DESERTED AND SEMI-DERELICT RAILWAY STATIONS: HOMMAGE TO SEBALD

“lowestoft Central”. The roof has gone
Sebaldian derelict, closed railway station, glimpsed from the ubiquitous, yet quotidian, sebaldian diesel train

Decaying and derelict railway stations feature heavily in Sebald’s work and are emblematic of the natural history of destruction, particuarly of monumentalist buildings, which he believed were SO gigantic that within themselves they held the seeds of their own decay, imploding into themselves by way of their already otiose vastness(It is unlucky he never wrote about Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, with its Third Reich monumentalist, Speer-directed architecture, with its unspeakable associations-as symbolic of Hitler’s “Germania”-and contradictory associations of both Nazism AND food aid during the Soviet closure of the Berlin road and rail corridors to the West in 1948, i.e evil AND humanitarian associations)

Examples of Sebaldian(In actuality) and sebaldian (in my own experience) (semi) deserted railway stations are

Liverpool Street station, London. The epiphanically beautiful yet disturbing passage in “Austerlitz” where the protagonist’s memories of his journey, as a young Jewish boy, in a kindertransport,to the United Kingdom, start to be re-awakened- as a porter takes him into the (now) disused former ladies’ waiting room, in a memorable passage where light shines through the murky, grime-laden windows, as Austerlitz starts to remember. I stayed in the Great Eastern Hotel, adjacent to the station, in 1983, already half disused, with blocked-off passageways, used only by staff, which led to the redundant part of the hotel(which is described also in “Austerlitz”, in the form of a secluded, secret temple, shut off behind this very same hotel’s sealed off section of desuetude.{An eerie conjunction of my experience with that of the sebaldian narrator.})

Next to Liverpool St station, still stood Broad Street station, which I entered, again in 1983, where in a dark, deserted concourse, were two remaining tracks,which seemed to be leading into nowhere, but which, in reality, still(just) provided commuter services. There are pictures on the net of this eerie, silent concourse and the giganticist external architecture,never repaired after World war 2 bomb damage. It was demolished in about 1985 to make way for the Broadgate Centre. More eerily still, I had a dream one night of Liverpool Street station,which was, but also was not, this individual location,but was really more symbolic of any deserted outer(architectural) or inner(psychological) space.

Lowestoft station is also significant in Sebald. One of his embedded photographs(definitely a genuine one,)ends one of the chapters of “Rings of Saturn”; it shows a blackened, decayed husk of  a station, with original BR  blue signage. It is symptomatic, he implies, of the decay of the town of Lowestoft as a whole, with its rundown boarding houses. Startlingly again(because original BR, in situ, blue signage is now extremely rare)a few years ago I visited this station, at the end of a line where time had arrested itself; rain poured endlessly in the ubiquitously similar and repetetive Suffolk countryside:- and the signage was still extant, as the train terminated in “Lowestoft Central”, a station from which the whole over-arching trainshed roof had now been severed.

I remember, as a child, Liverpool Central High Level station, now a carpark behind the former lewis’s Department store, with, again, the (massive) train shed roof demolished; in its dying days (until, I think 1971 0r 1973), it had ONE remaining(local) service-to Gateacre; what was especially, almost transcendentally, eerie and spectral, was the deserted massive foyer, unsafe and closed off, with a small booking office installed for the one track, nesting alone in a large number of empty platforms, to Gateacre, visited, like a ghosttrain, by a two-car diesel multiple unit every hour.There are also a few pictures of this on the net.

Birmingham Snow Hill was another deserted giant of a station; a one-car dmu to Wolverhampton Low level would leave from one platform of one of the former glories of the rail network, a massive station now wholly unstaffed, visited by this spectral railcar. Again, there are a few redolent and phantom-like pictures on the net.

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Published by: decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)

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5 thoughts on “DESERTED AND SEMI-DERELICT RAILWAY STATIONS: HOMMAGE TO SEBALD”

  1. Thanks. Gavin. i think I MAY have -but will have to check- some pix of Lowestoft station, a la Sebald. Will post if I can find them. Will also let you know when i finally take on Szymanowski “King Roger”- with libretto, else shall be overwhelmed. Do you like Reger? Steve

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