Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A Glass of Water: the horrors of Clapham Junction

I just posted to the A Wren-like Note weblog one of Maxwell Gray's first story sales, A Glass of Water, which originally appeared in One and All, a weekly periodical sold in railway stations, around 1880.

It can hardly be viewed as an advertisement for railway travel, telling of the misadventures of a newly-wed couple on the way to their honeymoon, who become separated when the husband gets out of the train to get his wife a glass of water. The labyrinthine "Smasham Junction" in the story is based on (in the author's words) "an experience of the horrors and perils of Clapham Junction", one of the busiest stations in Europe. It's actually in Battersea, but - see the Disused Stations account - at the time it was built it was named after the then more upmarket Clapham in an attempt to attract a higher class of clientele. It was a complex station even at the time of writing:
CLAPHAM JUNCTION is in the direction of St. John's Hill, at the north-eastern extremity of Wandsworth Common. "The station itself which was at first one of the most inconvenient, was re-built a few. years ago, and now with its various sidings and goods-sheds cover several acres of ground." It is one of the most important railway junctions south of the Thames, offering facilities to persons desirous of travelling not only to any part of the Metropolis but to all parts of England. Easy access can be had to the eight different platforms for "upline" and "downline," etc., on entering the tunnel. Booking office for Kensington, Metropolitan line, etc., on the ground floor at the north end of the tunnel and facing No. 2 platform; Booking office South-Western line No. 5 platform; Booking office Brighton and South-Coast No. 8 platform; also Telegraph office ditto ditto.

At the Junction there are thirteen waiting rooms, two refreshment bars, two cab ranks, two carriage roads to the Junction from St. John's Hill. Nearly 1,000 trains pass through the Junction daily. The staff of railway employees are respectful and obliging to passengers; there is none of that bull-dog growl in reply to questions which characterize some men with surly dispositions who fill public positions.

" Evil is wrought from want of thought
As well as want of heart."

London, Brighton and South-Coast Railway: Station Master, Mr. John B. Carne ; South- Western Railway : Station Master, Mr. Thomas Green. West London Extension Railway : Battersea Station, High Street.
- p151, All about Battersea, Henry S Simmonds, Ashfield, 1882, Internet Archive allaboutbatters00simmgoog).
See A Wren-Like Note for A Glass of Water.

- Ray

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