It's the little things that stick in one's mind!
My Dad was Station Master at North Shields station and my Grandad was also on the railway. He was a signalman and, as far back as I can remember, I went on train journeys. You got privilege tickets of course, as many as you wanted. There were also free passes, about five a year I think, to go anywhere in the country. So when we went on holiday it was always by train and a lot of local travelling was done by train.
My memories as a youngster on local trains, particularly visiting East Boldon where Grandad was the Station Master, was of very, very dirty wartime trains. I don’t think they were ever cleaned and, of course, they were steam locomotives. If you put your face out of the window, by jove your face needed a good wash afterwards! Clouds of steam and dirty smoke. This affected not only the trains but everywhere that they passed through.
Do you remember when you were youngsters, the trains had a very definite rhythm? Da didi da, da didi do, da didi da. That wasn’t anything magic, it was caused by the way the rails were laid with expansion gaps in them. Whereas now the rails are laid and welded together with much longer gaps between sections, giving a smoother journey than in the old days.
One last memory. I can remember once waking up at about 4 o’clock in the morning at a station called Mangotsfield, in the Bristol area. The only sound was that of the milk churns being off-loaded and loaded onto the train. It is these little things that stick in one’s mind.