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...

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