A Very Ordinary Story Chapter 10.

A Very Ordinary Story


Back to Fife

s During our sojourn in Fife I was sent to many different stations in the district, relieving the permanent stationmaster for his annual leave, for two weeks at a time. I thoroughly enjoyed the work even if it did mean occasionally having to stay in lodgings when I was at a station, that required me to be on 24-hour '0n call'. I felt that the job at Buchlyvie wasn't good for me as there was so little to do, so I applied for all sorts of positions. The station at Kilconquhar (in Fife and near to St Monans) had become vacant and although it would be a cross move with no promotion, I applied for it and was successful. I had to leave my relief job and take up my appointment right away. The house was immediately available, so, off I went, back to Buchlyvie to organise the removal. On the 5th August of that year (1948) Elspeth presented me with a lovely baby boy, Ian, perfect in every way. We never went back to live in Buchlyvie.

Kilconquhar was on the Thornton /Leuchars branch line which served Leven, Lundin Links, Kilconquhar, Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Crail, St Andrews and Guard Bridge. It was a single line of railway with crossing places at most stations. The passage of trains was controlled by means of the Electric Block Token System, which, when operated properly ensured that it was impossible for two trains to be in the same section (i.e. between two signal boxes) and on the same line at the same time. Each crossing place was protected by at least three semaphore type signals in each direction. The Distant signal, Home signal and Start signal The Home signal was a danger signal and trains were required to stop when it was at the 'on' position, the Home signal signal controlled the entrance to the station which normally was a crossing placeand had a short section of double line, where trains coming from opposite directions could pass each other. The Start signal controlled the entrance to the section ahead on the single line.
To ensure that two trains could not be on the same line at the same time, the driver of a train could not proceed on his journey without being in possession of an Electric Token. The Electric Token consisted of a round piece of metal held in a machine in the signalbox and locked electrically. If a train had to go from A to B, the signalman at A could not get a token out of his machine without B accepting the train and giving the appropriate signal to A by means of a bell code. The token was placed in a pouch attachd to a large hoop so that the driver of an approaching train could deliver the token from the previous station and receive the new one to allow him to proceed

Change the Tablet

It was mildly exciting to watch an exchange take place in the case of a non-stop train! It was an extremely safe system of control and there was a host of regulations to cover all sorts of emergencies. Kilconquhar station was not a crossing place as it was a lot nearer Elie than Largo, which were the neighbouring crossing places. So a crossing place was made about a mile or so to the west of the station about half way betwen Largo and Elie and was only opened during the busy holiday time.
So much for the technical stuff!

The station house at Kilconquhar was separate from the station and just behind it. It was a bit better than the Buchlyvie one, and although there were still paraffin lamps we did have running hot and cold water and a proper bathroom, not quite such a primitive place for bringing up a child. There was a huge garden, which was very prolific so we were well served with fruit and vegetables in season. At the bottom of the garden was a pigsty, but I never got round to keeping a pig, though we did keep hens, raised our own chicks and had a plentiful supply of large brown eggs from my Rhode Island Reds and an occasional cockerel for the pot. (Shades of my boyhood days on the farm!).

We spent several happy years at Kilconquhar; Ian grew up to be a sturdy toddler, with all the benefits of country life, but without the advantage of mixing with other children. Then in 1951 his brother Sandy was born. Everything seemed to be going our way. Railway salaries in those days left much to be desired, but we managed. In the meantime I was applying for other appointments in a higher grade, but of course if I were to be successful it would mean moving house. Unfortunately, when I did get an appointment to a higher grade it was to Williamwood station in Glasgow and this had no house attached. So, there we were again, me away in digs leaving Elspeth with two children to look after on her own.

To make matters worse, pressure was being applied on me to vacate the house at Kilconquhar, as it was required for my successor. The house at Elie station was vacant, and apparently was not required, so we flitted there. I was only able to come home for weekends. This went on for a year until I was successful in being appointed to St Monans station in 1953. Our joy knew no bounds; there we were, back home again among all our own people. I'm afraid we were a bit parochial, but St Monans was our home, and we thought, an ideal place to bring up our children, which it was. Both Ian and Sandy had their primary education at St Monans Primary school, as had their Mum and Dad. Both Elspeth and I soon became involved in all the local activities. I was made an Elder in the Church and became Sunday School Superintendent. A new bowling green was constructed and I became its founder secretary, I also joined the local Freemasonry and became Master of the Lodge. All those things meant quite a bit of work for us both, supporting all the various money raising efforts etc. I could not become a member of the local Town Council, as the station was just outside the Parish boundary. Again things seemed to be going well for us. I enjoyed my work at the station, Marjory was still there as clerkess, and as well as my job there I was employed part time in the local boatyard (J. N. Miller & Sons Ltd.), doing tracings in the Drawing Office, and generally helping out in the General Office.

Elspeth and I were able to enjoy a bit of social life too, as we had her father to act as baby sitter of an evening. It was in St Monans that we really struck lucky. I told you that we were not very well off, but we had blown most of our meagre savings on a television set. Lady luck then smiled when a football coupon scooped the pool for us (a syndicate at the station) of several thousand pounds.

As always, good things come to an end. The Railways were nationalised in 1948, and as they had been running at a loss for years before nationalisation and, during the war had suffered a lot of damage by enemy bombing, the minimum of maintenance had been carried out; efforts were being made to effect economies. Cars were becoming more plentiful and Road Transport was making huge inroads on rail freight traffic. The East Neuk of Fife was, and still is a very popular holiday resort, the holiday makers used to arrive in droves. Special trains being run from Singer, Clydebank etc. This traffic tailed off as cars began to take over and the 'bus companies were providing stiff competition. The same applied to freight and fish traffic. My work at the station became less and less and eventually I was given Elie station to supervise as well as St Monans. The, now notorious, Beeching report was published and its recommendations were being put into effect. I could see the danger and thought that it was time to get out of St Monans, as there was a good chance of the East Neuk line being closed. I was applying like mad for positions which I thought would be safe from any cuts, and was fortunate enough to be appointed as Stationmaster at Fairlie High station and Piermaster at Fairlie pier. That started a new chapter in our life.

From East to West

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