Travelling by rail is a great way to see a country and cover a lot of ground at the same time – and two inteprid travellers are about to see every bit of Great Britain as they take on the task of visiting all 2563 of its national rail stations.
Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall are two Londoners who’ve started the ambitious project All the Stations. The project was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, and as they travel, they are recording their experience in a series of online videos, with plans to make a documentary.
The pair set out on their journey on 7 May and they expect to finish up in mid-August, with the last stop being either Thurso or Wick in north Scotland. So far, they’ve visited 1210 stations, hitting up all of the stops in the Southwest, Southeast, London, East Anglia and East Midlands.
Both are uniquely qualified to take on such a project – Geoff is a video producer who has twice held the world record for visiting all the stations on the London underground in the fastest possible time, while Vicki is a museum education professional at the London Transport Museum. Geoff also gives tours of abandoned tube stations in London for the Transport Museum.
Vicki told Lonely Planet that her passion is for the social history side of railways, like “how transport shapes communities, brings people together and changes lives. I have really enjoyed talking to people and finding out more about their stories, how they feel about the railways, why they use them and where they are going”.
Geoff explained that he loved the big National Railway trains as a kid, long before he became interested in the tube. “I’d always looked at maps of the UK railway system all through my childhood and teens and wanted to go to all these places by train, and I’m now I’m fortunate enough to be able to do just that”.
They note that the country is at an important moment for rail, as upgrades and redevelopments continue. New technology is poised to improve services, but will change many elements of rail travel, from buying tickets to the length of rides. Their documentary aims to show how great train travel is and how it will become better in the future. They pair says that from what they’ve already seen, Britain needs more trains, more railways, and more public transport for the nation to open up the country for everyone.
When it comes to the best spots they’ve seen, Vicki said that Market Rasen in Lincolnshire captured her imagination. Since it is going through renovation work, she says it has the feeling of being loved by the community. “There are lots of great artworks, plaques linking people to the history of the station and the nearby town, in the waiting room there is a book exchange and posters created by local school children highlighting important safety information about the railways. One of the grandest features is a large ‘Welcome’ sign over the stations main entrance. It’s brilliant!”
According to Geoff, “any small station is a wondrous thing. When we found Coombe Junction Halt, it was down a winding country line, and suddenly, tucked behind a tree blowing in the breeze, was an old wooden gate which led you down to a railway platform, and suddenly – a solitary platform with a tiny shelter! And it was a beautiful thing”.
If you want to go out and see some of the amazing stations for yourself, Vicki and Geoff have some great advice for would-be rail travellers. They say that booking tickets in advance can help you get the best deals. They also encourage travellers to check out the different railcard options to save money, and check out websites where you can buy advance tickets or get split ticketing deals.
And if you’re wondering where you should go on your railroad adventure, they encourage people to check out seaside towns like Walton-on-the-Naze, Clacton and Skegness. “The great British getaway to the seaside is still there to be enjoyed, and you can do it by train. Why not buy a ticket to the seaside this weekend and have a great day out!”