Geoff worked at Wells Station, starting at the bottom of rung of the ladder as a porter. He was born into a railway family, his father worked on railway and all of his sons. John Tuck worked at Wells as a booking clerk; he is still alive. Geoff worked alongside his train driver father as a fireman.
In 1940’s there were approximately a dozen trains daily.
As a porter Geoff went from Wells Station to Walsingham once a week when he travelled on the 1 o’clock train, returning to Wells on the 3 o’clock. He had to clean the signal lamp, refill it, light it and carry it up 60 feet by ladder to the signal box in one hand and if the light went out he had to climb down to re-light it! The lights faced the Norwich direction. The signal lights were half covered during the war. A feature the two signals was that they were 60 feet to 70 feet high because of the bends in the track the signals had to be this high to be seen. They were some of the highest on the track. It was a big job for a lad porter to change and clean lamps.
There were two sides to the work – either confined to station and platform as porter, for example, or on the locomotive (stoker).
From 1950’s Geoff was a stoker. He knew Wally Staines, the Walsingham porter mentioned in Rod Lock’s memories (Rod Lock, ‘Walsingham in the 1950s’. Great Eastern Journal 77 – January 1994). There were 6 people employed at Walsingham in 1950:
- Mrs Sizeland (who had to be rescued after climbing half way up the ladder to put lamp on signal and could neither go up nor down) which led to Geoff doing the weekly trip.
- Alfred Howlett – signalman
- Dan Knights – porter
- Tom Everett – signalman
- Wally Staines – porter
Tiny Allender – signalman
Every station had a porter’s room. Special pilgrim trains ran from London which were long trains, so platform was extended in the 1930’s so passengers could alight. These trains were not daily but when there were organised pilgrimages.
Goods sent by train
There were 2 long sidings – wagons empty, farmers loaded the waggons. Also coal merchants did the same.
Some mail came to Walsingham by train and if the handcart was heavy it took two people to push it up the hill. Mr Howe was postmaster. Geoff became a postman because of line closing. Two railway lorries would deliver parcels.
The station was useful for RAF who were stationed close by in RAF camps. There were troop trains into Wells (Stiffkey, Weybourne and Holkham had army camps).
Mrs Baker was the crossing gate keeper (where WWLR is in Egmere Road)
The garden was used as allotments by station workers. Porters were responsible for the trains going in and out safely. Parcels and goods had to be loaded in.
Porters kept platform and station clean.
- Swept platform
- Painted edge white – esp. during war years (someone else mentioned that the platform edges were usually painted using a right angled brush)
- As lights dimmed on platform and trains
There was good quality furniture in waiting rooms
- Leather clad seats
If heavy lifting to be done a lad was sent from Wells.
Inspectors came unannounced to check station was clean and also the toilets.
The Surveyor had the Dereham to Wells area to cover.
Houghton St Giles to Norwich – 3/6D return ticket.
Wells had 12 drivers and 12 firemen.
Wells to Norwich in the milk depot at North Elmham hooked milk wagon onto the back of passenger trains. County School was a fairly new halt, as built for the Bernardo’s Naval School
Signalmen had to wait from train to train – and worked under bell code system.
Clocked on to alert train coming. Signalmen had to wait (could hear bell so may have done some gardening)
Diesel trains 1955.
Geoff entertained in the pub opposite the station by playing music with his banjo.
Geoff’s wife was born at Houghton-St-Giles and remembers as a girl watching the pilgrim trains arrive at the Slipper Chapel halt from her bedroom window. There were makeshift steps for the passengers to alight by. (We have pictures of this). Neither the cottages at Houghton nor the trains are there today!
Geoff said to me that when you look at the station windows, remember I cleaned them all!
Mr Geoff Tuck
Sadly Geoff died on the 16th May 2013.
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