This week Geoff and Vicki’s All The Stations adventure began in deepest darkest Cornwall. In the unlikely event that you’ve arrived at this blog without any prior knowledge of the All The Stations project then here’s what it’s all about:
All The Stations is a project for Geoff and Vicki to travel to ALL the national railway stations in Britain in just three months, and to create an online documentary film about the journey. Geoff is a freelance video editor and transport vlogger, Vicki is a museum education professional. Our transport videos already published online have accumulated over 6 million views on Youtube, but in this latest project the aim is to capture the current status of Britain’s railways, and bring them to life as we explore the reality of the places and people we encounter along the way.
The project was predominantly crowdfunded by Geoff and Vicki’s subscribers and in return they offered backers various rewards for pledging money towards the documentary. One of the most popular rewards on offer was the chance to ‘adopt’ one of the 2563 railway stations in Great Britain.
So let me tell you about my adopted station, Huddersfield.
Some of you might be confused as to why this Londoner would choose to sponsor a station in a seemingly innocuous town in West Yorkshire, but this is a place I spent a hell of a lot of time at and one that grew to be very important to me over the years. In September 2007, fresh out of college, I started studying Audio Systems at The University of Huddersfield and had moved to the village of Kirkburton situated just outside the town where the main halls were located. This was the same time that I met my now fiancé Leah, though it wouldn’t be until a year and a half later that we actually became a couple (I work my magic slowly).
Over the 4 years that followed we lived in a further 3 locations in the centre of town and in the surrounding suburbs. During those years it always seemed to me that Huddersfield was, and is, a town on the up. No doubt spurred on by the ever increasing status of the University, which is held in high regard for it’s Engineering courses, Huddersfield’s gradual transition to becoming a student town has lead it to be a colourful and exciting place to live.
Incidentally Huddersfield is fast becoming the place to be to study Railway Engineering and the University’s Institute of Railway Research even now has it’s own narrow gauge test track amongst other impressive multi-million pound test rigs!
— Simon Iwnicki (@SimonIwnicki) 31 March 2017
Naturally Huddersfield station was soon a place I acquired an intimate knowledge of, and I used this well connected hub for visits back home, frequent day trips to Manchester and in later years commuting to my first jobs at radio stations in Bradford and Keighley.From the outside the main 1850 building, an impressive neo-classical style mansion, fronts a spacious plaza alongside the George Hotel, Britannia Buildings and Lion Arcade. The four buildings make up St. George’s Square, a centrepiece for the might of this once financial and industrial powerhouse.
A statue of Harold Wilson precedes a colourful water fountain display which illuminates the square underneath the imposing columns of the James Pigott Pritchett facade. At the top of the two story portico sits a large clock reminiscent of Hill Valley Town Hall in Back To The Future. The main building is then flanked on either side by short colonnades, each leading to two smaller temple like structures housing the stations pubs, The Kings Head and The Head Of Steam. The latter of these, a particular favourite of mine, hosts a plethora of railway memorabilia and artwork in it’s four (yes four) bars, as well as a games room in an old ticket office. Certainly a fine place to sit and wait for one’s train.Behind the now renovated gateline, a lengthy list of destinations awaits. Immediately in front of you is Platform 1 where Class 185 Transpennine Express services call on their way to Manchester and Liverpool. To the left is a bay platform, No. 2, used exclusively for stopping services to Sheffield. Over the other side of the station are two more through platforms, 4 and 8; though the former tends to be used by terminating local sprinters from Manchester and Leeds, whilst the latter is used for the expresses up to Scarborough, Hull and Newcastle. Sandwiched in-between these are two east facing bays, 5 and 6, which are just long enough to accommodate the Northern Pacers which bounce their way over from Wakefield, Halifax and Bradford.
It was from Huddersfield that I first experienced the concept of a continuous service that requires a reversal of direction to get to it’s destination. This was something I found quite bizarre and disorientating the first time I went to Wakefield when I suddenly found myself heading in the opposite direction to the one I started in! (In fact there used to exist a Wakefield Westgate to Leeds service that would require three reversals to complete it’s journey. One at Wakefield Kirkgate, one at Huddersfield and the final at Bradford Interchange. Is this the most reversed journey in Britain??).
Though it was no bad station by any means, a lot has changed at Huddersfield station since I first stepped foot in it 10 years ago (I still remember the old CRT departure displays and heading out to make connections with GNER services!). Much has been done to clean and renovate the station with a new ticket hall and refreshed waiting room facilities. This, coupled with the installation of new lifts to improve accessibility, has helped to make Huddersfield become a station worthy of the town in which it sits.
In 2011 this programme of improvements was augmented by the hiring a new staff member, Felix.
Joining the station crew as a nine-week old kitten, Felix was tasked with keeping the station free of pests. She did such a good job that in 2016 she was promoted to “Senior Pest Controller” and was given her very own high visibility uniform and gateline cat flap. This naturally garnered much attention from the nations press, and “Felix The Huddersfield Station Cat” suddenly became an overnight celebrity.
Human staff at TransPennine Express have used Felix’s success to further promote Huddersfield as a welcoming destination, which I think is a great move. Felix is so popular with the public that she now has her own Facebook and Twitter accounts with over 100,000 followers and attracts visitors from all over the world and even has her own book deal!
Every station should have it’s own cat and perhaps this is the first in a long line of famous railway felines. As a fond cat lover and railway enthusiast, having these two passions brought together in a place of great personal importance is enormously satisfying.
It’s for this reason that I adopt Huddersfield in honour of Felix The Station Cat.
Oh, and Leah of course…
– Andy Carter