Dave talks about his memories working on the railways from 1947-1971, and as a wireless operator during the war.
Funded by Bristol City Council. Watershed has created a new Bristol Stories theme to focus on the area now designated as the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.
The theme engages businesses, residents, and people travelling through Temple Meads and the surrounding neighbourhoods in projects that deliver creative digital representation of the area to ‘animate’ the heritage and personal experience of the area.
As part of this project Watershed worked with Knowle West Media Centre to deliver digital storytelling workshops with a group of ex-railway workers and ex-railway workers widows who lived and worked on the railways in Bristol.
This project was funded by Bristol City Council and delivered by Watershed and Knowle West Media Centre in collaboration with bigger house film
Right, my name is Dave Crafer. “Smile, say LMS”.
Born in 1933. I’m an ex railwayman.
I started in 1947 and I was made redundant in 1971.
This is me. We was on our way back from a place called Exminster, where we were evacuated during the war.
My first job, in 1947, at Parson Street signal box, as a telegraphist.
Every signal box had a book, and you’d record everything that went on there. If something went wrong - a delay, anything like that, the time he passed, was he all right when he passed - you’d look at everything and make sure everything was all right. That was my job, to record it all.
At 18 I was called up into the army. When I was in the Royal Signals I was a wireless operator. It was all Morse code in those days.
Can you say “David” in Morse? [speaks in dits and daas]
“Crafer”. [laughter and applause] And that’s after 60 odd years!
Listening to all this static and what not on the radio, picking up the Morse code, ‘cos you daren’t miss it, I reckon it made me deaf.
“It’s all right - I can’t hear a word.”
“Just as well!” [laughter]
When I cam out the Army, 1953, I took a job back on the railway as a telegraphist at Bristol West signalbox, just to the west of Temple Meads.
Everything was booked - every move, every train.
Oh, this is my mate Dennis; I went down to see him one day. Dennis. Now he was a man who knew about the railway. He’d done practically everything you’d want: engine cleaning, he used to look after the steam bridge. Signalman, shunter, he’d done it all. If he was here now he could tel us a lot of things. He used to be my buddy at South Liberty.
When the train went by South Liberty he’d give the “train approaching” signal, which is 1-2-1 [train bells ring]. That gave me the cue to “ask on”, because you didn’t want a train to ask all the way to Weston when he was going to take half an hour to get there.
1957 I got a job at Flax Bourton, which is out on the main line, and I was there for 12 years til they closed the signal box.
I don’t know who this is, but I took this photograph. That is inside the signal box. There’s your levers, the diagram, all the bells and that. Up main. Down main. All the rodding.
There’s a goods shed there, and just past it is what we call the loading bay.
This was an incline, so you could take the brakes off the wagon - 21 ton, mind - and he’d run down into the siding.
This is a diagram of the track. A siding going in to what we call the Esso sidings.
We had a big derailment at Flax Bourton. The derailment was on the 13th September 1971. I myself was on the night turn when this happened. Happened at 11 o’clock in the daytime.
A coal train coming down, maybe 45 mile an hour, comes down here.
One wheel was off, for some reason...
We’ve got to bring him off now, he’s got to crash.
We’ve got to do it bit by bit.
So if I just take that one off and leave them two to carry on.
He was off the rails, bumped him all the way down, but when he reached Flax Bourton he cracked up and spewed over, and all the train went all over the place.
Look at that: the main line is bent, there’s coal everywhere. Very bad crash. Nobody was injured though.
They called the gangs in from various sections to clear it up and, by the way, I had a nice time for about a week, because no trains could come through and I just sat in the box, made cups of tea, had a bacon sandwich, things like that. Oh it was lovely.
The night Flax Bourton went they took out Parson Street signal box, West Depot signal box, Flax Bourton signal box, Nailsea signal box.
They threw a switch somehow, I was on the 2 to 10 shift. I went home at ten o’clock and I didn’t go back. That was it, and it was all made automatic.
I was out of work for quite a while. Nobody wanted me ‘cos an ex-railway man, what’s he good for?
But eventually I was lucky; I got a job on British Telecom. I ended up a telephone engineer, for twenty-odd years.
The railway now: now I haven’t been on a train since I was made redundant. I went like it because we could see the trains going by; we was close up to it, but at the moment now, they’ve got a panel box in Bristol. They can’t see the trains. It’s all done on a diagram.
But I’d have stayed on the railway had they stayed like that.
Thankyou for listening. Hope you understand it. I’m not very good at this. Here’s hoping anyway. Cheerio.
I haven’t got to listen to that now have I?