Saturday, 16 November 2019

The House with the Apologetic Caravan

(Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never photograph a place that is currently occupied, as this would be morally wrong and intrusive, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose locationI leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building.

Todays blog is a small one. It's just a derelict house in the Shropshire countryside, although it was the titular caravan that interested me the most. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it, but that's probably because my last article was about an abandoned Nazi base on my international blog, which you can read here. As you can imagine, it's difficult to beat an abandoned Nazi base, so I wasn't going to even try. Those holiday blues hit me like a speeding freight train.

However, for me the journey is often more fun than the destination, and while this is no Calcott Hall, it was good just to get out of the house with a destination in mind. It's also quite important to take breaks from all that war stuff that I've been covering in Germany. I try to stay positive, and a huge part of that is taking light-hearted breaks from gloomy topics.

Don't let the car fool you. It's about as unwanted as the house. Nobody lives here.
The problem with abandoned residential houses is that they offer very little in regards to research. At least in comparison to my recent adventures.
What I do know is that it was still being lived in back in 2009, and the building shows up on maps from the late 1800s.

Around the back we have the titular caravan, with "Sorry" written across it in blue lettering. Sorry for what, exactly? How intriguing. The caravan is actually my favourite part of this entire location. It's dilapidated and smashed, but it has a lot more going for it than the actual house.

For some reason I find abandoned caravans creepier than houses. Perhaps it's the thought of someone living off the grid being potentially more harmful than someone who isn't.

Why did someone bring chairs into an area with sofas?

The flowers and clock being so neatly arranged is in an odd contrast to the rest of the mess.

Looking in the cupboard, I found three astrology mugs. By amusing coincidence, of all the zodiac signs out there, the only mugs here are me and my siblings. I'm a Leo. People expect the stereotypical Leo to be extroverted and arrogant but I'm nothing like that. I'm just quietly arrogant. If someone has lived through shit, and other people think that any shit they give that person is remotely original, the confident introvert usually just thinks "You're really boring. Now let me get on with my thing," and people think they're a doormat but really they just don't give a shit because they've already conquered all their demons and worked for the things that make them happy. Confident Introversion explained.

Maybe it's the fact that I've recently marathoned both seasons of "End of the fxxxing world," or maybe it's my morbid imagination, but I look at this caravan and think "Murder."

 Murder weapon.

Murder clean-up.

Morbid imagination or too much TV? Too many morbid locations on my other blog, and not enough whimsical posts about trains? Either way, if I'm going to let any form of media influence my head, I'd rather this than the Daily Mail or The Sun.

The bathroom is fairly non-descript. Caravans tend to have a rather samey layout, so it's not really anything new.

The cars have seen better days.

I ran a check on this cars number plate, and found that its MOT expired in 2014.

This caravan was locked, but even from the outside there was a smell of mould, so I'm kinda grateful.

Here's an old pool table.

Looking at the house itself, it's covered in the same blue graffiti as the caravan, but instead of a curious apology we have the standard graffiti penis.

The graffiti continues into the house, but there isn't much to see in here. It looks as if someone has tried to renovate the house, and then given up.

Archways are interesting. The brickwork tells the houses history, and usually it's all covered up.

The lounge still has a homely vibe, no doubt due to the bright red curtains. 

Upstairs it looks very much like renovation started but the graffiti gives away the neglect of the place. If renovations were continuing, surely it would have been removed. Instead we just have lots of blue wall scrawling that disturbingly refers to this place as a shag den.
See, if someone said "Shall we fornicate?" and then took me here, when theres a perfectly good caravan outside, I would probably consider castrating myself with a cheese grater to be a more favourable alternative than risking breeding with that person.

No offence folks.

Someones written "Fuck Off" on the floor.

Theres loads of old records too.

I have a theory that the music was listened to by the folks working on the place, who were staying at the caravan while work commenced. However for some reason work stopped, and the kids came here with their spray cans and poor art skills. Maybe the apology on the caravan is aimed at whoever was working here, just in case they ever come back.

There's a garage area too but this is full of clutter that was presumably moved in here from the house when renovations started.

Now onto the best part of any abandoned house- the toilets! In this case, it's part of the house, but doesn't lead into the house. One has to exit the premises, and re-enter. Have fun waking up desperate for a shit at 4am in the middle of November.

There's no door or glass in the window, but there's a radiator so it's not all bad.

It's still in better condition than the toilets in some pubs and clubs.

