Incident at St.Olaves

Recollections of Sydney Rackham

Transcribed from a recorded interview (March 2001)

The main London line, after it left Beccles, it used to go through Aldeby. Well of course Aldeby was a very small station but it had a great deal of milk traffic due to the close proximity of Gays who now runs quite a lot of large milk tankers that go all over the county and beyond. And of course the milk, it was all those very heavy metal churns. Well there was a knack in tilting them over at an angle and rolling them along, without the milk spilling out of course.

Anyway to get back to what I was talking about earlier. Now the line, after it left Aldeby, it went in a fairly straight path to Haddiscoe station, which was high and low level. After leaving Haddiscoe station, the high level line to Yarmouth used to go in a rather sweeping left hand curve, through a cutting and into St.Olaves station. Now, quite a number of the London trains were non-stop after Beccles, straight through to Yarmouth which of course was the ideal situation for the aforementioned Mr. Pinnock. Once he left Beccles he could get the bit between his teeth so to speak. So, if you can picture the train at full steam ahead coming through the cutting into view of the station and as I stated previously the poor old signalman, he was just not quick enough getting down the steps to open the level-crossing gates and as a result of that Mr. Pinnock went through them at... well, I would say a horrendous speed and shattered the gates in a hundred pieces and of course London North Eastern had to quickly rush another set, a brand new set of gates and put into position as soon as possible. Luckily of course the road traffic situation was nothing like it is now so there were no actual people involved other than the main players, the signalman and Mr. Pinnock and of course the frustrated guard at the end of the train. Anyway, well I won't way he was suitably reprimanded but he was reprimanded but it was not long after that incident, only a matter of weeks anyway before once again driver Pinnock roared through the cutting, once again the signalman on duty at that time was not agile enough to get down and once more the gates were shattered.

Well, that's more or less the Pinnock episode. These main line drivers were the creme-de-la-creme of all the engine drivers, the main-liners as they were referred to. This was reflected sometimes in their mode of dress. I mean, I know one who used to drive the engine in a bowler hat and bow-tie. Anyway, I do know that Mr. Pinnock, he didn't get the sack. As far as I know he still carried on with his foot down or throttle open technique.