The concourse underneath the Waterloo clock has become an iconic meeting-place, a focal point amidst the hurry of the station, as shown in Terence Cuneo’s dramatic painting:
Now, for a few weeks, time stands still for the station’s passengers.
Railways run on time. In the early days, time was a life-saver – literally – as trains used the tracks on a time-share arrangement. The wrong time on the guard’s watch could kill.
Nowadays, the railways get their time from a constellation of US military satellites (the same ones that tell you where to go while driving), or through a radio signal broadcast from Anthorn, a remote spit of land on the Cumbria coast.
The Cumbrian signal is Britain’s official national time signal. It’s called MSF and it’s run for the UK’s National Physical Laboratory by VT Communications, part of a firm that used to be called Vosper Thornycroft. I’ve mentioned them before. They’ve a long history of shipbuilding.
And they’ve just merged with Babcock, a company that started life making marine steam boilers. The MSF time signal and its predecessors began as an Admiralty service for British naval officers to check their chronometers at sea.
Transport and time – two stories intertwined. But I recommend you take your own watch to Waterloo for the next few weeks…