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---- News, Views & Information

Memories of Amersham Station

For many people using Amersham Station today, it may be hard to realise what a different place it was over 60 years ago.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Amersham station in 1937. At this time there were only 2 platforms, the bridge is still in use today.
The 16:06 arriving at Amersham for Marylebone with a slow Leicester to London service.
(C4 6085)


Today it is just a typical commuter station, the only difference between it and many other stations is that it is the end of the Metropolitan Line. It gained this status in 1961 when the Metropolitan Line was electrified from Rickmansworth to Amersham and through services to Aylesbury were withdrawn, leaving only the British Rail (now Chiltern Railways) services going north. At this time, Amersham station gained another platform (the present platform 1) and a new footbridge. The new bridge allowed people to access the station from the new car park off The Drive and was built parallel to the existing bridge. This new bridge allowed passengers access to platforms 1 and 2 via a connection to the old bridge. Since the opening of the new multi story car park and the introduction of automatic ticket barriers this useful entrance is no longer in normal use. A new signal box was built at Amersham to control the whole line from Amersham to Chalfont and Chesham, replacing the previous Amersham box and others in the area.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

1937. The very fast 16:55 Marylebone to Manchester speeds through Amersham at about 45mph.
(B3 6165)


In the mid to late 1960s, with the change in rail use and the Dr. Beeching cut backs of the rail network, British Rail steam services were phased out, along with the goods services and main line trains running north of Aylesbury. The only regular trains now serving Amersham are passenger services on the Metropolitan Line and Chiltern Railways' services from Aylesbury to Marylebone.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Looking towards Chalfont in July 1940.
The train is an express for Manchester, the 15:30 from Marylebone. The express engines would be working hard approaching Amersham having just completed 6 & 1/2 at 1 in 105 from Rickmansworth. The goods yard is on the left and the hut in the right foreground (with gas table in front of it) is the permanent way gang's hut.
(6169 "Lord Farringdon")


In circa 1939 things were very different. I am grateful to Richard Hardy for supplying the pictures and information this article is based on.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

A 1937 view of a freight train arriving at Amersham.
The train will reverse into the refuge and then the trucks will be marshalled into the yard on the left.
(K class 5341)


Staff Based at Amersham

Below are the staff based at Amersham in about 1939. Compared with today, the station had a large workforce, not only working on the station, but in the signal box, goods yard (sited where the NHBC Offices and car park now stands) and Permanent Way Staff. Most lived fairly close to the station, but as can be seen, some had a longer journey to work.
Station Master Mr. Charles Harold Taylor Station Hill
Chief Booking Clerk Tom Druce Highfield Close
Booking Clerks Emily Barker
Ted Jackman (1940)
Harry Benning
White Lion Road
Rickmansworth Road
Signalmen Robey Neale
Daniel Fox
Hector Ratcliffe
White Lion Road
Chestnut Lane
The Meadows

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Hector Ratcliffe, signalman at Amersham.
In the background is the permanent way hut and the rose garden.
   
Relief Signalmen Ron Thorne
Bert Goode
 
Porters Alf Payne
Bob Clarke
Ted Jackman (till 1940)
Woodside Road
The Moor
Rickmansworth Road

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Bob Clarke started at Chesham in 1935 and came to Amersham as a porter in 1941. A long serving member of staff at Amersham, everyone knew Bob. The above photo was taken in 1975 on the new bridge linking the station forecourt to the then station car park
Goods Yard Clerk "Ginger" Polly Sams White Lion Road
Goods porters
+ Relief Station Porters
Tom Harle
Bob Butcher
Ken Slade
Chesham

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Bob Butcher on the new bridge at Amersham in 1975 (look at the hair styles!). Bob was relief porter at Amersham in 1939 and became a well know face at the station over the years.

Van Driver - Parcels George White  

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

George White was another Amersham institution. He drove the old railway lorry (1928 Thornycroft) and knew every house and family. Passengers' luggage would often travel ahead of them and deliveries by rail were very common. When the lorries were withdrawn, George went to work at Chalfont station and after retiring worked on the newspaper stall until the early 1980s. The above picture was taken in 1976.

Agnes Barstow (nee Ratcliffe) now from Lincoln remembers - "I worked as a telephonist at the old Post Office and sorting office and left in 1962. As a child and young teenager I remember a wonderful character called Laurel Webb. Every day the postal van would go to Amersham station loaded with mail and back into the bay next to Gibbs the sweet shop. Laurel was always on the station and helped unload the van onto a barrow and stand guard until the train arrived on the up line and then he would help put the bags in the guard van. He was always there and I used to wonder where he came from and where he lived. My father (Hector Ratcliffe (sic)) was a signalman at Amersham along with Roby Neil and Daniel Fox until he moved to Rickmansworth signal box."

I have wonderful memories of my home town

Van Driver - Goods Arthur Moor  


Permanent Way Staff

Under the jurisdiction of Inspector Jack Webb of Neasden, but responsible to Station Master Taylor for tidiness of track and forecourt with in the station limits.

