Flying above and tunnelling below the Thames

31 May 2013

The aerial cableway known as the Emirates Air Line
The aerial cableway known as the Emirates Air Line

After our leisurely sightseeing cruise by ferry along the Thames, Morton turned to me and asked, “Flat Kathy, do you feel like another little adventure?”

“Oh yes!” I cried. “I love adventures.”

“Fantastic,” he said, smiling broadly. “Now that you’ve floated along the Thames, on the ferry, it is time for you to fly across the Thames. And then, for good measure, we’ll take you underneath the river too.”

“Ohh… What?!” I looked helplessly at Paula. Surely he wasn’t being serious.

“Up there,” said Paula, pointing skyward, “that’s our ride. The official name is the Emirates Air Line – because Emirates sponsored its construction – but it’s also known as the cable car across the Thames.”

She was pointing at a series of tiny cabins, high up in the sky, and travelling slowly along two cables strung in parallel next to each other, between massively tall supporting pillars. I got a bit dizzy looking up at them, and was glad that Paula was holding me firmly. We joined the queue of people waiting to board the cabins at the station, and climbed into one of them. It moved off very smoothly, and we quickly rose up high into the air.

The trains of the Docklands Light Railway don't have a driver - everything is fully automated
The trains of the Docklands Light Railway don’t have a driver – everything is fully automated

At first, I admit, I was very nervous, but then my friends starting pointing out some of the landmarks we had seen earlier, and I forgot just how high up we were! I really felt as though we were flying across the Thames!

Our next mode of transport was the Docklands Light Railway, which we took from Royal Victoria to Wapping Station.

“This is a completely automated system,” explained Morton, who had noticed me looking around in vain for a train driver or a conductor. “It opened in 1987, and serves the redeveloped Docklands of London. You’ll notice that there’s almost no staff around – everything runs automatically.”

“It’s like magic,” I declared. “It runs so smoothly.”

When we arrived at Wapping Station, Morton asked me, “Do you remember our visit to the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, Flat Kathy?”

“Oh yes,” I nodded, “I learned all about the resourceful Brunels who constructed a railway tunnel underneath the Thames.”

One of the pictures at Wapping Station showing what it looked like in the old days
One of the pictures at Wapping Station showing what it looked like in the old days

Morton looked very pleased that I remembered this. “Well, this is the other end of the tunnel. Those panels on the platform illustrate what it looked like when the station was being used by freight trains and tube trains.”

“It’s very impressive,” I said, taking it all in.

I was learning so much on my visit to England. It was wonderful to have friends who were willing to show me around. And now I had not only travelled by boat along the Thames, but I had also flown across it, and even travelled underneath it!

Here are some of the photos we took. You can click on any of them to access the picture caroussel with the captions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is a YouTube clip of the Aerial Cable Car:

And here is a YouTube clip of the Docklands Light Railway:


2 thoughts on “Flying above and tunnelling below the Thames

    1. It helps not to have a fear of heights, when you climb aboard that aerial cableway. I didn’t *think* I was afraid of heights, but I was glad that my friends were with me, and showing me all the sights.

      It *did* look like a motorised skateboard… I thought it was a waterski at first, but I’m not sure…

      Like

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