300 TRAINS PASS THEIR STATION HOME EVERY DAY
- but life is not the same
by L. W. Dickens
Some 300 trains every 24 hours still pass the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. E. H. Brown, at Station House, Castlethorpe, but there are differences.
For Mr. Brown, 44 years in railway service and Castlethorpe’s last station-master, the 300 trains a day in the years of steam held an excitement and a romance missing in these days of electrification.
“The steam engines were alive.” He said. “You could feel their vigour and strength when you stood on the foot-plate. You knew the type of engine when they passed through the station and you knew the train the Royal Scot, the Lancastrian, the Mancunian. You waited for them to pass…
“Even the sounds were more exciting, the deep powerful roar as a train passed, the shrill of the whistle, the blowing off steam, the rhythm of the wheels…”
As he spoke to me in Station House, in which he had continued to live since retirement, a couple of electric trains passed, still noisy at close quarters, but a rolling purr and a bleat of warning, no roar of power and a whistle that could be heard a mile away.
“Mind you,” said Mr. Brown, “the electric trains are very efficient, bad weather makes very little difference to their timing and that line today probably gives the best inter-city service in Europe. It’s just that it’s different to a railwayman from the days of steam.
Mr. Brown started his railway career in the parcels office of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and had been a station-master at a station in the Pennines before the move to Castlethorpe in 1953. He finished as station-master in September , 1964 but had a short spell in Bletchley goods accounts office, pending retirement in 1967.
As station-master, he saw Castlethorpe Station rebuilt on the eve of its closure seven years ago and the new buildings stood until this year, when they were pulled down and the material removed.
On the Sunday in September on which the last train was due to leave Castlethorpe for London Mr. Brown was off duty and returned home in the evening to find Castlethorpe Station in turmoil.
“All the village had turned out in protest”, he said, “and our local M.P. was there as well. People sat in front of the engine to prevent it leaving. Leave it did, but there was a long delay.”
Present on that occasion was Farmer Amos, who had bought the first ticket from Castlethorpe Station in the 1880’s and from Mr. Brown, bought the last.
At Castlethorpe, Mr. Brown had charge of the station which won a series of awards in the “best kept” station competition, and which was also noted for its ambulance team.
As station-master, he got to everybody within a five mile radius and one of the reasons why he and his wife decided to stay in Castlethorpe after retirement was that they have so many friends in the district.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown, have a daughter, Mrs. Patricia Mary Miller, of Mears Ashby, and there are two grand-daughters.
From 1954 until 1969, Mr. Brown was vicar’s warden at Hanslope, until the retirement of the Rev. David Wingate.