I’m helping the Railway Children charity this evening by volunteering to with their sleep-out at Leeds station tonight. 30 people are dossing down on the station from 21:30 until 07:00 tomorrow to draw attention to the work the charity does, and also help raise much needed funds. You can find the details here. Tonight, teams will also be sleeping out at London Bridge Station, London Waterloo, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Milton Keynes Central, Birmingham New Street, Glasgow Central and Derby Railway Station.
I’ll be making my way over to Leeds later, so stay with me to see how the day/night unfolds as I’ll be updating the blog on a regular basis…
I’m on my way, complete with camera bag, mat and sleeping bag. Even though we’ll be bedded down inside the station I’m glad the weather’s mild tonight. The walk to the station was actually quite pleasant! I’m now on a Northern (but not for much longer) service to Leeds via Bradford which is worked by a CAF class 195 running its traditonal few minutes late. I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the Northern franchise, I’ll save that for anither blog. But passengers won’t be seeing any changes for a while…
After a swift reversal at Bradford we’re already on our way ul the bank en-route to New Pudsey. It’s early enough for the train to be busy but not packed. I’ll bet the return working will be tho!
I’m waiting for the others to arrive as I got here early to have chance to get a few photos beforehand, but I hadn’t expected to find this!
I’ve been so busy I’ve not had time to blog until now. 30 of us are bedding down on the North concourse at Leeds, opposite the Wetherspoons. Network Rail have sent a huge group of people that includes their Route Director, Rob Mackintosh and several other senior staff. Although most of us are railway, there is one young lady from ‘First Direct’ who’s turned up. There’s several people I know, like former Angel Trains Director Malcolm Brown, plus folk who’ve taken part in previous fundraising events like the 3 Peaks. The atmosphere’s excellent as everyone knows they’re doing something worthwhile.
The station’s quietened down over the past hour but now numbers are ramping up again as folks arrive to catch their last trains. There’s a few racous souls but most are good natured. We had our own bit of theatre earlier when a well dressed chap wobbled out of the Wetherspoons to sit on the plastic seats nearby and take a phone call. Gravity abd drink were too much for him and he slid off the seat and wbded up supine on the floor whilst he remained on his phone. A couple of our kind souls went to his assistance!
Folks have found a variety of ways to pass the time. Some have already bedded down with a book or phone, whilst half a dozen people are passing the time playing cards invthe centre of the concourse where there’s a collection of plastic seats. The only thing that’s making life uncomfortable is the gale blowing in through the open doors to the car park opposite where we’re bedded down.
The station’s winding down and so are we. Most of our group are curled up in their sleeping bags now although not all are sleeping. Some will stay awake most of the night as this is too alien an environment to feel relaxed in. There’s too much noise and too many lights as far as they’re concerned. But they’re still doing it – because they care about the work the Railway Children does, and I really admire them for that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve slept on a railway station. Or slept rough. There’s far too many stories for me to tell in this blog. But I will tell one.
Back in 1986 I remember bedding down on a railway station in Tamil Nadu in India. The train I was catching was at 3am. I was travelling on a very tight budget, so what was the point of paying for a hotel room? Instead, I joined the throng of people you always find sleeping on stations as Indian railways run all hours of the day and night due to the vastness of the country. We had our heads against the building so that if anyone walked past it was only your feet they’d stand on. The mats we were sleeping on we laid down over the metal grilles that covered the rainwater drain next to the building, then we fell asleep. After a while I was woken by this odd skittering noise I didn’t recognise. It took a couple of minutes before I realised it was made by rats running up and down the drain just inches beneath my head.
In comparison, tonight is luxury…
I’m amazed none of our group have yet tried to kill the bloke going up and down the concourse with the tile cleaning machine. It’s not him, or the machine – it’s the bloody siren attached to it…
I take back everything I said about the tile cleaner. A MEWP’s just been driven into the concourse so guys can attend to some elevated work. The sounds of its poorly silenced diesel engine are so bad it’s almost drowned out the sounds of snoring from an adjacent sleeper! This is the sort of thing rough sleepers out up with day after day…
Oblivious to (or because of) us the bloke in the basket relates every minor detail of what he’s doing to his oppo on the ground. I now now more than I ever wanted to about worm drives on adverts.
The MEWP and men have changed their advert and disappered, leaving us a few hours peace to get fitful sleep, thanking our lucky stars that this is a one off, not our everyday exustence.
I’m awake and decided to explore the station, which is still a ghost town apart from a few passengers who’re on their way home from clubs and earky shift rail staff booking on or who’re already at work. Northern have started the day badly with the first train to Manchester cancelled and others delayed.
Most of our sleepers are awake and packing their bags ready to face the day, off to hunt for coffee and warm food.
It’s been an experience I’ve not had for years and it’s an event I’m really happy I could help the Railway Children with. I’ll upload some pictures later today once I’ve got home and edited them. I’ll also let you know how much the event has raised.
In the meantime, thanks for following the adventure. Now it’s my turn to head iff in search of coffee!