Signallers recall old days

PUBLISHED: 23:00 27 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

GENERATIONS of railway signalmen from Ipswich will be taking a stroll through memory lane at a reunion to mark the closure of the station's signalboxes.

GENERATIONS of railway signalmen from Ipswich will be taking a stroll through memory lane at a reunion to mark the closure of the station's signalboxes.

They closed 20 years ago during the work to electrify the main line between Colchester and Norwich.

Part of the work included converting all signals to electronic operation controlled from Colchester.

Now signalmen, both active and retired, are to get together on Thursday and share their experiences of the past, with the challenges of the future.

More than 60 signallers and crossing keepers will be attending the event.

For some this will be the first time they've meet since the old system ceased.

One signalman Phil Jay 52, who lives in Ipswich, started working on the railways in May 1967.

He started on the old mechanical system and worked as a signaller for 34 years.

Now he is signal manager at the electrically operated Colchester box.

Mr Jay said: "Although I enjoy working for network rail I had my best years as a signaller, the old ways are still the best!"

Cecil Alborough is now 84 and still lives in Ipswich at Oaksmere Gardens retirement complex with his wife Gladys.

He started working on the railways in 1935 as a messenger boy at Norwich Station.

His weekly pay at this time was only 16 shillings (about 75 pence) and used to get a bonus of 3 shillings for working on a Sunday.

Mr Alborough remembers standing on Norwich Platform on September 3 1939 when Britain formally declared war on Germany.

He remembers how her felt when he heard the news and said: "I remember panicking.

"I could see outside a lot of broken clouds, the weather had turned.

"All the sirens were going off and people were shouting 'get out of the station', people thought that if we got bombed all the windows would fall in.

"After the initial panic we all realised we had to get on with the job in hand and everyone returned to work."

Working on the railways had gone through the generations in his family.

His father, Fred Alborough, started work on the railways in 1898 and was a signalman for 47 years and eventually retired in 1945 without having a day off sick.

Mr Alborough also met his wife, Gladys, while working on the railways.

Mrs Alborough worked as a relief clerk and travelled around the district doing bookwork. They married in 1945 at Oulton Broad.

Mr Alborough said: "Both myself and my wife are looking forward to the anniversary and catching up with everyone.

"I worked in over 40 signal boxes so met a lot of people in my days at the railway."

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