Hello, I’m Verity and I’ve been working as an intern in the Exhibition and Design team for two months as part of my Masters course.
I’ve been working on the Station Stories project. As part of this, I recently accompanied Sally Sculthorpe, an Assistant Interpretation Developer, to Birmingham to gather stories from former railway workers at the London Midland Railway Club Association in Tysley.
Here’s a snap of me talking to a former railway worker.
I’ve selected a few stories to share with you along with some images in our collection that really bring these stories to life.
I was a junior porter in them days. I had a job on the tractors moving the parcels. We often used to get girls coming down from the Cheltenham ladies college. One day, a girl come off the train with a heavy case. I put it on my tractor’s running board. I said, “I’ll see you on platform number nine”, because I had to go to the parcels office on number ten. I went on round the corner and the case fell off and busted. There were tennis balls all down the platform. I hastily tied up the case, and took it up to the train for Cheltenham. The next morning I had to go and see the Station master, he said, “Next time, put it on a luggage barrow properly”.
In the booking office we used to get accidents reported. One Christmas eve, this chap came running down the stairs at Nottingham station. It was slippy. The porter opened the train door for him, the train went off, and the chap they’d let appeared on the track on the other side. His excuse was, “I thought it was a corridor train.” He’d run right through the train. The porter said, “All I can do is submit a report”.
It’s amazing how people don’t read notices. I remember once the station ceiling was being re-plastered. We put a notice up saying, “Please use other entrance”. Most people would look around, realise what was going on, and read the notice, but this person didn’t. He actually had to walk around the notice to get down the steps. We couldn’t believe it. My colleague said to me, “Why is it that people leave their brains behind when they walk into a railway station?”
The travelling ticket collectors would come in to the booking office and they’d tell you stories of what they’d come across. One chap was working in Chester at the time. They had a station cat there. He said it was amazing because the cat instinctively knew which platform to go on to get a bit of fish. The cat always turned up when the fish train was pulling in.
All drivers from Birmingham bought pork pies from a particular butcher’s when they stopped in York. One day a mate of mine said to the lady in the shop, “I’d like the biggest pork pie you have”. He meant the large one in the window, but she went out the back and returned with a giant pork pie as big as a Christmas cake. He hadn’t the nerve to say no to it.
I once drove the circus train after a performance by the Chipperfield Circus from Dudley up to Stoke-On-Trent. It was winter time and there was a heavy snow. The elephants were led on to the freight train. The heat of their bodies melted the frost on top of the vans.