The ‘Railway Family’

I grew up on the railways and eventually became a station supervisor at Cambridge Railway Station. This button reminds me of those days, and the time when people had real jobs.

I think those days are gone. This was the last proper job I had.

My Dad, Bob, worked on the railways all his life.

Our family had free rail passes. At the age of fourteen or fifteen I travelled all over the country with my brother Steve. We made a map of Great Britain out of railway leaflets which we glued together, and we coloured in all the places we visited.

My Dad started out as a railway porter and worked his way up. When he worked in the signal box at Cambridge South my brother and I would visit him there. And sometimes, if our Mum was away visiting relatives … we would sleep over in the box! Dad would lay out a British Rail tea towel and we would dine like kings … on cornflakes. If the Inspector came along, Dad would give us a warning shout and we would have to hide behind the signal panel!


The signal box was an amazing place, with bells ringing, things clicking and whirring. Dad operated it like a giant typewriter.

In those days all the railway workers were like a big family.

We all knew each other and cared for each other. Dad helped other railway families, and later on, when I started work, they would look after me as well.


My Dad worked at Cambridge and eventually became an area controller. I still have his bowler hat from that time. I loved working there and being able to call by and see him. Our station won the Best Station Award, an achievement that made us both very proud. Happy memories!

I started as a ‘freight guard’. When I went on to become a passenger guard I already had the ‘knowledge’ as a result of travelling all over the country with my brother, plus I was already well-known. A ‘chip off the old block’ as they used to say, and part of one very big established family.


I finally left the railways after it was all privatised, as things weren’t the same anymore. Something precious has been lost.

Mark Lemon

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