John Bainbridge’s Memories

Down WCML express passing Tebay Station © Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


I am a member of the Rotary Club of Upper Eden who have been helping with restoration work on the old railway line at Kirkby Stephen. Unfortunately I have not been helping, due to my age but I have very clear memories of the Eden Valley railways.

I was born in Kirkby Stephen in 1937 but we moved to Leases Farm for the duration of the war years, where I attended Soulby School and the Methodist Sunday School. One memory is of a Sunday school outing to Morecambe, where we boarded the train at Kirkby Stephen. My grandparents farmed at Greenholme and as Leases farm was close to Smardale station our parents would put my brother and me on the train there and my grandfather would meet us at Tebay station with his splendid mahogany trap with brass lamps and blue velvet cushions. After his death the trap was sold and I think it made £40! If my parents were unable to accompany us we would be placed in the care of the guard, our great uncle Jack Warwick.

We did not own a car in those days so when we had visitors my father would spread a clean rug on his flat cart and meet them at Smardale station. I am sure they thought it was a great adventure.

I remember standing on Tebay station, on one occasion seeing a goods train on the main line carrying military equipment, including a huge field gun which was quite scary for a small boy. On another occasion seeing The Mallard or Nigel Gresley going through. I forget which but I was impressed by its beautiful streamlining.

One of my childhood memories was to follow the river Scandal from Leases to Smardale viaduct and collect hazel nuts in the autumn.

After the war we moved to the Penrith area, where I attended Penrith Grammar school. My father worked on a farm near Melkinthorpe. One day he was leading turnips to sheep in a field adjacent to the railway near South Whinfell. As was practise he put the tractor in low gear, climbed on to the trailor and started distributing the turnips. A few minutes later he looked up in time to see the tractor heading for the railway fence. It demolished the fence but he stopped it before it got on to the railway line!

My Saturday morning job while at Grammar school was working at Wetheriggs Pottery. I those days the kiln was coal fired and once a month a railway wagon of coal was delivered the private siding on the Eden Valley line. One Saturday morning I was tasked with helping to unload one of these. The reward was to ride the wagon back down the siding to the buffers.

On leaving school in 1954 I joined Martins Bank Penrith but was called up for National service in 1956. After training as a radar mechanic I was posted to RAF Linton on Ouse. Sometimes, after a weekend leave I would get the train from Penrith to Darlington and thence to York so I have fond memories of the local viaducts, included the long gone Belah viaduct. After National Service I returned to the Bank, (later Barclays) and worked in numerous branches throughout the North, ending my career as Branch Manager at Kirkby Stephen. So I have come full circle.