Earlier this month, on the afternoon of Thursday 7th April to be precise, I met Theo McLaughlan, the Regional Station Manager for Northern Rail and Dwayne Wells, the Service Quality Manager for the same company at Hadfield station.
The meeting was arranged, of course, by the ubiquitous Dave Shaw who arrived bang on time (14:59) with Theo and Dwayne in tow, on the inwardly bound train from Piccadilly.
The point of the mission was to have an inaugural discussion/site visit/meeting of minds as to how we might spruce up the station and put it on the map, so to speak, and how this might fit within the aims and remit of our own ultimate mission, which is to re-open the Woodhead Line.
Before coming back to this question a few casual observations might be helpful. I like to think of myself as a casual observer and where better to casually observe Hadfield Station than the railway bridge at the end of the platform.
Spending any length of time here the casual observer would notice that the station is well used, most noticeably at rush hour naturally but throughout the day generally as well, it would be fair to say. Also the platform is quite lengthy for a small town station, not sure why but it has plenty of scope for enhancement, however form that might take.
The most noticeable and yet the most unfortunate observation though, is that when you arrive at Hadfield you really do hit the buffers. This is the terminus, though for no obvious reason. This isn’t Lands End, or a natural coastal cul-de-sac.
Rather, Hadfield is perhaps as far from a huge expanse of water as one is likely to be in England, notwithstanding the eight miles of reservoirs that flood the Longdendale valley! Moreover it lies between two of the largest cities in the country, with Manchester and Sheffield having a combined population of over one million people.
Armed with this knowledge our casual observer may begin to ask why indeed is
Hadfield a dead end, a railway cul-de-sac, the end of the line, or the Last Stop as the pub on the platform used to be called - before an image enhancement led it to be renamed Edwards Wine Bar (a misnomer if its sales of wine to lager ratio is anything to go by – just an observation!)
Meanwhile back at our meeting and having walked the length of the platform making casual observations, Theo explained that a ‘Friends of…’ group would be a logical way forward. Though it would be a slow process to establish a group in order to lever the fundraising/grants needed to make steady improvements to the place, it can be done, as regular users of Glossop Station will have witnessed.
Whilst nothing can be done about litter, that is the job of Network Rail who own the buildings and the track, (though Hadfield isn’t currently that bad), Northern are as Dwayne explained, responsible for basically everything that the passenger comes into contact with. The platform concourse, benches, notice boards, etc
Notice boards? Yes, Theo confirmed. There aren’t any at Hadfield but there’s plenty of room for at least two. A Friends group could display information about what they’re doing and how to get involved, publicise events and another could explain the history of the line for instance.
Now hanging baskets, planters and a good lick of paint will do wonders for brightening the old place up, especially on a typically grey drizzly day in Hadfield midsummer! A notice board on the other hand, depicting the travesty of the line closure - that could make people think. It might even spark discussions about how the past was and how the future might be….now that’s worth its weight in railway sleepers.
Friends of Hadfield Station, doesn’t exist yet and possibly never will but I don’t see why not. Whilst neither the best nor the worst of stations, it could benefit from a manicure, as could most. From the point of view of re-opening the Woodhead Line it is one small step perhaps towards re-igniting interest and publicity regarding the past, present and (potential) future of the line.
Definately Maybe as that Manc band would have it, or to confuse the words of an historical figure, a well known rock star and a mildly famous philosopher to create a quote of my own:
“Friends (of Hadfield Station), rovers, railwaymen,
The future (of the line) is unwritten, we have nothing to lose but our terminus.”
“Sounds more like Stuart Hall to me” said the casual observer!
“Well that would be most appropriate. Don’t you know that his parents had the cake shop on Station Road for donkey’s years? Yes, a fact and only a stone’s throw away from the station yard!” replied the local sage.