Tape 191. Talk by John Newman about Witham Railway Station

Tape 191

John Newman gave his talk about Witham Railway Station on 7 February 2000 to Witham History Group. He lived then at 35 The Avenue, Witham.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]


Side 1

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Just a brief, really, outline of Witham station. The Eastern Counties Railway was opened from Mile End to Romford on the 18th of June 1839, and from Shoreditch, which later became Bishopsgate, to Mile End and Romford and to Brentwood on the 1st of July 1840. But due to inclement weather, landslides, arguments with landlords, especially with Lord Petre at Ingatestone, and financial difficulties, the line was not opened from Brentwood to Colchester until the 7th of March 1843 for goods traffic, and till the 27th of March for passenger traffic, when the station at Witham was opened. It is recorded in the local press that the Witham Town Band joined the first train in an open coach at Witham, and played stirring music for the remainder of the journey to Colchester .[laughter]. Now can you imagine, the band playing ‘See the Conquering Hero Come’ being hailed with soot and smuts from the engine.

The original Witham station, basically in the same position as now, was a wooden construction offering very few facilities for passengers, with the entrance and booking office in Easton Road, and a wooden goods shed just north of the passenger station. The station was served by four trains each way on weekdays, taking almost two hours to reach London. The terminal was at Bishopsgate. Liverpool Street station was not opened for mainline traffic until the 1st of November in 1875. The main reason was, it was a very heavy residential area, and before they could extend it to where it is now, they had to pass an Act of Parliament to knock down, I think it was about four hundred dwellings. And after they’d knocked them down, then they extended to Liverpool Street, and there was a concession then, that all those who were made homeless, would move basically into the areas of Chingford and that area, and they were given special facilities and cheaper travel into Liverpool Street. Sundays provided two trains each way.

[At Witham]  considerable alterations, including the positioning of additional platforms and facilities were made to the station in 1848, with the opening of the Braintree and Maldon branches on the 15th of August of that year. The Braintree and Maldon railway was planned as a separate company, with their line crossing the Eastern Counties main line just north of the Eastern Counties station, and their own station on the Maldon side of the main line, but before completion, the line was taken over by the Eastern Counties Railway and diverted into their station as two separate branches, as we knew them. They obviously had their eyes on extra cash, and did not like the idea of the railway crossing their main line, which I can understand. On the 7th of August 1862, the Eastern Counties Railway was absorbed into, and became part, of the newly formed Great Eastern Railway. After the takeover, further improvements were made to the station, platforms were extended, and facilities generally improved, but still mainly of wooden construction. The train services were improved with eight trains each day weekdays, and five on Sundays, with an improved time of about one hour and twenty minutes then to Bishopsgate.

June 1863 saw great activity at the station, as the Essex Agricultural Show was held at Witham on Thursday the 25th of June. This was the forerunner of the Essex Show. And this would have involved the movement of very considerable numbers of livestock and agricultural implements, special fares being in operation for most of the Great Eastern stations, and special trains were run between Bishopsgate and Witham. There is a leaflet on the table here giving details of those, kindly provided by Janet.

On Tuesday the 1st of October 1889, a curve was brought into use between the Maldon branch and the main line near Motts Lane crossing, to allow trains to run through from Southend to Colchester. There is a map here to show that if anybody’s interested. This entailed the building of two additional signal boxes, Witham South Junction, where the curve left the Maldon branch, and Witham East Junction where it joined the main line.

The curve was only used by one train each way on Saturdays, between Southend and Colchester, and was closed after the passage of the last train on Saturday the 1st of March 1895, after a period of just over four years. Within a month of the closure, the curve had been removed, and Witham South Junction box signal had closed, although it was still in situ in 1911. Witham East Junction signal box was retained, but renamed Witham East signal box, and remained opened until the later 1920s when it was destroyed by fire. Now the following story has been told to me by several members of the staff when I worked at Witham, that on an August Bank Holiday Monday, a fire was reported underneath the signal box. I think Dorothy [Hancock] remembers this, there used to be a red fire tender on the footbridge at Witham. And this was taken down on the lift, put on a truck, and shunted down to the fire at the signal box, but when it arrived, the majority of the water had been slopped onto the floor of the wagon, and needless to say the fire had got hold, and there was no way of saving the signal box. It was completely burnt down and was never replaced.

On the 1st of September 1905, a major accident occurred at Witham, when the 09.27 express from Liverpool Street to Cromer became derailed approaching the station. Only the engine and tender remained on the rails, the rest of the train, comprising of fourteen six-wheeled coaches, ploughed through the station, some coaches mounting and severely damaging the down platform, and footbridge, and demolishing the porters’ and ticket-collectors’ rooms, killing the foreman porter. The third coach from the engine, a first-class coach overturned and caught fire, from the gas stored in the cylinder underneath, which was used for train lighting purposes. Fortunately, there was only one passenger in the coach and he escaped virtually unhurt. The total casualties were ten passengers and one railwayman killed, and sixty-six passengers and five railwaymen hurt, some of those seriously.

After the accident, the station was rebuilt in brick, much as it is today, the rebuilt station being in use by 1907. Now there is a query there – was the station rebuilt as a result of the accident, or was rebuilding of the station already planned, as one of the photographs of the crash, taken after the accident, clearly shows piles of new bricks and a crane on the up platform. The new station comprised of a gents’ toilet, porters’ room, general waiting room, ladies’ waiting room and toilet, foreman’s office on the down platform, with a gents’ toilet, a footwarmer room, lamp room, ladies’ waiting room and toilet, and general waiting room with a telegraph office, book stall, station-master’s office and refreshment room on the up platform. A new footbridge was also constructed, with the entrance hall and the booking office now in the Albert Road as it is today, the offices etc in Easton Road being demolished. Stables, and the permanent way inspectors’ office were constructed on land opposite the end of the Maldon platform, while the land between the station and Easton Road became a meadow for grazing the shunting horses. Photographs of 1911 confirm this, but also show that the original goods yard and shed was still in operation. A brick-built shed and office, this is where I started my railway career, were definitely built by 1915.

After the First World War, most carriages were steam heated, and the footwarmers were no longer needed, and the footwarmer room became a general storage for staff cycles. Now I don’t know whether you realise that, or have heard of footwarmers, but up until, oh, up to roughly the First World War, very very few trains, or very few coaches, were fitted with steam heating, and in the footwarmer room was a large copper, which during the winter was always kept boiling, and footwarmers were more or less like metal water bottles, and these were filled with boiling water, and handed to First Class passengers so they could keep their feet warm [laughter]. (Questioner: Were there any charges?) Well, I think they relied on tips, because they were mainly for the First Class passengers, and you know ‘Would you like a footwarmer, Sir?’. [laugh]. So after, when I was there, the copper was actually still there, in my days, but I know the copper has since gone and it’s still just used for general storage.

The stationmaster’s house, situated in Easton Road, was built in the early days of the Great Eastern Railway, and during the latter part of the 19th century was extended. Dorothy knows this, don’t you Dorothy [Hancock]. How may years did you live there (Dorothy: Oh gosh! Twenty I think.) Mm, yes. During the 1930s, when occupied by the stationmaster, Mr George Hancock, and his family, various internal alterations were made, and the house remained in use until the mid 1960s, when it was demolished to make room for office building. At about the same time, the last remaining shunt horse became redundant, and was put out to grass near Newmarket, the meadow then becoming a car park as we know it now [in Easton Road].

On the 7th of March 1950, a second serious accident occurred in the region of Motts Lane level crossing, when a freight train entering the up loop to clear the main line, was run into the rear by the 11 pm express mail train from Peterborough to Liverpool Street, in foggy conditions. The brake van and rear seven waggons of the freight train were completely demolished, the locomotive of the mail train overturned, the front four coaches mounted the wreckage of the freight train, and the next two became derailed, but the last four coaches remained on the track. Fortunately there were only about eighteen passengers on the train, plus the Post Office staff, and only two received slight injuries. The driver of the express was badly injured, but his fireman was killed, and the twenty-plus passengers, although shaken, escaped mainly unhurt. The guard of the freight train, a Mr Bert Balls of Witham, was killed. He had unfortunately changed duties that day, so as to finish early, as his son was coming home from leave after the forces (Audience: Sounds of sympathy.) Mm. (Question: Why Peterborough? [???]). From Peterborough it came via Ely, Bury St Edmunds, then Stowmarket and then to Ipswich. And at Hawley[?] it actually joined up with a fast portion from Norwich. So it was always known as the Peterborough mail, although there was a portion from Norwich on it.

Very little change took place to the station except for some minor track and signalling alterations during the 1930s, until 1951, when a new 75 foot turntable was installed to accommodate the turning of the new large Britannia locomotives which had just come into operation on this line. And then in 1956, when the present booking office was built, taking over part of the old booking hall, the original booking office was in the room facing you as you enter the station, which was also the parcels office, lit by gas, and warmed by a small open fire. I worked there seven years [laughter] and in the winter it could be mighty cold, believe me. At about this time, electric lighting was installed, thus displacing the gas lighting. During 1960, work started in connection with the forthcoming electric colour[?] light[?] signalling, and the proposed electrification of the line from Chelmsford to Colchester. This involved considerable alterations to the track at the Colchester end of the station, demolition of the water tower, the building … (cause diesels had now replaced steam anyway). The building housing the hydraulic equipment which was used for the lifts, which had now been replaced by electric lifts, was also demolished, as was the large Junction signal box, the working of all points and signals now being operated from the Station signal box at the London end of the station.

