Up/Down

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benk1342

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Can anyone explain "up" lanes and "down" lanes to me? I have gathered that "up" generally (and counterintuitively in most of the country) means "toward London" while "down" generally means "away from London" but I know there must be more detail than that as many lines do not run to/from London.
 
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jopsuk

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As I understand it, the original general pattern was that "up" was towards the HQ of the company that built/ran the line and "down" was away from it.

Generally, it's a better designation than "northbound" or "southbound" etc as lines often wiggle quite ferociously.
 

Shimbleshanks

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I think the term actually originates from the old road mail coaches - but I don't know why they talked of going 'up' to London or 'down' to the country. In terms of going uphill or downhill the opposite was often true, London being at a lower elevation than most places in the sticks.
 

button_boxer

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I know the traditional convention at "old" universities like Oxford is that you "come up" to university at the start of term and "go down" at the end of term, and you can be "sent down" (effectively expelled) for serious disciplinary offences. Like so many things at Oxford I suspect this is a vestige of an older more widespread tradition, one which the early railways also inherited.
 

Cherry_Picker

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Kidderminster - Marylebone trains are travelling in the down direction between Kidderminster and Stourbridge (the mileage is towards Paddington via Worcester in that part of the world) which probably highlights two things, that the "up" and "down" is a rule of thumb, mostly its geared towards London, but the XC route uses Derby for long stretches and (I think) most of Scotland uses Edinburgh. More importantly, the lines have names so the people on the ground, drivers, guards, p-way, can be specific with what they mean when they are talking to the signaller. It's not about having a system which fits the whole country perfectly, it's about being able to identify things locally.
 

Eeveevolve

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I have always wondered this. Take my main station. Huddersfield. Practically runs East to west through. Which way is up and which way is down?

Although, in my mind towards Leeds is up, as im going to work.. I always seem reluctant to travel that way.
 

TheJRB

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Could anybody tell me which way is up and which is down on the Marshlink line? I've always wondered which each is and always assumed 'up' was towards Ashford.
 

swt_passenger

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Could anybody tell me which way is up and which is down on the Marshlink line? I've always wondered which each is and always assumed 'up' was towards Ashford.
On most lines like this there is a direction change at a specific location 'en route', in this case half way along the platform at Hastings, where a line known as the Down Hastings enters the station from the west, but leaves Hastings station as the 'Up Ore'.

Further towards Ashford the lines are again referred to as the Up Hastings and Down Hastings - where Up is now towards Ashford.

What this means is that you need to be quite specific about where you are when referring to the Hastings Line's direction.

There are loads of examples of sudden direction changes along the south coast - especially when you consider all the various triangular junctions...
 

Tomnick

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I did read that, in the early timetables, trains in both directions would be shown on one table. Since stations would usually be listed down the page, starting with the HQ or major terminus, trains towards that station would go Up the page, and those in the other direction would go Down the page.
 

WatcherZero

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I think the term actually originates from the old road mail coaches - but I don't know why they talked of going 'up' to London or 'down' to the country. In terms of going uphill or downhill the opposite was often true, London being at a lower elevation than most places in the sticks.
I always assumed it came from ports on the south coast, once you arrived on a ship you travelled 'up' to London, but talking of other examples yes I myself used the university one, same applied in the past if you had two homes (town house and country house) you would travel 'up' to London to do your business.
 

amcluesent

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IFAIK this 'confusing' description was introduced in 1940 to muddle the anticipated German paratroopers about which direction London was in after they'd landed. Same as all the road signs being switched about.
 
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DarloRich

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I have always wondered this. Take my main station. Huddersfield. Practically runs East to west through. Which way is up and which way is down?

Although, in my mind towards Leeds is up, as im going to work.. I always seem reluctant to travel that way.
The lines in the direction of Standedge Tunnel are up & down main ( with up being the direction of Manchester)

On the Deighton side of Hudderfield the lines are up and down Huddersfield (with up in the direction of Hudds) until Heaton Lodge junction where the lines become up and down fast/ up slow (down being in the direction of leeds)

hope that helps!
 

merlodlliw

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I think the term actually originates from the old road mail coaches - but I don't know why they talked of going 'up' to London or 'down' to the country. In terms of going uphill or downhill the opposite was often true, London being at a lower elevation than most places in the sticks.
Spot on, it derives from the Mail Coach, the first was Bristol to London, hence up to London, Down to Bristol, from that day for all coaches it was Up to London down to Holyhead etc. The railways follow many coaching terms, Up/Down,stabling,Guard Timetable, etc etc/ plus on early trains refreshment stops,
I have read many books on Mail Coaches, S4C televised a special week long programme on the London Holyhead last year.

