Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Glamour of the Railways

Stafford: Twinned with Gomorrah
"The glamour of the railways," says bus fan Gary Bainbridge as he passes through Stafford on his way somewhere - presumably - less grim.

This, of course, means only one thing - a turf war to find out which town has the worst railway station in the country. A station where the toilets are locked, the buffet makes Scout Hut coffee taste great, and the platforms smell of tramps. I'm going to restrict this to stations I've actually visited, otherwise things could get out of hand.

So. Aldershot railway station, clearly one of the highlights of visiting Aldershot.

Aldershot: Gateway to Your Mum
Grim that Aldershot may be, it's got nothing on Pokesdown for Boscombe and Despair, which appears not to have been touched by builder, gardener or decorator since Brunel last passed through.

Pokesdown: Regular connecting services for somewhere nicer
 (There's a petition to improve Pokesdown station, as it's completely inaccessible to pushchairs and the disabled)

And just a couple of stations down the line, there's the pre-fab concrete hell of Poole, with a matching pre-fab railway station.

Poole: The next tallest building to the west of here is in New York
There's a special place in my heart of Poole railway station, having been trapped here for hours at a time, in the pissing rain coming straight off the sea not 100 yards away, waiting for the last train to Weymouth, sharing the platform with knuckle-dragging drunks waiting for the last train to Hamworthy, a walled-off area upon which the film Escape from New York is based.

And down in the south-west, I once accidentally found myself at Falmouth Town station.

Falmouth Town: Change here to be stared at by the locals
This picture says "Looking toward Truro", which is exactly where anybody with any sense would rather be.

I once went to Aberystwyth, you know.

Aberystwyth: There's a Wimpy in town (Information correct as of April 1983)
I had a Wimpy, and stayed in the worst bed and breakfast you could possibly imagine, even worse than the ones at the bottom of swamps run by mass-murderers.

Ash Vale: Prepare to be searched
Ash Vale. And they say Surrey's beautiful. This is all the evidence you need to the contrary.

As you can see from these pictures, there's a common theme in that there are no trains to be seen. This reflects the hours that seem to leak away into days, weeks and months as you wait for a service that takes you out of these places. Some never leave.

Coming soon*: A short series on shit motorway service stations.

* Probably not coming soon

Correction: The original version of this story suggested that Mr Gary Bainbridge is a "bun fan", when he is - in fact - a fan of busses. We apologise for any distress caused.


Al said...

Ponders End. Used to brave t after Thursday night racing at the nearby sailing club. Proper dystopian air of menace about it.

Al said...

I mean, look:

Al said...

Or, on the same line, Angel Road, accesible only via a path down the side of a scrap yard from a road normal people don't walk along. No staff, ever, and trains don't stop there for most of the day- though plenty thunder through
isn't the Lea Valley just beautiful?

T Kayk said...

I'm a bun fan and I don't feel distressed. Sometimes I'm hot and crossed.

bjh21 said...

Having visited many of the country's grimmest stations, I think the worst may be St Andrews Road in Bristol. A single platform in the depths of Avonmouth docks, only accessible from a footbridge across the goods lines. As a final insult, when your train finally does turn up, it's a Pacer.

Alistair Coleman said...

bjh21: That's grim

Dioclese said...

You ain't seen nothing yet! I just travelled 3,750 miles from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam by train.

You should see the TAZARA single track railway there and the cloned stations all built by the Chinese to get the copper out of Zambia and to the coast.

Ernest J. Fishwinkle said...

I remember as a child my dad always used to buy Austin Maxi cars, they were embarrassing. One bank holiday Monday on the way to the Lake District from Yorkshire the car broke down in Kirby Lonsdale. This was about 1987 and nothing was open, nothing at all. There was one train at around 6pm and we spent the day (around 8 hours) walking around Kirby Lonsdale, where nothing was open. We had sandwiches fortunately which were probably egg mayonnaise as that is the only sandwich my dad will make. The train went via Skipton and Bradford and we got home around 9pm. It was a terrible, terrible day.

2 which the answer is said...

Are there Jawa ghosts in the photo of Stafford railway station?

Dr Si said...

To be fair to Pokesdown they did brighten the place up a bit with that mural of Boscombe through the ages. So... there's that.