Getting the hump

Pegswood Sign

My train left Widdrington and bounced slowly southwards. For the first time, there were actually people on board – presumably they had boarded at Alnmouth for a journey to Morpeth or Newcastle.

I was only going one stop, and a few minutes later I jumped off the train (literally; the gap between train and platform is formidable here) at Pegswood.

Pegswood has a Harrington Hump on the southbound platform. These features, designed to reduce the gap between train and platform without going to the trouble of raising the entire platform, are appearing at a number of stations across the Northern network. While I wouldn’t argue that it’s useful at Pegswood, it does a seem a bit odd to spend money installing one here, at a station which receives precisely three trains each day. Still, I’m sure the 1,650 people who use the station (according to the latest stats) will appreciate it.

Harrington Hump at Pegswood

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Happy Chappy at the Chippy

Widdrington Station sign

The bus made its way back north. No criminals this time, just a mix of shoppers and commuters making their way home. I saw the red BR sign for Widdrington in the distance and took that as my cue to ring the bell – too soon, it turned out, as I got off one stop early.

The original Widdrington village is actually some distance from the station. The houses and shops here are a new community which grew up around the railway. This village is actually called Widdrington Station. So Widdrington station serves the village of Widdrington Station, while Widdrington itself is a mile further North. I hope that’s clear.

Robert at Widdrington

If I look slightly discombobulated in this picture, then… that is accurate.

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A Harrow-ing Experience

Sudbury & Harrow Road SignDon’t let the punny title fool you, there was nothing harrowing about Sudbury & Harrow Road station. The only stressful bit was planning my journey: I had to get to the station, then back to Ian’s flat to get my stuff, then on to Euston for my train home. On paper, it looked eminently do-able; TfL’s journey planner was less optimistic, until we came up with a convoluted plan involving buses.

We are on Chiltern Railways territory, so we headed to the terminus at Marylebone, mingling with office workers enjoying an early dart as we boarded the 1630 to West Ruislip. Sudbury & Harrow Road was the first stop.

sudbury-and-harrow-road-1If I were to describe Sudbury & Harrow Road in one word, it would be “unremarkable”. It’s a tiny halt, just long enough for a short train, with very narrow platforms (and an odd gap between them, as seen in the picture to the left).

The only striking thing about it is the passenger numbers – barely 18,000 people used this station in 2011/12, according to the official statistics. The station gets a very limited service – a few trains to Marylebone in the morning, and some return journeys in the evening. That’s it.

Sudbury & Harrow Road ExitThis station is right on a high street and would seem a strange candidate for a peak hours only service. However, the truth is that the area already has a generous supply of stations. Less than 5 minutes walk from the station is the Piccadilly Line’s Sudbury Town station, while not too far away is Sudbury Hill Harrow, not to be confused with Sudbury & Harrow Road, nor with the area’s 4th station, Sudbury Hill. Got that? Good.

There was little of interest to see in the station itself. It was raining and I was conscious of our tight time limit, so we quickly left the station via the subway to take care of business. It was school chucking out time and I was very conscious of a nearby gang of teenagers as Ian took the pic of me under the sign. We fled towards the bus stop as quickly as possible afterwards.

sudbury-and-harrow-road-4

So that was Sudbury & Harrow Road. Not particularly exciting, but it’s another box ticked off the list.

Angels in Dirty Places

My travelling companion, Angel RoadIan, 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.

Door buttonsI 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.

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Clifton suspense

Photo of Clifton station signI was feeling cocky as my train powered through the Lancashire countryside en route to Bolton. The day had gone perfectly so far: I’d had a good couple of hours at Hebden Bridge; Salwick station had been successfully bagged; and I’d managed to get a bonus sugar rush from a very sweet Mars milkshake that I’d bought on impulse from the WHSmith shop on the platform at Preston.

I thought the rest of the afternoon would be nice and straightforward. All I had to do was get to Salford Crescent in time for the 1743 to Wigan Wallgate, one of the two trains each day which stop at Clifton.

I was feeling especially smug after spotting that, by taking an earlier train from Preston and changing at Bolton, I would get to Salford earlier than if I took the direct Preston to Salford train. I would have a twelve minute connection into the 1743 – ample for Salford Crescent’s single island platform.

It was an uneventful run to Bolton, where I duly alighted and searched the departure board for my next train. My heart sank: the Manchester Airport train I needed was running late.

Twelve minutes late, to be precise.

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An Ardwick Act to Follow

Photo of a Northern Rail train at Ardwick stationAs railways grew rapidly in the 19th century, a large number of stations were opened in the inner cities, just a few miles from major termini. Many of these stations were short-lived and closed in the early years of the 20th century due to stiff competition from tramways, which could serve the densely populated inner cities far better than trains could.

Ardwick station, on the approaches to Manchester Piccadilly, somehow survived this cull, but is now in danger. The district it serves in East Manchester has experienced a long period of steep economic decline and is now one of the city’s most deprived areas. A lot of businesses and residents have left the area, leaving the station without a source of traffic.

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