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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Croggy Station

Groggy is Leeds-speak for the suburb of Crossgates, on the eastern side of the city on the railway line to York.   The first two pictures below show what a large and busy place Croggy station was.   Generous canopies and wide platforms, lit by gas.

I spent much of my childhood there.   The station and booking hall were still then staffed.   The gas lamps were still how it was lit.   A twilight job was to go round with a long (to me) pole with a hook at its end with which to pull gently on a chain with a ring at its end to turn on the gas.   The kindly (but probably simply idle) men at the station used to 'let' me turn on the gas lights and to sweep the platforms with an immensely wide brush.   When from time to time new posters arrived I was allowed to paste them onto the notice boards.   These posters, usually of seaside scenes, castles and such were in the style of railway posters that nowadays sell for fortunes.

Posters were pasted on top of posters until the depth became absurd when they could be ripped off most satisfyingly.   What joy.

Notice the footbridge in the middle distance of the first picture.   That footbridge became home from home for me and any number of boys the highlight of whose lives was to watch the trains (all steam of course) and note their numbers.   

Sometimes a Leeds-bound stopping train would come to a halt with its chimney at or under that footbridge.   Temptation indeed for boys worthy of the word.   Stones, apple cores or whatever came to hand would be dropped down the chimney in the most times forlorn hope that they would be blown back up at us when the train set off.

Happy days.

 click to enlarge

 The two pictures below are more from my era.   Both seem to show A3 Pacifics - the same class of engine as Flying Scotsman - taken absolutely for granted then as part of the day to day scene.

There was a junction just to the east of Croggy station where the tracks divided - right to York and on to Newcastle and left to Wetherby.   The Wetherby line is no more.

Leeds bound express trains from York would take those points at speed - maybe 90mph or more - who knows?   Most did not have speedometers.   Etched on my brain still is the spectacle of a locomotive named Sugar Palm lurch sideways over those points looking for all the world as though it was going to derail.   It didn't but I bet some coffee was spilt at the very least.


Oh dear, this is Crossgates in April 2016:

There is no commentary, just wind noise.   You half expect a bundle of marram grass to come rolling along just like in those old, politically incorrect, cowboy films we used to watch at the now long-gone Ritz cinema alongside the station entrance on the main road.  

There is little to show of what was.   The wide platforms and the distance between them - clearly enough for four tracks - remain as hints.   The one-time fast lines are becoming overgrown.   Buddleia will soon substitute for wailing steam whistles at speed.

The massive brick walls of the access ramps are still there but graffiti now defiantly triumphs over tolerant neglect.   What was a magnificent canopied main building is now a glorified bus shelter, branded Metro whatever that means.   Our cameraman wanders westwards towards the Leeds end, towards the road bridge, wafting to and fro but finding nothing of interest.   Oh, blessed relief there are cycle racks, with a generous roof too.   Was it a 'funded project'?   Part of a scheme no doubt, put there by the sort of funny money that is drip fed to the regions from time to time.   No bicycles though.   And, least said,  lamp posts.

But hang on!   Where is the footbridge?   MY footbridge..

Another leap forward three score years and ten.   Here is a Youtube view of Crossgates nowadays complete with commentary from today's enthusiast, armed not with an Ian Allan trainspotters book but with a camcorder.

Long gone are the days when trainspotters like me wrote down engine numbers in a notebook, to be neatly underlined later with pen and ruler in the Ian Allan book once back home.

Those books were regional and 'my' region was the LNER - the London and North Eastern Railway on which Crossgates was.   Locomotives from other regions like the Midland were of little interest.   Only six figure numbers beginning with a 6 were for us.

Your parents fuck you up* according to Philip Larkin.    My parents threw away my half-full Ian Allan book when it was decided that I must 'grow up'.   I am sorry I disappointed them.

*     “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you."

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