Friday, March 16, 2007

'Oh! Mr Porter, what shall I do,

I wanted to go to Reading, and they've taken me on to Crewe...'

Hah! The dawning realisation that came on me on Wednesday night when I realised that I had booked my train tickets to Crewe for the wrong weekend. Doh! Me, the smug one when it comes to the railways got it so completely wrong that instead of going to Reading tomorrow, which was the plan to attend my OU tutorial, is now heading to Crewe instead! And again next weekend...

Not that Crewe I am sure is a bad place. I hardly know it and the only occasion that I ventured beyond the station was a couple of years ago and that was only to visit The Railway Age. Yep, a railway museum, which is sited adjacent to the main lines into and out of Crewe. I remember it vividly for two reasons. Firstly, it has a preserved partial set of the Advanced Passenger Train, that ill-fated British Rail experimental train from the early 1980s, which arrived with a blaze of publicity and left in the rather ignominious glare of failure. The tilt just didn't work properly and it is with considerable irony that the technology that failed to be perfected in the APT, would later be incorporated in the Pendolino, which to add insult to injury runs regularly past the rusting hulk of the last APT! The second thing I remember about the day was being shown around one of the signal boxes, which if I remember correctly had been reassembled on site in full working order from Exeter. Two gentlemen, both clearly retired showed me how it worked. One disappeared off somewhere to pretend to be the signalman in the next 'box up the line, while the other stayed to show how the equipment in a manual 'box, with its awesome frame of levers, actually worked. It was fabulous experience and with the 'box being situated next to one of the lines out of Crewe, it was possible to suspend disbelief and accept that all the frantic pulling of levers, bells and klaxons had some relation to the real world railway activity outside the window.

I digress. So what am I doing in Crewe anyway? Well, rather embarrassingly considering my buying rail tickets for the wrong weekend and perhaps aptly, I am there attending the AGM of one of the railway groups I belong to. I am also an official of the society so I have to present a report to the meeting on my activities over the last year, stand for and hopefully be re-elected to my post as the Web Site Manager. This is the first AGM I've attended, having missed the previous two due to other engagements. I am a little nervous about doing the presentation but I am sure it will be fine and I am not exactly expecting an audience of hundreds!

So that's tomorrow. And then of course because I originally booked my tickets for the following weekend, I am going to Crewe again! However current plan for next weekend is to head on up to Liverpool, which is about 35-45 minutes out from Crewe and have a day there. Mind you if I do get to see any of Crewe itself tomorrow I might be endeared enough to spend time there next Saturday but I doubt it. Crewe after all is synonymous with the railway, it exists and grew to support the railway works and I doubt there is much else to commend it. The railway works have long gone although there is still maintenance and repair work undertaken at Crewe but one of the most depressing sights is the sidings crammed with withdrawn and condemned locomotives and rolling stock. Its a sorry sight, with many of the locos and carriages daubed in graffiti or showing the ravages of cannibalisation and vandalism. Mind you that's much like Crewe station as I remember it! A grand, sprawling station that looks as if it hasn't seen a touch of care for the last twenty odd years.

Ah well, I guess I will be seeing a lot of Crewe over the next couple of weeks...


jamie said...

am i alone in being slightly disturbed by todays blog entry?

Mark said...

Disturbed! Why?!

I actually had a really nice day in Crewe. The meeting went well and had some time to kill on the station, which remains just as I remember it, looking like it suffered a bomb blast in WWII and nobody has cared to repair the damage! The only pain was leaving home at 6.30 this morning. Too early even for me, especially on a Saturday!