By Lorraine Gibson
THE Purbeck Gazette’s recent article about the controversial Beeching Report, the subsequent closure of hundreds of stations and thousands of miles of railway lines, and the famous Pines Express train, resulted in these fascinating and poignant insights from readers Diana Shiner from Bearwood, and Ian and June Orbell from Upton.
Diana fondly recalls journeys on the Pines Express in its heyday.
“In 1951-52, my husband was doing his National Service at RAF Credenhill, Hereford – we were married in 1952 and I joined him there,” she said. “At Easter and in the summer we picked up the Pines Express en route from Manchester to Bournemouth. It was packed with holidaymakers and I had to stand in the corridor or sit on the suitcase.
“We left the train at Broadstone, then an important junction, where two lines crossed the private golf course of Lord Wimborne of Canford Manor, now the school. One line was the Somerset & Dorset Railway, taken by the Pines Express, the other, a branch line through to Wimborne and beyond. Happy memories.”
For Ian, remembering the train invokes wonderful childhood memories but also comes with a very sad tale.
“The Pines Express first came to my attention as a young sprog of about eight, just after the war ended,” he said. “As most kids were doing, armed with notebook and pencil, I would cycle to Poole railway station from my home in Oakdale for a spot of train watching. Having paid my penny for a platform ticket, I could spend all day there if I wished.
“At this time, my grandparents lived near Branksome railway station, so I’d cycle to see them. Their neighbours were a lovely couple, Mr and Mrs Flynn. Mr Flynn was a Southern Railway engine driver, his main route being with the Pines Express. Hanging around Poole station, I often met him for a quick ‘hello’ on one of his through stops.
“On a visit to Nan’s, I was talking trains with Mr Flynn in his garden when he suggested I be at Poole station the next afternoon as he was returning through and back to Bournemouth West station.
“I did, and sure enough his train arrived, right on time. He said ‘throw your bike in the guards’ van and come on up onto the footplate’. I didn’t have to be asked twice.”
Ian’s boyhood dream moment had arrived.
“He sat me on his driver’s seat and I kept my hand on the throttle lever, up over Parkstone bank with stops at Parkstone and Branksome stations, ending at West station.”
Joking, he added: “Now that I considered myself a fully-fledged engine driver, I drove the Pines Express several times and was the envy of my mates.”
Aged 10, on a trip to Blackpool for a holiday with his parents, he ‘educated them fully’ on the pros and cons of steam engines and the Pines in particular.
“My wife June’s first trip on the Pines was with her friend when she was about 15 and going to Westbury,” he said. “They made it to Templecombe to make the change to the West/East line to London but were distracted by a bunch of sailors heading home from Plymouth. When asked where they were heading, they replied Westbury – just as they were entering Hungerford. They were advised to leave the train. The happiest part of this tale was that about a year later we met and made it to the alter. That was 61 wonderful years ago.
“The unhappy part was that in the early 1960s Mr Flynn, who loved his job so much but was approaching retirement, died – on the tracks near Branksome Station.”
n The story of the Pines Express will be brought to life by the award-winning Bournemouth West – voted one of the top ten layouts in the country – when it appears at the Wimborne Railway Society ‘Railex’ Model Railway Exhibition at the Allendale Centre, Hanham Road, Wimborne on Saturday and Sunday, April 15 and 16.
By Lorraine Gibson
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