Tales from South Town Station

Recollections of Sydney Rackham

Transcribed from a recorded interview (March 2001)

Now the upper storey there was the stationmaster's dwelling. It was, well it was quite an extensive flat and the stationmaster for many years was a man called Wilson and he always dressed as if he was either a bank manager or a cabinet minister, always in black suit and whatnot, very gentlemanly type of chap. He had one son who went to the grammar school, Billy his name was. I don't know what eventually happened to him but he was besotted with railways and he used to go, spend all his days, all his spare time on South Town Station and he got so accomplished on the old semaphore type equipment that messages were sent on that he could put out more words per minute than any of the clerical staff there and short of driving a train there was virtually nothing that he didn't know or could do connected with the railways.

The staff at South Town Station consisted of the aforementioned stationmaster and then the head of the clerical staff was a very fussy little man called Tom Hubbard, the rule book was his bible, no variations were allowed from the company's rules and regulations, whatever. To illustrate this point, I'll come up with a little personal thing again. My doctor and my father's doctor, for many years was Doctor Dean at Gorleston, K. Hamilton Dean. At that time, very often, medical supplies, etc. were sent by train from London. Anyway, Doctor Dean got a phone call one day and he was out in his garden. He had quite a big garden at the back of his surgery years ago and he was a keen gardener and he was out there in his hacking jacket and whatnot looking rather dishevelled doing his gardening and a phone call came through to say that there was a parcel at South Town Station awaiting collection. So he got in his old Rover car and he drove there and he went into the front office and said to the aforementioned Mr. Hubbard 'Oh, er, you've got a parcel there for Doctor Dean, could you let me have it please.' And Hubbard said 'Who are you?'. Well he said, 'I'm Doctor Dean'. 'Well have you got any identification.' He said 'Oh dear , no I haven't, don't you know me'. He said 'No, I don't.' So he said 'Oh, well that's a problem then'. Just then my dad walked through, you see and Doctor Dean said 'Percy, will you tell this man who I am.' So of course my dad said 'Well, it's Doctor Dean.' So Hubbard said 'Well if you can verify for him.' So Dean said 'Well, I know I don't much look like a doctor, I look more like a tramp but I can assure you I am Doctor Dean.' Anyway, as a result of my father verifying the fact that he was Doctor Dean the parcel was handed over.

Well anyway, that rather long-winded thing...Hubbard was the chief clerk if you like, the resident ticket collector was a man called Leek, Mr. Leek, and the resident shunter was a thick set burly man by the name of Eagle. He was on duty one day during the war when a soldier attempted to alight from the London train coming in and as was a dangerous but common practice in those days, people used to throw the carriage doors open and jump out before the train had actually come to a standstill. Well he lost his footing and he disappeared under the train and the railway staff of course, including the aforementioned man, Eagle, went under, and the train unfortunately had severed both his legs so a doctor was called to administer morphine and whatnot on the spot.

Anyway, moving on, the travelling ticket collector at Yarmouth South Town, his stint each day was up to London twice and back. Very smart little man, called Knowles and his thing was, he always had a fresh buttonhole to start the day every morning. Well of course there were various other people there, the locomen funnily enough, apart from when they were operating a train together, the locomen really had nothing to do with the platform staff, there was a clear diving line between the two. Where I lived at Cobholm, there were two railway drivers and a guard, both lived on the road. One of them was Mr. Pinnock and the other driver was a man called Fulger, Jimmy Fulger, quite a cheerful man really. He had an unfortunate experience during the war because he was on the footplate of a train coming from London and a German bomber decided to strafe the train. Fortunately he wasn't hit but the duckboards on the footplate had machine gun bullets in them Shook them up very badly, him and the fireman but as I say, luckily they escaped injury.