woodpusher22 wrote:Hi Jonathan,
Some memories of mine of North Shields 1955. As a 20 yr old railway clerk, fresh out of National Service, I worked for about six months in the booking office and parcels office there. On the early shift I started at 6am. The early morning passenger traffic (6am - 7am) was very busy, especially for the workmens' trains, then later in the morning came the commuter rush at (8am-9am). For me, I then spent the rest of my early shift in the parcels office. My late shift started at 1pm, finishing at 10pm, the whole shift spent in the parcels office. The intensity of 'passenger parcels' traffic was very high in those days; it was quite separate from Goods traffic which was dealt with at Tynemouth. We had 2 parcels motorvans which would collect daily from the factories on the Norham estate, the bulk of which were from 'Dukes & Markus' and 'Levines', 2 large clothing factories which supplied Woolworths, C&As, Paige, Etams, etc., all over the country. There would be 100 - 200 of these parcels despatched daily, plus numerous other small industrial parts from local firms, and also passengers' luggage sent in advance of their holidays. To send goods by 'Passenger Parcels' was much more expensive than sending by goods train, but it was much faster.
As the parcels office, like the booking office, was at street level, the porters had to take the barrows of parcels down the outside ramp to get to rail level. Even worse for them was the trip back up with parcels from the trains. One porter (who shall remain nameless) panting from his exertions up the ramp, would pop his head around the office door, and say, "I'm just going to change my breath," and stagger across to the 'Railway' for a quick'un. There were some great characters amongst the operating staff. One porter who had been a paratrooper during the war, put three youths in hospital who were trying to mug him when he was out with his girlfriend. Another porter when I visited him at his home, turned out to be an expert accordionist, He gave me a demonstration of accordion playing that would have graced any 'X Factor' show. There was a lad porter (nicknamed 'Hedgehog' because of his hairstyle) had a narrow escape one day when hurrying across the p-way at the end of the platform ramps with a 4 wheel barrow in front of an incoming train. The front of the EMU clipped the trailing corner of the barrow, sending it sideways, upsetting its contents at the side of the track. I wasn't on duty at the time that it happened, so I don't know whether the train was delayed for inspection. The lad wasn't sacked, and I don't think there was any sort of official inquiry about the incident. Talking of accidents, there were two fatalities while I worked at Jesmond. A porter fell between the train and the platform edge as the train was leaving the west platform. The other fatality was no accident - a boy porter hanged himself from one of the signal brackets.
Getting back to North Shields, from what I remember of the buildings at platform level, I don't think there were any on the south platform (to Percy Main). The opposite platform had the porters' room, stationmaster's office, lamp room, and I think there was a gents' toilet there too. On the approach to the north platform there was a short spur with loading bay and parcels shed. A single electric unit fitted out as a parcels van in its own right, used to go around the system (in anti-clockwise direction), dropping off and picking up the parcels traffic at each station. As the spur was not electrified, this used to load/unload at the open end of the north platform. At times when it was out of action a 0-6-0T would drop off a goods wagon at the spur. As the loading bay and shed were at the head shunt, once the 0-6-0T had dropped off the van, we (clerk, porters, stationmaster) would have to push it by hand along the old rusty track to the shed; once it had been unloaded/loaded we had to push it back over the points so that when the 0-6-0T returned, it could back up on to it to be coupled.
I quite enjoyed my time at North Shields, and made many friends there.
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