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Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on Memories of the 50s : Proud Monsters of Steam


Birmingham (New Street) railway station has all the grace and charm of a municipal convenience. The station it replaced was admittedly long past its sell-by date, but what a loss it was.

In reality it was two stations, divided by a cobbled road filled with taxicabs, three-wheeled motorised trucks, and a sprinkling of horse-drawn wagons. Traversing the platforms, high in the air, was a broad passageway with stairways leading downwards. Constructed entirely from wood it echoed and vibrated with the noise of passing crowds.

Proud monsters of steam would exit tunnel mouths into the station, belching sound and smoke, which lingered forever under the high, vaulted and glass-canopied roof. The station was dark, noisy, damp, smelly, and quite wonderful.

The end of each platform hosts a gaggle of small boys eating jam sandwiches and drinking from bottles of Tizer (with wire-hinged caps). Locked in deep discussion, -- cheese labels, girl guides, that sort of thing; or reading magazines ('Real-life Tales of Derring-do from far-flung Corners of the Empire'), with occasional reference to the collected works of Mr Ian Allan.

Travelling home (third class), compartments are isolated from one other and can only be entered from the platform. Each holds ten persons on thick horse-hair padded seats, below tasteful sepia photographs of the sea front, Bognor Regis, 1924; and carriage-width luggage racks in string macramé. Security is provided by the emergency cord -- a limp length of chain, which reputedly is connected to the driver's ankle. The rotary switch labelled "heating" is purely for ornamentation.

It is customary for small boys to travel separately from the rest of society, since it is obligatory to spend the entire journey leaning halfway out of the window.

Written by Smokey