Sun. 23rd July, 2000

Metro is Tyneside's rapid transit system. I jumped on at St. James beside the football ground, and travelled accross town, through Byker and North Shields to Tynemouth, a faded resort on the northern mouth of the River Tyne.

The superb station has been partly restored and every Sunday hosts a "people's market".

The station at St. James is the end of the east-west underground section of the line. The station is a shrine to a certain black and white football team.

The train travells across the Ouse Burn over the purpose built bridge. The Tyneside system is powered from high voltage overhead cables.

Inside, we travel in clean, spacious carriages. Each train set is a double car with an articulated joint in the middle. Look on the floor and you can see the circular swivelling section. At the far end of the car on the left is the driver's cab.

Here, we approach North Shields station. Only the city centre portion of the system is underground, although here the line travells in a steep cutting spanned by many close bridges.

Here the train arrives at Tynemouth. This once grand station was built in 1882, and was designed by the North Eastern Railway's chief architect, William Bell. Its wrought iron and glass roof, curved lines, and spacious platforms and buildings made it one of the most elegant of Victorian seaside stations.

It fell into disuse and virtual dereliction under British Railways, and by the time the Tyneside Metro took it over in 1978 the master plan included complete demolition. However, a local "Save Our Station" campaign achieved Grade II listing, and the Royal Fine Arts Commission and North Tyneside Council saved it and arranged its restoration.

The revitalisation is due in no small part to the "Friends of Tynemouth Station" a voluntary local organisation. Rock Townsend and Winskell architects drew up the repair plans, whilst another local company, Ove Arups, engineered the solution.

The local traders, selling everything from old valve radios to silver jewellery, and a variety of oddities in between, set up their stalls beyond the bare essential platform area.

Here a couple of hopelessly sad cases inspect, and I mean really minutely examine, toy cars. You can just imagine them getting home and pushing them round on hands and knees uttering pathetic "brrm-brrrm" sounds. Note the reproduction rail map on the wall. Now that is worth a look... "beep-beep" ... no they can't hear.

It is always a good natured crowd at the market. There is time for a chat between the bouts of hard sell.

The view from the main station entrance is enticing. Note the wide steps leading to the double footbridges. There is a sort of seaside sculpture between the two walkways.

Life is, indeed, what you make it. So pop along to Tynemouth for the fun, but resist the temptation to fill your house with other people's junk! It is a good thing if it keeps the station alive.

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