Sunday the 19th of November 1961 saw the commissioning of the new signalling, which was now controlled from the new signal box built on the site of the old stables at the end of the Maldon platform. The signalboxes at Blunts Hall, Witham Station and Rivenhall became redundant, and were demolished. Also in 1960, the bridge at the London end of the station was widened and rebuilt, and I think probably a lot of residents remember that. 1961 saw the first signs of electrification, with the erection of masts for the support of electric wires.

And the first electric passenger train to arrive at Witham ran in May 1962. Since the telegraph office had become the information office, the stationmaster’s office except for the wall facing the platform on the up platform, has been demolished, and further resignalling has made the signal box now redundant, and the booking office has been completely refurbished.

Witham had a large goods yard dealing with inwards traffic, consisting of coal, barley for Hugh Baird’s maltings, steel for Crittall’s windows, and agricultural machinery and cattle. Outward traffic consisted of Crittall’s windows, malt from Hugh Baird’s, seed traffic from Cullen’s and Cooper Taber’s, seasonal traffic of peas, sugar beet apples and pears. Eventually this traffic disappeared to the road, and the yard is now part of the industrial estate.

Now in my days, and we’re talking now the early [???] the 1950s, the number of staff actually at Witham was sixty. Plus four signal and telegraph staff, three carriage and waggon examiners, and approximately forty permanent way staff. The staff consisted of one stationmaster, four goods clerks, four goods porters, one waggon number taker, two van drivers, a goods yard foreman, three booking clerks, two telegraph clerks, two ticket collectors, twelve signalmen, one relief signalman, and one district relief signalman, two signal box lads, four leading porters, one of which was stationed at Notley and one at Wickham Bishops, six general porters, one lamp man, two lamp lads, six shunters, one horseman, and four gatekeepers [laughter]. I think now there’s a foreman on each platform and a porter and I think that’s about you have at Witham station now. The signal [???] they no longer exist, this work is all under contract, as is all the permanent way, it’s all under contract.

Now that basically is the story of, the basic story of Witham station, but just a few little anecdotes, I know you’d probably like to hear a few anecdotes. While I was there, we used to have a passenger come up from Maldon, by the name of Mr Frost. Now he normally come up on the five past eleven train from Maldon, to catch the eleven twenty-eight from Witham, and he used to come up once a week, sometimes twice a week, and he used to visit a hotel in London, and provided them with eggs, because he had a smallholding or something in Goldhanger. And he also used to bring up cut flowers. But the unusual thing was, the cut flowers were always in buckets of water. So consternation used to reign. Every time Mr Frost came up, these buckets of water containing the flowers, had to be transhipped from Maldon and put on the main line. Well the guards on the Maldon knew all about it, but I reckon there was some funny words said sometimes by the guards on the main line when they found these buckets of water. But that wasn’t the finish. Mr Frost used to return on a train that used to leave Liverpool Street about six-forty-five, which was a main line train to Clacton. So he didn’t, when he came back, he’d got rid of the eggs, he’d got rid of the flowers, but he still had the buckets, but the buckets were now full of kitchen swill for his menagerie. [laughter]. These used to have to be taken over and put on the Maldon train, and then I think he used to get a taxi. There were odd occasions when he decided he’d go from Witham by taxi. Now the Witham taxi-men all knew Mr Frost, and if they saw him come with these buckets of swill, they were all engaged and all disappeared. Now at one time I understand he had been a tutor at a private school, and he was rather eccentric. And I remember one night I was in the booking office, and there was a tap in the enquiry parcels office, so I went round there. ‘Oh, evening Mr Frost’. ‘Now I wonder if you can help me Mr clerk’, he says. He said ‘I was coming down on the train and it was exceedingly hot, so I took my shoes off to rest my feet, and unfortunately I’ve left my shoes on the train.’ [laughter]. And sure enough he stood there in his bare feet. So I said ‘All right, Mr Frost’, after I’d counted ten, ‘I’ll get into contact with Colchester’, was the next stop for the train, ‘see if we can find them’.
[20 minutes]
So anyway, I got onto Colchester and told them where they were, I said ‘They’re in the coach just behind the restaurant car’. About twenty minutes later Colchester rang back. He says ‘Yes, we’ve found those shoes, but’ he says ‘I wouldn’t give you twopence for the bloody things’. [laughter] I can remember the clerk. Anyway that was Mr Frost. And on another occasion, again Mr Frost. The down train, he came off the usual train, stood there ages. So Alf Griggs, one of the porters, come up the stairs, I says ‘What’s the matter with the down train, Alf?’. ‘Oh’, he said ‘It’s Mr Frost again.’ ‘Oh’, I said, ‘What now?’ ‘Well he said he had a little carton of day-old chicks. He said and after the train left Chelmsford, he got them out to feed them. [laughter] Somebody opened the corridor door and they all got in the corridor’. And they had to stood there while they caught these day-old chicks’. [laughter].

Then, lost property. We often used to get things left in the train which were handed out. One of the things that I always remember was the ordinary, [???] the old brown brief case was handed in, and they thought the passenger had gone to Braintree. Anyway, I said to the porter, Alf Griggs again, I said ‘Well we’d better check what’s in it, and make a note, and put it in the lost property book’. So we opened the brief case, and you’ll never guess was in the brief case. A plastic bag of horse manure. We’ve had all sorts of things left, but that’s the only time I’ve ever had that. But anyway it was claimed by somebody from Braintree, and when I told Braintree what was in it, he said he couldn’t believe it, I said ‘Well you open it and check it’.

And I think it was 1951 or 52, there was an epidemic, I think it was ‘flu or something, and we had three porters off sick, and Stratford sent down a relief porter. Now this relief porter, I never did know his name, cause he was always known as Cherry Blossom, because he always had highly polished black boots. Now he originated from Milton Constable, and spoke with a real Norfolk dialect, and he’d gone up to Stratford after the War, because there was more money being a relief porter. And one night, Cherry Blossom was on the platform, the down train ran in, and I was bursting to go to the toilet, and I ran down on the platform as the train ran in, and Cherry Blossom stood on the platform, and Ted Webb was the foreman. Ted Webb was announcing the train, he said ‘This train will call at Marks Tey, Colchester, Wivenhoe, Thorpe le Soken and Clacton’. So this old dear, she goes up to Cherry Blossom, she says ‘Does this train go to Colchester?’ Now in my best Norfolk accent I’ll try – Cherry Blossom, he looks at her and he said ‘Now look you here, Missus.’ He said ‘That man up there, he told you where that was a-going, and that had to come past you to get to me, and I heard what he say’. [laughter] That was a polite way of saying ‘Yes, madam’. Or a Norfolk way anyway.

Well, that basically is that, we’ve got slides to come. Any questions about the actual station or the working of the station?
Dorothy Hancock: [???] when you came in, there was this wooden structure [???] [???]
JN:    That was the original booking hall and entrance. We’ll come to that, when we come to the slides. Yes, that was the original booking office which was in Easton Road. That was part of the Eastern Counties Railway. Oh yes, I’ve brought this along [tin for holding string]. A genuine relic of the Eastern Counties Railway. It was in use in Witham, in the booking office, when I was there, and it was in the ticket collector’s office, and they tie the bundles of tickets up with the string. And oh, after they built the little ticket office outside, I come off one night, and I see it was still in there, so I said to the ticket collector,  Harold[?] Dick[?], I says ‘Cor’ I said ‘You still using that?’. ‘Oh’ he said ‘Do you [???]’. ‘Well, I said that’s Eastern Counties’. So the next night he come off, he handed me a plastic bag, so that’s a genuine Eastern Counties Railway string tin.

The only other relic [???] I have is a train staff. Now probably [???] of you have heard of train staffs. No train on a single line was allowed to go without one. This was kept in a special cabinet in the station at Witham. You probably had half a dozen in the instrument at Witham, and half a dozen at Braintree. And before one could be taken out at Witham, the signalman at Witham had to get permission from Braintree to withdraw one from the instrument. And once that was taken out, the whole business was locked, and neither could you put back in or take one out, until this was given to, this would then be given to the driver, who would check with his fireman that was the correct one for the line, Witham and Braintree. They would then travel to Braintree, where it would be put in the instrument at Braintree, and it would then release the section so you could take another one out. So this entailed that only of these were ever out at one time. And the penalty for a driver going without one, was instant dismissal. So that was a safety check for all trains on single line working.

Here is a diagram showing the curve that was put in in the late 1880s for trains travelling from Southend to Colchester. There is the timetable showing the trains on the various dates they ran. There’s also reports there of the two accidents at Witham, the 1905 and the 1950 accidents, so you’re perfectly at liberty to read those and take those and have a look at those. That’s another photo there that I haven’t got slides of of Witham station. There is the details of the Essex Agricultural Society Show at Witham, and train times for the original trains. Right, so, if you’ve got nothing further, we’ll break for coffee or tea, and slides afterwards.

Bill Beale:    Would the staff that you just held up, would that still be in operation, because that’s still a single line?
JN:    No, it’s all controlled by electric signalling now, Bill. And telephone communications and radio operated.
Questioner:    [???] the train from Southend, that came via where?
JN:    That came via Woodham Ferrers, Maldon West. There were curves put in at Woodham Ferrers and also at Maldon as well, from Maldon West round to Langford. It’s all shown on the plan there if you want to have a look at it. And it was used by one train per week, for about four years. Why it was ever put in, nobody’s ever really found out. Incredible cost.
Questioner:    What was the cause of the Cromer accident?
JN:    Read the report! [laugh]. It’s always been a matter of conjecture. The platelayers had been working on the points leading into the Braintree platform, and it was surmised that something had not been put back as it should have been. But there was never any definite conclusion. But certainly the platelayers were working on the track, and they were closely scrutinising it almost as the train got up to the point. And you’ll see on the slides, I’ve got a slide of the train approaching. It’s incredible that the morning of the crash, a young lad from Cromer was on holiday here, and he took a photo of the train approaching, and this was actually taken from the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’, and we have checked, and the identity of the engine, except it ties up with the crash. And also, you can see the fireman and driver, leaning right out of that loco as it approached Witham, so there was obviously something they were watching.
Questioner:    Why was there never an entrance made into Easton Road, why isn’t there a footbridge down to the car park?
JN:    What, now? Because Easton Road was the original entrance, until it was rebuilt in 1907, then the entrance was put in Albert Road. But there’s been arguments for and against ever since, and they say the cost is too high now to do it.

