Daily Happenings at Meldreth Station

Herbert (Bert) Winter with Tom, the shunt horse ~1936. Bert's son, Ken, is the boy sitting on Tom
Ken Winter
Herbert (Bert) Winter ~1940
Kathleen Winter

The following items are extracts from the personal diary of Herbert Edward Winter written beween July 22nd 1935 and April 22nd 1945.

Herbert was born on the 9th June 1910 and lived in the Station Yard Cottage (now part of Go-Cold).  During the period of these diary entries Herbert was working first as a shunt horse driver but later he became the signalman at Meldreth.

(Only those entries associated with Meldreth station are shown)

12th August 1935

Transferred from Holloway to Meldreth for tuition as Shunt Horse Driver.  Took charge 19th August.

3rd February 1936

Took possession of Station Yard Cottage, Meldreth.

Friday 9th October 1936

J. Pateman terminated his employment on the railway today.

Monday 26th October 1936

Wagon of fruit on 6.24pm passenger for Norwich.  Head lamp and tail lamp were both out on arrival of train.

Tuesday 27th October 1936

Took ” Tom ” to blacksmith and had 2 hind shoes on.

Friday 6th November 1936

Found 4 Partridges against down distant – got killed by express.

Friday 13th November 1936

Wagon two wheels off the road while shunting with Atlas engine.

Saturday 14th November 1936

Had 50 lambs off for B.A. Palmer, sent 20 on to Horley.

Monday 16th November 1936

Two wagons got lock-buffered while being taken to Atlas by their private engine.  Soon put right by removing buffers.

Beech forgot to pull signals off when closing Box after 33 up & stopped Buffet.

Thursday 17th December 1936

Very busy lately owing to sugar beet and Christmas traffic.

Monday 14th June 1937

Porter Sig Bavington took charge today.  Beech retired.

Wednesday 20th July 1938

Mrs Cooper of Melbourn run over by express train.

Thursday 23rd February 1939

Horse Inspector called today.  Everything OK.

Thursday 30th November 1939

New Porter Signalman S Crouch was passed by Inspector Clay & takes charge Monday next.

Horse Inspector called & promised to send a box of Coopers skin dressing.


– A year of crises, wars & rumours of wars.

Wednesday 3rd January 1940

Timber loaders started loading trees yesterday.  1 track (a quint) finished today.

Wednesday 10th January 1940

Detached wagon of cabbages & Brussels from 26 down in mistake for an empty.  It was for Stratford Mkt & was forwarded on the 6.36pm passenger train after being transhipped into a fitted box wagon.

Monday 29th January 1940

Terribly rough day.  Snowdrifts caused great difficulty to transport. Single line working put into operation between Meldreth & Baldock.

Thursday 8th February 1940

Father started work as Porter-Signalman at Meldreth today.

Monday 12th February 1940

Examined by Inspector Hook for Porter-Signalmans job.  Passed alright.

Monday 11th March 1940

C Whisken applied for Shunt Horse Driver’s job which has to be filled before I can take over Porter Signalman’s duties.

Sunday 21st April 1940

S Crouch on duty today.  He has been released from the army & has been back at Meldreth since a week last Thurs.

Wednesday 1st May 1940

Took charge in Meldreth Signal box as Porter Signalman today. Early turn duty.

Friday 10th May 1940

German invasion of Holland & Belgium reported on wireless this morning.  All Whitsun holidays cancelled.

Tuesday 16th July 1940

Starting digging an air raid shelter.

Tuesday 30th July 1940

Started running Engine & brake from Cambridge to pick up fruit traffic from here.  Very busy in yard now with fruit, timber, asbestos etc.

I have been supplied with new uniform including overcoat, jacket, vest & trousers.  Received them last Sunday.

Wednesday 31st July 1940

While shunting the yard with 56 up goods two wagons became derailed & one overturned owing to hand points being in wrong position.  Had crane & breakdown gang from Cambridge.  3 wagons of fruit for Kings X, which goods had to leave, were taken to Cambridge by breakdown engine to catch midnight goods.

Thursday 1st August 1940

39 down express stopped here to set down passengers.  I booked off at 10.00pm.

Air raid warning just sounded about 11-10pm.  All clear sounded 12-15.

Friday 16th August 1940

Very busy day in signal box.

Fruit special late away owing to 2-11 pass being late & shunting.

56 Down arrived at 4.30pm & didn’t leave until 6.29.

Air raid warning Red about 5.20.  Stopped 5-11 & cautioned him.

56 up goods arrived 7-35, away at 8-30.

Long siding is full of wagons & this makes it impossible to shunt a train only by putting it on opposite road.

Tuesday 20th August 1940

Heard today that Arthur Bavington has been killed in action.

Monday 26th August 1940

Inspector Redpath here today making enquiries about working of fruit traffic.

Wednesday 28th August 1940

Bomb fell near railway line between Shepreth & Foxton last night & did not explode.  Single line working put in until Saturday.

Sunday 1st September 1940

Walked down the line this afternoon to see where the bombs dropped yesterday morning about 8-30am.  They made a lot of noise but no damage was done & no-one was injured.

The bombs dropped in the fields around the Cam. Cement Wks & a lot of incendiary bombs were dropped in Shepreth.

The air raid siren was sounded 4 times yesterday.  None today so far.

Wednesday 11th September 1940

Had orders to go on duty at 6pm today & work 12 hours owing to evacuation of civil population from east coast, but as some of the trains were cancelled I was fetched on at 4pm & finished normal time 9-15pm.

Thursday 12th September 1940

On duty in signal box until 10pm for evacuation special 9-24pm ex Cambridge.  F Harper on till 9pm to attend passenger trains.

Thursday 14th November 1940

A young woman arrived here last evening off the 8.15pm train, which arrived about 9.0pm, with two babies.  It was pouring with rain & very rough. She said she had come from Wales & was expecting her husband to meet her.  He was a soldier in camp at Melbourn.  I brought them indoors & then phoned his headquarters & he came along straight away.  He had not found a place for her to go, so we made a bed up for them & they slept here for the night.  Her husband called for her this morning & they went to the billeting officer at Melbourn & got a place somewhere.  Their name was Thumwood.

There seems to be a lot of German aircraft about this evening.

Monday 6th January 1941

Went to first lecture on Lewis machine guns this evening.

Kenneth started school today. He seems to like it fairly well.

There has been a good fall of snow today.

Tuesday 28th January 1941

The platelayers trolley ran into a train or something today & Lacey the driver was taken to hospital.

Tuesday 11th February 1941

C. Whisken refuses to come to Meldreth to do Home Guard duty & has been told by S.M. [station master] that he must work late turn always in consequence.

Tuesday 18th February 1941

The 8.15pm up pass train ran past the station tonight & a soldier stepped out & fell.  He was not hurt.  Driver said distant lamp out, very dark.

Thursday 20th February 1941

56 up goods late today.  It had to leave 10 wagons of brick rubble for Royston here as he had got a full load.

Tuesday 4th March 1941

Inspector Redpath came here today to enquire about C Whisken being put regular late duty.  He does not see any reason for this. He is coming again next week to examine me on the block rules.

Wednesday 2nd April 1941

Stopped 29 up express here about 6 minutes today waiting for 58 up goods to clear Royston.  I expect I shall get some papers about that.

Monday 12th May 1941

“Tom” the shunt horse was put out to grass (for the first time since he came here) this evening.

Tuesday 27th May 1941

I forgot to pull the signals off for the 3.30pm ex Cambridge express this afternoon & stopped it.

Wednesday 18th June 1941

I bought a silver watch from F Sell last Sunday for 15/-. He offered it to me for 10/- but I gave him 15/-  I sent it to J Hale yesterday to be cleaned & done up.  One of the platelayers took it.

B Bonfield has been to Knebworth today for interview with Mr. Green D.S. in connection with the Royston signalman’s job.

Wednesday 2nd July 1941

First wagon of fruit this season was loaded today.  One wagon of gooseberries to Leeds.

Tuesday 5th August 1941

E.Dallis started in the signal box today.  He has been examined by Mr. Redpath on the Rules & Regs & has had an interview with Mr. Green (Supt.).  I suppose he will have a week to learn the box although I think he should have more than that.

We have had some plums on rail today & yesterday.  They are the first this season.

Thursday 13th November 1941

The 6.13pm express passed here today without a tail light & I sent 9 bells to Shepreth & 4 pause 5 to OY.  It was stopped at Foxton & was said to be alright.

Wednesday 4th February 1942

A fresh batch of soldiers of the Pioneer Corp arrived here today by the 2.13 pm train.  They had 4 vans of baggage which were detached from the train & knocked into the yard.  They were knocked off too hard & ran into the buffer stops near the platform & smashed them.

Tuesday 17th March 1942

Meldreth station is being painted.  The booking office & bridge have been done but there is still some to be done.

Thursday 2nd April 1942

A new Shunt Horse arrived here today from Wheathamstead; it is a bay mare & seems to work fairly well.

Tom is to be sent to Kings Cross tomorrow.  He has been here over 6 years.

Tuesday 26th May 1942

A woman passenger on the 5.14pm train today pulled the communication cord & stopped the train after it had left the station.  She said that she wished to alight here but the train was not in the platform.  She walked back to the station but was not seen by any of the staff.  P Harrup was attending the train.  I was in the Signal box.  Ted Howard told us about it first & the guard of the train told me about it when he went back on the 7.42pm.

Thursday 25th June 1942

The bell on the Signal Box was ringing last night about 10.40pm.  I went to see what was wanted & Fincham said that David at the gatehouse had seen a fire on the line.  I walked down the line past our distant signal but found no fire.  The grass on the bank had been burning but had gone out.

Mr. Green is taking over the Stationmaster’s position here on Monday next.

Monday 29th June 1942

Mr. Green took over his job as Stationmaster at Meldreth today.

Monday 3rd August 1942

We had a warning about 6pm today & a plane came over while the 6.18pm train was in the station & machine gun fire was heard.  We thought it was a German for a moment but it is said that it was an American plane.  It had a star on the side.

The weather has been very showery & dull for August Bank holiday.  The trains were crowded although people were told not to travel.

Monday 17th August 1942

Started work again today after a week’s holiday & it has been a very busy day as the fruit season is in full swing & we are all working overtime.

Joan Moxon started work in the office today.

Tuesday 1st September 1942

We have had another busy day.  A wagon of fruit, which we were attaching to the 2.13pm passenger train along with 6 others, was found to be unfit to travel owing to broken vacuum brake so we had to knock it out again causing about 20 mins delay to the train.

Sunday 6th September 1942

E. Vallis closed the signal box today & went home without pulling the signals off causing considerable delay to down express 5.20pm from Royston.

Sunday 13th September 1942

I have been on duty in the signal box today.  Single line working has been in operation between here & Shepreth.  Mr. Elliot, Shepreth S.M., was pilotman.

Monday 14th September 1942

The engine on the 5.44am up passenger train was changed over with the goods engine here today causing about 10 mins delay. The big end had run hot.

Mr. Redpath called here today & I sold him 2 score of eggs.

Monday 5th October 1942

An extra train arriving Meldreth from Hitchin at 7.2am & returning Meldreth to Kings X 7.10am has been put on, commencing today.

Mr. Green has made out a new roster of the duties & hours of the staff.  F Harper & P Harrup are to work early & late turns alternate weeks when Percy passes the Horse Inspector.  They will start at 6am on early turn.  It starts from today.

Thursday 5th November 1942

There was a wagon of cattle off the 7.42pm train this evening. Vallis came & asked me to come & assist detach it from the train. It was very dark but we managed it alright.

Saturday 9th January 1943

5am – Just finished duty.  Train of warflats which should have arrived here at 11pm last night didn’t arrive until about 4am.  I have done 18 hours duty.

Wednesday 12th May 1943

It appears as if we shall soon be getting a new siding or something of the sort in the station yard as there have been several meetings on the subject & the surveyors have been measuring all over the place the last two days.

Tuesday 6th July 1943

Pamela Gunnell started as a clerk at Meldreth station yesterday.

Tuesday 20th July 1943

Mrs. Cooper started as Grade 2 Porter yesterday.

Wednesday 28th July 1943

We have had the water laid on from the mains water supply. Jacklin & Hales men finished the job today except for the draining board.  There is a sink & tap in the scullery & it seems very nice to be able to draw water from the tap instead of using the pump.

Sunday 1st August 1943

I have been working today from 7.30am to about 4.30pm unloading Silcocks meal.  We are all putting in a good deal of overtime lately as we are busy with fruit etc. & P Harrup is away sick most of the time.

Monday 16th August 1943

John Matthews passed his test for the Ptr Signalmans position today. He will take over next week as Vallis is stopping here till the end of this week.

Thursday 30th September 1943

Engine No 7038 was derailed in the round road this afternoon about 2.45pm.  The breakdown gang & crane arrived from Cambridge about 5 o’clock & soon had it rerailed.

Friday 10th December 1943

The trains have been running very late this week owing to fog & other mishaps.  The 7.30pm engine failed between Ashwell & Royston & it was nearly 10pm when it arrived here.

Tuesday 4th January 1944

Mrs. Green, the Stationmaster’s wife, died today.  She has been ill for a long time.  An inquest is to be held as she fell off a chair & left a bruise on her forehead..

Thursday 6th January 1944

We went to Royston this morning.  I bought a wreath for Mrs. Green’s funeral.  It was bought by subscriptions by the station staff.

Friday 7th January 1944

Mrs. Green’s corpse was sent away by 12.50pm train today.  She is being buried at her home in Berkshire.

Friday 9th June 1944

Railway officials have been at this station today, first about the fruit season & then about using the siding for a hospital train.

Monday 26th June 1944

S Chamberlain started work as goods porter.

Monday 31st July 1944

The fruit season has started again.  We have been loading Early River plums about a week.  There isn’t such a heavy crop as last year but quite a fair amount.  I have been working 12 hours today.

Tuesday 1st August 1944

P Harrup received instructions that he is to be transferred to Letchworth.  He is to report there next Tuesday.

We are getting busy on the station with fruit.  A fresh lorry arrived from Cambridge today to help carting it.  I have had the job of showing him the way round to a few places.

Friday 16th February 1945

Took over Signalman’s job at Shepreth.  Was examined on Block rules & regs yesterday by Dist. Insp. Jackson.

Comments about this page

  • Thank you for publishing this. My father, Ted Howard, talked a lot about his years growing up in and around the station. He died in 2007.

    By Kathy Howard (27/02/2012)
  • Amanda, I found two more entries on Porter Sig Bavington. Wednesday 29th May 1940 – Received a letter from A Bavington yesterday. He is in Wales & seems to be getting on alright. Thursday 20th June 1940 – Sent a letter to A Bavington.

    By Ken Winter (24/11/2011)
  • Thank you for publishing this diary. I found it very interesting, especially as my Grandad was Porter Sig Bavington.

    By Amanda Field (01/11/2011)
  • I loved reading these diary entries and feeling the old station brought back to life. Maybe we should be selling plums and eggs at the station again? Thank you for transcribing the diary for us.

    By Susan van de Ven (10/07/2011)
  • Thanks for publishing the extracts from Herbert’s diary. I really enjoyed reading them. The railwaymen of the 1940s certainly worked hard and I can’t imagine any women with babies in tow being offered a bed for the night at the station these days!

    By Greg Dash (05/07/2011)

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