The track is divided into lengths, each with its own gang.
Length 158 158 Gang  
Ganger George Clarke Grimsdell Lane
Sub Ganger Syd Carter Orchard Lane
Lengthmen Bert Parsons
Harry O'Grady
Tom Harle
Weller Road
Bierton (biked to Aylesbury)
Chesham
Length 159 159 Gang  
Ganger Tom Birch Hyde Heath
Sub Ganger George (Soco) Tomlin Great Missenden
Lengthmen John Seymour
Sydney Orchard
Ernie Seymour
Weller Road
Hyde Heath
Weller Road

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Amersham station, July 1936.
The 16:04 all stations from Leicester to Marylebone.
Note the station sign on the right behind the person - "Amersham & Chesham Bois"
(D11 5506)


The Duties of the Staff

The Station Master, Mr. Taylor, wore a uniform cap on the station and a "homburg" in the goods yard and in the town.

Tom Druce reigned over the booking office. He was kind, helpful and unflappable. Harry Benning, Emily Barker and Ted Jackman were always ready to help and explain through the window of the booking office or on Amersham 209

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

Approaching Amersham in 1936, the 15:20 Marylebone to Manchester. The goods yard is on the left, the goods hut was finally demolished when the multi story car park was built. The old Amersham station signal box is on the right, Amersham was given a new signal box when the line was electrified in the early 1960s
(D11 5510 "Princess Mary")


Porters dealt with all hand luggage as required, cleaned and tidied the station, saw trains away and many other duties. In particular, the porters had to change the oil lamps in the signals, including a walk with a lamp to the distant signals at Black Horse Bridge one way and the public foot crossing of the line near Hervines Woods the other. When they arrived at the signal they had to climb the ladder up the post and change the lamp, a heavy affair.

The signalmen could be seen from the platform. Dan Fox was tall and strong, Hector Ratcliffe was calm and friendly and Robey Neal was thick set, stumpy and white haired. Each had a distinctive way of pulling the signal levers.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

The 16:06 slow Leicester to Marylebone leaves Amersham. This all stations service would have stopped at all stations to Harrow on the Hill, there were no fast lines in those days, so the likes of Northwood, Northwood Hills, Pinner and North Harrow would be called at. The goods yard shed can be seen in the background and the fields on the right are where the multi storey car park, houses, health centre, police station etc. are now situated.
(D11 5510 "Princess Mary")


Duties of the Permanent Way Gangs

The Permanent Way Gangs were responsible for track and all other matters covered by the Permanent Way Engineer.

Gang 158 was responsible for the line between Bell Lane Bridge and Rectory Hill Bridge, while Gang 159 was responsible for the line from Rectory Hill Bridge to Mantles Wood. Both gangs were the responsibility of the Metropolitan and Great Central Joint Committee (and its successors who ran the joint line), beyond Mantles Wood the line was the responsibility of the London North Eastern Railway.
Responsibilities of 158 Gang. (Details supplied to Richard Hardy by former gang member Mr. Bert Parsons)

The prime responsibilities of the gang was to ensure that the 158 length was in perfect order. The track, sleepers and ballast both on the main line and in the goods yard and reception roads had to be second to none.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

A view from Hyrons bridge in summer 1939. Each Sunday in 1939 excursions ran to Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby at 09:50, 10:00 and 10:05 from Marylebone. One of the excursions is seen easing off after the long climb from Rickmansworth. The houses in the back ground are Orchard Lane. Trees along the line were kept cut back, a far cry from today when (perhaps to the advantage of house owners) you cannot see through the vegetation in many places. It used to be possible to see a lot of While Lion Road from the train.
(B3 4 cylinder nos. 6168 - Lord Stewart of Wortley)


The Gang booked on at Amersham station at 07:00 Mondays to Fridays and on Saturday and Sundays as required (Mr. Parsons had 10 weekends off in his 15 years at Amersham).

The Ganger, George Clarke, walked his length each day and distributed the work as required. This was around Amersham until after breakfast.

The junior man in The Gang was the cook. His first duty was to light the fire in the Gang's Hut near the signal box (where the Gang had created a rose garden). He then got busy in the hut, cleaning and burnishing the polished steel fender. He then cooked breakfast and made the tea, the Gang returning at 08:30 until 09:00. After washing the pots he swept, by hand, the station forecourt. This was done each day no matter what the weather, including the footpath right down to Station Hill Bridge.

His next task was to collect a large basket from the hut and walk the track between the platforms with a spike to pick up all the litter (at this time the line was not electrified!). He had to watch out for trains and hop out the way quickly. Station Master Taylor forbade smoking on the station by any member of his staff and this applied to the Lengthmen. After this, the junior man would join the rest of the Gang for whatever duties they had to carry out.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

1936/7 The 16:06 Leicester to Marylebone all stations crosses the bridge at the top of Station Road and enter Amersham.
(5504 "Jutland")


The Gang would use bicycles to reach the furthest points of their length, riding in the cess alongside the track.

