Railway romance, fun, and mischief: Station Stories

Hello. I’m Steph and I’ve been volunteering on the Station Stories project. I’ve really enjoyed reading and listening to all the stories people have submitted. I’ve selected some of my favourites so far.

I’ve read many lovely stories about romance at the railway station, from young love, to first dates, and emotional reunions.

When I was 11 years old, I grew very fond of a girl in my class at school. Then came the devastating news that she was to move to a different part of the country and I was never to see her again. Still feeling hopelessly dejected, I went on holiday to Scarborough with my parents. All I could think about was my lost love. Then, on Scarborough station, waiting to catch the late afternoon train home, I saw her. Just as we passed through the station entrance under the clock tower, she was walking the other way with her dad. I obviously couldn’t talk to her but I was absolutely delighted to have seen her one last time. Every time I visit Scarborough and pass under the clock tower I remember that day.

British Rail poster advertising rail travel to Scarborough

Waterloo Station has many special memories for me. I’d been on my first date with Lillian. She had to catch her train from Waterloo and it was the last train of the evening. As we had first met ballroom dancing, we decided to have a little dance on the platform. Her train was about to leave and that is where we had our first kiss. It was brilliant. On our third date, we met under the big clock at the station.Now we live together, twenty minutes walk away from our favourite station.

The clock at Waterloo Station, where Tom and Lillian met before dates.

My husband and I had a terrific argument early in our married life. He left to return to his parents at Dunnington near Sheffield. I missed him so much that I went to York station to get a train to Sheffield. As I was about to get on, he alighted from the train. What a reunion!

I’ve also been hearing how railway stations can be great places for fun and mischief! Many people have fond memories of growing up near stations and recalled their childhood antics.

As children we spent a lot of time at the station. We lived so close that the trains were at the bottom of our street! We were frequently getting told off by the railway police because we were on the lines and we weren’t supposed to be. We used to make dens in the rolling stock wagons. They were empty but it was still very dangerous and we would come back black. It was a playground for us. We loved it!

Station workers made their own fun too, including finding ways to amuse themselves on the trains.

There were houses that backed onto the railway line. The owners put their empty glass milk bottles on their walls for collection. As the train came past, we threw lumps of coal to try and hit the bottles on the wall. The women in the houses gathered up these lumps of coal to light their fires.

Sometimes railway workers were the victims of pranks. One junior rail man fell foul of the wintery weather.

I enjoyed getting to know the passengers. Although most passengers were friendly, one group of girls from a private school who changed trains at the station were mischief makers. During the winter they’d throw snowballs at me. Once they made a slide at the bottom of the footbridge stairs. I slid halfway along the platform whilst they pelted me with snowballs.

Snow at York Station

Reading about the social life connected with the railways has also been lovely. I especially liked discovering the tradition of railway queens. The first railway queen was chosen in 1924 and, every year afterwards, 50,000 people attended the competition at the Belle Vue carnival in Manchester. The event was one of the main dates in the railway social calendar and staff travelled to Manchester on special charter trains. All girls below the age of 14 from railway families could enter the contest. Sue Smith, née Tonge, was chosen as the railway queen in 1966. Here she is in her railway queen regalia. She had four velvet gowns, two in blue and two red, as well as six tiaras and two chains of office.

Former railway queen, Sue Smith

Perhaps all this romance, fun and socialising is what kept four consecutive generations of one family working on the railways for 160 years. I really enjoyed reading their story. Altogether, seven members of the family contributed a massive 250 years’ work. A real labour of love.

Most families would have difficulty telling you the occupation of their great grandparents, but for the Selby family there is no problem: everyone worked on or was in some way involved with the rail roads of Great Britain. The railways were a real family affair.

 This is Maurice Selby. When he joined the railway, he followed in the footsteps of his father and his grandfather.

During World War Two, Maurice’s duties included issuing tickets and completing paperwork.

Of course, there had to be some perks for all this family’s hard work.

Maurice’s eldest daughter Pauline travelled to school on the train, albeit to the next stop in the town of Thorne. In the cold winter, passenger trains were often delayed. This, however, was no obstacle for Maurice, who telephoned down the line, convincing the signalman to stop a goods train in the station, allowing Pauline to travel home on the footplate.

I’d love to hear your memories too. If you have a station story you’d like to share, you can get in touch by filling in our online Station Stories form or emailing your story to station.stories@nrm.org.uk

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About Steph Webb

I'm a volunteer at the National Railway Museum, helping with the Station Stories project as part of the Station Hall redevelopment.
This entry was posted in Research, Station Hall redevelopment. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Railway romance, fun, and mischief: Station Stories

  1. John Richardson says:

    Hello,

    A bit off topic I know, but, which loco won the “lighting” competition please? It was a fantastic evening and very well done by the artists, and the NRM !

  2. Hi John – sorry, there are no plans to publish the full results.

    • John Richardson says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for your response. I am bound to say that is disappointing and I suggest a “miss” by the NRM !

      I think the many people who visited the lighting exhibition and voted on the displays would welcome a short article, giving the results of their voting. I am sure they would be interested in that as a conclusion to a wonderful feature by the NRM and the lighting people.

      With best regards,

      John R

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