Archive for December 7th, 2008

The train that never was

Sunday, 7 December 2008


Clapham Junction in the rain. Photo Elsie Esq.

(Click to see photo in original context and details of licensing.)

In our last survey, one of the matters that BTWT readers asked us to deal with occasionally was the review other blogs. Nils Jorgensen started his blog in September 2007 and it had a brief flowering before dying on 4 May 2008. The blog is not actually about railways, but the post Not Adelstrop has a strong railway flavour and is rather good. Here is a snippet.

A real life sequence of events can suddenly jog my memory, remind me of a song, a film, a book. A favourite poem in this case. Sitting on a train not so long ago, Clapham Junction, south west London, I saw someone on the platform who caught my eye. Before taking a photograph, I usually weigh up the situation in terms of how good the picture is, the risks involved etc. However sitting in my carriage I felt somehow protected. The train started to move, and I raised my camera and snapped. My subject saw me and smiled. But with every second the distance between us was increasing, and I knew I was safe. Not the bravest way of conducting street photography, but no less valid for it either.

Follow the link if you want more… . I can get very sentimental about Clapham Junction. The shuttle trains to Kensingtom Olympia were the last steam operated suburban services in London. Intended only for Post Office workers at Olympia, they were kept secret by BR. There were two early morning trains from Clapham Junction to Olympia and two evening trains back to Clapham Junction. There was no evening service to Olympia.

When I was still at school, two of us determined to ride the evening empty stock working back to Olympia. We went up to the ticket office and attempted to buy two single tickets to Olympia, but were told that that was impossible as there were no more trains that day. That’s all right, I said airily, we actually want to travel tomorrow morning. We made our across the rickety bridge down to the short platform where the train from Olympia had just come in.

We crept on board,when the guard wasn’t looking, and full of anticipation awaited our departure. Alas, it was a corridor coach and the guard walked down the train to make sure that no passengers that had fallen asleep on the comfortable upholstered seats. (PKP please note!) When he found us he was not amused. This is not a service train, he thundered. You’ll have to get off!

I put on my most angelic face and apologised profusely. We didn’t know, I explained. And no one said anything when we bought our tickets. The guard checked our tickets. They looked all right. He hadn’t reckoned on us being so devious as to buy tickets for the next day’s train. And so he allowed us to stay and travel on the train that never was.