[Recorder turned off during refreshments, then restarting with slides]

Now here, we do have the original booking office and entrance, which was in Easton Road. This is taken out of the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’, actually it’s the otter huntsmen, so we’ll forget the otter hunt, but that is the original entrance to the station. That was in use till the station was built in 1906/1907. If you look at that you can see the Temperance Hotel [9 Albert Road].
Now, I’ve done a little research on this. This engine was built in 1904, so it must have been almost new when this was taken, because it’s in pristine condition, this would have been working on the Braintree line. I know it was allocated to Braintree, and it was there before the rebuilding of the station in 1906, and as I say it was built in 1904, so it was very probably a year or eighteen months old, the engine. And that’s the main road bridge over the station, as it is there, before it was widened. And this is a gas lamp, so it would be about that time.
This again was roughly the same period. It was taken a little while before the station was rebuilt, because it’s still got the original footbridge over the station, so this was taken before the crash. The engine was built in 1897 at Stratford. I’ve been trying to trace where it was allocated. And a colleague of mine who’s [???] more involved in train work [???], we cannot establish what the train was. We think it’s come off the Braintree branch, we’re not sure whether it was terminated at Witham or whether it was going further. The head code, this, which is a green, with a white circle, indicates it came off the Maldon branch, we are not certain [???]. But that was certainly taken before the station was rebuilt.
Now this is what I was talking about, the Cromer express approaching just prior to the crash. And if you look, you can see the driver and fireman distinctly looking out, obviously aware that something’s amiss. And we have confirmed that is the type of engine that was working the train. So we are pretty certain that it was a genuine photograph of the train approaching, seconds before the crash.

Now, this does show some of the damage that was done to the platform, the concrete platform was destroyed at that end. This would have been where the foreman’s and the ticket-collector’s office would have been, completely demolished by the train. The remains of a coach upside-down. You can see there the [???] underneath. That was not the first class coach, that was one of the third class. The first two coaches were virtually, remained almost intact, as did the rear of the train, this would be the rear of the train, but the middle of the train went all over the station, demolished part of the station, even finished up on the up platform.
That’s a close-up of the same coach. This would have been the Braintree and the loop at the back of the Braintree platform. Now again, as I understand, there are new bricks there, so was the station already down for improvement, see, there.
Question:    Did they ever know what caused the crash was it derailed first, before it crashed?
JN:    The, as I said, there is a report there, and it is inconclusive. The platelayers had been working on the points and the track just as it approached the station. Whether part of the track or part of the bolts had not been put back satisfactorily we do not know. But certainly the platelayers were very very concerned when the express came down, because they were working and looking at the track almost to the time the engine got there. And this is borne out by the way the fireman and the driver are leaning out of the cab, as you can see on the photograph. But the engine and tender basically went over, then the train just went all over the place.
That’s a rather similar one. In those days, basically all the coaches were wooden, you can see these are the remains of the coach. That’s the wheels and that’s completely upside down, completely smashed. The damage that, it wrecked as I said, the porters’ room and it also damaged the staunchions holding the footbridge up.
A rather similar one. It gives you then an idea of what the station was like, especially the footbridge. You’ve got one coach here which is on its side, there’s another coach there, so this coach has sort of by-passed that one, landed on the up platform. The other one is still basically on the track.
This was taken now looking the other way, towards London, they’re starting to clear the line, a crane has now arrived, you’ve got the policeman looking. Think now, within two days, everything was back, well I say, back to normal, because you had trains running, how long would it take today. They’d still be holding an Inquiry. You can see the devastation, not only to the train but to the station as well.
There again you can see, as I was saying you can see parts of the wooden structures of the station, all brought down by the train.
Questioner:    Have you got any idea how long it took to clear that line, John, bearing in mind that they wouldn’t have modern lifting …
JN:    No. Well, I’ve not seen official reports, but I understand that the train, they had trains running within two days. Mm. They didn’t hang about, no, they didn’t. You had breakdown cranes, so
Questioner:    They probably used the forces[?] did they?
JN:    I don’t know, I didn’t hear about that, but they probably did, they’d have brung in any person they could, no doubt, to do it.

[another slide] Yes. It makes you wonder there weren’t more killed, doesn’t it, when you …
Questioner:    [inaudible]
JN:    You see it wasn’t a case of just coming off the, there was no means, they only had wooden frames, and the coaches rust over-ran one another. So as it what’s-er-named, the coaches telescoped, one into the other.
This shows, this is now looking, one coach there as you can see, completely on the platform. The end of this one’s completely smashed out.
Questioner:    What speed would it have been going, John?
JN:    They estimate between sixty and sixty-five. The limit in this area I think was sixty-five, and it was timed basically up to the limit, so it certainly would have been doing about sixty miles an hour.
Questioner:    John, you said they were six-wheeled coaches, [???]
JN:    Yes. This is a bogey, yes, this one is a bogey, yes.
Questioner:    What was that one?
JN:    It’s third class as well. This is first and third, so it was a composite coach. Means it’s got first class here, it was a bogey coach, you’re right.
Questioner:    John, what kind of camera would that young man have had, then, to take a train at that speed?
JN:    I wouldn’t know.
Questioner:    It didn’t look as though it was travelling at seventy miles an hour [???]. Are you sure it’s not a train that has stopped and they’re looking at the wreckage?
JN:    What, the photograph of the train, you mean? No, no, we have whatsernamed, recognised that that was the engine that was involved in the crash. Yes.
This was taken now at the country end, clear of the station, so you can see that the train, the front of the train got through the, went right through the station before it became derailed. This is the remains of the first class coach which was burnt out.
Questioner:    Was that because of the gas cylinder?
JN:    Yes. Yes, they had gas tanks under the coaches, and the gas ignited. This was one of the dangers in those nearly with nearly all coaches, were fitted with gas tanks for gas lighting. Either that or oil for oil lighting.
Questioner: [Inaudible]
JN:    Well, yes, when you’ve got diesel oil spilt all over, yes. Yes, this would have been the turn out to Maldon, so the train, the front of the train did get right through the station.
That again is in a similar position but we now have the, what we assume is part of the breakdown train that has arrived to help clear the train. To give you an example, there’s wheels, there’s one buffer, and there’s another buffer, and that’s about all, steelwork, that’s left. And the frame and some of the brake gear, and that’s about it.
There’s the Colchester end of the platform, and this is what  I was talking about, new bricks [???], so, was rebuilding already planned.
Questioner:    Is that the maltings?
JN:    That is the maltings, yes, and there’s, you can just see part of the goods shed through there.
There we are, that’s taken from a postcard, postmarked August 1907, so there you have the new station, and it is basically as it is today, with very little alteration. You have the gents’ toilet here. And then, just there, was the footwarmer room.

This, if I remember right, was 1919, very little alteration. See how neatly everything’s kept. Still had the gas lamps, ornate gas lamps.
Questioner:    What [???]
JN:    Barrows. Barrows all neatly piled up. And in my day they were still basically in the same position. I think they were used in between yes.
There are a series of photos here now, I thought I’d give you an idea what the station was like in 1911. These were all taken, the next, I think, fifteen, were taken in 1911 [JG’s photos M580, M581, and M2776-M2788]. Somewhere along there is Highfields Road. Can’t see any houses, can you.
Janet Gyford:    What’s that ramp thing on the left? (JN: Where’s what?) There’s a ramp on the left, where’s that going?
JN:    Here? That was the ramp up to the cattle market. Yes, you unloaded your cattle there, then they was taken up … Now, going back to the site of the crash, the crash, it approximately came off there, those points there, that was where they were working.

Side 2

[slides continued]
Quite a few [???] there, well there’s a road[?] of some description there and that’s it.
Questioner:    That’s Armond Road?
Janet Gyford:    Armond Road wasn’t there.
JN:    No.
Questioner:    Highfields Road being right in the distance.
JN:    Yes.
This is looking down, this is the Station signal box, which controlled that end, the London end of the station, water column[?], [???] to take water, and the entrance into the Maldon platform. Ornate gas lamps.
There you are, now you get a better view of the barrows. Notice how ornate all the lamps were. Large sign showing refreshments, you had a refreshment room. I’ll tell you a little tale, about the gents’ toilet. When I was at the station, there was a, this was just after the War, and VD was quite prevalent. There was poster in there which says ‘VD can be cured’, and underneath somebody had written ‘So can kippers’. [laughter] And that poster was in there all the time I was at Witham. Anyway, side track …
This is taken from the, probably a lot of you remember, the tall Junction signal box, looking through the station. There you can just see part of the goods shed, the water column[?], local in the Braintree platform, and general view of the station looking towards London.
Taken from the other side of the track, there’s the steps up to the signal box, the wooden building next housed the equipment to work the hydraulic lifts, and here is the goods shed, the wooden goods shed which is still in use. And a lot of us did not realise that the wooden goods shed was still there in 1911. We thought the brick one in the yard had been built by then but it hadn’t. (Questioner: What was the building [???]) Oh, one of the departments, I think it was the engineers, not the engineers, the examiners had a room under there where they kept a load of equipment.
You get a better view of the goods shed now. Quite a large place. The maltings as they originally were. The building at the back we think is part of Cullen’s, the seed people, cause they had land there and that’s part of their trial grounds.
Looking the other way again, gives you a better idea of the goods shed. You can just see Witham East signal box down there. I think now, coming back, underneath the water tank, was the pumping equipment. Yes, it was the pumping equipment.

