diamond geezer

 Monday, December 05, 2011

Anyone for a new book about trains? Ben's written a 142-page tome about some of London's vanished railway stations, entitled Do Not Alight Here, and it's officially published today. This pocket-sized book contains details of 12 guided walks you can follow, along with a few short tube journeys where all you have to do is look out of the window. A nice idea, and, at £6.95, nicely priced too. So I bought a copy at the weekend, and have been out trying to use Ben's book in real life. I thought I'd try following walk number 12, from Shadwell to Bow Church, because it ends at my house with a cup of tea. What a shame there isn't a map, I thought, as I set off. But I suspect I know why there isn't a map now I've finished the walk...

Walk 12 The Real Eastenders: walking the Tower Hamlets
(from Do Not Alight Here by Ben Pedroche)
"1 hour 30 minutes"

Shadwell station isn't disused, indeed it connects the reopened East London line and a DLR-topped viaduct. But that's OK, because all of Ben's walks start somewhere accessible, so this is perfect. Except I immediately got a bit lost. Ben invited me to "turn right on to Martha Street keeping the rail viaduct on your left", except the rail viaduct was on my right, and it took me a while to realise that reality was correct and the instructions were wrong. Ah well, at the end of the street I did indeed find another Shadwell station, namely Shadwell & St George's East, which I'd never have spotted otherwise. Telltale shuttered doorways hid long-since dormant stairwells, closed in 1941, alongside a modern noticeboard advertising a £4.99 car wash. Good start.

And then a walk. Quite a long walk, almost fifteen minutes, but then railway stations tend to be a non-trivial walking distance apart. Ben doesn't talk much about the walk, because his isn't a book about general East London history. Instead he has something to say about Limehouse station, not that this is disused either, and all he can point at are some mysterious black doors under the bridge. He has nothing to say about the severed viaduct ahead, even though this is very disused, because intra-station architecture isn't what the book's about either. Instead he offers a later diversion to a rail bridge off the main road, where there was once another Limehouse station but isn't now. There's not a sign of it, not from down below, although you'd see more from the DLR were you on board. OK, so it's interesting to know that this backwater street alongside St Anne's Church once merited a railway outlet, but otherwise there's nothing to see here.

Walking on, it's up Burdett Road to Burdett Road station. This is no longer a stop on the Fenchurch Street-Southend line, it disappeared in 1941 when Mile End tube proved more of a draw for passengers. And what's to see here? Ben claims there are "traces" of station under the viaduct, but I couldn't see anything entirely convincing. Today this looks like a bog standard rail bridge beside a go-kart track, so all I got was an imagined view of what might have been here before. Hmmm, so far I'd been walking for an hour and seen only three disused stations, two with negligible evidence of ever being stations at all. Still, never mind, carry on.

I hadn't read ahead carefully, so I thought I was half an hour from home, but no. It was a heck of a long way to the next disused station, as I might have realised if only I'd knocked up this Google map before I left. "Continue along, passing Mile End Park", which is no brief stroll. "Turn left onto Mile End Road", which is in completely the opposite direction to the walk's final destination. And then "after a few minutes" (which meant ten minutes) "turn right onto Globe Road." All in all it was a mile and a quarter to the next station, which felt like an entirely unnecessary detour when there was nothing to see but another redeveloped railway bridge. OK, so there was also what might have been the original entrance to Globe Road station disguised as the doors to a snooker club, and there was also a pub called the Railway Tavern which doesn't serve passengers any more, but this was starting to feel more like a tour of locations than of disused things.

And then (deep breath) another mile and a quarter to the next disused station. Quite an interesting mile and a quarter, from a non-infrastructure point of view, but not ticking any boxes for railway relevance. Eventually Coborn Road delivered something intriguing, courtesy of the original arched entrance to the station alongside a low bridge. You could easily walk past this unassuming boarded-up doorway without noticing it, but look, this unexpected portal was once the fast track to the City. It was getting dark by now, because I'd underestimated how long Walk 12 would take, as it seemed had Ben. It eventually took a total of two hours to reach Bow Road and Bow stations, the former now a William Hill betting shop, the latter an empty space where a car hire firm trades. What with leftover staircases visible overhead and the remains of platforms down below, there were more disused station remnants in the last two minutes of the walk than there had been in the first 118.

Shadwell to Bow Church is less than two miles direct, but Ben's sinuous tour had taken me round the houses for five. That's because East London's disused stations aren't linear, so wandering between them was never going to be easy. But I did get the feeling from my map that Ben had researched some fascinating locations, then strung them together within a not entirely practical walk. I wondered if I'd made an elementary mistake by tackling the final walk in the book, in case that was the leftovers, so I knocked up a map for walk number 1 as well. And, blimey, that was just as impractically tortuous. From Holborn to Tower Hill in seven miles, via Clerkenwell, Aldwych and Waterloo (in that order). If anyone can manage that in the designated 2½ hours, I'll be amazed.

So, is Ben's book worth buying? Absolutely yes, it's packed with in-depth railway history and paints a vivid picture of what there is to see in each location today. Are the various locations worth visiting? Sure, next time you're passing, or if taken in short bursts, although you should be prepared not to see very much because disused stations are like that. And are Ben's walks worth walking? Maybe not. I enjoyed my tour of unfamiliar Tower Hamlets, because I'm like that, but true rail history nuts would have got tired and bored long before the end. Make sure you read each route carefully in advance, maybe even trace a map, else you might be meandering for hours. One for the bookshelf, I think, rather than the road.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards