Every year there are many things which are predictable; Easter, Christmas, "A-Levels are easier" in August, and calls for "Greenwich Mean Time to be abolished" every October. I have another one to add to the list - on a local issue. After every Bank Holiday weekend without fail, my local free magazine, which is delivered once a month, is full of letters from whinging residents. Their complaint? That steam trains at the local railway museum has ruined their 'right' to sit in their garden because of the smoke and noise. And yesterday's free copy was no exception, here's one example:
Dear Ed,Arrrghhh! I should point out that every letter of complaint so far has come from a resident of a house situated next to the railway lines and which was built less than 15 years ago - far far younger than the presence of the railway in Didcot. So a quick potted history.
Far be it for me to bring up old news, but again I've had a problem with the Didcot Railway Society. The...weekend we've just had was again marred by the smoke and fumes of one of the steam trains.... Several of my neighbours were stood outside their homes complaining about the fumes... the fumes were so awful that I felt the need to contact the Environmental Health Department, if only to seek reassurance that these fumes are not in anyway a risk to my health...some of my neighbours are elderly and some have young children.
Didcot was an inconsequential place until Mr Brunel's "Super Iron Snake" arrived in 1839 and transformed it into one of major significance - it became a junction on the Great Western Line to Bristol, London, Oxford and Southampton (the latter line closed due to Beeching) So much so it became an important part of military logistics - Vauxhall Barracks is still there. It's why it is known as a 'railway town' and why the local football team are nicknamed 'the railwaymen'. The railway links and the easy commuter route to London are the reason that the town is still popular (well it's not for any other reason I can assure you), indeed the demand for housing has been so great that it has lead to the current and controversial extensive house building programme. All of which easily demonstrates that the railway has been a proud and integral part of Didcot's history for 172 years.
And because of Didcot's history it has naturally been the location, for over 40 years, for the Didcot Railway centre, not only a celebration of the railway but in particular the Great Western Railway. Now, being Didcot's only tourist attraction unsurprisingly it doesn't keep this quiet. Directions signs are all over the nearest motorways and dual carriageways, the centre is heavily promoted in the local press and tourist offices and it even appeared in an episode of Inspector Morse. Not only that, the museum also advertises itself by means of a very prominent and very tall coal stage which has the words; "Didcot Railway Centre" emblazoned on one of the sides in large black letters. Surely that a relatively well-known railway museum has steam trains and that they make lots of smoke and noise cannot come as a surprise, can it?
So one would think that it is the responsibility of those buying a house (by far the most expensive purchase most of us make) to be aware of the heritage and the surroundings and take notice of the obligatory environmental survey at the very least. Apparently not to some residents.
I don't expect anyone to be the deduction genius that is Sherlock Holmes when buying a home, but seriously, how much more of a clue do some people want?