Thursday, 18 September 2014

To Hull and back

Despite the mist yesterday, I utilised one of my new Northern Rail Family & Friends tickets to visit Hull, with the plan of buying some shoes from Primark, checking out a nice pub, and crossing off four stations on the former Victoria Dock branch line.

I got the 10am service from Scarborough, complete with a cup of tea from the Pumpkin cafe, for when Mum boarded at Filey, and settled down to read about the forthcoming apocalypse due to be course by the Scottish independence vote, courtesy of an abandoned copy of the Daily Mail.

The train was on time into Paragon Interchange, so on arrival, armed with a printed-out copy of an Ordnance Survey map from about 1950, we strode off along a busy road lined with takeaways and phone-unlocking shops to the first station on my list - Botanic Gardens...

Botanic Gardens
Time has not been kind to the railway heritage of Botanic Gardens station (also previously known as Cemetery Gates) - during its existence it was mostly made of wood, and with having a fairly urban location it has completely disappeared without a trace. The site is now occupied by a pub (Pearson's), and a large sculpture of a toad, dedicated to the poet Phillip Larkin. 
Those of you who know me well may be surprised I didn't take time to avail myself of a pint at this point, but it was early in the day, and I was only a quarter of my way through the quest, so I continued onward. After a more shops and exotic foreign restaurants (who knew there was such a thing as a "Full Lebanese breakfast"?), I turned off down a quiet residential street and was soon at the former Park Street level crossing, where the trackbed of the Victoria Dock line has been turned into a footpath and cycle route.

After a short distance, the path passes between the overgrown platforms of the old Stepney station - the buildings on the southern platform have survived here, and according to various books are now a private house, but they didn't look very lived-in to me...

Stepney (not in London)
Dodging dog turds (brown ones, not white - we're not in Teesside you know), and the odd scattering of smashed glass, we continued across another busy suburban road, at another former level crossing, and pressed on eastward.
Not sure what this used to be...

Quickly the landscape either side changed - instead of shops and back gardens, it was now industrial units, barbed wire, and nettles. The bridge where the Hull & Barnsley line to Cannon Street passed overhead has long since been removed, and the embankments now resemble some sort of ancient Iron-Age earthwork, but with added litter. 

According to the Big Tile Map, the next station was Sculcoates (which, believe me, is just as glamorous the name suggests), but like Botanic Gardens, it's been virtually wiped-out, having closed to passengers all the way back in 1912. Luckily, my photocopied OS map still showed it as a goods depot, so I was able to work out where to stand to take my photo, while Mum attempted to entice a stray kitten out of the brambles.
Not overly impressed with Sculcoates...
Although the station has gone, across the next road is possibly the most impressive abandoned railway feature in the whole of Hull - the splendid Wilmington swing bridge. Even though the train service finished a long time ago, the bridge remains open, solely for pedestrians and cyclists, and even more surprisingly - hasn't been welded shut, so  very occasionally can still be opened for the tiny amount of river traffic that still passes up the River Hull. 

Today was not one of those days - the bridge-man (I don't know what his proper job title would be) on duty, was standing on the balcony round the back, having a fag and watching the world go by. Can't be bad!

Nearly at the end of the station-collecting part of the journey, there was just Wilmington itself left to go. It used to be on an embankment, which has nearly all been dug away, so obviously that wasn't an option for my photo, but luckily the ground level booking office still exists, as a cafe marooned in a sea of dusty concrete and weeds. 
Time for refuelling :D
It didn't look much from the outside, but Mum-ra was getting a bit peckish so we stepped inside. So glad we did! I had a large sausage and black pudding sandwich and a mug of tea (with milk from a proper glass milk bottle!), and she had a bacon sandwich and the whole lot was just over four quid! Yes, the other patrons were all factory workers and truck drivers, so we looked massively out of place, but for great tasty food at those prices, who cares!

The walk back towards the city centre took us back across the Hull, past a wide range of urban decay. Clearly regeneration money has not got this far - it was a bit like a gritty 1960s drama, but without the cast. I don't think any people walked past us for at least half an hour - the only other living things were a large colony of pigeons, roosting in the girders underneath an abandoned lifting-bridge next to a grain warehouse. By the look of the road surface it had been like that for quite a long time...
Gradually, the old factories and warehouses started mingling with the occasional pub, office block or residential development, and further on there was a big new college campus, and then a trendy wine bar or two. Civilisation was approaching fast - and a good thing too, the cups of tea were threatening to cause a severe disturbance in my bladder. Luckily we got to the loos at the Slavery Museum before any deluge!

