Wednesday, 11 April 2012

PICTURE THIS. IT IS A MILD APRIL AFTERNOON IN 1968. A 21 year old Pickwick alights from the train at Wisbech Station, clutching his art portfolio. He has applied for a job as Art Teacher at The Queen's Girls' School. He has travelled from the Midlands by a variety of train connections, and is full of hope. He is nearing the end of his teacher-training course at a pleasant, but undistinguished Training College in Berkshire.

ALAS, POOR PICKWICK! His daubs do not impress the powers-that-be at The Queen's Girls' School, and so he leaves the ancient borough, tail firmly between his legs, the first of many rejections scarring his fragile psyche. Unknown to him, the station was to close to passengers later in the year, and the station would eventually disappear, stamped underfoot by developers, planners and architects with the collective creative ability of a cage full of parrots.

PICKWICK'S LONG BUT UNREMARKABLE CAREER took many turns, but the last throw of his residential dice saw him happily housed in the very town which saw fit to reject him and his artistic skills all those years ago.

THE RAILWAYS ARE ALL BUT GONE. There is a final vestige of a line, rusting and overgrown, which just about links Wisbech to March. Delusional enthusiasts dream of resurrecting it as a tourist railway, taking passengers through the spellbinding natural beauty of……Weasenham Lane, Begdale, Waldersea, Coldham and Chain Bridge, to arrive breathless and overjoyed at Cambridgeshire's answer to Venice - March.

I DIGRESS. When I first moved to Wisbech in the 1990s, there was a National Tyre Services depot on Harecroft Road. It was a decent enough place, staffed by the grimy, blue-overalled, woolly-hatted gentleman who no longer seem to exist in the modern auto accessory trade, with its coffee machine, computers and laser geometry diagnostics. Hanging in the workshop was an aerial photo of the old railway station - Wisbech North - which used to stand behind their premises. Now the tyre depot is long gone, replaced by Airfix Kit houses occupied by Eastern Europeans of dubious intent, or so it seems, from the frequent presence of Cambs Constabulary. The railway used to cross Harecroft Road. Here is a 'then' and 'now' comparison. The older picture was taken from the top of the footbridge, hence the difference in the elevation of the photographs.

IF YOU FOLLOW THE PATH which goes along the back of the Squash Club towards the astroturf, you can still see iron fencing and stonework which belongs to the railway age.

THERE WAS ANOTHER SIGNAL BOX AND CROSSING  just west of the haulage depot on the north side of Leverington Road. The signal box stood more or less where the Anglian Water buildings are, but the bungalow on the other side of the road is still there, although much modernised.

The black and white photographs have been shamelessly stolen from Andrew Ingram's excellent book on railways around Wisbech. I can only say that no animals have been harmed during the preparation of this blog, and if anyone feels that their commercial or intellectual rights have been impinged upon, then I can only direct them to my legal team, Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne.