Memories of steam

THIS week, my 101-year-old father was reminiscing about the rail excursions he went on from Swansea Victoria station, on the old London Midland Scottish main line to Blackpool, on pre-war 1930s bank holidays.

The train, hauled by two LMS steam engines, would leave Swansea in the late evening and travel overnight, arriving in Blackpool early the next morning.

“When we got to Blackpool. we’d all go to the Tower ballroom,” dad said. “We’d sit all around the ballroom, and fall asleep because we were so tired from the journey.”

They’d be woken by the Tower’s famous Wurlitzer organ bursting into life, with the renowned organist Reginald Dixon on the keyboard.

“You should have heard it,” dad (a keen amateur organist in his younger days) said. “Fantastic.” In the evening, he would go back to the ballroom to hear Dixon playing. “He was dressed all in white. White tails. What he could do with that organ. Brilliant.”

Dad also talked about one of his cousins, who worked as a fireman on the expresses that ran from Swansea High Street station down to the Pembrokeshire coast.

I recalled how, as a child, I would stand at the bottom of my friend Wynford’s garden and watch the evening boat train from High Street hurtling straight towards us down Cockett Bank before sweeping past on its journey towards Fishguard, and the waiting ferry to southern Ireland.

I suspect that young train-spotting boy still exists somewhere inside me.

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