My travelling companion, Ian, was worried. Our Northern Line train was not progressing at the speed it should have been. It paused at several stations, doors wide open, for no apparent reason. Between stops, it was content to trundle at a sedate pace rather than the roaring, bouncy rate that I’m more accustomed to. For one short but irritating moment, we came to a complete stop between stations.
It was Monday morning and we were travelling at the tail end of the rush hour. Our fellow passengers were commuters: stragglers, probably on flexi-time, for whom an arrival a few minutes after 9 o’clock would not be a major inconvenience. They shrugged and enveloped themselves in the safe bubbles offered by the Metro or iPod earbuds.
On the other hand, Ian and I had a definite need to proceed as quickly as possible. We needed to be at Tottenham Hale station by 0943 at the latest, in order to catch a Greater Anglia train northwards to yet another Station Master target. Miss that train, and there wouldn’t be another one along for six-and-a-half hours.
We could have got an earlier train, of course… but that would have meant getting up earlier, and I’m cranky if I don’t get my beauty sleep.
I put on a brave face, but as the driver announced again that we were being held at a red signal, I did start glancing at my watch anxiously. Fortunately, once we transferred to the Victoria Line, with its computer-controlled trains that go like a bat out of hell (technical term), we found ourselves whizzing along, and we reached Tottenham Hale with time to spare.
We transferred to the National Rail station to continue our journey to Angel Road, a small station in the London Borough of Enfield, which receives a sparse, peak-hours only service.
Our journey north was just five minutes long, but we had enough time to marvel at the gloriously 80s door control buttons on our train, a fine example of British Rail engineering. There was a satisfying pssshhhht of compressed air as the doors opened and we alighted onto the platform at Angel Road.
One other person alighted and we hung back while he exited the station. Meanwhile, our train continued on to glamorous Bishops Stortford. Once we had the platform to ourselves, Ian and I took a few minutes to size up our surroundings.
Anyone who knows me will know that I try to be charitable about the places I visit. This blog has taken me to wonderful places, but unfortunately I have to report that Angel Road is up there with Ardwick in the unpleasantness stakes. It is an absolute dump of a station.
This is a limited service station, and the absolute minimum amount of effort has been expended here. There are no facilities beyond a few benches and a tiny shelter. The one concession to modernity was the Oyster validator on the platform. Right next to it was an 80s throwback – an original British Rail Permit to Travel machine, still in use.
I went up the footbridge to get an overall view of the station and its surroundings. One one side was a Coca-Cola distribution centre. On the other, a scrap yard. Very appealing.
At the far end of the platforms, a road bridge crosses the railway. This is the Angel Road after which the station is named. However, Angel Road is now part of the A406, a terrifying, pedestrian-unfriendly, six-lane dual carriageway, and the station no longer has an exit there.
Instead, passengers must leave the station down a narrow alleyway, past some very welcoming signs…
Then, up a winding flight of steps (note Ian, looking happier than I would have thought possible at this location).
Those steps bring us almost to the station’s current exit on Conduit Lane, but before we can get out, we have to negotiate this dank underpass:
Then, just a few more stairs and we were finally out on the main road. If the name Conduit Lane conjured images of a quiet little side street, I hate to disappoint you – it’s another loud dual carriageway with lorries and cars roaring past continuously.
In summary, the powers-that-be couldn’t have made this station any more inhospitable if they’d tried. Just getting from the street to the platforms is a long slog, and the twisting passageway – hidden from public view for much of its length – is intimidating to say the least. Absolutely none of the station is covered by CCTV. It was a lonely, desolate place at 10am on a Monday morning – on a dark winter night it must be positively frightening.
Further evidence of Angel Road’s unloved status came from the roadside sign. On one side, the lettering was peeling off, revealing the branding of rail franchises past underneath. Here we have evidence of the disastrous rainbow stripes of ONE and the equally short lived National Express East Anglia.
Getting the money shot under this tatty sign would have meant taking the photo straight into the sun, so I settled for the relatively tidy double arrows on the reverse side. If I look unhappy here, that is… accurate.
And with that, Ian and I both agreed it was time to go. We’d been here for about 20 minutes (of which about ten minutes had been spent actually walking out of the station) and it seemed unlikely that Angel Road would offer any further delights. There were no trains back for hours, so we set off for Silver Street station, roughly 20 minutes walk away on a different railway line.
Our walk took us past another refuse dump, where men in white chemical protection suits were disposing of some waste. I’m not sure whether it was from the traffic, the refuse dump or the scrapyard, but a noticeable stench hung in the air.
I noticed a sign pointing to Tottenham Hotspur’s ground and my Bale-sense started tingling, but there was no time for that sort of thing that day.
We entered a residential area, but decided not to visit the “ENJOY CAFE” (which sounded like an order, or at least a desperate plea). We escaped from the main road at the earliest opportunity in favour of the quieter back streets. We crossed Craig Park, a tiny oasis of greenery amidst all the concrete, before joining Angel Road itself. An ugly metal bridge was provided here to protect pedestrians from the barrage of motor vehicles. We crossed the road here and found ourselves looking at a block of flats that seemed to be made of concrete and despair.
A little further along, and the A406 dives into a tunnel for a short length. The warning sign at the entrance, prohibiting horses and carts, seemed a little superfluous – although, in a world where a man can try to get a pony onto a train, you can’t be too careful, I suppose.
As we approached Silver Street, things got altogether better. There were small local shops of every kind doing a roaring trade, and, even better, some public artwork! The area’s former cinema, the Regal Edmonton, had – like so many other small cinemas – been killed off by the advent of multiplexes in the 1980s. However, a lovely Lottery-funded mural has been erected to commemorate it.
This bright piece of art in the street cheered up what had been a fairly drab day so far. The other reason to be cheerful was the sight of Silver Street station in the distance. A few minutes later and we were on a train heading back to Central London – or, more specifically, Highbury & Islington station, where Ian and I planned to do a complete circuit of the London Overground’s orbital route. I’ll let Ian tell this part of the story.
So that was Angel Road. It’s another station ticked off the list, and I can’t say I’m in any hurry to get back there any time soon.