It’s strange how a place can feel so quiet and set apart from the real world, even when there’s a busy road just feet away and the noise of the traffic seems somehow to exist on a different plane, as if it isn’t really there. The air is full of birdsong on this deserted rural railway station, with not a soul on either platform, and the buildings looking almost as pristine as when they were built some 170 years ago, with their chocolate brown and cream paintwork.
Nowadays the line offers two choices of destination – Birmingham or Shrewsbury – and apart from myself, no-one seems to be in a hurry to get to either place. It feels almost like a film set; I half expect, half wish, that a steam locomotive would come rumbling down the track, emerging from clouds of smoke to pull up at the station in a squeal of brakes to discharge passengers from another age, but nothing is coming from either direction along the line right now.
An elaborate Victorian footbridge crosses from one side of the station to the other, from which vantage point I can see that some misguided individual has chosen to hurl glass bottles onto the rails, no doubt with a highly satisfying smash. As I await the arrival of the 13-15 to Birmingham, still alone, unwelcome thoughts occur to me that idyllic as this moment is, maybe the solitude seems a little risky, and I briefly feel slightly uneasy. I try to think more positive thoughts, and “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas comes to mind. It’s a poem that has come to symbolise a moment in British history immediately before the first World War tore lives, countries and old alliances apart with warfare on an industrial scale.
A disembodied voice over the Tannoy reminds passengers –twice- not to ride bicycles on the platform, a curiously specific and pointless piece of information, and the spell of temporary solitude is broken as other travellers begin to arrive. I learn later that the station buildings, now empty, were previously used as a public house, and I imagine how pleasant that must have been for coping with long waits for delayed journeys, especially on cold winter evenings with a chilly mist over the fields and a frost beginning to glaze the windows.
If I had a mere £350,000, I could buy the entire building this very minute, and spend my days keeping watch over the deserted platforms, looking for the lights of trains up and down the line during the long nights, while the people of Albrighton sleep soundly in their well-kept homes and abundantly-flowered gardens. I would keep a light burning in an upper window by day and by night, like a landlocked lighthouse, to reassure myself that all was well.
The train has arrived, and I must leave.