Last week I met up another reader of the blog, Ian. In addition to being a committed diarist and one of the geniuses behind TV Cream, Ian is a fellow railway station collector. Only a few weeks ago, he did an A-Z of the Underground. That's my kind of chap.
Anyway, in between discussing his absurd fondness for Never Say Never Again and whether Boris Johnson has ever actually ridden a Tube train, we chatted about this blog. Ian asked a question I get a lot: "How many stations have you got left to do?"
And I answered in my usual way: "Erm - I dunno."
I could sense his disdain. But it's true. I've never really kept count. I have a map at home which I use to cross the stations off, but that's it. I've been quite fluid and easy about this whole thing - remember, when I started, I was absolutely only going to do the Northern and Wirral Lines. Such a long time ago.
As I say though: a lot of people have asked me that question so I thought it was about time I actually did the maths of the whole thing. Thank God for Excel.
There are 133 stations on the whole Merseyrail map, as it currently stands (they added two lines, to Blackpool and the Mid-Cheshire, after I'd started). Of those 133, I've actually collected 111, which leaves me 22 to collect. They are:
Acton Bridge, Appley Bridge, Bescar Lane, Birkdale, Blackpool North, Bromborough, Bromborough Rake, Eastham Rake, Euxton Balshaw Lane, Gathurst, Hartford, Hoscar, Leyland, Meols Cop, New Lane, Poulton-le-Fylde, Southport, Winsford plus the four Loop stations: James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street and Central.
Note: I have actually sort of done Moorfields and Lime Street. Moorfields was on my very first trip, but I haven't done the Old Hall Street ticket hall. Lime Street Mainline was photographed by the man from the Echo, but I haven't done the actual underground station. In any case, I like the idea of a final sweep round the loop, so they're discounted.
That leaves me four Northern Line stations, seven Wirral Line, eight City Line and seven on other lines to get. Carol Vorderman will notice that's more than 22: some stations are on more than one line so they're counted twice.
While I was number-crunching, I did a quick analysis of when I collected the stations. It seems I'm getting slower and slower at this. In 2007, when I started, I managed 43 stations in one year: I did 23 in 2008 and 2009, and just 18 in 2010. Part of this is down to me devoting more time to each station - I did the whole West Kirby branch in one afternoon, something I wouldn't dream of doing now - and part of it is down to the stations being much further out, generally in the middle of nowhere.
I've done four already this year, so it's possible - highly likely in fact - that this will be the year I actually finish the whole map. I can't pretend that doesn't make me sad. It's been a lot of fun.