A family that once lived at the historic signal box in Deeping St James, have expressed their regret at the decommissioning of the Victorian building that has stood the test of time for over 150 years.
Deeping St. James Signal Box was demolished on October 22, after months of campaigning by local residents who fought to retain its place within railway heritage, but the memory still lives on for its former resident Jean Jones.
Jean, 66, who now lives near Sutton On Sea, formerly lived in the house that used to be attached to the former Deeping St. James Signal Box from 1952 to 1959, where she lived as a young girl with her parents, Jim and Vera and her older brother Michael.
Her father Jim was the signal man at the former St. James Deeping station, along with a number of other staff who helped to support the station including: the station master, ticket clerk and an assistant, two porters, a relief signal man and a cleaner.
Jean said: “The joy of living on the ‘line’ was very much like the Railway Children, we would know the engine drivers and guardsmen and occasionally have a ride on the footplate.
“One of the things that stands out in my mind is the delivery of hot water for my mother to do her washing. In the early years our house didn’t have electricity or running water, so each week steam trains would draw up alongside our shed in the garden, a pipe was swung across and hot water was deposited into either a dolly tub or boiler to enable my mother to do the washing.”
Along with the delivery of hot water from the line, the fish train would also deliver water for the weekly bath for the family.
Jean spent many hours in the signal box with her father, helping him with daily tasks such as ringing the bells and pulling the brass levers to let the trains through.
She said: “In the school holidays my brother and I would be paid three pence a week for opening and closing the gates. On one occasion however we forgot to open the gates and a freight train took them along the track. I don’t think we got paid that week!”
During the foggy weather, Jane would get up in the early hours of the morning to accompany her father in laying warning detonators on the track.
When a train approached the station it would trigger the detonators so that the station staff were aware of the trains impending arrival.
Quite a lot of trains came through Deeping, including goods and passenger trains - which were all steam engines.
Jean’s family took great pride in the appearance of the station, the booking office, waiting rooms and white lining on the edge of the platform.
Unfortunately in the late 50’s a colour test was introduced that all signal men had to undertake to ensure they could differentiate between certain colours.
Whilst Jean’s father had been a signal man for over 30 years, he failed one part of his test and was told he could no longer operate in a signal box.
Jean said: “Looking back, it must of broken his heart, as it was a job he thoroughly loved.”
He subsequently went on to take a role at Peterborough East Station as a ticket collector and so continued to work within the railway industry.
Jean said: “There was an innocence and freedom to life back then that probably allowed us to do things that would now be frowned upon due to Health and Safety regulations.”
Speaking before the demolition, Jean said: “It is sad that the signal box is soon to disappear but at least the memories will live on.
“Of course I’m sad that it’s going to be taken down, as it was part of my childhood. But times change and we move forward, it will always be a part of my life, I have happy memories which they can’t take away.”