Monday, September 29, 2014

At the Station

              A restored locomotive of that era

When I was boy not yet in my teens our family moved to a small market town in Hampshire, England. The war was over but not the privation of those dreadful years. The town we moved to could with all honesty be said to be at the end of the line for it was the terminus for the electric trains that ran regularly from London, The trains on reaching the settlement not quite 50 miles away looked around and horrified rushed quickly back to the metropolis again.

I am lying of course which is what storytellers do best!


Being a market town it held a market every week on a Tuesday to market things that were not available in the shops, such as live sheep and cattle and pigs from the farms nearby together with feathered friends too. In school holidays it was a major attraction for boys my age to walk around the pens and view the weighing of the stock on the weighbridge and run and laugh with glee when a when pig or cow or best of all a bull somehow escaped from his handler and chose to go home by himself to avoid being taken to the nearest slaughterhouse. Usually they avoided the street and chose the narrow lanes and walkways to terrify the town’s inhabitants. Us boys thought that was even better than going to the movies.


In those days there was not much of anything in the shops, rationing continued in Britain for a few years. Everything too was still in black and white. There was a cinema in the town, given a name exactly opposite to its character it was of course the Palace!  With no television our great pleasure was to pay a visit twice a week on grey Wednesday and Friday evenings to watch a mostly grey film in that grey town in a very grey country in our grey times.


However all was not bad for boys as the station where the electric trains terminated was also the terminus for two little branch line railways that headed off into the country to find their way to meet other mainlines at Winchester and Havant. These single track systems were of great interest to young boys because the trains were pulled by steam locomotives.


After school each day and at weekends much time was spent at the station or by the side of the track, or on the track, or under a bridge or placing pennies on the track for the train’s wheels to make them bigger while we hid in the bushes so the engine driver couldn't see us. Not that that mattered as he couldn't stop his engine just to chase after us and in those days hardly anybody had phones or portable radios, let alone mobile (cell) phones which wouldn't make their appearance for at least another 30 years.


Not all stations had turntables for engines to turn around before making a return journey so a special provision was made for the engine at it’s country terminus to uncouple from its carriages and on an adjacent siding would go to the other end of the waiting carriages and re-couple with them there to take the train back to its original starting point. However, now the engine was facing the wrong way for the return trip to pull the train home. Some improvement was made to this method by having the rear carriage fitted with a communication device with the engine and the guard would every few seconds indicate to the driver at the back of the train that the track was clear in front as it was pushed backwards. The engine of course was travelling in reverse and without gears could travel forward or back at the same speed.


Sadly those branch lines are now closed to the public and I wonder what adventures boys of today have without them. Oh yes, I remember they have an iPad for a friend.  

8 comments:

  1. Nice bit of nostalgic reminiscence here. The only thing missing is Josephine Magpie (Joe's younger sister), blonde haired, blue eyed, who would surely have caught your eye as she stood by the track dreaming of that wonderful day when she could get on a train and actually go to LONDON! I can still smell the wonderful odours that hung around Alton market.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you are aware my father worked in London during the war so we often visited the capital. So I was an eye witness to the effect of that war on the city. Josie Magpie probably managed a shorter trip to Aldershot and the soldiers there only 12 miles away...and got told off for it!

      Delete
    2. At least there would have been no Magistrate Colpeper in Aldershot, to pour glue onto her hair!

      Delete
  2. Having just spent the weekend with my grandson, I can relate to the IPad comment. Great story from the past....very curious about this Josie Magpie!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that trains and railways will always hold a bit of enchantment for those of us that are a bit older. As children we loved to count the cars on long freight trains that rolled across the Midwest prairie, and we listened for the train whistle that blew in the middle night as the train passed through our town. We also rode trains now and then during the two years that I lived in Germany and it was such fun! Today's kids are sadly missing out on all the adventures of youth. What will they look back on fondly... an app that was on their iPad or phone? It makes me sad to even consider.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Today's children aren't creating the same types of memories, and it's not just the iPad that's to blame. In America, it's now considered neglect to let a child play freely outdoors. And let's not even discuss letting said child near a train, unsupervised!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Values change in an atmosphere of war of course, as what we did was not as bad at what was raging around us just a few years previously.

      Delete
  5. Such beautiful memories. Post war-England took many years to recouperate from the travesty. I'm glad you have those wonderful memories. I suspect, in retrospect, the youth of today, will their own memories, as well.

    ReplyDelete