My rail memories are based on fact

PUBLISHED: 12:13 24 August 2006 | UPDATED: 11:59 04 May 2010

OH dear, there is always one and he can t even get my name right! I would therefore ask you for the opportunity to defend my proper name against the sarcastic Mr Spencer as my story is based on fact and not conjectures. I have no doubt Mr Spencer had a v

OH dear, there is always one and he can't even get my name right! I would therefore ask you for the opportunity to defend my proper name against the sarcastic Mr Spencer as my story is based on fact and not conjectures.

I have no doubt Mr Spencer had a very distinguished career on the railways, but my story concerned the period he was a mere lamp lad. There were two lads who attended on alternate times. One, if my memory is right, was Ken Ginn who hailed from Sutton, but I feel sure both were younger than Mr Spencer.

Given his age, I wonder if indeed he was a returning serviceman, if so, his time would be after I left; he did not specify. These lads arrived and serviced the signal lamps and stayed for about two/three hours maximum on each visit and I very much doubt whether our station master discussed how he ran his station with either of them. He certainly did not with me and I was on his pay roll! Neither do I remember discussing with them whether any lamps had to be relit between their visits, they were always alight when they arrived because we had to keep them alight for obvious reasons.

There was a war on. Because of the war effort and the lack of road transport, the railways were completely clogged. At frequent times there were trains being passed from section to section on a stop start basis and schedules went out of the window, both for goods and passenger trains. Signalmen did not have 'quiet' periods and the rule at our station was that signal boxes were not left unattended, so that's where I came in, when my boss was unavailable and, let's be fair, it was only for five or 10 minutes.

Toilet facilities at the station were well known to me as it was my job to clean them, but I don't remember one at the 'box', just an occasional damp patch on the outer wall.

I have no doubt that the railways settled down after the war and health and safety factors kicked in and many of the activities, such as using youngsters as I have described, would have ceased. A toilet may even have been provided for Mr Spencer, as the relief signalman, before he was required to relieve himself at Black Bank signal box!

RON CORNWALL, Gossops Green, Crawley, West Sussex

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