Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Great Train Journies of the World: Stourbridge Town to Stourbridge Junction

How to start?

Stourbridge - the legendry home of Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The Wonderstuff and Pop Will Eat Itself. Surely a Mecca for any self respecting music fan. Having sampled the delights of the town's myriad pound shops, estate agents and hair dressers it is finally time to return to civilisation.

Getting to the station is a hazardous experience requiring a choice of two disparate, but dangerous, routes. The aromatic passages of the mugger's paradise known as "the subway", or the 5-full chambered Russian Roulette of the overland traversing of the 3 lane motorway known as "the ring road". Whichever way you chose, you can be sure of an endorphin rush that no Class A could ever come close to.

Once safely on the other side (assuming you aren't on "the other side" by now!), one can attempt to locate the train station. The first obstacle is that paradise for disaffected youth, the bus station. Truly a pit of despond. Try not to be lured away by the dubious delights of the "coffee bar" (a garden shed selling lukewarm slurry and a fine selection of out of date chocolate bars). To arrive at the entrance to the train station one must first cross 8 bus lanes each of which is inhabited by a charabanc piloted by a psychotic Mr Magoo with the patience of a hungry hyena and the willingness to commit gross acts of barbarity worthy of a Nazi concentration camp doctor.

Assuming you have passed this stern test, you next have to locate the hallowed portal which will transport you to the mythical train station. And there it is, before you...a small gap between a brick wall and a white wooden fence. Hallelujah!

Passing the abandoned ticket office cum pill box you step out onto the bare concrete platform. There is only one direction of travel, which would indicate that Stourbridge is the centre of the known universe! To your left, an imposing brick wall of Berlin-esque proportions impedes progress, to your right the infinite sweep of the silver rails taking you to unknown pleasures (Smethwick).

As you wait for what seems to be a lifetime for your train out of this nirvana, you hear the colourful native chatter "'Ow's yow're oncle Bill, then?" "Ay yow erd? E woke oop jed laz Sundee" "E dain, did e?" "Ar, e did, otellyer. If e adn't ave died, e'dve been alive ter tell yer imself". Charming.

Finally the gleaming carriages of burnished rust wheezes majestically up to the platform. It is a single self propelled coach - frankly it could be the wreck of the Mary Rose and you'd still get on it. Boarding said conveyance the first thing that strikes you is the malodorous stench of McDonalds, stale urine and the subtle hint of ejaculate - maybe it's what they lubricate the bogies with. Not being a railway engineer, it is not for me to say.

Your next test is to find the least damp / sticky seat. The fake velour is notorious for being held on using nothing but the snot of a thousand unplanned brats. Actually, the stick factor does have a health and safety benefit as it acts as a very effective restraint in the case of derailment.

Finally your journey is underway, and as you pray that the driver has remembered to move off in the correct direction (it is not unknown for the train to end up going through the Black Country Wall (see above) rather than head off towards freedom....still at least the 'Centro snot-belt' really comes into its own at this point...) you can start to relax and look out through the perspex safety windows frosted by years of hallitosis, cigarette burns and genuine hand-carved graffiti at the truly breathtaking vista of a magnificent Victorian brick-lined cutting of Corinth Canal proportions. A true wonder of the mechanised age. Here and there a spindly, diseased tree grips to the brickwork like a one armed man above a pool of unfed piranhas. A metaphor for life in modern society, if ever I saw one.

Breaking through the cutting our eyes alight on a blasted copse of stunted, soot mottled trees. If they are the lungs of the planet, then poor Mother Nature has ventolin requirements which are not to be wheezed at.

After (death) rattling past this wretched woodland we look down upon the hallowed seat of learning that is Redhill School. Sapientia itself is surely entwined in its very fabric. Hark! A bell, and the little scholars fall over themselves to take the fresh air and immerse themselves in Ancient Danish studies (rape and pillage) - now part of the national curriculum since British Bulldog was banned.

The final part of our journey involves traversing a true monument to Britain's industrial golden age. A cast iron viaduct crosses the valley and allows birds eye views of the Seven Stars public house. This pub is truly the traveller's rest - possibly final resting place if anything is consumed on the premises.....

All too soon your destination of Stourbridge Junction hoves into view and as you decelerate into the magnificent architect unspoilt by paint in over 100 years, you can look back at the preceding 90 seconds of travel safe in the knowledge that you have embarked on one of the great journeys known to man.


At 11:12 pm, Blogger 01-811-8055 said...

I'm at a loss... That's beautiful.

At 7:29 pm, Blogger hungbunny said...

Indeed. And how could it fail to be beautiful with such a romantic name? Stourbridge. Feel the word in your mouth - Stow-er-bridge. It's like eating angel shit.

At 10:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should try going through it on a barge. Apocalypse Now v Trainspotting

At 7:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly a work of literary genius!

At 9:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly an 'English' journey, rolling along on the back of the bony industrial fingers of empire, and realising that they are well and truly rotten.

At 11:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

has a drver i think the place is a shit hole

At 5:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As this was my daily link from school to the bus home for a year (via the cafe for fast refreshment to maw on the penultimate stage of the journey) may I thank Wayland for jogging my memory.

Hell hath no circle worse than puberty....


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