Now this, this shows the line going off to Maldon with all the various signals, and there you can just see where the curve was built, round there from the Maldon branch up to the main line, controlled by Witham East signal box which is there opposite in 1911. You notice those spare rails and everything, how neatly everything was packed.
You get a better view of the maltings now, with Harrison Gray, there shunting four cattle wagons, cause in those days cattle was one of the main sources of income, all cattle, basically, any sheep, the lot, was all conveyed by rail. It looks as if they’ve been emptied, because it looks as if they’ve been limed. Everything, after they’d been used, were limed out. Up until very, up until 1950-odd, that pond was still there. For some reason that little bit of ground was always known as Canada (Questioner: Known as what?) Canada. Yes, that piece of ground just there was always known as Canada. There were some allotments there as well. ‘Oh’, he says, ‘I’ve got an allotment on Canada’, so you knew where his allotment was.
That shows the sidings into Harrison Gray’s and the seed people’s. To get the wagons actually in, you had small wagon turntables, so you could put the wagon on the turntable and push it round to get it into the extra siding.
A general view looking down the goods. They’ve stopped shunting for a breather there, those days you had two shunt horses, the majority of shunting in the yard was all done by horse. Probably working out what moves they were going to make, between them, so they knew exactly what they were doing.
Questioner:    Where are these photographs taken from, John, are they sort of [???].
JN:    Quite a lot of them were taken from the Junction signal box, or from signals. Mm. These were all taken by a [???], I forget his name now, in 1911, he surveyed virtually the whole of the Stratford district taking photographs. [from the Windward collection at the National Railway Museum, York]. It gives you a good idea of the amount of traffic that was used, handled in the yard.
That’s the goods foreman’s office, as you can see there’s no goods shed there. That’s a very very good photograph of the Witham South junction box, which was built when the curve was put in, although the curve was taken out, the signal box, although not in use as a signal box, was still there. Quite a number of people were surprised that it was still there. We all thought it had been demolished.
A breather, for the horses.
Questioner:    What is that in the very far distance, on the horizon, it looks like buildings.
JN:    Hay stacks or straw stacks. Yes. In the very far corner you can just see the crane, well that crane, I’m pretty certain, was still in use in 1950, 51, after the brick goods shed had been built, which we think was about 1915.
[10 minutes]
That was the signal fitters and the signal and telegraph hut, where they did work on the signals. You can see now the size of a signal arm, it’s quite large, extends about five foot, some of them. A small forge outside where they did various bits and pieces. The barrows were always left upside down, so they didn’t run away. And that, that track there led up to the turntable.
Just in the far [???] again, you can see part of Cullen’s trial grounds. This I’m pretty certain was taken from a signal. That little hut there I’m not sure. That had gone by the fifties, so what that was there for I do not know. And this was a fogman’s hut, could have been used for fogmen.
Questioner:    Are they trial grounds in the background there as well, behind …
JN:    No, they’re all the allotments on Canada. I think nearly every man on the station had an allotment in those days. A lot of them still in my day, they had allotments over there.
This one must have been taken about 1922, early 1923, because it was still Great Eastern, and the Great Eastern was absorbed into the LNER in 19, the latter part of 1923. And it’s surprising, some of those were still working when I was there.
Questioner:    Which one’s you, John? [laughter]
JN:    Thank you, Don. [general chat]
Questioner:    Who was the lady in the middle?
JN:    That was Polly somebody, I forget her name now, she was a ticket collector. You’ll probably remember this Joe Burch, he was a lamp man, he was still lamp man when I was there. Alf Griggs, the porter, Sam Bright, who was a shunter, he was still there, Arthur Chalk, who went as ticket collector at Chelmsford in the mid fifties. Jack Smith, the telegraph clerk. Old Ezekiel Griggs who was Alf’s father, he was the goods porter, he was in his seventies when he retired while I was there.
Questioner:    Are those service badges they’re all wearing?
JN:    They probably are, yes, but they’re definitely Great Eastern uniform.
Now, Dorothy [Hancock] remembers this. This is kindly donated by Dorothy. This is the station master’s house.
Dorothy Hancock:    There’s a date on that shield over the front door. 1840 something like that.
Questioner:    Is that near the level crossing gates, John?
JN:    No, this was at the bottom of Easton Road, yes, where that block of offices now is. You had this, and just beyond that was the Hawthorns, wasn’t it, where Captain Brice lived.
Mid 1930s, again, from Dorothy’s … (Dorothy Hancock: With father on it.) Yes, stationmaster Mr George Hancock on the platform. This is kindly donated by Dorothy, so I know … And this was a gas tank, which was used for gassing the lighting on the Maldon and Braintree coaches.
Questioner:    [???]
JN:    Where, this one? Here? That’s the Temperance Hotel [9 Albert Road]. Yes. That was still in use when I was in the booking office, cause occasionally I used to go and have a meal there.
Again, mid thirties. What the train is we do not know. We can’t, we’ve got the [???] boards on but we couldn’t find out what … It must be quite an important train, it’s got express head[?] coach[?], and the coach there towards the rear, is a Pullman coach.
[15 minutes]
So it was a train of some importance.
Again, I think Dorothy’s, train leaving Witham. We think this was the five o’clock from Liverpool Street to Clacton, by the engine etc.
One of the shunt horses, and the young Fred Gibson who was later head shunter at Witham. That’s the only one I’ve found a close-up of one of the horses.
Coming on now to mid-fifties. Baird’s had started to extend, we still have steam on the Maldon, we still had gas lights. Early fifties. Cause, gas was there till what, about 1955, 56, there was still gas then.
Again, putting down to about mid-fifties, with a Maldon train just leaving, going round the corner. And Hugh Baird’s, this part of Hugh Baird’s still unaltered.
Yes, we’re in 1960s now, we’ve got the wires up, and we have electric lighting. (Questioner: [???]) The train had just gone. And the old wooden structures on either side which controlled the lift gear, they’ve gone, and we’ve now got electric lifts. But other than that, the station is basically still unaltered.  (Questioner: The A12 had been built then.) Oh yes, the A12, yes, yes.
I spoke about the new turntable, there is a locomotive on the new turntable, which is 1951 or 52 – 51 I think that was installed. And it was automatic, it was worked off the braking system of the loco, which you connected up the spike[?] with a vacuum. Save them pushing it round, it went round automatically. I did actually have a trip onto the turntable once, I scrounged a lift on a Britannia, it was the first time the Britannias had come down to Witham. It’s the only time I ever had a lift on a Britannia, and it’s the only time I went on Witham turntable. (Questioner: [???]) It was there because Witham was a junction point, and you used to get, especially on Sundays, you had excursions coming off the Braintree branch, which required turning the engine round. It’d come in from Braintree, and you had the engine on the other end, and also you often, especially in those days, with engineering, you got diversions. There was quite a number of Sundays the continental trains used to be diverted across Braintree-Dunmow-Bishops Stortford to Liverpool Street. And used to turn the engines there, this was the reason they put in [???] see, so you could turn the Britannias round. That’s a big one, yes, yes. [???] [???]
The 1950 crash. There’s the remains of the goods wagons, see the engine on the side, down the bank, these are the coaches that surmounted the goods wagons.
[20 minutes]
Questioner:    Whereabouts was that, John?
JN:    Just the other side of Motts Lane. The goods train, the goods train was entering the up loop, about a third of the train had actually got in the loop, when it was hit by the Peterborough. A steam crane starting work on lifting the rubble.
That’s another view, looking the other way. It’s incredible that nobody was killed. Except for the fireman and the goods guard.
And that’s the loco.
Questioner:    What’s [???]?
JN:    A B1. B1 It was a B1, yes. That was after. It was brought up to Witham the following Saturday night, Sunday morning, after the crash. And it remained there for a week. And the following weekend, Saturday night, Sunday morning, they towed it back to Stratford. At ten miles an hour, having to stop every fifteen miles for inspection. (Questioner: [???]). That was the only one that was never rebuilt. Yes, it completely destroyed it, it knocked off …
That is the loco again at Stratford works, waiting, waiting up.
That’s the last one. Do we have any more questions? Any further questions.
Keith Ibbotson:    Those gas cylinders John, under the carriages, were they topped up each day?
JN:    Yes.
Keith Ibbotson:    So there could have been a terrible fire in, in something like that.
JN:    Mm, yes.
Keith Ibbotson:    What were they made of, the cylinders.
JN:    Cast iron, I should imagine. That was the general whatsername in those days, yes. Cast metal.
Don Pettican:     [???]
JN:    No. It was gas, I forget what, it was manufactured in the gas works at Stratford. I believe it was oil gas. But they had, there was, they had a separate gas works at Stratford. Besides the whatsername, the coaches, you saw the large tank at Witham, they also provided gas for virtually the whole of the area. And all major towns and all junctions had one of those, you know, to gas the coaches. At Norwich they had a special gassing point.
[Thanks etc., applause]

He was born in November 1928, worked in Witham Goods Office from November 1945 to January 1947, then was in the army for two years, and then was in Witham booking office from 1949 to 1957 before going on to HQ at Liverpool Street.

