Although we do love a steam train, this wasn’t actually our choice of trip, but a family birthday celebration. It was also exceptionally cold, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on a freezing and grey Sunday morning! However, the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre turned out to be a great place to visit, for all ages – and conveniently close to London too.
There is so much to see, but if you like a map with suggested routes, a list of attractions or a guided tour, you won’t get it here. There are trains [and more] everywhere, at varying stages of repair and restoration, some open to visitors, some in use and some looking like they’ve been forgotten about. There is obviously a large team of committed volunteers working to bring these huge machines back to their former glory, which is great to see.
There were some truly sumptuous carriages, showing just how possible it was to truly travel in style [a far cry from a modern commute…]. Also on display was the specially-designed carriage used by Winston Churchill as he travelled across the country during the War; the intricacies of D-Day might well have been planned in that train.
There was even a working steam train, though its route was limited to a few hundred yards and back [they go back and forth twice to make you feel like you’ve had more of a trip]. The interior of the train was fascinating though, making you feel like the heroine of a WWI film, featuring compartment carriages with blinds to pull down and seating facing each other; perfect for a romantic rendezvous, if super awkward in the wrong situation. [You can also treat yourself to the added comfort of First Class!]
You know when you book tickets for something and forget you did…? This happened to us, when we looked at our calendars and realised that we had tickets for a Clapham South subterranean shelter tour, run as part of London Transport Museum‘s Hidden London. So, we headed along one night after work and congregated at the entrance to Clapham South Underground. But this wasn’t a tube tour – instead, it took us down to the tube level, 36.5m below street level, but into huge, cavernous tunnels built during World War Two, as a response to heavy civilian bombing during the Blitz.
Our surroundings seemed [remarkably] modern and sleek, with some incredibly well thought-through details considering the rush in which they were built. One of our favourite features was the double helix staircase so that people could descend twice as quickly in the event of a raid.
Although ten of these shelters were planned, ultimately eight were built, by the London Passenger Transport Board and the Ministry for Home Security between 1941 and 1942. They were a response to the inadequacy of tube stations as refuges from bombing raids, after 111 people were killed at Bank station. The tube stations were often not sufficiently deep, and in addition were liable to flooding if a water main was hit. Although not built quickly enough for the Blitz, they were used during all the bombing that followed by V1 and V2 bombs, and were also a temporary solution for those who had lost their homes through Blitz attacks.
We then ventured to the cinema; the one of our choice is generally one of the Everyman cinemas. It’s a fantastic chain with comfy seats, a great bar and the option of having food brought to your seats. Word of warning, though – not all Everymans (Everymen?) were created equal [the best ones have sofas, but it depends on which venue and screen you go to!], so check before you book.
We went to see The Theory of Everything, which we’re sure you’ve seen by now, but if you haven’t… Go. I, for one, cried throughout – it was emotional as predicted, and beautifully acted by Eddie Redmayne [it was an incredible performance]. It reminded us of this photo we took of the chapel at St John’s College in Cambridge, where the movie was filmed (although not actually set [he studied at Trinity Hall during his time in Cambridge]).
With my other half away this weekend, you’re stuck with just me this week, as I took a brief stroll around London Bridge during a glorious Saturday afternoon, and decided to have a bit of a play with shooting in black and white. This is on the Jubilee line as I was warming up:
For those who haven’t been there, London Bridge has seen a lot of regeneration in recent years (most noticeably with the building of the fairly epic Shard skyscraper as part of the London Bridge station redevelopment), with a strong focus on glass architecture, particularly in places such as More London Riverside. As I walked from the station to the riverside, I spotted a nice image of the old warehouses reflected in one of the new glass facades: