Little did I realise, as I waited on a platform at London’s Waterloo East station on one particular day in the late 1950’s, early 1960's, that I was about to witness, albeit fleetingly and purely by chance, one of Britain’s railway experiments that far from living up to its expectations, turned out to be a ghastly and expensive failure. It was a brief encounter that created in its wake a mystery which would remain unsolved for almost forty years.
It was a warm afternoon in early September. I was on the ‘Down’ platform waiting for the train that would take me home to Dover, dressed in my school uniform complete with cap and short trousers which my grandmother always insisted I travel in because ‘it made me look neat and tidy’. Beneath my ‘travel clothes’ I always had to wear a clean vest, just in case I had an accident and had to be taken to hospital. “What would the doctors and nurses think otherwise?”
To say that I was feeling pretty miserable that day would clearly have been an understatement. I had recently spent six glorious week’s holiday at my grandmother’s home in Basingstoke, where an endless number of carefree days had been spent.
As I sat on a platform seat, idly watching a bored Southern Railway porter wearily push a squeaky barrow, piled high with wicker baskets full of fluttering racing-pigeons along to the end of the platform, a crackling, popping sound caught my attention. Looking away from the porter, who was about to unload his barrow, I noticed an electric train approaching the railway station, its power shoes sending out bright blue and orange sparks as they made intermittent contact with the electrified ‘third rail’.
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A selection of railway videos from 'Along These Tracks'
UK Railways - Banbury Trains 16 June 2014 Video
UK Railways - Trains at Gravesend March 2014 Video
UK Railways - Class 321 and 319 EMUs at Northampton 1999
UK Railways - Freight Through Northampton May 1999 Video
UK Railways - Class 58018 Heading a Ballast Train at Finedon
UK Railways - Banbury Trains at Night Video
UK Railways - Trains at Basingstoke Station 12 August 2013
UK Railways - 375 and 395 EMU's at Martin Mill and Ashford International
UK Railways - Freight Trains Through Northampton May 2013
UK Railways - Virgin Pendolinos Through Bletchley May 2013
UK Railways - Class 350 Desiro EMU Trains at Northampton May 2013
UK Railways - Class 390 Virgin Pendolinos Through Wolverton 2013 Video
UK Railways - Class 350 'London Midland' EMU's at Wolverton 2013 Video
UK Railways - Chiltern Railways, First Great Western, XCountry DMU's at Banbury 2013
UK Railways - Class 222 Trains DMU's at Wellingborough Apr 2013
UK Railways - Class 43 IC125 Trains at Wellingborough Apr 2013 Video
UK Railways - Class 222 Trains, DMU's, at Wellingborough Apr 2013 Video
UK Railways - Class 321 EMU Snakes into Bletchley Sidings 1990's
UK Railways - Class 321 & 350 EMU's at Wolverton Video
UK Railways - Class 321 Network South East leaves Bletchley Video
UK Railways - Class 321 Silverlink Trains EMU leaves Wolverton Video
UK Railways - Class 325 Royal Mail EMU Passes through Rugby Video
UK Railways - Class 350 127 EMU Passes through Rugby Video
UK Railways - Class 321 418 Silverlink EMU at Wolverton
UK Railways - Class 60 015 Diesel Locomotive approaches Wolverton
UK Railways - Virgin Pendolino Class 390 041 EMU at Rugby Video