Heritage Railway

Fond signalbox memories and childhood ride on the footplate


AS a regular subscriber to Heritage Railway, the article about the Preston to Southport line in issue 290 caught my eye. I rang immediatel­y and purchased David Hindle’s book.

I was born in 1937 and therefore lived through the war years at 65 New Lane, Crossens, and from the age of 10 spent many happy hours in the signalbox in New Lane, 200 yards from my home.

There were two signalmen, Frank and Jack. Frank allowed me to go in the signalbox with him, but not so Jack. I knew which one was on duty by recognisin­g the motorcycle parked outside the ‘box. I learned how to pull the signals on and off – those that I could manage as a young lad – and I was permitted to open and close the level crossing gates. I could manage the big wheel, once I got it rolling!

If a train was held at the signal, I had to lie down behind the frames until it had passed. I remember the engines, particular­ly the ‘Black Fives’, and I especially remember asking Frank, ‘what is this engine?’, to which he replied, ‘it’s only an old compound.’

In the summer of 1948, I went to visit my Auntie Hilda, who lived in Barnoldswi­ck. I caught the train from Crossens, arriving in Preston on Platform 10.

I can’t remember the platform, but I changed trains and travelled on to Blackburn, Burnley, and Colne, where I changed again for the Skipton train, getting off at Earby to get the train to Barnoldswi­ck: this, as an 11-year old, in perfect safety, and without a concern in the world.

I travelled to Southport and was waiting for the train to Wigan, planning to get off at Burscough Junction to see the trains which crossed on the main line from Liverpool to Preston. I was standing looking onto the footplate of the engine at Southport when the elderly driver (who was probably about 30!) asked me where I was going.

He very kindly said that if I got into the carriage by the engine, when we got to the first rural station, which would have been Blowick, I could get up on the footplate with him.

One thing that stands out in my mind was a Corona pop bottle with a sprung porcelain top which looked to be full of pop. It was propped up behind the levers on the boiler.

The driver then explained to me that it was tea without milk, being kept warm!

David Hindle’s book is beautifull­y produced and well worth the money.

Gerald Tait, email

➜ Lament For A Branch Line is published by Mortons Books imprint Silver Link, the Nostalgia Collection, and available from 01507 529529 or www.mortonsboo­ks.co.uk

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