Life on the Railways

As the weather turns for the better, our attention here at STEAM turns to planning an exciting and jam packed summer! Here, Barry Martin tells us about his life on the railways and volunteering at STEAM.

I have spent a good portion of my life working on the railways. In 1958, I was hired as a booking boy at Blackfriars, on the Catford Loop line. Then I went to signalling school at Clapham Junction, and from 1961 onwards I worked as a signalman on the North Kent Line. I worked at Brockley Lane; the station closed to passengers in 1917 but was kept open as a goods station until 1970. The goods traffic that came through included trains from Great Northern and Great Eastern, which came via the West London line at Factory Junction. We had a coal yard and mill depot, as well as a yard to reverse trains that came from a different area. We had night traffic as well, usually freight, and occasionally empty coaches from Blackheath, which were used for summer excursions.

In the late 1960s, I moved to Swindon, so I have spent a good amount of time living here, although I live in Calne now. I became interested in the old museum in Old Town whilst living in Swindon. When the new museum opened in 2000, I joined ‘The Friends of the Railway Museum’. In 2004, I joined the Meet the Railway Workers volunteer team and I have been volunteering ever since. I volunteer most Saturdays and we occasionally do special events.

What I enjoy most about volunteering is doing it with like-minded people, who also share memories of and a passion for the railways. There are so many stories amongst us all. We had a big team to start with, although it’s become a bit smaller over the years. I enjoy talking to railway enthusiasts who come to the museum, because they get so much out of it. They really like to hear from people who have actually spent time working on the railways. It enhances their day.

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