That's all I've got for this location. It's not a particularly interesting abandoned house compared to others that I've been to, but the caravan was quite nice, and the trip out here was rather pleasant. It got me out, doing things. Thats the main thing.

Share the blog wherever you want. Next time, I'm looking at an old Soviet tank facility on my other blog, and then I'm going to post about one of Shropshires lost train stations on this one. In the meantime, like the Facebook page, follow the instagram and the twitter, so that you'll get updates whenever there's something new.
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Trains, Trains and Trains

(Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never photograph a place that is currently occupied, as this would be morally wrong and intrusive, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose locationI leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building.

Choo Choo!

Today I'm somewhere near Oswestry, a small town in North Shropshire that had a thriving railway in the 1860s. The passenger trains ran up until 1966, or 1968 depending on the source. Right away we hit upon a source of fury. Fury, I tell you! All of my sources for this have thrown conflicting dates at me for just about everything. This includes the years that stuff opened, the years that stuff closed, and most of the stuff in between. I'll be referring to some dates by the decade, just to be deliberately vague and not specify one particular year, and hopefully be correct. 
Having said that, some conflicting dates are decades apart, so let's just agree it was at some point in the past, after Churchill was prime minister, but before Bojo. That'll do.

At some point in the past, before Churchill and after King Henry VIII, Oswestry station was connected to roughly three hundred miles of track, out towards Whitchurch in the East, Wrexham in the north, and also West to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. For years the disused train carriages could be found at the old Oswestry station, but it wasn't until they were long gone that I developed an interest in what was lost, and began writing a blog. Luckily, miles beyond Oswestry the tracks continue, albeit unused, for now, and along them one can come across a number of rusty old beautys.

This contraption is a track repair and maintenance machine, known in Trainglish as a GP-TRAMM, which is funnily enough an acronym for General Purpose Track Repair And Maintenance Machine.
See? Trainglish is easy.

The Tramm is a multi-tool chassis, capable of tool storage for a variety of jobs. It can lay track, clean track, straighten track, remove track, and basically various other things related to doing stuff with tracks. 

This one was built by the Austrian manufacturers Plasser & Theurer in the 1980s. Presumably they used this machine to repair or even replace some of the old tracks, and then just left it here. However despite its condition, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was still functional,

As for the train line itself, this one originally ran from 1866, connecting quarries in Wales and North Shropshire to Stoke-on-Trent. It was intended to reach all the way to Porthmadog but the project fell short on funds. This was to be a recurring pattern, as it was notorious at the time for being the most expensive non-metropolitan railway, forever falling into debt and consequentially soon becoming run down, and something of a health and safety nightmares. Nevertheless, the line boldly opened to passengers in 1870.

Back then it must have been pretty convenient. The line provided access to some of the more remote villages of the Shropshire/Wales border. One could get a train from Oswestry to Shrewsbury via a small border village called Llanymynech. It certainly sounds scenic!

However, it's said that the "true" incentive for this line opening was to access the lime kilns in the north and supply limestone traffic to and from the quarry. That particular function opened in 1872, and joined onto this main line.

The Tramm still has hard hats worn by the crew, which is strange. Its windows are smashed and it's been scribbled on a bit, but nothings been stolen.

There's some graffiti here. It says "Blaze." A few feet down the train, it's written again.

What does it mean? Congratulations, you can walk a few feet. Give yourself a pat on the back.

There used to be a station only a few feet from the Tramm. It opened in 1870. No trace remains of it today although photos of it from the 1970s and 1980s display it as a run down derelict mess. I have here a photo of it from 1962, looking down on it from the bridge.

(Picture not mine, obviously)

 Given the massive expense of the train line, it closed in 1880 due to safety reasons, making it something of a rarity. It was very unusual for a train line to close in the Victorian Era. For the passengers in their rural communities, it must have been pretty irritating, but for the quarry owners it was a travesty, as they moved out their stone via rail, and so they began talks with other railway companies, hoping that someone somewhere could reopen the line.

Attempts were made throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Shropshire Railways tried but they were pretty difficult to get on with, and fell out with contractors all the time over legal disputes. The train line didn't see life again until the early 1900s, and even then, it was a light railway.

Those of you imagining someone shining a light down the tracks and the passengers riding on photons, don't be daft. It sounds fun, but it's also too amazing to be real. Here in the real world, a light railway only carries light traffic.

