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A SIGNALMAN AT CHORLEYWOOD IN THE WINTER OF 1955

BY DON GRANT

In the autumn of 1955 I moved to Chorleywood as Porter Signalman.

This meant that I worked on the platform as well as the signal box.  Before I could work by myself I had to learn the box and the Absulote block system which I had never worked before.  After training for two or three weeks I had to be qualified by the Divisional Inspector.  A week or so later I was informed that I was to take the Vacancy for Signalman full time.  This meant working one week from 5am to 1pm and next from 5pm to 1am and every other Sunday from 2.50 to 11.10pm.  In those days the station and signal were lit by gas.

I arrived at the station on 4.50 on very dark mornings no street lights in those days as the lights in the road were lit by gas and belonged to the railway and were put out at midnight by the late turn porter.

As I put my key in the side gate I felt someone was waiting to grab me as it was dark and spooky.  The lights under the canopy were not too much of a problem as these has pilot lights on them so I just pulled the chain and they were lit.  But the ones beyond the canopy were the problem it was a good job I was issued with boxes of matches as I could get through a box on a wet windy morning.

When I arrived at the signal box I lit the two lights and gas fire, perhaps my late turn mate had left the fire on low all night then it was not so bad.  I had to phone Rickmansworth and Chalfont and ask if there were trains in section, if there were I would have to wait till they passed before I could to open up the box.  We still had a goods yard in those days and a train arrived about 1.00 midday which conveyed coal and builders merchants goods, then returned with the empties.

To celebrate the Uxbridge branch centenary in July 2004, the vintage Cravens set ran from Uxbridge to Amersham, caught on camera heading north through Chorleywood.

Note disused signal box still in situ at the end of the platform [Leslie Townsend]

Train services in those days were all steam hauled with A3, V2, B1, L1, K3 and WDs on the through Woodford to Neasden coal trains.  The passenger services then were Met trains from Aylesbury to Baker Street and on to Liverpool Street in the peak hours and Saturday mornings.

Also Eastern Region trains from Woodford, Brackley, Aylesbury to Marylebone.  Other trains that passed through during the day were the Master Cutler 7.40 from Sheffield to Marylebone the South Yorkshire in both directions 10.00 from Bradford and 4.50 from Marylebone express Manchester trains at 8.32am, 2.10pm and 4pm from Manchester and 10.11am and 3.20pm from Marylebone plus assorted light engines, parcel and freight trains.  I can remember the first time for Aylesbury had left, I accepted an empty coal train from Rickmansworth.  I then had to wait until it cleared Chalfont at nearly 2.00am.  I soon learnt not to do that again!

Then one Sunday evening we had cows on the line between us and Rickmansworth and I could not close until they were clear of the line.  In those days the staff included a Station Master, Mr Wally Stitson, a Senior Clerk, Harry Benning, two Booking Clerks early and late turns plus two Leading Porters [one was Vic Gooderham] and two Porter Signalman [one who was Charlie Brown], also two Signalmen [Alan Porter and me], a far cry from today's manning levels of one per shift for the whole station.

The Signal Box is still in situ, but has not been used since the late 60s, the levers and equipment long gone.