Beckenham Junction to West Croydon (and back)
Thursday February 20th 2014
Jo has explained that we had started the day dry and with a PLAN and finished wet and bailing out due to the peculiar nature of the trams. Buses they are not, obviously. They are however very quiet, warm, accessible (each journey had at least two buggies, wheelchairs etc) and clean. (We watched two cleaners board, pick up the very little rubbish and get out at the next stop and whilst waiting for the next tram clean the station, such as it is. The stops are rather miserable, the shelter is not very sheltering , the seat mean and wet and the information scanty. Jo will already have explained about combining Routes 1 & 4 as there seemed to be no way of telling them apart.
(We were looking in the wrong place according to our last comment!)
Meeting at Beckenham Junction was fine and two trams were waiting as we arrived, one pulling away almost immediately. We boarded the second to warm up and spent about five minutes reassuring an infrequent and somewhat slow traveller that this was indeed the service for Croydon, West Croydon we said. Apparently our reassurances were not robust enough and he moved down the tram and started asking some-one else. It seemed fairly clear from the layout that this first section of track was former railway, running as it did over the still functioning tracks. The first sight of any significance were the generous allotments, as being alongside trams and tracks seems to bother the potatoes not one jot.
Still feeling like a train rather than a tram past Avenue Road stop there was something of a cutting before we passed the Beckenham Cemetery and Crematorium located close to Birkbeck stops and stations.
According to Wikipedia this could have been another exciting/confusing junction with the option of a link to to Crystal Palace but that idea died in 2008.
The next bit of the route feels very countrified where, even at this time of year when the trees are bare, there were no houses visible (thus far we had peered into people’s back gardens of mainly post-war homes) but through to Blackhorse Road the tram seemed to be cutting a swathe through thick blackberry bushes which even if they fruited would not be accessible for picking from this side. However someone has found a way.. It is a most agreeable green ribbon.
One of the station adverts (there is not exactly much to see at these stopping points) was a poster announcing ‘Cats have taken over at Battersea Dogs’ Home’ which Jo said would guarantee her non-support. Blackhorse Lane was the next stop after the aptly named Woodside and this is not to be confused with last week’s Whitehorse Lane on the X68. After Addiscombe it was pretty much standing room only though a voice could be heard asking whether the tram went to Croydon – still.
Another curve, cutting and junction brought us to some of the better off and well established parts of Croydon. Some detached homes, mostly semis, and pleasantly modest height blocks of flats line the route through Addiscombe. What distinguishes this part of the tramline from most trains (Mortlake springs to mind as an exception) is whizzing across a road junction while the traffic is held on a red light – most satisfying. By Lebanon Road stop we were close enough to the road and pavements to see the daffodils were flowering and then it was EAST CROYDON station where many folk got off, even more hastily as they saw an inspector get on. Of course compared to both buses and trains at most stations access to the Tram stops is free of ticket controls, so this is the obvious point for them to board and well – inspect. Having negotiated the big road crossing at Wellesley /George Streets we continued down, the only vehicle to do so as the next stretch forms part of ‘pedestrianised Croydon’. It has to be said that having often walked here the silent tram bearing down on you comes as something of a shock. Going along Church Street this is very much the older parts of Croydon with what must have been the shopping streets, including the quite jolly market, before Mr. Hitler reconfigured everything.
We noted that the tram goes more slowly through the built up areas, giving time to spot shops or notices, and fairly whizzes along once ‘out of town’, especially on the straight bits, and so it was we retraced our journey, as far as Arena stop by which time it was definitely raining in an ordinary rather than deluge kind of way. Nearly a full loop had taken us about 40 minutes of smooth quiet transit, but we did rather miss the bumps and grinds of the buses.
PS I expect most of you have by now seen Geoff’s record of our last BUS trip as launched on the Londonist website; we were pleased with his straightforward account and grateful for his robust defence of our travels; certainly one of our more positive media encounters. It was also great to meet some of our followers and we are grateful for corrections. I will at some point add some information from a ‘use of buses’ list.