SOME images stop you in your tracks.
Many years ago, I was researching an article about the opening of the M1 in 1959.
In a library archive, I came across a photo of a few cars driving up the empty motorway on the first weekend of a new era.
The almost total lack of traffic was striking enough.
But even more memorable was the view of the houses up on the embankment to the side of the new road.
All the way along, sitting in their garden deckchairs, local residents were admiring the view.
It’s hard now to imagine the excitement Britain’s first motorways generated – or how they became instant tourist destinations.
But it’s all there in a new three-part BBC4 series called The Secret Life Of The Motorway.
Narrated by Philip Glenister, the documentaries will be a real eye-opener for anyone who only knows today’s jammed motorways as roads to hell.
There’s a feature in today’s MEN – the online version is here.
They look hilarious now, but back in the 1950s public information films were produced explaining the dos and don’ts of motorway driving.
That included no U-turns across the central grass verge – crash barriers had yet to be thought of.
A former AA patrolman explains how cars of the time just weren’t built for speed.
That led to thousands of breakdowns, usually from blown engines.
It’s a fascinating glimpse of a very different age.
By the time Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction was built, not everyone wanted to sit in deckchairs admiring the view.
Nearby residents, like Margaret Black, were trapped.
“It’s not a pleasant thing to live by,” she says.
“I think the engineers that built it should come and live here for at least a month – with all the windows propped open.”
Life In The (First) Fast Lane
The Motorway Archive