A Day in the Life of... August1955
I had just finished doing my stint in the RAF, and was on Demob leave, so what better place than to spend it in Portmadoc. I came down on the "Cambrian Coast Express" from Birmingham, with lunch, and tea being served in the Dining Car, to stay at the Commercial Hotel. The wonderful Mrs Owen in charge.
Allan Garraway arrived during supper, with instructions on what he wanted me to do; he gave me a large key, and told me to open up the Harbour Station in the morning, but not to sell any tickets, until I could see him, and the train coming across The Cob. Next morning after a large Welsh breakfast, wearing my blue blazer with its RAF badge, and grey flannel bags, and holding my packed lunch and thermos flask, walked down to the harbour trying to look important. There, on the platform were two double doors, opening into the booking hall dark and dingy. Once open. With a push and a shove, (I must get some WD40) I then opened the door on my left, and went into the booking office, with its old fashioned work bench, with high backed stools, and drawers under the counter to place the money, this had 4/5 wooden bowls set into the draw to take the coins. I think I only ever saw one 10/- note.
I changed the ticket date machine, getting my hands covered in ink, getting it as well wrong, and putting bits of card board to see until the date was right.
Now, about 10 am I started to look into the distance towards Boston Lodge, with one or two people asking will there be a train. Yes there it is. So rush back into the office and lift the trap, which opens on to the booking hall. Waiting for the first passenger was a thrill in itself. Allan rushed in to see if I was OK, then having taken on water, and come round ready for the off. We had Prince, and two coaches, smartly turned out in green with bright red ends. By 10.25 I had sold 16 adult and 10 children return tickets, a total of 21shillings (£1.10p).
I locked the office, and punched the tickets of the passengers on the train
locking the doors as I went, waved to Allan, and off we went, I remember that
Will Jones, and two others were doing some spot sleeper repairs on the Cob, so
we had lots of waving. Arriving at Boston Lodge Halt, every one out of the
train, and Allan I shunted slowly back to where the points into the Works were.
With a large chain, and .Allan shouting at me what to do we soon had
This is more like it. The 11.30 had 32 Adults and 23 children - £2.15. By the time we got back to harbour, it was time for lunch; we sat on the bench, listening to Allan talking about railways, this was a thrill for someone who had not even reached 21 years of age.
Time to sell fizzy pop and crisps, more tickets, guard, shunter, and
I did this for nearly 2 weeks, almost on the last day Allan said "I have the press coming this morning, as we are nearing our 10,000th passenger", and the first train that afternoon we passed the magic figure.
So you see I could not say at the beginning what I was, for that wonderful 10 days. I was Station Master, Chief booking Clerk, Ticket collector, Guard, Senior Shunter, and Head of Refreshments.
Nearly 60 years later it is still fresh in the mind.Yes it is fun, and an
adventure, but in Allan's words "as long as you do it right".
Rob Smallman is one of our longest serving volunteers, and is now responsible for running the Ffestiniog Railway Letter Service.