THE WAY WE WERE

Sta­tion car parks were ideal for 1980s com­muters – and clas­sic spot­ters to­day

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - DAVID BROWN

More nos­tal­gic car spot­ting, this time while wan­der­ing around Hunt­ing­don's rail­way sta­tion car parks in the 1980s.

As the de­mand for lo­cal rail freight ser­vices de­clined at many of our rail­way sta­tions through­out the 1980s, it was per­haps for­tu­nate that the need for more car park­ing spa­ces grew. To­day, many acres of land that were once oc­cu­pied by rail­way sid­ings are taken up by sprawl­ing car parks re­flect­ing the growth in car own­er­ship and the emer­gence of the long-dis­tance com­muter.

Hunt­ing­don in Cam­bridgeshire is a good ex­am­ple of this. The mar­ket town ex­panded as a re­sult of a growth spurt in the 1960s as homes were pro­vided un­der a Lon­don over­spill cam­paign. Prior to 1960, Hunt­ing­don could boast two rail­way sta­tions. The sta­tion on the for­mer Great North­ern Rail­way’s East Coast Main Line be­tween Lon­don King’s Cross and Ed­in­burgh was called Hunt­ing­don North, while al­most on its doorstep was Hunt­ing­don East, built by the Great North­ern & Great East­ern Joint Rail­way. Trains on the for­mer Mid­land Rail­way line from Ket­ter­ing served East sta­tion, along with GN&GE trains to God­manch­ester and St Ives. Fol­low­ing the clo­sure of East sta­tion to reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger ser­vices in 1959, the other sta­tion lost its ‘North’ suf­fix.

To­day, no main line trains call at Hunt­ing­don, but it is well served by Great North­ern Thames­link trains ply­ing be­tween Peter­bor­ough and King’s Cross.

There were goods fa­cil­i­ties lo­cated on both sides of the main line at Hunt­ing­don and house­hold coal was one of the last com­modi­ties to be han­dled there on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

As we can see in the big­ger of our two pho­tos by Al­lan Mott, coal busi­nesses con­tin­ued to be based at the sta­tion even though the sid­ings that once served them had been lifted. This meant that your car could gain a lit­tle coal dust on a windy day.

Our view from the sum­mer of 1987 is firmly dated by a Vaux­hall Cava­lier SRi on the bot­tom right that was reg­is­tered in May that year. Its next-door neigh­bour is a 1982 Tal­bot Hori­zon in LS trim, while be­yond them, by the col­laps­ing coal­yard fence, a Ford Es­cort MkII is risk­ing the coal dust ef­fect.

The owner of the 1984 Mon­tego L looks to have braved tak­ing it to for­eign parts judg­ing by the GB sticker, which may also be why it is cosy­ing up to a 1977 Re­nault 4TL. There’s an­other UK/France pair­ing to the left of them, with a MG Metro along­side a Re­nault 14TS.

That splen­did 1950s cabri­o­let parked near to the lamp­post was kindly iden­ti­fied by reader Neil Bircher as a Sun­beam Tal­bot 90. Neil also spot­ted the Toy­ota Supra to the left.

The smaller of Al­lan Mott’s pho­to­graphs (see below) was taken the fol­low­ing April in the same car park but taken at a dif­fer­ent an­gle with Hunt­ing­don’s north­bound plat­form in vis­i­ble the back­ground.

The 1971 Austin Mini in the fore­ground of the 1988 photo van­ished from the DVLA’s records the year af­ter this pic­ture was taken, so it’s fair to as­sume from the rot along its door bot­toms and the crack­ing paint­work around the front whee­larch that this 850 model was al­ready on its last legs.

The Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI MkII would make a good ad­di­tion to the David Brown fleet, be­ing a long-term favourite. Be­yond it are a cou­ple of Fords: a Fi­esta MkII and a Granada. It’s al­ways good to see a Mor­ris Trav­eller rep­re­sented and this tra­di­tional gem con­trasts sharply with the more mod­ern pro­file of a BMW 5-Se­ries. Dif­fer­ent strokes.

The daily park­ing fee of £1 of­fers fur­ther nos­tal­gia – ah, those were the days! – but it must be said that it didn’t stop peo­ple from try­ing to avoid pay­ing it. Hunt­ing­don’s thriv­ing Con­ser­va­tive Club was si­t­u­ated just a brisk walk from the sta­tion and some folk came up with the bright idea of tak­ing up an­nual mem­ber­ship, en­abling them to park there and be quids-in. How­ever, the club cot­toned on to this ploy and nipped it in the bud.

The car park charges at Hunt­ing­don are still a lot less than along the line at Peter­bor­ough.

John Ma­jor served as the Con­ser­va­tive MP for Hunt­ing­don from 1979-2001 and was Prime Min­is­ter from 1990-1997. It was dur­ing his pe­riod in of­fice that Bri­tish Rail was pri­va­tised... which brings us just about full cir­cle.

Ram­pag­ing rust meant this Mini dis­ap­peared from the roads a year

af­ter this pic­ture. The bumpers end­ing un­der the in­di­ca­tors mark this out as a pre-1981

facelift Granada MkII. This BMW E28 5-se­ries was an un­usual boss’s car in 1987 – Granadas and Carl­tons were pre­ferred. Golf GTI prob­a­bly bagged such a good spot be­cause it was fastest to the sta­tion. Oragami de­sign marks this out as the A60 (1981-1986) Toy­ota

Celica or Supra. The roly-poly Re­nault 14’s launch ad­ver­tis­ing

likened it to a pear. Rot­ten pear, more like. Re­nault and Citroën were well served by main deal­ers in the Hunt­ing­don area. Metro’s ‘pep­per­pot’ al­loys and tail­gate spoiler iden­tify it as the more po­tent MG.

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