Thursday, 21 June 2018

The magic of an empty railway station ............. somewhere in the west country

Now, if you are of that generation who grew up with Muffin the Mule, and thought that the light had gone out of the world on hearing of the death of Ottis Reading, then this picture of this railway station will be as familiar as spangles, and Blue Peter.

This is the stop at Bishops Lydeard, on the railway line to Minehead, and if you were to take the trip courtesy of the West Somerset Railway, you would pass the equally picturesque stations of Crowcombe, Heathfield, Stogumber and Doriford Halt.

Between them, they conjure up that lost world before and just after the nationalization of the railway companies, when even the smallest hamlet had it own branch line.

They are the stuff of romance and nostalgia, and it takes little in the way of imagination to think yourself on to that platform on a hot summer’s day, waiting for the 12.20 to somewhere.

The chances are you would be alone, with the railway staff away busying themselves on routine tasks, leaving you with the feint noise of insects, the smell of warm oil from the wooden sleepers, and the tick of the station clock.

At a little before midday the peace would be broken by the express train thundering past on its way to some place full of people doing purposeful things, and just possibly one of the passengers on that speeding train might give a glance across to the solitary figure before the scene vanished, replaced by hedgerows and open fields.

And the noise it had made only contrasted all the more with the tick of the clock and the buzz of the insects.

All of which will doubtless be dismissed as pure nostalgic tosh, although it chimes in with many of my cherished memories.

That said, when Lois took the pictures of Bishops Lydeard, the station was full of expectant passengers intent on getting aboard the train to Minehead, pulled by loco no.6960 which goes by the name of Raveningham Hall which I guess is named after the same house and estate situated south of Norwich.

It might be a tad unfair to describe the rush to catch the train as a stampede and I wasn’t there, so I will just let the picture say it all, leaving me to include the other images Lois chose from the photographs she took on the day along with a favourite poem by Edward Thomas, who wrote "Adlestrop", after a train journey on June 24th 1914, during which his train briefly stopped at the now-defunct station in the Gloucestershire village of Adlestrop.

Yes. I remember Adlestrop

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat, the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.


The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop—only the name


And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,


No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.


And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire


Location; on the West Somerset Railway

Pictures; catching the train at Bishops Lydeard, 2018 from the collection of Lois Elsden

*The West Somerset Railway; https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/the-railway

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