Railway lines are dangerous! Surely everyone knows that, don’t they?
In my memories of railways; excitement, adrenaline and danger were never far away.
All memories are stored randomly in our minds, until an external ‘trigger factor’ brings them back to life.
I had such a moment in West Bridgford Nottingham a couple of months ago.
I had decided to take my 91 year old father out for a drive and look around some of his old haunts. Things had been going really well. He was on good form, recognising places and pointing them out. I was pretending to understand all the names and places he was referring to! The fact the The Globe public house on London Road was named after a cinema, and the large brick pillar (on the city side of it) was the entrance to some kind of ‘old peoples home’. Don’t forget, I’m talking about the days before the NHS and Welfare State.
Our trip was going really well. We were now on Bridgford Road just after the cricket ground, and then came the dreaded words….
‘During the war’ !!@#$!.’
My immediate reaction was a quick ‘Del Boy’ impersonation, turn towards my father, who did (it should be said) look a lot like ‘Uncle Albert’ from the sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’ .
He was pointing to the new flats being built at the side of the old railway embankment, next to Bridgford Park.
‘At the start of the war, I was in the Home Guard and that’s where we paraded on.. It was a big house. I can’t remember what the chap did, but he used a room for us to parade on’.
Now I already knew that in the 1930’s my father had lived on Melbourne Road in Lady Bay; that after his dog had died he buried it under the hedge that runs alongside Holme Road, and that he’d been on the ‘right’ side of the river when the bombs dropped on Meadow Lane; but this revelation was a new one.
‘So what were you guarding then, in the Home Guard?
I asked, trying to show a bit of interest.
‘The railway, from here all the way to Plumtree. It was the line to Melton. We were given our rifles and had to walk it in darkness, looking for any Germans dropping out the sky and coming to blow it up!’
Well, by the time we’d parked up, my adrenaline was pumping. Railways are even more dangerous than I’d thought! Especially when you’ve got the distraction of the German equivalent of the SAS to sort out! My own memories had dropped down the ranking when it came to excitement.
My father was still talking about the line to Melton Mowbray, how lime (or something) had been discovered when the railway was first dug, that the lime had been quarried, and this was the reason for the somewhat unusual location for the industrial estate on Ludlow Hill Road.
But I wasn’t listening properly, I was now in the other direction, on Radcliffe Road where the embankment used to emerge. Just about opposite where McDonalds now is. This time I was back in 1979 not 1939.
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were still friends. Forest were flying high, and, it has to be said, so were the missiles coming from the embankment. The Spurs fans had done well tactically, using the high ground and arming themselves with those mottled grey stones that you always find on railway lines!
I’m sure you can picture the scene.
Traffic at a standstill, lots of lads and policemen running around wearing a combination of the following attire:
Beanie hat or helmet
Harrington jacket or tunic
Silk scarf or truncheon (wrapped around your wrist)
Doc Marten boots (Ox Blood or Black depending on who you were!).
It seems an awfully long time ago.
For my next railway memory, we need to continue over Lady Bay Bridge and round to the Low Level Station.
Having changed trains, we return through Sneinton, a tunnel, Porchester Road, then another tunnel under Mapperley and into Woodthorpe Grange Park. Our final stop.
There used to be a cutting from Woodthorpe Drive to a short tunnel under the park itself. In the 1970’s the embankment and the tunnel were filled in and landscaped. My childhood ‘adventure playground’ was gone forever! Our days of scrambling up banks and climbing its trees were over. Prior to the tunnel disappearing the embankment was filled with soil and rubble. This loose bank of earth dropped steeply to the mouth the tunnel.
In a final act of recklessness, we used to run and jump off the top. It felt like seconds before we landed and slid down the unstable bank towards the darkness!
Adrenaline and danger create strong memories
Everybody knows that railway lines are dangerous, don’t they.