Beeching and the Railways

When British railways were cut back, like a roadside hedgerow…

In the 1960s the government decided that the railway system was to take a secondary role to the Road network. The imagery of romantic steam rail aside, roads were promoting industry, were more in touch with the modern image of self-driven Britain, each family in its own chosen vehicle.

So the small lines, the village connections, the interconnected Britain that had been the envy of the world, were axed. In its place were left roads, and more roads, great big motorways and petrol stations.

This was, according to some, the saving grace of the British Railway network. Costs were too high, and change was necessary. Buses were seen to be the modern equivalent of public transport, although they were slower, and of course petrol was cheap in those days.

Today, our railways are slightly shambolic, and horrendously expensive.

Many of the dismantled railway lines still remain in the landscape, and perhaps due to the history of super-fast travel, they make wonderul walkways, connecting towns and villages in gentler ways than previously imaginable. From rail to feet. It is a good downgrade, we feel.

small1-near-cranleigh-railwa

small2-pre-midhurst-ol-railway-station-home

Another Station Home

The two above photos show how some of the old stations have been developped into modern homesteads. The lower one is the better, by our books.

Near Will’s local village, in Lyminge, the railway station has been converted into the village Library. This is well. But the lines themseleves remain as rubbish dumps, and although they are good fun for kids a-growing, they are probably dangerous on some modern level. Will remembers seeing a big black cat there when he was a kid – like a black leather jacket, slinking along the ground, he says…

4 Responses to “Beeching and the Railways”

  1. Steve Sainsbury says:

    Remember that many of these lines are now being reopened or have active groups working towards reopening them. A lot of people today now accept that Beeching was wrong and that most if not all of the lines closed will need to be rebuilt in the face of climate change and, of course, Peak Oil. The closed lines were fun whilst they lasted, but within 20-30 years they will nearly all see trains again, and be busier than ever.

  2. Anold fukure says:

    Think you’ll find the lower picture is in fact Selham station near Midhurst (Sussex) not Lyminge, Kent!

    (ed. accidental implication of photo to discussed village. Yes, photo not Lyminge, photo Midhurst Selham. But panther of my youth was at ex-station in Lyminge).

  3. Mark Glover says:

    Well, you need to get hold of a book called ‘the Great Railway Conspiracy’ to find out what a gigantic stitch up the cutbacks were. No thought was put into it and their was a deal of corruption, too-for Ernest Marples, the Tory Transport minister at the time, had shares in motorway construction. It wasn’t just the Tories who did it, surprisingly, for many of the cuts where done under successive Labour governments. Time for a real rethink on this issue, and time for some songs about it-one that comes to mind is Cyril Tawney’s ‘I’m in the sidings now’, about a stationmaster who loses his job when his little station on a main line is closed down, for as well as clsoing lines they closed down hundreds of stations ON the main lines..

  4. Alaric says:

    “like a black leather jacket, slinking along the ground” – this is absolute genius!

    I believe you Will!

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