With all the tram works going on in Blackpool and the upheaval it’s causing to motorists as they try to negotiate the road works, it got me remembering steam trains. This excellent cover image is a steam train early this year (2018) on the Settle to Carlisle railway, taken by steam enthusiast and friend of Visit Fylde Coast, Barrie C Woods.
So I’m going for a little walk down memory lane again today as I’ve been thinking about the good old days a lot recently.
Remembering Steam Trains
I was remembering steam trains when I was a young girl and going on my first one to Sheffield. I was about five years old, I must have a good memory as I can remember it very well. First, it was a good mile walk to the station that we used and I can honestly say it was like looking at the Railway Children, if you’ve seen the film or read the book. I remember vividly going into the station office where you bought your tickets, a room full of mahogany furniture, doors and the lot. In Winter, it was lovely as there was a fire always blazing its head off for the poor folks who had to wait outside for a train. It was a very cosy effect and I can see now the reflection of the flames shooting up onto the wooden walls.
My dad would buy the tickets and then we had a walk down the slope to stand and wait for the train. Oh the excitement when the puffing Billy came.
The steam trains used to chug-chug-chug their way into the station and oh what an amazing, if not a bit fearful, sight it was to a five year old. It was like looking at model trains that you see today with the driver and his mate in the cab, where the mate had the unpleasant task of shovelling coal into the boiler to create the steam. Of course, the train had a good supply of water which was fed from the platform down a huge chute from a water holder. Because of course, you needed water and heat to create steam to power the trains.
A Red Letter day
Anyway, when the train finally stopped at the platform, I remember my parents lifting me up the steps into the inside of the train.
Now bear in mind that in those days, people didn’t travel very far very often. The reason, because train services weren’t that frequent or as far reaching back then, and a lot of people simply couldn’t afford it. It seems weird now in this world of speed and transport, when you can easily go anywhere in the world that you fancy, to it being a red letter day if you had a day out. MY how times change.
Once inside the train you had to find somewhere to sit. With two different kinds of carriages, for me as I grew older, the best was the carriage that had a corridor.
The other kind was a carriage without a corridor (like the one in this photo below) so you had to get in that compartment and stay there for the rest of your journey. There was no going to another carriage, unless you fancied climbing out of the window and going over the roof to get to another one, which I’m sure you will agree wasn’t an option!
The one drawback with the single compartment was that if anyone a bit odd looking came in you were stuck with them, shivering in your shoes. In the past, some people were known to have been attacked or molested as nobody would know what was going on, yuk!
A corridor train meant you could get up and have a walk to somewhere else, so for me, there was no competition. The drawback was that you didn’t get what you wanted, you got what you were given, which for a woman or someone young could be scary!
My first journey
Back to my first journey on a steam train. The seats were padded horsehair or something of that ilk and if you banged them clouds of dust would shoot out of them choking you.
Again, wood trimmed mahogany was everywhere with wall lights, the very old fashioned type, for when it was dark. There were always pictures, usually fox hunting, or fields and scenic things. Can you imagine what would happen today if you had pictures and wall lights in a train, wow, it makes your mind wobble!
I also remember the doors to the train which had to be slammed shut and were very heavy. They had a wide leather strap that you used to pull the window up and down. It was much like a belt strap and were they awkward to use, that’s an understatement.
The exciting bit for me was when we were moving, very slowly by today’s standards, and I used to hang out of the window to see the clouds of steam and soot blowing its head off. Of course, you got covered in soot, but when you were knee high to a grasshopper you didn’t care!
Remembering Steam Trains and the Santa Express
We did actually take Jane on a Santa Express when she was young, going from Keighley in West Yorkshire. It was absolutely magical with a Father Christmas giving out a present to everyone which the children loved. Of course she hung out of the window to see the steam, as did Derek and I, and for me it was like going back in time to a forgotten world. It was only then that I realised how slow these trains were, it was like crawling!
I suppose there could be more memories of my first encounter with a ‘puffer train’ as children called them, but I would be writing all day. If I have got anything wrong with my story, please bear with me and remember that I was only five years old, so my memory has had to dig back a long way!!
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