Tuesday 12 August 2014

Tiny Stations by Dixe Wills

Tiny Stations
by Dixe Wills
August 2014

I have a passion for offbeat travel books, books which approach the everyday from a different viewpoint.

Suzie and Jack gave me a Waterstones book token for my birthday and it has been sitting in my wallet waiting for the right book to come along. With our summer trip looming I paid a visit to the bookshop and came upon Dixe Wills Tiny Stations, an idiosyncratic account of his travel around some of the UK's railway request stops.

Request stops, what are they? I hear you ask. Well, just like bus stops there are some stations where trains only stop on request, some with passenger numbers struggling to break into double figures over the course of a whole year. And why keep such under used stations open? Apparently the legal costs of closing them is more than keeping them technically open, hence their other name "Parliamentary stops". In all there are about 150 request stops - representing about 6% of all stations.

Dixe Wills is well travelled and decided to visit about 50 of the most promising locations. In so doing he gained an off beat insight into places so remote most us will never have hear of them.

In his own words:

Who hasn’t felt an agreeable sense of power when holding out a hand to stop a bus? Imagine then how much more pleasing it is to put your hand out and have a whole train stop for you. If you think Britain affords no opportunity for such exploits then think again – the nation sports around 150 railway request stops dotted about from Cornwall to the far north of Scotland. Little used and often shorn of their original purpose by the onward rush of the years, these stations are typically havens of tranquillity where visitors can do a little casual time-travelling to a Britain all but forgotten.

Each station has its own chapter and in some cases the travel between then justifies a chapterette, so its the sort of book you can pick up and read for  a few minutes at a time rather than as a big read in a single sitting. I did wonder if I would engage with the author but his self deprecating humour drew me in and I found myself fascinated as he travelled the length and breadth of Britain.

If you like unusual travel tales, and in particular if you like rail travel this is one for you (Jim, David and John).


Sarah said...

Newhaven Marine station (which served the boat train to Paris until the 1970s) has a Parliamentary train, but no one can get on or off at the station because it's structurally unsafe. Instead, Network Rail has to pay for you to take a taxi, should you wish, to Newhaven Harbour station, which is about a two minute walk away. Three stations - not bad for a run down little town with a population of 11,000.

Jim said...

I've not read that book yet, but I did go out of my way recently to travel on a train that was stopping at "Berney Arms" - a "tiny station" with no road access between Norwich and Gt. Yarmouth.
There are several "parliamentary " trains which run only to avoid the perceived cost of closing stations or lines. They are named after the original parliamentary trains from the early days of railways when the government made railway companies run at least one train a day stopping at all stations and charging regulated fares. The companies didn't like this of course so ran them at anti -social hours of the day. No change there then!

Andy Tidy said...

Jim - yup The Berney Arms was on his ininrary! Well done for sussing the electrics = an interesting craft.