Perfect track alignment was required, any disparities were dealt with at once by lifting and lining the track. One day, after George Clarke had retired, Permanent Way Inspector Jack Webb from Neasden came to see the Ganger who at that time was "Curly" Jefford (Curly because he was bald!) and announced "Curly old man, you're 1/16th out on Monkey Curve" (opposite the Pineapple Pub, where the line curves, not far from where the Chesham line heads off for Chesham. Known as Monkey because the Pineapple was known as The Monkey) - such was the precision expected in those days. Inspector Webb had been a Ganger himself, he always wore his badge of office as an inspector - an old bowler hat, green with age.

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

A busy scene at Amersham. The 18:26 Marylebone to Woodford arrives at 19:03. The service ran non stop Marylebone to Amersham in 37 minutes and it was often delayed behind a slower Metropolitan service to Chesham) - some things never change!
(B7 5473)


Other duties which the gangs had to perform were cutting or scything the banks, weeding the cess, tidying the ballast - not a stone out of place, inspection of bridges, inspection of fences (the fences of houses backing onto the railway, such as in Orchard Lane, were the responsibility of the railway), unloading coal for the station and signal box, assisting the Neasden track re laying gang at weekends on major track works - anywhere between Amersham and Harrow or on occasions anywhere on the underground system.

In times of fog or snow, other duties had to be undertaken. Gang 158 was first on call for such duties, working a 12 hour shift opposite gang 159.

At times of fog, Mr. Parsons guarded the down distant signal (for trains coming from London) near Black Horse Bridge, When the signal was clear he gave the drivers a green light, when at caution a yellow light and placed a detonator on the track. He had a hut and a brazier to keep him warm.

When snow fell points had to be cleared to ensure they were free to move. Station platforms had to be cleared along with footpaths in the vicinity of the station.

On Good Friday no trains ran before lunch. This practice continued until the early 1950s. The gang provided a "volunteer" (unpaid) to rope off the station forecourt from Hill Avenue to Station Hill Bridge from 8:00 till noon. No cars were allowed to pass over railway property, the reason for this practice is probably something to do with maintaining rights of way.

Apart from Good Friday, the only other holiday was Christmas Day, the Gang worked Boxing Day and Bank Holidays.

The Train Services

Like today (Chiltern and Metropolitan), Amersham was served by two train services. The L.N.E.R. (which had taken over the original Great Central services) ran trains into London Marylebone. To the north the L.N.E.R. offered such services as to Aylesbury, Brackley, Woodfrod, Leicester and Nottingham. The L.N.E.R. also ran express services to the north which did not stop at Amersham.

Unlike today, Amersham was not the end of the Metropolitan line or route. The Metropolitan ran trains to Aylesbury. They used to run trains further north to Quainton Road (where there was a branch to Brill) and Verney Junction, but these services were withdrawn in 1936.

To the South, much like today, the Metropolitan ran trains to Baker Street and The City. Although the Metropolitan had extended their electric track to Rickmansworth, steam trains obviously had to be used for services north of Rickmansworth to Amersham and Aylesbury. This meant the Metropolitan could not use multiple unit trains, but instead operated trains with coaches pulled by an electric locomotive as far as Rickmansworth, where the locomotive was swapped for a steam one (the process being reversed for southbound journeys). Although the change of locomotive delayed the journey, it was accomplished incredibly quickly (I wonder if health and safety regulations today would allow such a manoeuver with staff being on an electrified track coupling and uncoupling trains at such a speed) taking about 3 minutes, leaving passengers time enough for a quick drink on the platform!

Not only did the change of locomotives cause delay, but the track from Amersham to Harrow was only double track. The Metropolitan route was very busy and this often held up the L.N.E.R. (and former Great Central) longer distance and faster services (this is one of the reasons why the Great Central and Great Western Railway built a new joint line through Beaconsfield and High Wycombe to allow for faster services out of London). When the Metropolitan Railway was taken over by London Transport in 1933, plans to quadrupole the track from Harrow to Rickmansworth were included in the new works programme. However, the outbreak of World War II delayed this work and the work was not completed until the early 1960s, when the track was also electrified to Amersham avoiding the need for a change of engine at Rickmansworth and cutting Metropolitan services back from Aylesbury to Amersham. Ironically this increased capacity on the line, but it was not long afterwards that British Rail withdrew main line services north of Aylesbury.

Today trains for London from Amersham are mostly "fast", but before the quadrupling of the track all trains had to pass through the stations from Rickmansworth to Harrow (Northwood, Pinner etc.). One final difference between the Metropolitan services of the past and today was the Pullman Cars that operated on morning and evening City services. For a supplement to the first class fare, a very comfortable journey could be had in one of the two Pullman coaches.
 

Picture taken by Richard Hardy and reproduced here with his kind permission.
Copyright Richard Hardy. Further details - The Transport Treasury

In 1936 to 17:23 Marylebone to Brackley heads out of Amersham towards Aylesbury. Although it missed some stations, the journey time to Amersham was 47 minutes
(A5 5165)


So, how things have changed. Next time you use Amersham station, try to imagine a high speed express train rushing through on its way to Manchester.

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