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AVEy ou read the story The Railway Children by E. Nesbit? You have probably seen the film, about the exploits of three children (two girls and a boy) living near a railway line. Well, what follows next is not fiction. It really happened. There were four children – John, Stephen, Paul and Mark, born between 1953 and 1962, sons of Alec and Margaret and we lived at Feniscowles railway station, in the station-master’s house. How this came to be was because our Dad was a railway worker. He had started as a cleaner at Lower Darwen engine sheds and became a fireman on the footplate of steam engines. He then applied to work as a signalman and got a job working in the Feniscowles signal box. Our parents took the opportunity of living in the station house (owned by British Railways) near to the signal box as part and parcel of our Dad’s job. Feniscowles station was situated on the Blackburn – Chorley line, opening in 1869, which branched off from the main line to Preston at Cherry Tree. On Preston Old Road today, you can still see the three arched viaduct that use to carry the line up the hill, over the canal and to the station. The station had lost its passenger service in the early 1960s but was still open to freight trains, Sunday diversions and holiday specials. Some of the freight trains would be coming from Carlisle and heading for Bolton/Wigan and the West Coast main line (and vice- versa), so going via Feniscowles was a more direct route than going via Preston. In the early years of living there, my brothers can remember such trains passing through. One of them was called ‘The Long Meg’. This was a regular freight service from the Long Meg Plaster and Mineral Company mine at Little Salkeld (in the Eden valley) to Widnes, consisting of quite a large number of identical freight wagons containing anhydrite. These trains were headed by one of British Rail’s most powerful locomotives of the time – usually a Standard 9F 2-10-0. The station was situated at the head of a 1 in 60 gradient, so these engines really worked hard to get the train up the hill and on to Withnell, Brinscall and beyond (which was still all uphill). The whole house seemed to shake when these trains thundered past. The station house was divided into two parts, living quarters and railway rooms. Our living space consisted of a small kitchen, a living room and upstairs, three bedrooms. The toilet was outside (next to the coal hole). There was no bathroom. At ground level, next to the living room, were the railway rooms, which could only be accessed from the platform and were not used for ‘living’ in. First there was the Waiting Room with a stone floor and ‘in-built’ wooden seating, followed by
the Ticket Office, complete with ticket date stamper and window into the Waiting Room. The next room was the Ladies Waiting Room complete with ladies toilet. Then there was the Lamp Room where paraffin had been stored to supply all signal lamps with fuel. You could still smell the strong aroma of paraffin that had been stored there. Finally there was the Gents Toilets which was half open to the elements and this had an aroma of Carbolic Soap. The Ticket Office still had remnants of British Railways paperwork in the many drawers, consisting of pads of printed
stationery (not quite A5 size) and smaller assorted printed pads. During our childhood we mainly played outside and generally only came indoors if it was too wet. So the railway rooms naturally became our territory. The Ticket Office became our headquarters. Headquarters for what? you might ask. Well, we formed the pretend ‘RP Club’ which stood for Railway Police Club, and we would go out ‘on patrol’. All those printed pads came in handy too, using them for all sorts of pretend play exercises.
The article below appeared in a local magazine some years ago. Many of the photographs have never been on the internet and all are copyrighted. It’s a true story of life for four brothers who lived on the railway at the end of steam, and closure of the railway. This article appears courtesy of Blackburn & Darwen Life magazine to whom I am indebted (and to whom all photos are copyrighted unless otherwise stated) Please read in conjunction with Feniscowles Station
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The Signal Box situated at the southern end of the Goods Yard
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