The railway to Kilkenny is now no more than a spur off the Dublin to Waterford line. Some of the buildings of the old station are now incorporated into a retail complex. Across a wide road to the south of the station there remains a double arched stone bridge, once the trains would have crossed the road and crossed the bridge, which allowed the passage of trains northward to Ballyraggett, Attanagh and Abbeyleix, to join the mainline from Dublin to Cork at Portlaoise.
Today the bridge stands as a relic of a former age, one of the old telegraph poles, which carried a multiplicity of wires, towers above it. There is something odd about the bridge, it still bears one of those yellow metal signs advising that in the event of a vehicle striking the bridge, there is an emergency number that should be contacted. It is as though someone has preserved the sign in a hope that one day trains might again run; the disappearance of bridges and permanent way make such a hope impossible to fulfil.
Reading Stan Yorke’s ‘Lost Somerset Railways brings memories of the removal of the last vestiges of a station. Yorke describes the Yeovil to Taunton branch line and notes that ‘a loop was installed in 1927 at Thorney & Kingsbury to serve a Nestlé’s Dairy milk depot’. The line was closed in 1964, and the line and salvageable parta of the station were sold, including the flagstones from the platform.
I remember my uncle’s white Bedford van being reversed towards what then remained of the railway halt; the back doors were opened and flag stones from the platform were loaded into the back. It seemed like the end of a world. Taking the stones from the platform would mean that the trains would never run again; that something was gone forever from life and history.
Asked now to find Thorney Halt, I would be hard-pressed to do so. Perhaps there are still signs that once one could reach the world from this hidden corner of rural England by taking a train to Taunton and from thence to London. Google Earth shows traces of the former track bed, but if one didn’t know that a railway had run through this place, would it be discernible as anything more than a farm track?
The yellow metal plate on a bridge no longer connected with a railway is odd, but is at least a reminder of a major feature in the social and economic development of the country. Remove all traces of the past, and history disappears. Without history, people have no idea how they came to be where they are, and struggle to understand where they might be going. As the railway age disappeared in a generation, so other things might just as quickly go from our sight.