Dozens of people gathered on the platforms at the Whitchurch train station last evening, but not to catch a train.
One or two people noticed the new signs that had been erected: a dark blue background with white lettering. But it must be said, most were there to watch a vintage steam train go whooshing through on its way from Swanage, Dorset to London.
There was talk of the changes coming to the waiting room and nearby bridges, too. And, afterwards, some took time to have a look at the new bicycle store that was erected on the site of the Railway Inn pub – now a temporary car park.
There were even suggestions by some visitors from out-of-town that the station should be made into a tourist attraction in its own right, by replacing the electric lights with gas-powered historic fixtures.
CHUGGA CHUGGA CHOO CHOO
People were waiting patiently for the (delayed) Tangmere steam train “The Cathedrals Express” to make its whoosh-past of Whitchurch, which came at about 8:53pm.
Visitors from as far away as north London had made the journey to our town to admire the 12-car historic train, en route from Swanage, Dorset to London. They came to Whitchurch, they said, because of fond memories of watching other historic trains pass through, and because of the lovely setting.
A video of the event is embedded below.
NEW CYCLE STORE AND SIGNS
At long last, the cycle store has been installed at the site of the former Railway Inn pub. The original idea for the store had been proposed by the developer in its application for a temporary car park, which was approved by B&DBC back in August of 2010.
Unfortunately, the rack system to hold the push cycles is of an old-style, which makes it very easy for wheels to be bent, according to a local cycle expert.
The platform signs at the station have been refreshed over the past couple of days – this comes a few months after Southwest Trains repainted almost all of the station. The exception being, though, those parts Network Rail is responsible: the waiting room roof and the pedestrian overpass.
Requests to Network Rail to finish the painting project have not progressed though. There is hope that it might get done during the upcoming development works to the bridge and waiting room.
DEVELOPMENT FOR BIGGER FREIGHT TRAINS
Network Rail will be knocking down and rebuilding the Newbury St bridge which spans the railway line. This is to make it possible for the line to carry larger “W10” freight containers, as a backup to the main line between Southampton, Micheldever and through Basingstoke.
In addition, the waiting room on platform 1, which dates back to when the line was first laid in the late 1800’s, is under threat: The roof overhangs the line slightly; enough to block the larger freight containers. It is unclear what work will be done to the historic waiting room and its roof. B&DBC state that possibly no planning permission is required.
It is anticipated that work to the waiting room will cause delays or cancellations to trains running to London.
TRAFFIC DIVERTED FOR 3 MONTHS
The development work is currently planned to start in October and finish in December. During this time, traffic will not be able to cross the railway line at two local bridges, heading north out of Whitchurch (or vice versa), or Freefolk.
A meeting, currently only open to invited businesses and councillors, is planned for later this month – see details on that HERE.
Several local residents are asking for a public meeting to be held.
A PUZZLE TO SOLVE
Meanwhile, passengers heading to London have finished the first1000-piece puzzle that Whitchurch Station Master Kevin Durant put out in the waiting room. He has now produced his own puzzle, with pictures of the railway station in each season. Commuters are showing up well in advance of their train to piece it together!
There is a small library of books and magazines in the waiting room, which passengers are welcome to read and return. Donations are welcome.
Notices of upcoming events can be found on the new notice board located near the exit of platform 2. Community groups can submit posters to Kevin in the station house during opening hours: weekday mornings.
VIDEO OF STEAM TRAIN THROUGH WHITCHURCH
If not visible below, then click HERE.