It has been over 41 years since I rang my last block bell in a Signal box on the Consett branch line.
However the memories of working at Consett, first as a Guard on the Tyne dock to Consett ore trains then bringing up coal from the Colliery’s of the Durham coalfield is as clear now as it was then.
After I left the train crew grades I became a Relief Signalman at Consett until closure of the branch when I was transferred to Ferryhill box on the East coast main line.
Then I became a Signals inspector and eventually a Signalling Manager at Middlesbrough, a varied and long career on British Railways.
When I was sent to Consett as a Relief Signalman everyone thought I was mad.
They would say ,’ What on earth do you want go to Consett for?’
But go I did and, it was a life changing experience which held me in good stead for the rest of my railway career. One of my Signal boxes was Consett North this was down at the Low yard.
It was a great place to work because the railway men who where there where all characters in their own right.
Billy McCauley was one of them he lived with his sister at the grove, Billy made a beautiful garden behind the signal box at Consett North and we all helped with the weeding and planting.
Doreen from the office at Consett station would assist as well, when the vegetables and flowers where in bloom a grand sight it was to behold.
Our boss was Mr Edward Gray he was the Station master and was of the old school, it was his railway and it ran like clockwork working with Consett iron company lads.
One day at Consett North box I was on early turn when two men from British Rail telecoms arrived to service the yard speaker system.
This was operated from inside the signal box by means of a bacolite unit. Now it had never worked for years all we did was shout out the window to the railway lads in the yard when we needed them.
So the first lad says where’s the amplifier for it? I hadn’t a clue at this point the two of them searched in the box cupboards finally finding the yard ampifier unit.
Ah said the first one there’s your problem pointing at a old valve unit. I remember a makers plaque on it which read Marconi Radio Systems 1941.
On closer inspection lying very much mummified in amongst the valves was a dead mouse the poor thing had probably caused it to blow up years before.
Oh said the lad well soon get that fixed, and true to his word he came back a few months later with a state of the art amplifier as the old one was beyond it help.
Well after that no more shouting out of Windows, at the flick of a switch your voiced boomed round the yard.
In the November of 1979 it was announced the works was to close the following September 1980.
My beloved Consett railway was soon to be no more R.i.P my freind and thank you for letting me be a small part of you.
Do any of the names mentioned “ring a bell”?