Side 1
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Just a brief, really, outline of Witham station. The Eastern Counties Railway was opened from Mile End to Romford on the 18th of June 1839, and from Shoreditch, which later became Bishopsgate, to Mile End and Romford and to Brentwood on the 1st of July 1840. But due to inclement weather, landslides, arguments with landlords, especially with Lord Petre at Ingatestone, and financial difficulties, the line was not opened from Brentwood to Colchester until the 7th of March 1843 for goods traffic, and till the 27th of March for passenger traffic, when the station at Witham was opened. It is recorded in the local press that the Witham Town Band joined the first train in an open coach at Witham, and played stirring music for the remainder of the journey to Colchester .[laughter]. Now can you imagine, the band playing ‘See the Conquering Hero Come’ being hailed with soot and smuts from the engine.

The original Witham station, basically in the same position as now, was a wooden construction offering very few facilities for passengers, with the entrance and booking office in Easton Road, and a wooden goods shed just north of the passenger station. The station was served by four trains each way on weekdays, taking almost two hours to reach London. The terminal was at Bishopsgate. Liverpool Street station was not opened for mainline traffic until the 1st of November in 1875. The main reason was, it was a very heavy residential area, and before they could extend it to where it is now, they had to pass an Act of Parliament to knock down, I think it was about four hundred dwellings. And after they’d knocked them down, then they extended to Liverpool Street, and there was a concession then, that all those who were made homeless, would move basically into the areas of Chingford and that area, and they were given special facilities and cheaper travel into Liverpool Street. Sundays provided two trains each way.

[At Witham]  considerable alterations, including the positioning of additional platforms and facilities were made to the station in 1848, with the opening of the Braintree and Maldon branches on the 15th of August of that year. The Braintree and Maldon railway was planned as a separate company, with their line crossing the Eastern Counties main line just north of the Eastern Counties station, and their own station on the Maldon side of the main line, but before completion, the line was taken over by the Eastern Counties Railway and diverted into their station as two separate branches, as we knew them. They obviously had their eyes on extra cash, and did not like the idea of the railway crossing their main line, which I can understand. On the 7th of August 1862, the Eastern Counties Railway was absorbed into, and became part, of the newly formed Great Eastern Railway. After the takeover, further improvements were made to the station, platforms were extended, and facilities generally improved, but still mainly of wooden construction. The train services were improved with eight trains each day weekdays, and five on Sundays, with an improved time of about one hour and twenty minutes then to Bishopsgate.

June 1863 saw great activity at the station, as the Essex Agricultural Show was held at Witham on Thursday the 25th of June. This was the forerunner of the Essex Show. And this would have involved the movement of very considerable numbers of livestock and agricultural implements, special fares being in operation for most of the Great Eastern stations, and special trains were run between Bishopsgate and Witham. There is a leaflet on the table here giving details of those, kindly provided by Janet.

On Tuesday the 1st of October 1889, a curve was brought into use between the Maldon branch and the main line near Motts Lane crossing, to allow trains to run through from Southend to Colchester. There is a map here to show that if anybody’s interested. This entailed the building of two additional signal boxes, Witham South Junction, where the curve left the Maldon branch, and Witham East Junction where it joined the main line.
[5 minutes]
The curve was only used by one train each way on Saturdays, between Southend and Colchester, and was closed after the passage of the last train on Saturday the 1st of March 1895, after a period of just over four years. Within a month of the closure, the curve had been removed, and Witham South Junction box signal had closed, although it was still in situ in 1911. Witham East Junction signal box was retained, but renamed Witham East signal box, and remained opened until the later 1920s when it was destroyed by fire. Now the following story has been told to me by several members of the staff when I worked at Witham, that on an August Bank Holiday Monday, a fire was reported underneath the signal box. I think Dorothy [Hancock] remembers this, there used to be a red fire tender on the footbridge at Witham. And this was taken down on the lift, put on a truck, and shunted down to the fire at the signal box, but when it arrived, the majority of the water had been slopped onto the floor of the wagon, and needless to say the fire had got hold, and there was no way of saving the signal box. It was completely burnt down and was never replaced.

On the 1st of September 1905, a major accident occurred at Witham, when the 09.27 express from Liverpool Street to Cromer became derailed approaching the station. Only the engine and tender remained on the rails, the rest of the train, comprising of fourteen six-wheeled coaches, ploughed through the station, some coaches mounting and severely damaging the down platform, and footbridge, and demolishing the porters’ and ticket-collectors’ rooms, killing the foreman porter. The third coach from the engine, a first-class coach overturned and caught fire, from the gas stored in the cylinder underneath, which was used for train lighting purposes. Fortunately, there was only one passenger in the coach and he escaped virtually unhurt. The total casualties were ten passengers and one railwayman killed, and sixty-six passengers and five railwaymen hurt, some of those seriously.

After the accident, the station was rebuilt in brick, much as it is today, the rebuilt station being in use by 1907. Now there is a query there – was the station rebuilt as a result of the accident, or was rebuilding of the station already planned, as one of the photographs of the crash, taken after the accident, clearly shows piles of new bricks and a crane on the up platform. The new station comprised of a gents’ toilet, porters’ room, general waiting room, ladies’ waiting room and toilet, foreman’s office on the down platform, with a gents’ toilet, a footwarmer room, lamp room, ladies’ waiting room and toilet, and general waiting room with a telegraph office, book stall, station-master’s office and refreshment room on the up platform. A new footbridge was also constructed, with the entrance hall and the booking office now in the Albert Road as it is today, the offices etc in Easton Road being demolished. Stables, and the permanent way inspectors’ office were constructed on land opposite the end of the Maldon platform, while the land between the station and Easton Road became a meadow for grazing the shunting horses. Photographs of 1911 confirm this, but also show that the original goods yard and shed was still in operation. A brick-built shed and office, this is where I started my railway career, were definitely built by 1915.

After the First World War, most carriages were steam heated, and the footwarmers were no longer needed, and the footwarmer room became a general storage for staff cycles. Now I don’t know whether you realise that, or have heard of footwarmers, but up until, oh, up to roughly the First World War, very very few trains, or very few coaches, were fitted with steam heating, and in the footwarmer room was a large copper, which during the winter was always kept boiling, and footwarmers were more or less like metal water bottles, and these were filled with boiling water, and handed to First Class passengers so they could keep their feet warm [laughter]. (Questioner: Were there any charges?) Well, I think they relied on tips, because they were mainly for the First Class passengers, and you know ‘Would you like a footwarmer, Sir?’. [laugh]
[10 minutes]
So after, when I was there, the copper was actually still there, in my days, but I know the copper has since gone and it’s still just used for general storage.

The stationmaster’s house, situated in Easton Road, was built in the early days of the Great Eastern Railway, and during the latter part of the 19th century was extended. Dorothy knows this, don’t you Dorothy [Hancock]. How may years did you live there (Dorothy: Oh gosh! Twenty I think.) Mm, yes. During the 1930s, when occupied by the stationmaster, Mr George Hancock, and his family, various internal alterations were made, and the house remained in use until the mid 1960s, when it was demolished to make room for office building. At about the same time, the last remaining shunt horse became redundant, and was put out to grass near Newmarket, the meadow then becoming a car park as we know it now [in Easton Road].

On the 7th of March 1950, a second serious accident occurred in the region of Motts Lane level crossing, when a freight train entering the up loop to clear the main line, was run into the rear by the 11 pm express mail train from Peterborough to Liverpool Street, in foggy conditions. The brake van and rear seven waggons of the freight train were completely demolished, the locomotive of the mail train overturned, the front four coaches mounted the wreckage of the freight train, and the next two became derailed, but the last four coaches remained on the track. Fortunately there were only about eighteen passengers on the train, plus the Post Office staff, and only two received slight injuries. The driver of the express was badly injured, but his fireman was killed, and the twenty-plus passengers, although shaken, escaped mainly unhurt. The guard of the freight train, a Mr Bert Balls of Witham, was killed. He had unfortunately changed duties that day, so as to finish early, as his son was coming home from leave after the forces (Audience: Sounds of sympathy.) Mm. (Question: Why Peterborough? [???]). From Peterborough it came via Ely, Bury St Edmunds, then Stowmarket and then to Ipswich. And at Hawley[?] it actually joined up with a fast portion from Norwich. So it was always known as the Peterborough mail, although there was a portion from Norwich on it.

Very little change took place to the station except for some minor track and signalling alterations during the 1930s, until 1951, when a new 75 foot turntable was installed to accommodate the turning of the new large Britannia locomotives which had just come into operation on this line. And then in 1956, when the present booking office was built, taking over part of the old booking hall, the original booking office was in the room facing you as you enter the station, which was also the parcels office, lit by gas, and warmed by a small open fire. I worked there seven years [laughter] and in the winter it could be mighty cold, believe me. At about this time, electric lighting was installed, thus displacing the gas lighting. During 1960, work started in connection with the forthcoming electric colour[?] light[?] signalling, and the proposed electrification of the line from Chelmsford to Colchester. This involved considerable alterations to the track at the Colchester end of the station, demolition of the water tower, the building … (cause diesels had now replaced steam anyway). The building housing the hydraulic equipment which was used for the lifts, which had now been replaced by electric lifts, was also demolished, as was the large Junction signal box, the working of all points and signals now being operated from the Station signal box at the London end of the station.

