Robert Hampton

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14th April 2009

In which our protagonist buys a Saveaway ticket and gets some repressed memories for no extra charge
Posted by at 1.10pm | 1 response | It's My Life, Trains

The erstwhile Merseyrail depot at Hall Road has finally been demolished after many years of disuse.

The remains of Hall Road TMD

Seeing the building reduced to rubble yesterday afternoon roused some strong feelings in me. Partly annoyance, because this came at the exact time when a big shed suitable for storing a train would have come in handy. But mainly, it was the memories of my time at school which came flooding back to me.

Merchant Taylors School has playing fields just off Hall Road, and once a week during the mid-1990s, my reluctant 12-year-old self would board Fareway bus service 137 for the short run to Hall Road to take part in the weekly games lesson.

People who don’t know me may be surprised (or not) to discover that athleticism was not my strong point at school (see also: social skills, personal hygiene). Therefore a trip to Hall Road, with its assocations with physical exertion and contact sports, was not something I looked forward to. This was legalised torture, and not even the prospect of hijinks in the communal showers could compensate for it.

I’m not sure what the atheist equivalent of “godforsaken” is, but whatever it is, I would not hesitate to apply that description to Hall Road, with its changing rooms, housed in an unheated wooden hut, that resembled a leftover set from Tenko. Then there was the curious climate of the area: it could be a balmy summer’s day in Waterloo, but at Hall Road there would always be a cold 70mph wind blowing in from the nearby sea, with rain (and sometimes hail) that seemed to fall sideways, directly into your face.

However, there was one big plus point: the railway line and its associated depot ran along one side. Therefore, while my sadistic PE teachers were making us run laps, do press ups or any of the other hundreds of things PE teachers do to compensate for their own lack of self-worth, I was more interested in the goings-on next door.

Every few minutes a train would race past — usually in yellow/grey/white Merseytravel colours, with a massive bonus for a sighting of the then rapidly disappearing BR blue livery. The highlight though, would be to see a train slowly emerge from the depot, into the headshunt, then reverse and head off to Liverpool. For what purpose I’m not sure — it was mid-afternoon, so possibly to form 6-car sets for the evening rush.

For a couple of years, week in week out, I had to do Games at Hall Road, and every week I would make the time go quicker by watching the depot movements. It was endlessly fascinating to me, but more importantly it made things bearable.

On one occasion I did something horrible, something unforgivable: I brought the wrong kit (rugby boots instead of trainers; oops!). PE teacher was clearly having a bad day — perhaps someone had asked him to add 5+6 and he ran out of fingers to work it out on. As punishment, he made me and some other miscreants run around the field for an hour (an HOUR, mind you).

As I ran, then jogged, then walked clutching my aching sides, I wondered how my life could possibly get any worse. But wait, what’s that I see out of the corner of my eye? There’s something unusual sitting on the wall siding! It’s clearly not a standard Merseyrail train — for one thing, it’s a slam door unit, painted yellow all over, with a label on the side warning of hazardous chemicals on board.

At first I thought it was a hallucination brought on by exhaustion, but as I got closer I realised it was real. It was a Class 936 Sandite Unit! Hurrah, an unusual sighting! Perhaps this day is not so awful after all.

So that’s my story of how I coped with unpleasantness at school by distracting myself and watching trains instead of tackling the problem head on. Yay me!

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One Response
  1. Comment by Scott
    14th April 2009 at 8:14 pm

    That’s it: let it all out. Now breathe deep… and release.

    Having had my own minor existential crisis at Hall Road, I can understand the agonies of someone being made to go there every week. Particularly being made to go there and do sport, which is slightly below “inviting Jonathan King to babysit” on my list of things that adults shouldn’t do to children. I’d willingly distract myself with trains in those circumstances, too (if only to work out how to angle myself so I could throw myself under it and ensure a nice clean kill).

    It’s a shame the big old shed has gone, as it was a fascinating little building. It was certainly the most interesting thing about the station, as far as I was concerned. The station was a terribly lonely, isolated place; I can’t imagine that removing more of the station structure will make it any less so.