train in order to have the Tea-Effect as the memory of tea is sufficient to influence the way in which the train is driven.
Go back to the tea point. Within the first three stops there are likely to be curves in the track or points or other infrastructure which is annoying to drivers. Then witness how smoothly the train is driven over such places. This is because every driver at some point in their life has ended up either covered in hot tea or standing on the other side of the cab whilst leaning awkwardly over the TBC as the tea drips down the front console and onto the seat. Curves are bumpy. Points are bumpy. Tea is…not so good under bumpy conditions actually. So for the first three stops after obtaining tea the train is driven very smoothly and often slightly below line speed. Mostly. As ever, there can be exceptions. It does occasionally happen that a new and unwary (or more than usually absent-minded) driver will go belting down the tunnel with a hot cup of tea, reach the points/curves and realise their error. If the driver is to avoid scalding or being bathed in the stuff then clearly something has to give and often that thing is the train. Grab hold of the cup and save the tea. Trains are fine. If you let go they sort themselves out. A few passengers might fall over as everything suddenly stops but that is nothing when compared to The Saving of The Tea.