Sunday the 19th of November 1961 saw the commissioning of the new signalling, which was now controlled from the new signal box built on the site of the old stables at the end of the Maldon platform. The signalboxes at Blunts Hall, Witham Station and Rivenhall became redundant, and were demolished. Also in 1960, the bridge at the London end of the station was widened and rebuilt, and I think probably a lot of residents remember that. 1961 saw the first signs of electrification, with the erection of masts for the support of electric wires.
[15 minutes]
And the first electric passenger train to arrive at Witham ran in May 1962. Since the telegraph office had become the information office, the stationmaster’s office except for the wall facing the platform on the up platform, has been demolished, and further resignalling has made the signal box now redundant, and the booking office has been completely refurbished.

Witham had a large goods yard dealing with inwards traffic, consisting of coal, barley for Hugh Baird’s maltings, steel for Crittall’s windows, and agricultural machinery and cattle. Outward traffic consisted of Crittall’s windows, malt from Hugh Baird’s, seed traffic from Cullen’s and Cooper Taber’s, seasonal traffic of peas, sugar beet apples and pears. Eventually this traffic disappeared to the road, and the yard is now part of the industrial estate.

Now in my days, and we’re talking now the early [???] the 1950s, the number of staff actually at Witham was sixty. Plus four signal and telegraph staff, three carriage and waggon examiners, and approximately forty permanent way staff. The staff consisted of one stationmaster, four goods clerks, four goods porters, one waggon number taker, two van drivers, a goods yard foreman, three booking clerks, two telegraph clerks, two ticket collectors, twelve signalmen, one relief signalman, and one district relief signalman, two signal box lads, four leading porters, one of which was stationed at Notley and one at Wickham Bishops, six general porters, one lamp man, two lamp lads, six shunters, one horseman, and four gatekeepers [laughter]. I think now there’s a foreman on each platform and a porter and I think that’s about you have at Witham station now. The signal [???] they no longer exist, this work is all under contract, as is all the permanent way, it’s all under contract.

Now that basically is the story of, the basic story of Witham station, but just a few little anecdotes, I know you’d probably like to hear a few anecdotes. While I was there, we used to have a passenger come up from Maldon, by the name of Mr Frost. Now he normally come up on the five past eleven train from Maldon, to catch the eleven twenty-eight from Witham, and he used to come up once a week, sometimes twice a week, and he used to visit a hotel in London, and provided them with eggs, because he had a smallholding or something in Goldhanger. And he also used to bring up cut flowers. But the unusual thing was, the cut flowers were always in buckets of water. So consternation used to reign. Every time Mr Frost came up, these buckets of water containing the flowers, had to be transhipped from Maldon and put on the main line. Well the guards on the Maldon knew all about it, but I reckon there was some funny words said sometimes by the guards on the main line when they found these buckets of water. But that wasn’t the finish. Mr Frost used to return on a train that used to leave Liverpool Street about six-forty-five, which was a main line train to Clacton. So he didn’t, when he came back, he’d got rid of the eggs, he’d got rid of the flowers, but he still had the buckets, but the buckets were now full of kitchen swill for his menagerie. [laughter]. These used to have to be taken over and put on the Maldon train, and then I think he used to get a taxi. There were odd occasions when he decided he’d go from Witham by taxi. Now the Witham taxi-men all knew Mr Frost, and if they saw him come with these buckets of swill, they were all engaged and all disappeared. Now at one time I understand he had been a tutor at a private school, and he was rather eccentric. And I remember one night I was in the booking office, and there was a tap in the enquiry parcels office, so I went round there. ‘Oh, evening Mr Frost’. ‘Now I wonder if you can help me Mr clerk’, he says. He said ‘I was coming down on the train and it was exceedingly hot, so I took my shoes off to rest my feet, and unfortunately I’ve left my shoes on the train.’ [laughter]. And sure enough he stood there in his bare feet. So I said ‘All right, Mr Frost’, after I’d counted ten, ‘I’ll get into contact with Colchester’, was the next stop for the train, ‘see if we can find them’.
[20 minutes]
So anyway, I got onto Colchester and told them where they were, I said ‘They’re in the coach just behind the restaurant car’. About twenty minutes later Colchester rang back. He says ‘Yes, we’ve found those shoes, but’ he says ‘I wouldn’t give you twopence for the bloody things’. [laughter] I can remember the clerk. Anyway that was Mr Frost. And on another occasion, again Mr Frost. The down train, he came off the usual train, stood there ages. So Alf Griggs, one of the porters, come up the stairs, I says ‘What’s the matter with the down train, Alf?’. ‘Oh’, he said ‘It’s Mr Frost again.’ ‘Oh’, I said, ‘What now?’ ‘Well he said he had a little carton of day-old chicks. He said and after the train left Chelmsford, he got them out to feed them. [laughter] Somebody opened the corridor door and they all got in the corridor’. And they had to stood there while they caught these day-old chicks’. [laughter].

Then, lost property. We often used to get things left in the train which were handed out. One of the things that I always remember was the ordinary, [???] the old brown brief case was handed in, and they thought the passenger had gone to Braintree. Anyway, I said to the porter, Alf Griggs again, I said ‘Well we’d better check what’s in it, and make a note, and put it in the lost property book’. So we opened the brief case, and you’ll never guess was in the brief case. A plastic bag of horse manure. We’ve had all sorts of things left, but that’s the only time I’ve ever had that. But anyway it was claimed by somebody from Braintree, and when I told Braintree what was in it, he said he couldn’t believe it, I said ‘Well you open it and check it’.

And I think it was 1951 or 52, there was an epidemic, I think it was ‘flu or something, and we had three porters off sick, and Stratford sent down a relief porter. Now this relief porter, I never did know his name, cause he was always known as Cherry Blossom, because he always had highly polished black boots. Now he originated from Milton Constable, and spoke with a real Norfolk dialect, and he’d gone up to Stratford after the War, because there was more money being a relief porter. And one night, Cherry Blossom was on the platform, the down train ran in, and I was bursting to go to the toilet, and I ran down on the platform as the train ran in, and Cherry Blossom stood on the platform, and Ted Webb was the foreman. Ted Webb was announcing the train, he said ‘This train will call at Marks Tey, Colchester, Wivenhoe, Thorpe le Soken and Clacton’. So this old dear, she goes up to Cherry Blossom, she says ‘Does this train go to Colchester?’ Now in my best Norfolk accent I’ll try – Cherry Blossom, he looks at her and he said ‘Now look you here, Missus.’ He said ‘That man up there, he told you where that was a-going, and that had to come past you to get to me, and I heard what he say’. [laughter] That was a polite way of saying ‘Yes, madam’. Or a Norfolk way anyway.

Well, that basically is that, we’ve got slides to come. Any questions about the actual station or the working of the station?
Dorothy Hancock: [???] when you came in, there was this wooden structure [???] [???]
JN:    That was the original booking hall and entrance. We’ll come to that, when we come to the slides. Yes, that was the original booking office which was in Easton Road. That was part of the Eastern Counties Railway. Oh yes, I’ve brought this along [tin for holding string]. A genuine relic of the Eastern Counties Railway. It was in use in Witham, in the booking office, when I was there, and it was in the ticket collector’s office, and they tie the bundles of tickets up with the string. And oh, after they built the little ticket office outside, I come off one night, and I see it was still in there, so I said to the ticket collector,  Harold[?] Dick[?], I says ‘Cor’ I said ‘You still using that?’. ‘Oh’ he said ‘Do you [???]’. ‘Well, I said that’s Eastern Counties’. So the next night he come off, he handed me a plastic bag, so that’s a genuine Eastern Counties Railway string tin.
[25 minutes]
The only other relic [???] I have is a train staff. Now probably [???] of you have heard of train staffs. No train on a single line was allowed to go without one. This was kept in a special cabinet in the station at Witham. You probably had half a dozen in the instrument at Witham, and half a dozen at Braintree. And before one could be taken out at Witham, the signalman at Witham had to get permission from Braintree to withdraw one from the instrument. And once that was taken out, the whole business was locked, and neither could you put back in or take one out, until this was given to, this would then be given to the driver, who would check with his fireman that was the correct one for the line, Witham and Braintree. They would then travel to Braintree, where it would be put in the instrument at Braintree, and it would then release the section so you could take another one out. So this entailed that only of these were ever out at one time. And the penalty for a driver going without one, was instant dismissal. So that was a safety check for all trains on single line working.

Here is a diagram showing the curve that was put in in the late 1880s for trains travelling from Southend to Colchester. There is the timetable showing the trains on the various dates they ran. There’s also reports there of the two accidents at Witham, the 1905 and the 1950 accidents, so you’re perfectly at liberty to read those and take those and have a look at those. That’s another photo there that I haven’t got slides of of Witham station. There is the details of the Essex Agricultural Society Show at Witham, and train times for the original trains. Right, so, if you’ve got nothing further, we’ll break for coffee or tea, and slides afterwards.