The train station pictured above was refurbished and reopened in 1903. Two more, just down the tracks in either direction, were also opened in 1904 and 1903, each lasting until 1951. The line was nowhere near as far reaching as it had once been, but it did provide access to Oswestry from as far out as Llangynog in Wales. Llanrhaedr is out that way, and it has a pretty waterfall. Now the people of Oswestry could catch a train to go and see it. At least, if the time table wasn't too inconvenient.

And let me tell you, the timetable from 1922 was rather peculiar. If one wanted to catch the train from here to Oswestry, one would have a choice between the earliest at 10:24am, or two later ones at 2:34pm and 6:43pm. So it wasn't exactly frequent. If it was a Wednesday or a Saturday, there was an earlier train at 8:10am, and the later two trains ran at 1:47pm and 7:18pm instead, but basically if one were a country bumpkin looking to get a job in the town, their daily commute was just a little bit shit.

The train line is actually quite pretty as nature reclaims it. All seems quite peaceful, but don't be fooled. This tranquil atmosphere has heard many a scream.

It's possible to follow the rails for miles in many directions, although past Oswestry they will join onto Gobowen, and that station is still active.

 The remains of a goods yard can be found along the track, apparently all part of the old quarries that used to operate here. This particular one was closed by British Rail in 1984, but dotted around one can still find the remains of train carriages. They have no wheels. Some don't even have walls. It's something of a train graveyard.

There are some buildings left over, but they're all sealed up.

Nevertheless, it seems that people have been coming here.

Signs warn that everything is gone, and that the building has been secured to prevent access by children, etc. Luckily, some of the buildings could still be accessed.

Hey look, its Ted Bundy!
Actually, I think the head looks a bit like Boris Johnson, but I'm probably brainwashed because I see his weird face all over the place at the moment, due to his media coverage. At least nobody can say that the medias giving us unrealistic beauty standards...
Speaking of standards, my graffiti standards have been raised considerably by my adventures in Germany, which I talk about in my international blog. You don't see Bojo sucking off Ted Bundy in Germany.

The chairs laid around the table is interesting. The quarry is also nearby, but it's now flooded.

I'm sure in the summer it could be a nice spot for a swim, but also pretty dangerous so do so at your own risk.

Further along the tracks, things get a little challenging.

I can still feel the rails and the sleepers beneath my feet, so the track is still there. Fortunately it wasn't overgrown for too long.

During the war, train services were reduced, and these reductions remained after the war was finished. A timetable from 1949 shows that only two trains ran each day, one in the morning and one in the evening, and still changeable on Wednesdays and Saturdays. To compensate, a regular bus service ran into Oswestry so that was okay for the people. For the railway, gloomy times were ahead.

British Rails took over the lines in 1948 but by then it was pretty much a downward slope. Several of the smaller stations closed in 1951, and in 1960 some flooding in Wales damaged the tracks and restricted services. The final blow came from Dr Robert Beeching, whose report in the 1960s saw the closure of 2,363 stations across the UK, as well as some 8000km of railway line, mostly in rural areas like this. The line closed to passengers in 1964, but remained active for the quarries.

Some sources say that the line closed to quarry traffic in the 1960s, while other sources say that British Railways closed the line for good in 1988 when the limestone quarry closed. Whatever the truth, it remained derelict for many years, and most of it still is now. But there is hope for the old train line.

Right next to the tracks is an old fireplace, which I presume is the last remaining chunk of an old signal box, given its proximity to the rails.

Check it out! More trains!

So while miles and miles of tracks are barely traversible jungle dotted with the occasional Tramm, and stuff like this, there is a heritage organisation that is restoring the line in parts. The line between the two villages, Llynclys and Pant actually runs trains now, but the original Llynclys station, which operated from 1860 til 1965, is now a private dwelling, and it garden over the old trackbed somewhat obstructs the heritage group from re-establishing a line up to Oswestry, which is a shame. But I have heard that the heritage company are circling like vultures, and should that house ever become vacant again they'll swoop in.

From what I understand, there are plans to open up larger chunks of the old railway, right the way out to Llangynog, but sadly no further due to housing and a caravan park being in the way.

Lines aside, many of the trains are also in severe need of restoration too, but it seems that this "train graveyard" isn't entirely abandoned. Someone cares about these old contraptions.

Sadly none of the coaches were unlocked, which is a shame. I very much looked forward to seeing the vintage interior.

These tracks actually end in someones garden, which is pretty funny. The property boundary is fenced off, but the tracks continue for a few feet before ending. I quite like the idea of having a garden with a chunk of railway line in it.