Bob
 
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OliverS

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Harrogate has a direction change halfway along the platforms too.
I think with Evergreen 3 at Oxford you will be able to depart from two adjacent platforms (the current bay & the new Evergreen ones) in the same direction (i.e. North), one being in the Up direction (via Bicester) and the other Down (to Banbury).
 

ls1911

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As far as i know its generally up towards a city/down away from it. Hence Merseyrails Chester line which is classed as the Down Chester coming from Liverpool then changes to the Up Birkenhead line at Hooton as it gets closer to Chester.
 

Wyvern

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Originally Leicester to Derby, or Nottingham to Derby, or Leeds to Derby was up, or Bristol to Derby was ip, being the HQ of the Midland Railway. At some time this was changed for most lines into the country even remotely facing towards London to be Up. However Derby to Bristol doesnt go toward London in any way, so it has stayed the same with milepost zero just to the south of the station. So a cross country train will start as an up train and change to a down train without changing direction.
 

Greenback

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I always through it was 'up' to London and 'down' to swansea for example on my local line
It is. In the days of the South Wales Travelling Post Office, the up TPO ran from Swansea to London and it was the down TPO in the other direction.

I should know, as a postal worker in Swansea every day I filled out dockets and labels to be sent to the 'South Wales Up TPO - Div 1 (or 2 etc)'. I never had to fill out any to the down TPO, as we received mail from that train!
 

Eagle

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It's simple:

Up is the direction of decreasing mileposts
Down is the direction of increasing mileposts


All that stuff about to/from London or to/from the railway HQ is a useful rule of thumb, but it doesn't always work. The definition is as I've stated.

(If you know a bit about roads, the A and B directions of a road are equivalent to the Down and Up directions af a railway, respectively.)
 

HORNIMANS

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Ithink these days that trains in the up direction and signal numbers are even numbers and Down trains are odd numbered signals and trains
 

Eagle

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I was always told that at stations, platform number 1 would be in the "up" direction.
Sometimes, but not always. The general rule seems to be that if you face in the Up direction platform 1 will be the leftmost platform, but there are tonnes of exceptions, typically where there's been remodelling or renumbering, or where there is more than one Up. Near me, Nuneaton has its platforms right-to-left with respect to the WCML, but left-to-right with respect to the Birmingham–Leicester line. (Also near me, Leamington is right-to-left for no reason I can fathom; the layout hasn't changed since the closure of Leamington Avenue Road in the 1950s.)
 

Muzer

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Platform 1 on Salisbury is staff use only (it's not even partially accessible to the public any more since the ticket barriers were installed) and unlabelled completely now, so in some cases, it's impossible for platform 1 to be the up!

(Though, to be fair, most up trains go from the adjacent platform 2 - though a few go from the bay platform 6 on the opposite side of the station!)
 

Eagle

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Platform 1 on Salisbury is staff use only (it's not even partially accessible to the public any more since the ticket barriers were installed) and unlabelled completely now, so in some cases, it's impossible for platform 1 to be the up!
It still has information/help points on it though...

Platform 1 isn't necessarily the Up platform (it could be a bay), but it'll often be the leftmost platform—even at stations like Shrewsbury and Clapham Junction where it doesn't exist any more.

Then you have stations with weird numbering, like Northampton's 5-4-1-2-3, or Stratford HL's incomprehensible 4b-4a-3a-3-5-6-8-9-10-10a-11-12-2-1. Or stations that start at 0, not 1.
 

Hydro

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I was told by a COSS that the up line is towards the principle station on the route and the down is away.
A bit of a simplistic explanation, there are many instances of the zero mileage being a junction for example. Eagles explanation is the best rule of thumb, but there'd probably an exception to the rule, as with anything on the railway.
 

Eagle

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A bit of a simplistic explanation, there are many instances of the zero mileage being a junction for example. Eagles explanation is the best rule of thumb, but there'd probably an exception to the rule, as with anything on the railway.
There are some zeros that seem kind of arbitrary too; the Leamington to Coventry line starts counting from Leamington's mileage at 106¼, then after just under a mile starts from zero again.

There is a good reason; the zero marks the point of the original terminus of the LNWR's Leamington spur, a station that was later renamed Milverton when the spur was extended to Avenue Road station alongside the GWR station. The extension used the GWR mileage, to save having to redo the mileages from Milverton to Coventry. (As for why the spur has Down being towards the mainline at Coventry rather than away from it, that'll be because the junction at Coventry faces towards Birmingham and services ran from Leamington to Birmingham, so it made sense to have a consistent Down direction for those services.)
 

benk1342

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Thanks for all that---

The inevitable follow-up question is how does a layperson/enthusiast/non-staffmember find out how the lines are designated/which way the mileposts run?

I recognise that it doesn't actually matter---but like almost everything else we talk about on here I'm just interested/curious!

Incidentally, sometimes the departure board at my local station (Welwyn Garden City) will list a train as departing from DFL (down fast lane, I assume). Most people wouldn't know that this means Platform 3. Why not just put Platform 3 on the board?
 
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