Bill Beale:    Would the staff that you just held up, would that still be in operation, because that’s still a single line?
JN:    No, it’s all controlled by electric signalling now, Bill. And telephone communications and radio operated.
Questioner:    [???] the train from Southend, that came via where?
JN:    That came via Woodham Ferrers, Maldon West. There were curves put in at Woodham Ferrers and also at Maldon as well, from Maldon West round to Langford. It’s all shown on the plan there if you want to have a look at it. And it was used by one train per week, for about four years. Why it was ever put in, nobody’s ever really found out. Incredible cost.
Questioner:    What was the cause of the Cromer accident?
JN:    Read the report! [laugh]. It’s always been a matter of conjecture. The platelayers had been working on the points leading into the Braintree platform, and it was surmised that something had not been put back as it should have been. But there was never any definite conclusion. But certainly the platelayers were working on the track, and they were closely scrutinising it almost as the train got up to the point. And you’ll see on the slides, I’ve got a slide of the train approaching. It’s incredible that the morning of the crash, a young lad from Cromer was on holiday here, and he took a photo of the train approaching, and this was actually taken from the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’, and we have checked, and the identity of the engine, except it ties up with the crash. And also, you can see the fireman and driver, leaning right out of that loco as it approached Witham, so there was obviously something they were watching.
Questioner:    Why was there never an entrance made into Easton Road, why isn’t there a footbridge down to the car park?
JN:    What, now? Because Easton Road was the original entrance, until it was rebuilt in 1907, then the entrance was put in Albert Road. But there’s been arguments for and against ever since, and they say the cost is too high now to do it.
[30 minutes]

[Recorder turned off during refreshments, then restarting with slides]

Now here, we do have the original booking office and entrance, which was in Easton Road. This is taken out of the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’, actually it’s the otter huntsmen, so we’ll forget the otter hunt, but that is the original entrance to the station. That was in use till the station was built in 1906/1907. If you look at that you can see the Temperance Hotel [9 Albert Road].

Now, I’ve done a little research on this. This engine was built in 1904, so it must have been almost new when this was taken, because it’s in pristine condition, this would have been working on the Braintree line. I know it was allocated to Braintree, and it was there before the rebuilding of the station in 1906, and as I say it was built in 1904, so it was very probably a year or eighteen months old, the engine. And that’s the main road bridge over the station, as it is there, before it was widened. And this is a gas lamp, so it would be about that time.

This again was roughly the same period. It was taken a little while before the station was rebuilt, because it’s still got the original footbridge over the station, so this was taken before the crash. The engine was built in 1897 at Stratford. I’ve been trying to trace where it was allocated. And a colleague of mine who’s [???] more involved in train work [???], we cannot establish what the train was. We think it’s come off the Braintree branch, we’re not sure whether it was terminated at Witham or whether it was going further. The head code, this, which is a green, with a white circle, indicates it came off the Maldon branch, we are not certain [???]. But that was certainly taken before the station was rebuilt.

Now this is what I was talking about, the Cromer express approaching just prior to the crash. And if you look, you can see the driver and fireman distinctly looking out, obviously aware that something’s amiss. And we have confirmed that is the type of engine that was working the train. So we are pretty certain that it was a genuine photograph of the train approaching, seconds before the crash.

Now, this does show some of the damage that was done to the platform, the concrete platform was destroyed at that end. This would have been where the foreman’s and the ticket-collector’s office would have been, completely demolished by the train. The remains of a coach upside-down. You can see there the [???] underneath. That was not the first class coach, that was one of the third class. The first two coaches were virtually, remained almost intact, as did the rear of the train, this would be the rear of the train, but the middle of the train went all over the station, demolished part of the station, even finished up on the up platform.

That’s a close-up of the same coach. This would have been the Braintree and the loop at the back of the Braintree platform. Now again, as I understand, there are new bricks there, so was the station already down for improvement, see, there.
Question:    Did they ever know what caused the crash was it derailed first, before it crashed?
JN:    The, as I said, there is a report there, and it is inconclusive. The platelayers had been working on the points and the track just as it approached the station. Whether part of the track or part of the bolts had not been put back satisfactorily we do not know. But certainly the platelayers were very very concerned when the express came down, because they were working and looking at the track almost to the time the engine got there. And this is borne out by the way the fireman and the driver are leaning out of the cab, as you can see on the photograph. But the engine and tender basically went over, then the train just went all over the place.

That’s a rather similar one. In those days, basically all the coaches were wooden, you can see these are the remains of the coach. That’s the wheels and that’s completely upside down, completely smashed. The damage that, it wrecked as I said, the porters’ room and it also damaged the staunchions holding the footbridge up.
A rather similar one. It gives you then an idea of what the station was like, especially the footbridge. You’ve got one coach here which is on its side, there’s another coach there, so this coach has sort of by-passed that one, landed on the up platform. The other one is still basically on the track.

This was taken now looking the other way, towards London, they’re starting to clear the line, a crane has now arrived, you’ve got the policeman looking. Think now, within two days, everything was back, well I say, back to normal, because you had trains running, how long would it take today. They’d still be holding an Inquiry. You can see the devastation, not only to the train but to the station as well.
There again you can see, as I was saying you can see parts of the wooden structures of the station, all brought down by the train.

Questioner:    Have you got any idea how long it took to clear that line, John, bearing in mind that they wouldn’t have modern lifting …
JN:    No. Well, I’ve not seen official reports, but I understand that the train, they had trains running within two days. Mm. They didn’t hang about, no, they didn’t. You had breakdown cranes, so
Questioner:    They probably used the forces[?] did they?
JN:    I don’t know, I didn’t hear about that, but they probably did, they’d have brung in any person they could, no doubt, to do it.

[another slide] Yes. It makes you wonder there weren’t more killed, doesn’t it, when you …
Questioner:    [inaudible]
JN:    You see it wasn’t a case of just coming off the, there was no means, they only had wooden frames, and the coaches rust over-ran one another. So as it what’s-er-named, the coaches telescoped, one into the other.

This shows, this is now looking, one coach there as you can see, completely on the platform. The end of this one’s completely smashed out.
Questioner:    What speed would it have been going, John?
JN:    They estimate between sixty and sixty-five. The limit in this area I think was sixty-five, and it was timed basically up to the limit, so it certainly would have been doing about sixty miles an hour.

Questioner:    John, you said they were six-wheeled coaches, [???]
JN:    Yes. This is a bogey, yes, this one is a bogey, yes.
Questioner:    What was that one?
JN:    It’s third class as well. This is first and third, so it was a composite coach. Means it’s got first class here, it was a bogey coach, you’re right.

Questioner:    John, what kind of camera would that young man have had, then, to take a train at that speed?
JN:    I wouldn’t know.
Questioner:    It didn’t look as though it was travelling at seventy miles an hour [???]. Are you sure it’s not a train that has stopped and they’re looking at the wreckage?
JN:    What, the photograph of the train, you mean? No, no, we have whatsernamed, recognised that that was the engine that was involved in the crash. Yes.

This was taken now at the country end, clear of the station, so you can see that the train, the front of the train got through the, went right through the station before it became derailed. This is the remains of the first class coach which was burnt out.
Questioner:    Was that because of the gas cylinder?
JN:    Yes. Yes, they had gas tanks under the coaches, and the gas ignited. This was one of the dangers in those nearly with nearly all coaches, were fitted with gas tanks for gas lighting. Either that or oil for oil lighting.
Questioner: [Inaudible]
JN:    Well, yes, when you’ve got diesel oil spilt all over, yes. Yes, this would have been the turn out to Maldon, so the train, the front of the train did get right through the station.

That again is in a similar position but we now have the, what we assume is part of the breakdown train that has arrived to help clear the train. To give you an example, there’s wheels, there’s one buffer, and there’s another buffer, and that’s about all, steelwork, that’s left. And the frame and some of the brake gear, and that’s about it.
There’s the Colchester end of the platform, and this is what  I was talking about, new bricks [???], so, was rebuilding already planned.

Questioner:    Is that the maltings?
JN:    That is the maltings, yes, and there’s, you can just see part of the goods shed through there.

There we are, that’s taken from a postcard, postmarked August 1907, so there you have the new station, and it is basically as it is today, with very little alteration. You have the gents’ toilet here. And then, just there, was the footwarmer room.

This, if I remember right, was 1919, very little alteration. See how neatly everything’s kept. Still had the gas lamps, ornate gas lamps.
Questioner:    What [???]
JN:    Barrows. Barrows all neatly piled up. And in my day they were still basically in the same position. I think they were used in between yes.

There are a series of photos here now, I thought I’d give you an idea what the station was like in 1911. These were all taken, the next, I think, fifteen, were taken in 1911 [JG’s photos M580, M581, and M2776-M2788]. Somewhere along there is Highfields Road. Can’t see any houses, can you.
Janet Gyford:    What’s that ramp thing on the left? (JN: Where’s what?) There’s a ramp on the left, where’s that going?
JN:    Here? That was the ramp up to the cattle market. Yes, you unloaded your cattle there, then they was taken up … Now, going back to the site of the crash, the crash, it approximately came off there, those points there, that was where they were working.

Side 2

[slides continued]
Quite a few [???] there, well there’s a road[?] of some description there and that’s it.
Questioner:    That’s Armond Road?
Janet Gyford:    Armond Road wasn’t there.
JN:    No.
Questioner:    Highfields Road being right in the distance.
JN:    Yes.

This is looking down, this is the Station signal box, which controlled that end, the London end of the station, water column[?], [???] to take water, and the entrance into the Maldon platform. Ornate gas lamps.

There you are, now you get a better view of the barrows. Notice how ornate all the lamps were. Large sign showing refreshments, you had a refreshment room. I’ll tell you a little tale, about the gents’ toilet. When I was at the station, there was a, this was just after the War, and VD was quite prevalent. There was poster in there which says ‘VD can be cured’, and underneath somebody had written ‘So can kippers’. [laughter] And that poster was in there all the time I was at Witham. Anyway, side track …

This is taken from the, probably a lot of you remember, the tall Junction signal box, looking through the station. There you can just see part of the goods shed, the water column[?], local in the Braintree platform, and general view of the station looking towards London.

Taken from the other side of the track, there’s the steps up to the signal box, the wooden building next housed the equipment to work the hydraulic lifts, and here is the goods shed, the wooden goods shed which is still in use. And a lot of us did not realise that the wooden goods shed was still there in 1911. We thought the brick one in the yard had been built by then but it hadn’t. (Questioner: What was the building [???]) Oh, one of the departments, I think it was the engineers, not the engineers, the examiners had a room under there where they kept a load of equipment.