Meanwhile this chunk of railway ends right by the old lime kilns, which I understand operates a heritage centre for all these old trains. The heritage centre was established in 2009 but as of 2016 its website has not been updated. When I came here there was nobody around, nobody at the gate, and just a load of old trains and rail lines. The office and visitor centre on site was similarly run down, locked up and empty, so I'm not sure what's happening there. Obviously just wandering in via the train tracks awarded me access to an area that I presume used to, or intends to, have actual visitors and perhaps guided tours. Right now, it's all empty of life. It's just me and the trains.

The actual lime kilns are shielded by this big train, which I presume is the choice of the heritage centre to guard the lime kilns from potential guests climbing in. Health and Safety, and all that. Luckily, I was free to make my own risk assessment. I don't think millions of years of evolution transpired just so that we could put ourselves in bubblewrap.

These are allegedly the tallest lime kilns in the country, and they were built by a man called Mr France in 1870, to service the quarry.

For those who don't know what a lime kiln is, that's okay because I didn't know either! So I looked up what they actually do. Looks like we're both getting an education.

A lime kiln is used to produce Quicklime, which was used to make plaster and mortar for construction purposes. Basically to make it, they have to burn limestone here in these little caves at temperatures of around 900°C, although typically they heat it up to 1000°C for a quicker development.

I've actually found this photo from 1961 which shows the lime kilns on the right, and the train line still in use on the left. 

(Picture not mine, obviously)

Annoyingly the source of this picture gives the date of the line closing at 1971, which is somewhere in between the two  conflicting dates I have so far. Still, these old lime kilns made an interesting sight.

Look at this! Propped up on display is this cute little cart from the old industrial days. It seems rather counterproductive to have it on display between the kilns and the carriage, where nobody can see it.

There's a smaller one here which has, intentionally or not, become a plant pot.

This train was built in York in 1962, and is an Electric Multiple Unit, known in Trainglish as an Emu. It was apparently the first train in the UK to reach a top speed of 100mph. The Emu was designed for London and Essex routes, where they remained until they were withdrawn in 1994, and replaced with newer models. Apparently seven of these redundant trains ended up being taken to Manchester where they worked on the Crewe and Birmingham route, which means this probably called at Shrewsbury a few times, before finally getting withdrawn for good in 2000.

Of those seven retired Emu's, this is one of two survivors, put to use as a signaling development train during the testing of Virgin Rails Pendolino trains up until 2004. Following that it was kept in storage until the heritage company purchased it in 2009. So this train has had quite the career, and has spanned the country.

The heritage centres star attraction seems to be this train, which I understand is a Ruston & Hornsby diesel commonly referred to as a Crabtree. It's currently parked at a makeshift wooden platform, but it doesn't appear to have moved in some time.

There's also these wonderful contraptions, which I'm sure must have fantastic stories behind their creation. I've never seen anything quite like them.

Check it out! It's a bike that runs on rails! Technically, I guess it's not a bike if it has four wheels, but still, it's bloody cool! If I owned that garden which had the end of an old railway line on it, I'd get one of these! In theory, if one was to clean up the tracks a bit and trim the grass, they could ride this from their back garden all the way to Oswestry, and it would be totally cool because there would be no other rail traffic. And if there was rail traffic, one could do a totally badass leap to the side of the tracks as the train smashes into the little bike. It would be amazing!

I thought this was a shed at first, but no, it's also a train carriage, albeit a very old one. In fact it's estimated to date back to the 1850s! The notice on the side announces the heritage sites plans to restore it, and hopefully put it back on wheels at some point.

As I entered, I was careful not to touch anything. This old beauty is fragile.

Scrawled on the wall, someone has written "Wednesbury Slag." I can't make out the final word though. I suspect the term "slag" is being used in its truest form, for smelting, rather than insulting someone from Wednesbury.

However, as appealing as photographing disused trains is, the fact that this was a heritage site made me feel rather cheeky nosing around, when ideally one should be paying at heritage events so that funds can go to the restoration and upkeep. I'm very interested in history, including the history of the UKs once prosperous railway industry. Hopefully, in the near future, the tracks I've shown here today will be cleaned up and reopened, and the trains will be fixed up and running little heritage routes.

It's something to look forward to.

Next time, I'll be blogging again on my international blog, and then I'm looking at an abandoned house here in Shropshire. Things are getting exciting, and you should probably pay attention. So, follow my Instagram, like my Facebook and follow my Twitter. And of course, share the blog.

Thanks for reading!