It’s such a joy coming home after a trip away. In my job as a travel blogger, I get about a lot, both in the UK and around the world. I very often go by train, either heading off to an airport or to get to a town or village in Britain. Sometimes it’s for a few days; other times it’s often longer, as when I went to Canada on a RV road trip from Vancouver to Calgary. These trips are usually very busy, full of activities, eating out and socialising with other bloggers and journalists, tourism PRs and representatives. However enjoyable it all is, and as you can imagine, it’s often VERY enjoyable, it’s also quite tiring. Arriving back at Carnforth Station there’s a lurch of familiarity as we slow down past the battered old railway carriages and trundle towards the little platform. The chipped concrete, fading murals and old wooden luggage trolley outside the Refreshment Room are simple markers signalling coming home.
I recently fulfilled a life-long dream to visit India. It was with a rail travel tour company and we went on a number of trains in north India including a very cute one called the Toy Train to Shimla in the Himalayas. I loved every minute of it, but travel in India is exhausting and as the Trans Pennine Express pulled into Carnforth Station I breathed a sigh of relief. I was home, back in Lancashire where life is slower, less noisy and I can get a really good portion of fish and chips from Bolton le Sands.
To my delight, the famous Station Clock was going again. This big clock, made by Joyce of Whitworth in the late 19th century, had a cameo role in the classic 1940s weepie movie, Brief Encounter, written by Noel Coward, directed by David Lean and partly filmed at Carnforth Station. At the start of most of my quirky travels I would take a photo of the clock and post it on Instagram, a signal that the journey had begun. But, for way too long, it had been stopped. At first, I thought it had broken but then discovered that the guy who wound it up had been suspended for reasons I won’t go into here. A dispute went on for ages and during this time the clock was not wound. Thank goodness, the powers that be FINALLY came to some resolution and the clock is ticking once more. Carnforth’s not top of many people’s Bucket List of places to see before they pop their clogs so having one of its few iconic attractions not working was frustrating to say the least.
Carnforth Station building has Grade 2 listed status and has been going through major repairs for months. The Booking Office has been closed and I’ve missed the extremely zealous Graham, from whom I’ve bought my tickets for almost every quirky travel rail trip over the past few years.
I’m not a big fan of booking train tickets online. Yes, it’s fine for a simple return ticket to London. But how can you explain to a computer the intricacies of a complicated rail journey where you want to stop off at friends overnight and maybe get a slightly different route on the way back? You’re not sure if you need an open return or maybe have to stick with specified train time. You’d like a forward-facing aisle seat at a table. OK, if not, then a forward facing aisle seat with no table and in a Quiet Carriage please. Graham would answer all those questions and find me the best deal. He’d print off the tickets then meticulously go through each aspect of the journey before carefully signing the back, having ascertained that I fully understood exactly what I was getting myself into.
I enjoy the social interaction of buying my train ticket. Getting them from the ticket seller who occasionally appears on the platform or ordering online and praying the printer would work or having to drive to Lancaster to pick them from the machine, is a faff and just not as convenient or as enjoyable pleasurable. Yes, it can be frustrating if in a rush and I do use online as well, but … More and more booking offices are closing and thus we’re losing one more way to connect with people instead of machines. However, unless another Beeching comes along, the simple pleasure of coming home on the train will hopefully continue for a very long time.