You get a better view of the goods shed now. Quite a large place. The maltings as they originally were. The building at the back we think is part of Cullen’s, the seed people, cause they had land there and that’s part of their trial grounds.

Looking the other way again, gives you a better idea of the goods shed. You can just see Witham East signal box down there. I think now, coming back, underneath the water tank, was the pumping equipment. Yes, it was the pumping equipment.

Now this, this shows the line going off to Maldon with all the various signals, and there you can just see where the curve was built, round there from the Maldon branch up to the main line, controlled by Witham East signal box which is there opposite in 1911. You notice those spare rails and everything, how neatly everything was packed.

You get a better view of the maltings now, with Harrison Gray, there shunting four cattle wagons, cause in those days cattle was one of the main sources of income, all cattle, basically, any sheep, the lot, was all conveyed by rail. It looks as if they’ve been emptied, because it looks as if they’ve been limed. Everything, after they’d been used, were limed out. Up until very, up until 1950-odd, that pond was still there. For some reason that little bit of ground was always known as Canada (Questioner: Known as what?) Canada. Yes, that piece of ground just there was always known as Canada. There were some allotments there as well. ‘Oh’, he says, ‘I’ve got an allotment on Canada’, so you knew where his allotment was.

That shows the sidings into Harrison Gray’s and the seed people’s. To get the wagons actually in, you had small wagon turntables, so you could put the wagon on the turntable and push it round to get it into the extra siding.

A general view looking down the goods. They’ve stopped shunting for a breather there, those days you had two shunt horses, the majority of shunting in the yard was all done by horse. Probably working out what moves they were going to make, between them, so they knew exactly what they were doing.

Questioner:    Where are these photographs taken from, John, are they sort of [???].
JN:    Quite a lot of them were taken from the Junction signal box, or from signals. Mm. These were all taken by a [???], I forget his name now, in 1911, he surveyed virtually the whole of the Stratford district taking photographs. [from the Windward collection at the National Railway Museum, York]. It gives you a good idea of the amount of traffic that was used, handled in the yard.

That’s the goods foreman’s office, as you can see there’s no goods shed there. That’s a very very good photograph of the Witham South junction box, which was built when the curve was put in, although the curve was taken out, the signal box, although not in use as a signal box, was still there. Quite a number of people were surprised that it was still there. We all thought it had been demolished.

A breather, for the horses.
Questioner:    What is that in the very far distance, on the horizon, it looks like buildings.
JN:    Hay stacks or straw stacks. Yes. In the very far corner you can just see the crane, well that crane, I’m pretty certain, was still in use in 1950, 51, after the brick goods shed had been built, which we think was about 1915.

That was the signal fitters and the signal and telegraph hut, where they did work on the signals. You can see now the size of a signal arm, it’s quite large, extends about five foot, some of them. A small forge outside where they did various bits and pieces. The barrows were always left upside down, so they didn’t run away. And that, that
track there led up to the turntable.

Just in the far [???] again, you can see part of Cullen’s trial grounds. This I’m pretty certain was taken from a signal. That little hut there I’m not sure. That had gone by the fifties, so what that was there for I do not know. And this was a fogman’s hut, could have been used for fogmen.
Questioner:    Are they trial grounds in the background there as well, behind …
JN:    No, they’re all the allotments on Canada. I think nearly every man on the station had an allotment in those days. A lot of them still in my day, they had allotments over there.

This one must have been taken about 1922, early 1923, because it was still Great Eastern, and the Great Eastern was absorbed into the LNER in 19, the latter part of 1923. And it’s surprising, some of those were still working when I was there.

Questioner:    Which one’s you, John? [laughter]
JN:    Thank you, Don. [general chat]
Questioner:    Who was the lady in the middle?
JN:    That was Polly somebody, I forget her name now, she was a ticket collector. You’ll probably remember this Joe Burch, he was a lamp man, he was still lamp man when I was there. Alf Griggs, the porter, Sam Bright, who was a shunter, he was still there, Arthur Chalk, who went as ticket collector at Chelmsford in the mid fifties. Jack Smith, the telegraph clerk. Old Ezekiel Griggs who was Alf’s father, he was the goods porter, he was in his seventies when he retired while I was there.

Questioner:    Are those service badges they’re all wearing?
JN:    They probably are, yes, but they’re definitely Great Eastern uniform.

Now, Dorothy [Hancock] remembers this. This is kindly donated by Dorothy. This is the station master’s house.
Dorothy Hancock:    There’s a date on that shield over the front door. 1840 something like that.
Questioner:    Is that near the level crossing gates, John?
JN:    No, this was at the bottom of Easton Road, yes, where that block of offices now is. You had this, and just beyond that was the Hawthorns, wasn’t it, where Captain Brice lived.
Mid 1930s, again, from Dorothy’s … (Dorothy Hancock: With father on it.) Yes, stationmaster Mr George Hancock on the platform. This is kindly donated by Dorothy, so I know … And this was a gas tank, which was used for gassing the lighting on the Maldon and Braintree coaches.
Questioner:    [???]
JN:    Where, this one? Here? That’s the Temperance Hotel [9 Albert Road]. Yes. That was still in use when I was in the booking office, cause occasionally I used to go and have a meal there.

Again, mid thirties. What the train is we do not know. We can’t, we’ve got the [???] boards on but we couldn’t find out what … It must be quite an important train, it’s got express head[?] coach[?], and the coach there towards the rear, is a Pullman coach.
So it was a train of some importance.

Again, I think Dorothy’s, train leaving Witham. We think this was the five o’clock from Liverpool Street to Clacton, by the engine etc.

One of the shunt horses, and the young Fred Gibson who was later head shunter at Witham. That’s the only one I’ve found a close-up of one of the horses.

Coming on now to mid-fifties. Baird’s had started to extend, we still have steam on the Maldon, we still had gas lights. Early fifties. Cause, gas was there till what, about 1955, 56, there was still gas then.

Again, putting down to about mid-fifties, with a Maldon train just leaving, going round the corner. And Hugh Baird’s, this part of Hugh Baird’s still unaltered.
Yes, we’re in 1960s now, we’ve got the wires up, and we have electric lighting. (Questioner: [???]) The train had just gone. And the old wooden structures on either side which controlled the lift gear, they’ve gone, and we’ve now got electric lifts. But other than that, the station is basically still unaltered.  (Questioner: The A12 had been built then.) Oh yes, the A12, yes, yes.

I spoke about the new turntable, there is a locomotive on the new turntable, which is 1951 or 52 – 51 I think that was installed. And it was automatic, it was worked off the braking system of the loco, which you connected up the spike[?] with a vacuum. Save them pushing it round, it went round automatically. I did actually have a trip onto the turntable once, I scrounged a lift on a Britannia, it was the first time the Britannias had come down to Witham. It’s the only time I ever had a lift on a Britannia, and it’s the only time I went on Witham turntable.

(Questioner: [???]) It was there because Witham was a junction point, and you used to get, especially on Sundays, you had excursions coming off the Braintree branch, which required turning the engine round. It’d come in from Braintree, and you had the engine on the other end, and also you often, especially in those days, with engineering, you got diversions. There was quite a number of Sundays the continental trains used to be diverted across Braintree-Dunmow-Bishops Stortford to Liverpool Street. And used to turn the engines there, this was the reason they put in [???] see, so you could turn the Britannias round. That’s a big one, yes, yes. [???] [???]

The 1950 crash. There’s the remains of the goods wagons, see the engine on the side, down the bank, these are the coaches that surmounted the goods wagons.
Questioner:    Whereabouts was that, John?
JN:    Just the other side of Motts Lane. The goods train, the goods train was entering the up loop, about a third of the train had actually got in the loop, when it was hit by the Peterborough. A steam crane starting work on lifting the rubble.

That’s another view, looking the other way. It’s incredible that nobody was killed. Except for the fireman and the goods guard.
And that’s the loco.
Questioner:    What’s [???]?
JN:    A B1. B1 It was a B1, yes. That was after. It was brought up to Witham the following Saturday night, Sunday morning, after the crash. And it remained there for a week. And the following weekend, Saturday night, Sunday morning, they towed it back to Stratford. At ten miles an hour, having to stop every fifteen miles for inspection. (Questioner: [???]). That was the only one that was never rebuilt. Yes, it completely destroyed it, it knocked off …
That is the loco again at Stratford works, waiting, waiting up.
That’s the last one.

Do we have any more questions? Any further questions.
Keith Ibbotson:    Those gas cylinders John, under the carriages, were they topped up each day?
JN:    Yes.
Keith Ibbotson:    So there could have been a terrible fire in, in something like that.
JN:    Mm, yes.
Keith Ibbotson:    What were they made of, the cylinders.
JN:    Cast iron, I should imagine. That was the general whatsername in those days, yes. Cast metal.
Don Pettican:     [???]
JN:    No. It was gas, I forget what, it was manufactured in the gas works at Stratford. I believe it was oil gas. But they had, there was, they had a separate gas works at Stratford. Besides the whatsername, the coaches, you saw the large tank at Witham, they also provided gas for virtually the whole of the area. And all major towns and all junctions had one of those, you know, to gas the coaches. At Norwich they had a special gassing point.

[Thanks etc., applause]



Notes about John Newman

He was born in November 1928, worked in Witham Goods Office from November 1945 to January 1947, then was in the army for two years, and then was in Witham booking office from 1949 to 1957 before going on to HQ at Liverpool Street.


 

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