Curiouser and Curiouser

Queenstown Road Battersea is a strange old place, a relic from another era. Its frontage still bears the name ‘Queen’s Road’ in a font that is reminiscent of steam trains and railway barons. No FCC-style over-branding here. When the train stops there and you’re not getting off it looks more like a half-abandoned siding than a station, balanced precariously over south London. When you do get off on the windswept platform, there’s almost nothing there. Just some steps down to a cavernous entrance hall where a SWT ticket machine skulks in a dark abandoned corner. It’s un-manned most of the time and often deserted and its only facilities are a temporary coffee cart for the morning ‘rush’, the ticket machine and a display board offering leaflets about other, more exciting destinations.

So when it was briefly manned the other day for one of SWT’s new era ticket checks, I took the opportunity to suggest to one of the orange-jacketed ones that they put some bike racks inside the ticket hall, instead of having them outsideĀ  half under the railway bridge where you have a choice between wiping rain or pigeon poo off your saddle in the evening.
‘It’s a good idea,’ he said, looking round. ‘But the station’s privately owned, so SouthWest Trains can’t do anything to it. It’s a bit of a mystery.’

Privately owned? How could a station be privately owned? I had visions of some reclusive Miss Havisham figure, last surviving member of an ancient railway family, locked up in her attic cackling, while the suits of SWT banged on her door and pleaded with her to sell up so they could open a branch of Costa Coffee and a WHSmith in the last remnants of her demesne. In depth internet research a quick google search revealed no further details and couldn’t confirm or deny any of this. Even Wikipedia – which I have found to be a rich store of railway minutiae too boring even for me – was silent on the subject. A mystery indeed.

Or maybe not. A colleague, more cynical than me about train companies and their little ways, had an alternative suggestion.
‘Maybe,’ she said, ‘they’re just trained to answer any request with an excuse so surreal you can’t fail to believe them so you shut up and go away.’ She may well be right. It certainly worked on me.

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9 responses to “Curiouser and Curiouser

  1. I don’t know how many still exist but there _are_ such things as private stations. I don’t know the details but it seems that in some cases where railways wanted to run lines over privately owned land, the owner would make it a condition that they had a station to use. Not sure if this is what went on at Queens Road, just some silly trivia that was rattling around in my head.

  2. That’s very weird indeed. I wonder if SWT pay rent to Miss Havisham.

  3. At least you weren’t boiled half to death as we were yesterday (Wed) from Victoria to Denmark Hill with the heating full on and a sardine train. People were stripping off and almost fainting all over the place.

  4. Anon – cheers for that.
    Pog – I imagine they pay her 9 groats every Whitsun, or something like that.
    Lin – oh dear that sounds grim. Unless any of them were buff? Unlikely if my train’s anything to go by…

  5. What a lovely thought – sending the Fat Controller round to her peeling front door to drop ancient coins into her wizened hand ….

  6. I think your find that the station in question is owned by RailTrack, which is a private company…
    same as my station is owned by LU, but leased to mMetronet, and in turn sublet back to LU! If you can follow that your doing well.

    Have a wonderful weekend, and don’t to burnt.

  7. I think I prefer my explanation! Although yours is a little more likely, I agree

  8. I hate to admit it but i’m intrigued

  9. Pingback: Sweaty Betty « Disgruntled Commuter

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