A memory of an old railway line and its closure. . . . . .
If you are reading this you probably have a long interest in railways and their history – at least that’s what the data available to the Friends team suggests. Perhaps, like me, you have your own collection of photos, books and magazines, some of them representing purchases made in the heat of the moment many years ago. That’s certainly a feature of my home study, along with a collection of old newspaper cuttings on railway matters, mostly from the East Midlands where I was born and grew up. It’s an entertaining exercise to unfold them from time to time, carefully teasing apart the now fragile scraps of newsprint, fading slowly to a light brown colour. Conservators would throw up their hands in horror but I quite like the look and feel of old newsprint; it’s somehow more ‘authentic’.
One example I have is a whole page from the ‘Leicester Mercury’ of January 28th, 1966. The headline, in big, bold letters, reads ‘British Railways Board, Public Notice, Transport Act 1962’. Smaller print explains the ‘withdrawal of passenger services between Rugby and Peterborough (East) and Seaton and Stamford’ and ‘Alteration of Railway Passenger Services Leicester – Peterborough’. There then follows a page of dense and tiny print – first, a letter beginning ‘Sir, …… and ending ‘I am, Sir, Your Obedient servant, J H H Baxter, Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Transport.’ Then there are Annexes in three parts ending with ‘The date of implementation will be announced later’. Officialdom then, and no doubt following the letter of the law on such matters – except that one railway historian, writing recently, pointed out that several of these notices were incorrect or even unlawful. No matter, the obedient servant would have his way.
Closer inspection (which not many readers would have attempted) shows a list of stations to be disposed of and alternative bus services. Some of the stations were obscure, to say the least. In my neck of the woods, for example, Lubenham and Theddingworth served villages ‘up the hill’ and at least a mile from the station itself, Yelvertoft and Stanford Station, opened in 1850, served Stanford Park, all right, but Yelvertoft was miles away.
The Leicester Mercury might have acted as the official organ for the intended closure but for the rest of the week various articles appeared about the history of the line, together with letters of outrage or resignation at what was intended. My comments here are not intended to discuss the vexed question of the railways finances but more to remind me – and perhaps you – of the scenes ‘on the ground’ when many of these railway closures were announced.
Looking at the photos today they show another world. A steam loco arriving at a country station with 3 coaches in tow, milk churns on the platform, a solitary passenger waiting to board. Images to fit in with the many more, taken on branch lines up and down the country, many of which ran their last trains in the 1960’s.
Terry’s picture appeared on page 12 of ‘the Mercury’. With long and tousled hair, he looked quite capable of walking the mile or so to work on the farm and back for the evening train. Years later, he remembered it for my microphone:
‘We were pretty upset about it at the time. There’d been rumours, you know, but when it appeared in the papers and on posters at the station after, we all knew there was no point in arguing. There was a row in the pub, a lot of blokes getting ready to go and see the local manager about it, whoever he was. Nobody knew, you see, it was just a name on a poster somewhere.’
‘I think if there had been more local explanation it might have gone down better. I think they were a bit afraid to come. You know, an evening meeting in the village hall wouldn’t have been something to look forward to.’
‘So there was no plan to fight it?’
Terry laughed. ‘No point. The local MP was for ending it as well. Pointless. We all felt set apart from it even though for some, it was ‘their railway’ I think.’
‘I take walks a lot now, I can walk around the local roads without much traffic because of the Covid, you know. I like to get to where the railway crossed the road near Stanford station. The station is a house now but you can make out where the line went. I don’t think there’s any trace now of some of the stations. It’s like it never happened.’
‘Do you still take the Leicester Mercury’? I joked.
‘Oh yes. Just in case they’re announcing the closure of any more lines,’ he laughed.
More on Yelvertoft and Stanford Park station can be found here
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