Didn't go in any of the museums - but had a wander round the grounds - Mum-ra was very fond of this mosaic toad: the twin of the one I'd already made friends with at Botanic Gardens. 

By now, if it hadn't been so cloudy, the sun was probably somewhere over a yard-arm, so it was time for a pint. Faux-Bro had previously recommended a place called Wm. Hawkes, and it just so happened that was right around the corner from where we now were. A total coincidence - honest!

It was a lovely atmospheric old boozer - a bit like the one in Titanic where Leonardo DiCaprio wins at cards, and thus inadvertantly saves the lives of the two pleasant Scandinavian men - with stuff all over the ceiling (all pubs should have stuff all over the ceiling), horse brasses, a dead fox, and guns on the wall. And to cap it all - my pint of "Hoptimism" came in a pint pot with a handle! Fantastico!

So then, the only thing left to do was buy some shoes (I got two pairs, amongst other things) and get the train home. 
A successful day.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Riding round the East Riding

A mixture today, with vehicular assistance from JP. First stop was Carnaby - on the Yorkshire Coast Line, just south of Brid. Although the line is still there, the station itself closed in 1970 and is now a house.
Next stop south by train was Burton Agnes, but we decided to save that for later in the day, and drove onward to Lowthorpe - apologies for once again travelling by car, but that's just the way it goes. It's my blog - my rules. If someone offers me a lift, I'll accept it!
Lowthorpe also closed in 1970 - although JP informed me that when he was still a guard, working for Northern Spirit at Scarborough, he once stopped a train at the still extant platforms, to let some policemen disembark so they could hunt for an escaped lunatic! No such excitement today - the closest we got was a road-rail vehicle parked up by the level crossing, next to a pile of sleepers. I think it had been there a while...

Continuing in a vaguely southwesterly direction, we arrived at Nafferton - a station actually still in use! There was nobody waiting on the platforms, and no sign of any imminent arrivals, so I had a fag and a nosey around, without feeling like a total div.It's quite  a nice little station - I've been through it tons of times on the way to Hull, and beyond, but never got off the train there. I was pleased to see the coal yard is still occupied by a coal merchant, despite the fact all the deliveries must now be made by other forms of transport...

Naff hair more like...

Driffield was our next port of call, and felt positively urban in comparison with the ones seen so far today. It has quite an array of buildings, converted to other uses - the only one open was a launderette. The stationmaster's house is empty, having just been sold. It used to be an antique china business, run by a man with a son called Tarquin, but he must have moved on. The ticket office was closed, and the other part of the building, which for a long time has been a bar, has been closed down by the authorities. Not sure why.

We got to Hutton Cranswick just before 3pm - the electronic Northern Rail voice was just announcing the arrival of the 15:01 to Hull, but I couldn't see it - maybe it was late? Like Nafferton, Hutton Cranswick is another of those places I've passed through a lot, but never had a reason to visit. It's quite a big village, with a duckpond, and an utterly gigantic village green!

I'll have to visit Hutton Cranswick again in the future, as the next stop south (Lockington - site of a fatal crash in the 80s) is no longer served by trains, so unless JP offers me another lift, I'll have to walk it...

Hutton Cranswick
At this point, I thought JP (and Mum - she was with us but stayed in the car the whole time so far) would be bored, or at least need the loo - so I suggested heading back to north, but no! Apparently they were both enjoying the driving about, so, with my trusty 1930s road map in hand, we went hunting...
Southburn was very difficult to locate, as it was totally demolished after closure under the Beeching Axe. The picture above was taken roughly at the site of the level crossing, with the railway cottages behind. My loitering caused consternation to one of the current residents - he kept his beady eye on me the whole time, but stopped short of releasing the dogs, or getting his shotgun out...
Garton on the Wolds
The lady who came out of the station house at Garton seemed a bit friendlier - she said "Hello" to me at least! Garton is now home to a scrap merchant, and was formerly on the Malton & Driffield line, but closed to all trains in 1958.

And so, back to (almost the beginning), we retraced our journey back to Burton Agnes - another victim of the cull of 1970. Like its neighbours at Lowthorpe and Carnaby, it's also a private house these days, but unlike the others it still has its signalbox (albeit unused).
Burton Agnes
On the side of the signalbox wall there's a plaque, commemorating an accident in 1947 which resulted in the deaths of several German prisoners-of-war - I'd never heard of this before. You learn summat new every day!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

From the Archives...

Apologies for the recent lack of updates - this is due to the fact I have been too idle to go anywhere for the past couple of weeks, other than to work and to the pub. So, to make up for it, PlatformCat presents, previously unseen photos from that era of terrible hair known as The Late 1990s...

