1910 08 05

1910 August 5th        Early Railways

Veteran Signalman’s Recollections of 65 Years’ Service

An interesting record of railway service is that of Signalman Charles Barnes, who has retired after 65 years with the L & SWR Company at Templecombe. He began as a porter at Templecombe in March 1858 at the age of 11/21. Those were the days before the line was doubled; in fact, the then existing single track had only been laid five years. Trains were few or far between, and where the busy junction of Templecombe now stands, an important connecting link between the Midlands, the West of England, and Bournemouth, was nothing more than a wayside station.

The present elaborate system of signaling, the “block system,” was then unknown, and Signalman Barnes loves to tell how, when the lad who carried out what little telegraphing was done went home at night, the men who were left on duty used to locate the position of the last up goods by the simple expedient of placing their ears on the rails. They could always on a quiet night hear the train ascending the steep bank from Sherborne, six miles distant. When the “bell” signals were adopted, Templecombe was one of the first stations at which the new system was installed, and the junction became a sort of centre between Salisbury, Torrington and Devonport, and Charles Barnes was the instructor.

In the days of the old signalman’s youth mixed trains, part goods and part passenger trains, were frequently run, and travelers were not treated as gently as they are now. Mr Barnes tells how he has seen the silk hats of luckless passengers who happened to be looking out of the windows at the moment when additional vans were shunted on to the train, jerked from their heads on to the platform.


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