Tag Archives: train

Fleeting glimpses, lasting impressions

20 Apr

I used to think that my journeys to and from work were pretty dull and to be frank a bit of a waste of my time, but over the last few weeks my perception has changed, as I start to notice more and more interesting things going on in the world around me.

I should clarify that they are interesting to me, the rest of you reading this may not find them particularly interesting, but to me they are helping make my journeys more bearable.

I probably all started when the clocks went forward with the start of British Summer Time last month, and it became light enough in the mornings to see beyond the windows of the bus.

This morning the “interesting thing” happened before I even got to the bus stop. Walking up the High Street I spotted a heron landing on the ridge of the old Post Office roof, this in itself was quite unusual as although the bird is not particularly rare I have seldom seen it anywhere other than the side of a pond or stream.

What was really incredible was the group of seagulls that began to mob the heron as it perched on the roof top. There was one particularly aggressive one that kept diving in close, accompanied by a screeching cry. It didn’t take many “attacks” for the heron to decide it had had enough and to take to the air and head off to the south-east out of sight, but still being pursued by the seagulls.

All this at just after six o’clock in the morning, the whole thing probably lasted less than a minute, but I felt incredibly privileged to have been witness to this spectacle.

Sometimes it is something on a much bigger scale, like the sun rising through the mists, an experience which lasts for most of the bus journey on a good day. With glimpses of the sun visible in the mist at various intervals as we race through the Sussex countryside.

Last night as I made my way home on the train one half of the sky was full of very dark grey (almost black) cloud stretching down to the trees on the horizon. Meanwhile the sun was still shining over the other side of the train, this caused me to notice  a satellite dish slowly rotating on the horizon, the sun’s rays picking it out against the dark cloud.

A few seconds later I noticed what appeared to be the burst of a firework, specks of silver glittering against the dark cloud. Unlike a firework it just hung in the air not moving, when I had time to process the image I realised it was a radio/mobile phone mast, something else I had failed to notice despite making the same journey five days a week for the past couple of years. A truly unique combination of weather conditions had made them visible to me for the first time.

Sometimes it is something natural, like the buzzard I saw last week (at least I think it was a buzzard), standing on the ground pulling at something it had probably just killed. Two rooks looked on from a few feet away, presumably hoping that it would leave something behind for them to nibble on.

Sometimes it is something unexpected, like a couple of days ago when I stepped out the office door and into the street to witness two Apache helicopters passing overhead. I have long admired these machines and the men who fly them, but had never seen one for real.

I couldn’t believe my luck, a minute earlier or later and I would have missed them completely. Like the heron this morning, this flight only lasted a minute or so before they were out of sight, but it was still incredibly satisfying to have been there to witness them in that instant.

They nearly all have one thing in common, they are usually just brief encounters. Usually from a bus or train window, blink and you miss it, look the other way and you miss it. Too fleeting to consider taking a photo, but just long enough to leave a lasting impression.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: Feeling chuffed

12 Oct

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
.

Thirty minutes well spent

6 Jan

I don’t watch a lot of television, apart from Who Do You Think You Are? there is not much else that I would make the time to watch. This evening I put aside 30 minutes to watch the first episode of series two of Great British Railway Journeys on the BBC iPlayer.

I didn’t watch the first series and very nearly missed this one. In this episode former MP Michael Portillo travels by train from Brighton to Crystal Palace via Godstone (although Godstone is a bit of a way out if you are travelling from Brighton to Crystal Palace) armed with a copy of George Bradshaw‘s Tourist Guide.

The programme was is a travel documentary with plenty of history (and historic film) and discussions with historians thrown in for good measure. It helped of course that the places featured were familiar to me.

Starting at Brighton on the Sussex coast we saw the Brighton Aquarium (now the Sea Life Centre) which I think I have only visited once, probably about 30 years ago whilst still at school, I really ought to go back again this year. Then we heard about the long destroyed Chain Pier and took a ride on the Volk’s Electric Railway.

Heading up the railway line towards London we saw briefly the magnificent Ouse Valley Viaduct, which I believe at least once of my distant relatives helped to build. In fact I would imagine that plenty of my relatives were involved in the construction of the London to Brighton railway, if only there were records to prove it.

