Best Foot Forward

Bryant and May, London

Finally, an age-old mystery has been solved. Passengers on the London Underground always stand on the right and tut in annoyance when anyone does the opposite. An old film recently unearthed for the London Film Festival has revealed why. Unlike modern “comb” escalators, where the end of the moving stairway is at right angles to the direction of travel, older “shunt” escalators ended with a diagonal so that the stairway finished sooner for the right foot than for the left.
The idea was to allow passengers to keep their left foot on a moving stairway as they stepped off with their right. Passengers who chose not to walk down the escalators were asked to stand on the right so that anyone wishing to overtake them at the end would be able to take advantage of the extra section of moving stairway.
Further pointless bits of London tube trivia will be revealed when Bryant & May head for the underground to catch a killer in next year’s ‘Bryant & May Off The Rails’ – the last book in the series (unless my very wonderful publishers take pity on me and choose to commission a couple more).

10 comments on “Best Foot Forward”

  1. Chris Tandy says:

    A positive jewel of useless information. Are there any ‘shunt’ escalators still on the underground network? If so, I ,as a left-hander, and by implication, a left-footer, had better avoid them…

  2. Helen Martin says:

    At least the modern ones are even-handed (or footed). I would never have thought that escalators would be part of the right-handed conspiracy. The only thing I know of that favours the left-handed is the guitar. (I think that’s true – I don’t play).

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Oh – and what is the gentleman in the still above doing inside the mechanism? Surely he would be dragged down (or up)or is the escalator in question “down for servicing” as ours so often are?

  4. I.A.M. says:

    How does a ‘shunt’ escalator differ from the ‘comb’ one? Does the former turn around at the end and then continue back up on the other side with people standing on it again, rather than the latter, which has its treads in a belt so the un-used ones are moving back to the top underneath the ones being used? [waves hands around in the air to clarify point, realises it’s text only, then sighs]

  5. Karin says:

    Who cares about escalators? WHATS THIS BUSINESS ABOUT LAST BOOK IN THE SERIES?! Or is everyone assuming you’re a pessimist and they know damn well there will be more books?

  6. admin says:

    Erm no, actually. I’m not contracted to any more Bryant & Mays. Maybe a TV series will get off the ground some day.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    The 77 clocks would make a fantastic film/tv show. And the Water Room and… but we have those in print and have good imaginations so we w a n t m o r e text! You may have created a pair of monsters. Think of Conan Doyle and quake.
    And we really have to wait till the next book to find out about escalators?

  8. I.A.M. says:

    Surely there’s a publisher or two you could approach to publish more? Surely Bantham will realise that they can sell more if they publish more?

  9. Martin says:

    Enjoyed every book.

    Please keep them coming!

  10. Ken says:

    The Acton Transport museum contains the remaining fragments of the Underground’s only spiral escalator…

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