diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 11, 2007

Goblin lineGoing Overground - Riding the Goblin
Barking → Gospel Oak

10:38 My District line train is pulling into Barking station, platform 2. As I watch from the window, a two-carriage purple runt of a train chugs out from platform 1 and disappears up a nearby branch line. Bugger, I've missed my Overground connection. It's going to be a 29½ minute wait.
10:39 Barking I am not alone. A dad and two kids cross the platform with me and slump dejectedly onto a bench. An elderly lady completes her slow walk down the stairs from the ticket hall and sits beside them. She's seen it all before. We hang around in the sunshine between the pink-painted pillars as a small crowd slowly gathers. And gathers.
10:58 The next train rattles up the single track and halts in front of the gloomy buffers beneath the station building. A horde of northeast Londoners ooze out of the jam-packed carriages, and we stand back as they outpour. With only two two-carriage trains an hour, even Saturday morning is rush hour.
10:59 I have a seat, squashed in between a motley assortment of old couples with shopping, oversized blokes in trackies and yawning migrants. I also appear to have picked the seat in front of the nutter. "Ya me so solid me can hear ya rok," he yells into his mobile phone. "Serious serious serious!" The wait isn't over yet.
Barking, platform 111:08 A panting mother with a double buggy just manages to climb aboard the train before it departs. She beams with unspoken relief. The growling diesel paws its way out from the platform... over a wiggly river, under a roaring arterial road and off into the suburban wilderness.
11:11 Woodgrange Park When I moved to London I nearly bought a flat next to this unloved pair of bleak platforms. Lucky escape, I think. Two Oyster ticket readers stand shrouded beneath bright blue covers, waiting for the dawn of a new era.
11:14 Wanstead Park We're gliding on an elevated Victorian viaduct at chimney-pot level across a Mary Poppins skyscape. If only this were Putney, these rather pleasant residential terraces would sell for at least half a million.
11:17 Leytonstone High Road Two-thirds of this platform lies crumbling and abandoned beyond a cost-cutting barrier. The other third of the platform, decorated with plastic-flowered hanging baskets, is sufficiently long for our little train.
11:20 Leyton Midland Road The nutter is still in full flow... "well safe safe safe safe, yeah, ring me back ring me back." Shame, because otherwise this has been an unexpectedly scenic ride across the rooftops of Newham and Waltham Forest.
11:22 Walthamstow Queens Road Blimey, somebody's (very recently) built a gleaming new waiting room on the eastbound platform. It looks like a weatherproof glass portakbin and it has push-button sliding doors, one of which appears to have jammed open. Two glum local residents are waiting next to it.
11:25 Blackhorse Road This is the only other station on the line with a tube connection, so half the train escapes and switches to the Victoria line. Hurrah, the nutter gets off! Boo, a smelly woman sits behind me instead.
11:26 And now for a scenic interlude. The line slips between two raised reservoirs and over several braided streams as it crosses the Lea valley. Look, there's the Gherkin and Canary Wharf in the distance, seemingly light years away. A goods train rumbles slowly by on the opposite track.
11:29 South Tottenham The peace and quiet is shattered by two freshly-boarded toddlers who proceed to bounce and sing as we progress westwards. Haringey fades from view behind a leafy screen.
11:33 Harringay Green Lanes Only a stubby platform remains here, along with a forest of concrete pillars that once supported a structure suited to lengthier trains. And then, as the contours rise around us, we enter the first deep cutting of the entire journey.
Gospel Oak, platform 311:35 Crouch Hill Blimey, aren't the passengers different all of a sudden? We've entered the muesli-eating organic/yoga zone, and the clientele heads distinctly upmarket. The latest toddler on board has a rather super pushchair and is called Oscar. He's wearing a brown corduroy coat and stripy woollen hat, and is clutching a teddy bear named Bear. Mum has a sharp black bob and a buttoned scarlet overcoat, and probably lives in one of those very smart terraces backing down to the railway.
11:38 Upper Holloway Even the council blocks look posher round here. The station sits at the bottom of a red-leaved autumnal bank beneath a tall church tower- we're a world away from the concrete and grime of distant Barking.
11:42 Gospel Oak And slowly, finally, the train veers round a curve at the foot of Hampstead Heath into platform 3 at Gospel Oak station. It's all change here if you fancy going further, but it's a damned long walk down the narrow stairs to street level and back up again on the other side of the tracks. There'll be a Richmond train along in ten minutes, if you can squeeze aboard, and then only another 12 stations to go. Say what you like about this new-fangled London Overground, it's still going to be a long time before you can get to nowhere fast.

The Barking - Gospel Oak Line User Group (including line history)
Five disused Goblin stations
Nico's Silverlink photos (suitably bleak)

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