Monday, June 13, 2011
The far fabled train station of Hansfield
Dear reader, you are probably going to take what I say with a pinch of salt, or some other condiment of your choice, but what I am about to tell you is the God’s honest truth, may Lionel Ritchie come and sing for me in my sitting room if I’m telling one word of a lie.
The other morning (not this one, the other one), just as the sun was peeping out over the unopened Ongar Community Centre, I happened to be passing by the roundabout that leads to the as-yet-unfinished Kelly’s pub, when I happened to glance down past the incomplete Barnwell estate in a general south-westerly direction.
The sight, I have to tell you, took my breath away and it was only after many threats that I managed to retrieve it.
There, its sapphire blue coloured dome glistening in the first rays of dawn, stood the far fabled, internationally renowned, mystical train station of Hansfield.
People may tell you that it is a myth, the stuff of legend but no more than that, like the lost city of Atlantis or full employment, but I saw it there, shimmering in all its ornamental splendour. I felt like stout Cortez when he first set eyes upon the Taj Mahal or Marco Polo stepping down onto the moon’s surface for the first time or maybe Howard Carter when he discovered the source of the Himalayas.
For ten seconds, maybe thirteen, certainly no longer than fifteen, I stood and gazed at its irridescent splendour and a choir of angels, unseen in heaven, seemed to raise a melodious chorus of Love Plus One by Haircut 100. The air was suddenly filled with a beautiful incense and a vague sense of absolute beauty came over me, which I later attributed to trapped wind.
And then, as suddenly as it came, it was gone again, enveloped in a mystical cloud that descended from on high, which is the best place for clouds to descend from. I started to run towards it but instantly realised the futility of my actions and stopped and picked my nose instead.
Had I been dreaming? I pinched myself to find out and was reassured when I cried “Ouch!” and slapped myself back.
For those of you who may not know, the train station at Hansfield was supposedly located roughly midway along the branch line between Clonsilla and Dunboyne. Its purpose was to save the good commuters of Ongar and Castaheany from travelling into darkest Clonsilla and snarling up the traffic system there but seemingly it was built without a road leading to it and was never used.
Nobody knows for certain who built this mythical train station. Some say that it was Ceres, the Greek godess of cornflakes and commuters, who raised it up from a pomegranate seed in revenge for her son being given a wedgie by Apollo. Others attribute it to the Irish warrior Niall of the Nine Sausages, who was acting on the instructions of a talking salmon. Legend has it, that it was one of the original eight wonders of the ancient world but forgot to keep up its subscriptions. But the fact is that its origins are shrouded in the mists of time and as nobody has actually seen the mists of time either (except maybe Doctor Who), this makes it doubly obscure.
The Annals of Castleknocke contains a strange tale of a railway platform in the middle of a field, on which a crowd of peasants stand waiting for a train to stop. Trains come and trains go but none ever actually come to a halt at the platform and in the end the peasants all turn into juniper bushes and look for refunds on their tickets.
There is another legend of a small band of Irish soldiers who fled from the Battle of Aughrim, with a battalion of Cromwell’s musketeers in hot pursuit. In desperation, the soldiers, barefooted and wearing little more than tracksuits, took refuge in a mysterious train station that suddenly loomed out of the darkness “in the vicinitye of Phybbelstown,” as one of the bad spellers in the group later wrote. As Cromwell’s musketeers advanced, twirling their swords and brandishing their moustaches, they were all summarily run over by the 5.15 from Dunboyne.
Jonathan Swift, or Dean Swift as he was also known (he could never make up his mind which Christian name he preferred) refused to believe in the sightings of the train station and wrote a brilliantly witty poem that totally crushed all those who believed in it. But despite brutalising the peasantry with his sarcastic rhyming couplets, even Swift could not put a stop to the rumours that the train station actually existed.
Even today, it has been reported in some of the more fanciful tabloids that commuters, whizzing through the rolling fields on the Dublin – Meath border have glimpsed a mysterious structure that looms out of the countryside and then disappears again almost immediately. There is no road leading to this building, they say, as though it were sprung from the earth, like Moses striking the rock and producing water, which is a pretty good trick in anyone’s book, though it would be even more impressive if it was whiskey. A caller to Liveline was so adamant that she had seen the mythical train station of Hansfield, that Joe recommended she seek psychiatric help.
Of course, it has occurred to me that I will be subject to the same ridicule and scepticism and there’s no way that I’m going to text 51551 simply to be called a looper. The fact that I saw the damned thing with my own eyes does not mean I will be able to convince Joe Public that I hadn’t eaten some very dodgy mushrooms the night before. But I know that it exists even though a search on Google Earth has been somewhat inconclusive.
If I had been quicker, I would have taken a photograph of the apparition before it disappeared from view but I only had my mobile phone with me at the time and have never bothered to read the instructions on how to take photos with it. Besides, I console myself that, even with this evidence, the photo would have been dismissed as a fake, with the train station alleged to have been a shadow or a cigar-shaped UFO or something more plausible.
But it does exist and you read it here first, good reader. I am currently in contact with Pat Falvey to launch an exhibition to find this mythical structure and, who knows, in ten years there might even be a documentary about Charlie Bird following in my footsteps.