Portillo took a detour to spend the night at Godstone, Surrey. I have been through Godstone on the train several times, but have never actually visited despite have connections there with my GASSON ancestors. I certainly had no idea that there were underground quarries there and wonder if my ancestors had anything to do with them.

The programme finished at Crystal Palace, an intriguing place with a fascinating history. I paid a brief visit to the park and the remains of the Crystal Palace last year as part of my Capital Ring walk. It was one of several places on that walk which I hope to be able to visit again to explore the park and museum further.

This programme seemed very personal to me, it was almost as if the programme was made specifically for me, truly thirty minutes well spent. Now where can I get hold of one of Bradshaw’s Guides?

Festival of Postcards: Locomotion – Partridge Green Station

19 Aug

The theme for the latest edition of the Festival of Postcards (hosted by Evelyn at A Canadian Family) is “Locomotion”. I don’t think there are any postcards in my collection that sum this up better than the one below of Partridge Green railway station in Sussex.

Partridge Green Station

There is no name of a photographer or publisher on this card, it was posted from Partridge Green on the 27th November 1907 and sent to a Miss B. Longhurst of Ashington, Sussex. Historic postcards of railway stations are eagerly collected and command high prices. I was lucky enough to get this one several years ago.

Partridge Green station was on the Horsham to Shoreham branch (or the Steyning Line as it was also known) of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. It was opened in 1861 and closed in 1966, and the route of the line now forms part of the bridleway linking the North Downs Way and the South Downs Way, known as the Downs Link and is one of my favourite places to walk.

I will give you a quick tour of the station before the train arrives. We are standing at the southern end of the northbound (or up) platform for trains to Horsham, with a small wooden shelter. To the right of that is via the footbridge linking the two platform. Behind the footbridge the road bridge can just be made out, this is the only part of the station that still remains, and even then it has been filled in and only one side remains visible.

On the other platform are passengers waiting for the down train (towards Brighton). Left to right from the footbridge we have the signal box, ticket office and waiting rooms, and the tall building is the station master’s house. To the right of those is the start of the goods yard and goods shed.

Anyway I must dash, I see the train is just coming in and I need to get across to the other platform or I will have to wait another hour. It looks like it’s going to be a busy train, I wonder where they are all going?

LONDON: coincidence on the train and chaos on the tube

13 Jun

Today was a day of mixed fortunes, ultimately I didn’t find out anything that I could actually add to my family tree, but it was a good day nevertheless.

The train journey up to London was a little different from normal, and not just because everything went according to plan. Like the majority of other British train travellers I wouldn’t normally talk to any of the other passengers, but when the young woman who came and sat in the seat opposite took out a bundle of papers, which included some census returns, I knew I just had to saw hello.

We chatted about our family histories and research until she left the train at Clapham Junction, heading for the Surrey History Centre at Woking. It was a real pleasure to meet and chat with a fellow genealogist, and it made the journey just fly by.

Getting to the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) proved somewhat awkward. I am sure that when I used the journey planner on the Transport for London website yesterday there was no hint of a problem, but today when I reached Victoria Underground station it was just the opposite.

There was no Victoria line service (which was how I was going to get across London) so I took the Circle line instead and a section of that was closed as well. The train terminated at Moorgate, two stations short of Farringdon where I wanted to be!

Not being frightened of a bit of walking (but not really knowing where to go) I decided to give up on the Underground and public transport in general and walk the rest of the way.

The streets were surprisingly quiet and I headed of in the general direction of the Museum of London and the Barbican, which I knew were in the right direction. Although I did have my London A-Z in my rucksack I didn’t need to use it until after I had found the Barbican Underground station, when I wanted to check which was the quickest route to take.

It didn’t take long to get to Farringdon Underground station, and I remembered the route from there to the LMA from my last visit. Straight up Farringdon Road, past the Sushi bar which I remembered from last time, but I am sure that the topless bar a few doors along wasn’t there last time. I’m sure I would have remembered that!

I suppose it took me twice as long (about an hour) to get across London than I had been expecting, but I can’t really complain. Much of the London Underground is in serious need of investment and improvement, I only hope it is worth all the hassle in the end.

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