“6TH MARCH 1967: THE JOLT”.A STORY OF SPECTRAL GEOGRAPHY AND UNCANNY ARCHITECTURE. BY STEVEN BENSON

http://www.flickr.com/photos/barkingbill/2159495656/On the friday previously, 3rd March, I had been to the station,on the hill, as usual,and boarded the diesel-hauled express to London, gleaming in electric blue.I had not noticed anything remiss; the station was busy, as usual, with ,London and local commuters, the few remaining steam engines, many and various diesels and the usual, more local diesel multiple units, snaking in and out.I came back friday night; everything the same…..

Monday morning, 6th march 1967, I went to the station on the hill, the beautiful grand, if soot-begrimed, edifice, joy of the former Great western railway; and discovered..a vortex in time, a chasm opened up in time.. a sense of existential panic seized me.

Firstly, on the main entrance, a notice that this entrance and the other major one were closed from that day, and a side, minor entrance should be used hitherto; I followed the directions. Secondly, wholesale desertion, emptiness; no ticket office. I went for my morning coffee: the beautiful buffet was strewn with broken crockery, as if both disused for all time but also as if having been interrupted mid-flow. There were no station staff. But nor were there any notices saying the station was wholly closed.

I wandered around, purposelessly, with a growing sense of foreboding and depersonalisation.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/geoffsimages/5898509627/On platform 4, I suddenly came upon a train, a one coach diesel multiple unit, stranded like a dying fish in this once grand behemoth of a station. It was the only surviving, living vestige of life; a few, lonely commuters gathered round it, waiting to board.

Only then did the driver, the only member of staff on the station,but for the train’s conductor, tell me what had happened……

{This is based on fact. On 6th march 1967, the vast 12/13 platform Birmingham Snow Hill station endured a demotion from being Birmingham’s equally busy, long distance station to being the world’s largest unstaffed halt, with one small bay platform in use, for the local service to Wolverhampton(low level). Overnight, literally, the heart of this thriving cathedral to the railways was ripped out, leaving people to be able to roam about a vast deserted former main line station, uncanny in its vast redundant splendour. I cannot mentally process how this happened in 12 hours, but it really did. If you want to see pictures of this beautiful and then spectral station, they can be googled as “Birmingham snow hill station  the last days”; there are many on Flicker, including one particular set, which show the sharp poignant, ghostly contrast in the before and after, with the shadowy “dmu” waiting in platform 4, and the huge station an echoing vast emptiness around it. To me, some of the most poignant, and disturbing, pictures on the whole internet. Interestingly, like Holbeck hall hotel hotel, in Scarborough(of which I have also written a short storyhttps://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/the-hotel-and-the-guest-a-story-of-sebaldian-malaise-and-an-essay-in-psychogeography/  this station, much more gradually, was slipping down the hill, and it was finally demolished a few years later, after surviving with this one, hourly service to Wolverhampton from 1967 until 1972}

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