QUICK OR I’LL MISS IT (OR “DAILY EXPRESS” AND 10 WOODBINES)

As you wait in the queue at the booking office these days you might wonder if ticket issuing has got slower over the years. It probably has, mainly because of the technology used for the accounting and statistical needs of the railway company. It wasn’t always like that. In 1962 I started work at Southall’s booking office, a suburban station 9 miles from Paddington with a lot of commuter traffic. Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays there were 32 up and down trains to book. There was no technology, simply gravity-fed printed tickets in racks for the most popular destinations. Each needed to be dated using the metal date press with its lead type changed every day and inked ribbon - single tickets at one end and return tickets at both. If there wasn’t printed stock, child tickets used one half of the adult version cut diagonally. Monday mornings brought the added work of issuing weekly, monthly and quarterly season tickets: female passengers had an inky ‘W’ stamped on the non-transferable ticket to stop them being used by men! Men’s season tickets didn’t, but woe betide any woman trying to use one…..

The grim exterior of Southall Booking Office in 1964, although 42/6d for three day trips to the seaside in a week isn’t bad! Photo: Mike Peart