Train missed - and Beeching’s rail axe sharpened

STRATFORD BOUND: Girls from Thornton Cleveleys Secondary Modern School at Thornton Station in 1949. Below, their former domestic science teacher Mrs Margaret Culpin. Bottom is a Fleetwood Station steam scene from August 1959 (courtesy of Colour Rail/L Rowe) taken from the book Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On
STRATFORD BOUND: Girls from Thornton Cleveleys Secondary Modern School at Thornton Station in 1949. Below, their former domestic science teacher Mrs Margaret Culpin. Bottom is a Fleetwood Station steam scene from August 1959 (courtesy of Colour Rail/L Rowe) taken from the book Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On
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A CLASS of happy schoolgirls on the platform at Thornton Station smile for the camera before leaving for Stratford in May 1949.

Their domestic science teacher, Mrs Margaret Culpin, who shares this photograph today, can be seen first left on the second row.

Margaret Culpin, former domestic science teacher  at Thornton Cleveleys Secondary Modern School.

Margaret Culpin, former domestic science teacher at Thornton Cleveleys Secondary Modern School.

The trip went without incident, which is more than can be said for another one two years later when Mrs Culpin, who will be 88 next month, escorted a class of girls from Thornton Cleveleys Secondary Modern School to the Festival of Britain.

They missed their train home!

Mrs Culpin, who lives in Poulton, recalls: “It was 1951 and the excited girls boarded the steam train bound for London, accompanied by five members of staff, including myself, plus the school nurse, who was a health visitor.

“On arrival at Euston we split into three groups and travelled by Underground to the site.

A scene from August 1959 showing Fleetwood Station. Taken from the book Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On, by Julian Holland, published by David and Charles (�18.99)  'PIC courtesy of  Colour Rail (L Rowe)

A scene from August 1959 showing Fleetwood Station. Taken from the book Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On, by Julian Holland, published by David and Charles (�18.99) 'PIC courtesy of Colour Rail (L Rowe)

“All went well during the day and we marvelled at the many exhibitions and the thrill of being there. But as we boarded the Tube back to Euston it was evident that we were cutting it fine to arrive in time for the return train - and we didn’t!”

As Mrs Culpin points out: “In those days there were no mobile phones and not all families had telephones, but fortunately there were many more trains.

“How things have changed,”adds Mrs Culpin, who met up with two of the girls on the trip - Marian Summerscales (now Mrs Bamber) and Wynn Anderson (now Mrs Spedding) - at a recent school reunion.

So what to do?

Mrs Culpin says: “A member of staff from one of the other groups had remained behind in case of trouble. I made a reversed charge telephone call from a public phone box to my husband to meet the missed train and then with other members of staff to inform the waiting parents that there was no need to worry because the girls would be taken home when they arrived about two hours later.

“So it was about midnight when relieved members of staff saw some very tired schoolgirls home and, as next day was Saturday, there was the weekend in which to recover before confessing all to our headmistress on Monday morning.”

The incident did not deter the school from taking 80 pupils and a few parents back to London to the Ideal Home Exhibition, although, as Mrs Culpin recalls: “This time special trains had a special platform at Earls Court, where the event was staged.

Thornton’s last rail travellers took to the tracks on June 1, 1970, when the branch line from Poulton to Fleetwood was closed to passengers.

Wednesday sees the 50th anniversary of the publishing of the controversial Beeching Report, which had recommended closure of the Poulton to Blackpool North line, although that from Preston through to Fleetwood was not threatened.

In the event, Blackpool Council, with its own redevelopment plans for the land behind the Golden Mile, successfully persuaded British Rail that Blackpool North should be saved at the expense of Central Station, despite the fact that tourists poured out of carriages into the holiday heartlands within yards of Blackpool Tower.

The Poulton to Fleetwood line, dating back to 1840, for which there are now plans to re-open on heritage lines, is among hundreds featured in a new book Dr Beeching’s Axe 50 Years On: Illustrated Memories of Britain’s Lost Railways by Julian Holland ((David and Charles, £18.99).

As the author comments: “March 27, 1963 marked the beginning of the end for the Golden Age of railways. It is the date that the now notorious Beeching Report was published.

“Across the land railways were ripped up and communities were broken apart. Vast regions of the UK were left without a railway link to the outside world, and skilled railwaymen, who for generations had loyally given their all, lost their livelihood.”

The book is a highly illustrated memorial to all that was lost following the publication of the Beeching Report.

Memory Lane readers (sorry, UK only) can order Dr Beeching’s Axe 50 Years On for the special price of £13.99 (a discount of £5, with free p&p).

To order please visit www.thehobbywarehouse.co.uk/

dr-beeching-s-axe-50-years-on and quote promo code R3163 upon checkout or call The Hobby Warehouse on 0844 8805851.

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