Grosmont (28.04.1995)
First of all, from 28th April 1995 (my 14th birthday, to be precise) we have a scenic view of the side of my head, poking out of a train window in Grosmont. It was taken on my first ever visit to the North York Moors Railway. My memory of the day is from the drive up there - we had to wait for ages on the main road in Sleights, while a lorry attempted to perform a three-point-turn into somebody's driveway. I also remember eating a Cornish pasty.

The intervening 19 and a bit years (holy crap that makes me feel old), have seen quite a few changes - and not just to my hair. At the time, Grosmont station was in the middle of major reconstruction works. The new signalbox (built from bricks recovered from the one at Whitby Town) was yet to be finished, and platform 3 was out of use.

Pickering (28.04.1995)

The second picture (right) shows me standing by the train on arrival at Pickering. Once again, Pickering station now looks very different - the main change being the removal of the British Railways-era platform canopies, and subsequent reconstruction of the GT. Andrews-designed trainshed roof. Eagle-eyed readers may also notice that in those days, there was no footbridge either - access to platform 2 was solely by walking the long way round the headshunt.

Ebberston (03.04.1996)
Skipping forward almost a year, we find my 14 year old self loitering about in the undergrowth in Ebberston...

At that time, the station buildings were for sale, and had been standing empty for a while. On this day, some of the doors were unlocked, so I was able to creep about inside the old waiting room and stationmaster's office, and had a nosey in the gents loos - which were still completely untouched since the line closed in 1950. 

Ebberston awaits its future...

Shortly after my visit, the building and grounds were bought by the present owners, and totally renovated into holiday accommodation, with camping coaches standing on newly-laid track beside the platform. It's very nice now, but I'm glad I got to see it as it was then, in it's grubby old glory, with weeds sprouting from the gutters, holes in the floorboards, and wind whistling through the eaves...

Moving on again, to the end of the month, and we come to the day of my 15th birthday. This year's day out was to Darlington Railway Museum - which, conveniently for my PlatformCat persona, is located in North Road railway station. 
North Road (28.04.1996)
Ticket to Hogsmeade
North Road station - one of the oldest in the world - is still open today, despite the museum taking over most of the buildings. The current service from Bishop Auckland has to make do with a platform hidden away round the back - at the time of my visit, it was fly-blown, graffiti-covered, and smelled suspiciously of piss - I don't think Regional Railways North East (the operator in those days) were overly bothered about the place - hopefully Northern Rail look after it better nowadays!

Anyhow - it was quite a nice museum, and although fairly small (not even close to the size of the NRM at York), had a good array of exhibits, such as the Stockton & Darlington Railway's "Locomotion No.1", a nicely restored booking office, and one of the original cast iron signs from Stainmore Summit - formerly the highest mainline railway summit in England. Which leads nicely to the next bit...

Having looked around the museum in just over an hour or so, there was still plenty of the day left before my stepdad (JP) and I needed to set off back, so it being my birthday, I was allowed to pick somewhere else to visit. Being a totally normal (!?) 15 year old, I requested to visit a windswept and derelict wasteland, in the arsehole of nowhere, next to the constant traffic of the A66...

Welcome to Bowes!
Bowes station was an intermediate stop on the trans-pennine route from Darlington, in the east, over Stainmore, to Penrith and Tebay in the west. It was opened in 1861 by the South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway. For over a hundred years, until closure in 1962, it saw a steady stream of traffic - coal from Durham, iron from Cumberland, Geordie holidaymakers heading to Blackpool - but now it is no more. 

Hidden signalbox
The tracks were torn up, and the route westward buried for ever under the main road. Unlike a lot of places I've visited so far, the unwanted station buildings haven't been restored as a house, or demolished - they've simply been abandoned to the elements. 

The best surviving building, at the time, was the signalbox, which had the good fortune to have had a large farm shed built over it, protecting it from the upland wind and rain. Evidently it hides indoors no more though - having been dismantled by the Eden Valley Railway Society's volunteers at some point, and I believe it is now in storage, waiting to be reconstructed like a giant Lego set.

Abandoned coal-drops

Last year, some friends and I went on holiday to Corfu. The flight was with Ryanair, flying from Prestwick ('cos it was massively cheaper than anywhere more convenient), which meant a long drive setting off at 3am. I spent a lot of the journey asleep, but curiously I woke up at 6am, just as it was getting light.

I looked out of the window to see we were on the A66, and at that very moment were passing Bowes station. It still hasn't been restored. Perhaps if I win the lottery...