October 9 2017: railway cats

Yesterday’s blog sought the identity of five North-East stations based on brief descriptions from Simon Jenkins’s new book “Britain’s 100 Best Railway Stations.”

The reader who supposed the one approached over an eleven-arch viaduct with spectacular views to be Windsor may need a geography refresher. Try Durham.

The others were Newcastle, Hexham, Darlington and Middlesbrough,  the last two said to be due multi-million pound facelifts. The first to name the set was Nigel Brierley, a Northern League enthusiast who, by happy chance, lives in Huddersfield.

“Nowhere is Britain’s railway architecture so honoured as in Huddersfield,” writes Jenkins, while Sir John Betjeman thought Huddersfield’s the most splendid station facade in England.

In front of it stands a statue of Sir Harold Wilson, though poor Harold has recently been overshadowed by a station cat called Felix, whose 100,000 Facebook followers may make him even more popular than Heaton Stan Harry (who’s a dog.)

Promoted last year to senior pest controller and given a high-vis jacket and a name badge, Felix is said to draw visitors from all over the world – the Far East, especially – and now has a book deal. He may not catch many mice but he scares the hell out of the pigeons.

Heaton Stan Harry’s a good lad, for a dog, and may be alone among Northern League mascots. We seem to have eschewed the fashion for grown men poncing about in animal costumes, though Morpeth Mickey and Guisborough Gus may be just around the corner.

Felix wasn’t the first railway cat, of course. That was Skimbleshanks, immortalised by T S Eliot:

There’s a whisper down the line at 11 39

When the Night Mail’s ready to depart,

Saying Skimble, where is Skimble, has he gone to hunt the thimble

We must find him or the train can’t start.

Nigel Brierley’s presently roaming the North with one of those 4-days-in-8 Rail Rover tickets. We may do the same next week.