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By Sally Sculthorpe on

What is your most memorable train journey?

Sally Sculthorpe shares some insights into her work on our Station Hall redevelopment project.

In previous blogs we talked about our ambition to bring Station Hall to life by using real stories. In the coming months I will be running story-gathering activities to find out about people’s experiences of travelling and working in stations.

Alongside this, we will be providing opportunities in Station Hall for visitors to share their stories. This week we installed a ticket board that asks our visitors to take a ticket and tell us about their most memorable train journey.

So far, we have had a brilliant response. I thought I’d share some of the memories with you:

“Going to Cornwall on the train as a kid, being the first one in the family to spot the sea.”

“Travelling to Venice on the Orient Express to celebrate my husband’s 60th birthday – a boyhood dream come true.”

“Going up Snowdon on the train – in driving rain, you couldn’t see a thing.”

“Darlington –Penzance. A couple left their baby on the train.”

3 comments on “What is your most memorable train journey?

  1. Although you’re not necessarily asking readers of the blog to comment, I wanted to share my memorable journey.

    It was 1968 and the car had broken down in Arnamurchan, about 30 miles from Fort William. We travelled from the (old) Fort William station to Bristol, having hitch-hiked from west of Salen in Ardnamurchan. This was Mum with 3 kids, Dad having had to travel south ahead of us to go back to work. I remember it being sunny at Fort William; getting a black cab across Glasgow from Queen Street to Central at about 10pm; queueing for a place on the Bristol train; the guard locking us in our compartment for safety – and seeing a fox from the train at about 6am in Birmingham. I was all of six years old at the time.


  2. Does abroad count? Thailand?

    To make a change from taking the three-hour white-knuckle-ride taxi from Bangkok to Hua Hin, we decided to let the train take the strain. It would give us a chance to see another part of Thailand; one without roads. We’d pre-booked our second class tickets so all we had to do was turn up.
    Excited, we clambered aboard and got settled in. The windows, which hadn’t seen a cleaning brush in many months however, prevented a clear view. To make things worse, the Thai love of air conditioning caused us to freeze. I’m told it’s like this in cinemas too, where it is so cold they give you blankets to keep warm – it’s that logic thing again. Anyway, back on the train anoraks were brought out of suitcases. We envied those who had them. They must have been here before. No such luck for us: we’d come prepared for a warm country.
    As the journey progressed, slowly at first through the northern Bangkok suburbs — yes you spend the best part of an hour going the wrong way to Hua Hin — faster once we reached the countryside, the temperature continued to plummet. No amount of frantic struggling to open any of the small widows to let in warm air succeeded. Time to do something about it. I made my way to the front of the train — a diesel rail-car — in search of a guard who I might be able to convince urgent action was required. No such luck. But I did find the driver and his mate.
    They were taking it easy. Both had their foot up — there’s no plural in Thailand — and eating lunch as the train rocked along the metre gauge track. They greeted me happily, not turning me away and treated me to a grand view of the way ahead. Doors in the vestibule were open so I began to get warm, but at the risk of being shot out if the train suddenly lurched to one side! My wife joined me until her goose bumps faded and then she returned to chill.
    So what could be done about the AC? As my Thai is inadequate, I took to charades — a most useful device here — pointing to the compartment and shivering as I rubbed my arms. They laughed and said, ‘but this is Thailand.’ I persisted. Eventually the mate unscrewed the cover from an electrical cabinet; what a jumble of ancient wiring! I spotted the switch which controlled the AC: marked day or night, but no off! Selecting the night setting did have some success as the temperature gradually rose to ‘cool’ by the time we reached Hua Hin, a four-hour trip. Next time we’d go third class.

    Hualamphong Station, Bangkok some months later. This time we got two third-class seats at extortionate prices: 44bahts(88p) each! At least I wouldn’t freeze my nuts off. Not sure about Liz though. The service proudly known as The Rapid is scheduled to take four hours. We knew it would take five: they always take an extra hour. It’s just the way it works … Thai time.
    We had the usual crawl out of Bangkok, as there are many level crossings. The train seems to be less important than cars and had to wait at every crossing. But I did hear of a story where a train did get its-own-back. It had come to a stop across the road crossing. Traffic waiting to cross rapidly built up. Impatient drivers on both sides were not content to wait until the train moved and filled both lanes of the road, eager to be first-off. When the train eventually moved on, the cars had nowhere to go. The blockage took several hours to clear.
    The monotony of the stop-start crawl was broken by food-sellers, lots of very noisy food-sellers. If you wanted to nap you’d be wasting your time, though some Thais appeared to be skilled in the art of sleeping anywhere. Every few minutes baskets of fruit are trust before you. Then the stuff you’d prefer not to try arrives; now beer is proffered before every farang: the Thais travelling third class cannot afford beer. An ancient man with one tooth grinned at us as he ate a hardboiled egg, pointing out with gusto — so that we all got some — the sights en-route. I ordered a beer.
    After a couple of hours there came the compulsory delay. We’d stopped at a station so a train travelling north could pass ours. I stepped down to chat with the guard who seemed to think we might be some time. Without warning the train jerked into motion and we both had to run to get aboard the last coach. He leaned out and waved his green flag furiously as the train accelerated. A confident display, I’d give him that. But if he didn’t know what’s going on, what chance do I have?

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