Yeovil Junction is a storybook station. It is scenic, it is timeless, it is friendly. It is a place where one can carry travellers’ bags onto the platform and install the travellers in seats on the waiting train. Strangely, it is the terminus for some services from London.
It was in the county of Dorset until 1991, when government legislation transferred a few hectares of land from Dorset into Somerset and moved the station into the same county as the town from which it takes its name.
Yeovil Junction was part of a world of imagination forty years ago.
In the early 1980s, British Rail produced entire softback books of railway timetables for various regions of the network. The timetable books were free. Piles of them would be set out in booking offices at stations.
Despite only using two of Southern Region’s hundreds of services, (and those were from different termini, Waterloo to the magical Yeovil Junction and Victoria to Brighton), the timetable for South West London, West Surrey, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Dorset always made interesting reading.
The places in the timetable were unknown to me, the trains would never be caught. The appeal lay in thinking of such a level of activity.
Habitually arriving at Waterloo station long before the train to Yeovil Junction was due to be caught, there was a delight in sitting and watching the mechanical departure board announcing the trains listed in the timetable book. There was little detail to add to the times of most of the services, things like dining cars are not plentiful when trains were often at their destination in an hour.
Few of the Southern Region trains offered much by way of excitement, electric or diesel multiple units; no locomotives bearing brass name plates that gave them an individual identity. But the nature of the trains did not matter, their presence did. Scanning the columns of the timetables; there was a wealth of fascinating information. There were trains early in the mornings and late at night which exercised the imagination as to who might travel on such services.
Where would people be going before six o’clock in the morning or after midnight? Did the same people travel at such hours? Was there a community of nocturnal people? Did they nod in recognition to each other? Did those journeying in the early hours bid “good morning” to others in the carriage?
Anyone realizing that the young man staring fixedly at the departure boards was making imaginary journeys might have given him a wide berth.
Southern Region was always particularly attractive because their trains often went no further than the suburbs. They travelled within the world of streetlights. They travelled on lines through areas so populous that the trains stopped every few minutes. The world of the Southern Region was a world filled with people and buildings, and businesses and buses, and trains rattling through the night.
Yeovil Junction was my gateway into a world of fascination.