Chapter 2. The Post War Years
1. The Post War Years                                                                              
2. Trips with Mrs. Kirkton
3. The Age of Steam
LINK to Picture Gallery


1. The Post War Years
were those up to the early fifties. There seem to be three significant periods referred to as the "Pre-War years", being the 1930s, The "Wartime years", 1939-1945, and "The Post War years, 1945 to the early 1950s. These were really the best times in the sense of being the victors but the most difficult for people to readjust to. So many wounded soldiers with missing limbs around, the continuation of rationing despite there being no blockade, the new Labour Government making big changes and the fact that Churchill had to take a back seat.
For myself, I had a great time! Not being interested in politics or rationing, except perhaps for the sweet ration, the thing that interested me was the return of the motor car. Wonderful cars started to reappear on the roads. I knew them all, car recognition was my forte. Dad would show this off to people saying "Tell us what that one was John" as one sped by. Ford, Austin, Morris were commonplace, more exciting were Lanchester, Lagonda, Bentley, MG, Jaguar and so on. My best pal was Frank Kirkton, and the great advantage of that was that his mother had a Wolseley 12. His Dad unfortunately died and left his Mum to look after him but also a substantial legacy from their days as publicans. They ran the Criterion pub in the centre of Northampton, near the markets and the Fish market , so they had plenty of trade. Anyway, the upshot was that we got to go for rides in the Wolseley to her publican friends around Nothamptonshire. She could hardly see over the steering wheel, being a small lady. In fact, I think she looked through it!
The Wolseley was a magnificent car, used by the police with bells on. I often see one on the TV period dramas. here is a picture of a similar model;
Wolseley 14-56
This one is a 14-56, the same model I think. Everything about it is as I remember, the running boards, the door handles the bonnet and grill. It was indeed a super car, just down from limousine status but definitely up market!
Lovely leather seats that you disappeared into and wooden dashboard, walnut or something.
I also had a passion for American cars of the time because I collected Meccano Dinky cars and they made American Models for the USA market.
Hudson, Buick, Studebaker, and Ford were all well known to me. I confess I have been collecting them again from eBay where lots of people seem to have their Dad's collections to sell. Really good condition ones can be very valuable. I am going to add a separate page for my collection.

2. Trips with Mrs. Kirkton driving were magic! One of her publican friends, a relative even, had "The Lamb" at Stoke Goldington, just  a few miles SE of Northampton in Bucks. It is still there of course, but then it was just a typical village pub with a bar where there was a skittle alley. Frank and I played skittles when the bar was closed in the beery atmosphere. Opening hours were 12 till 2pm then so our afternoon trips were good for skittles. I was amazed to see a picture of the Skittle alley on the Lamb Website. If you can
follow that link you see the alley was a leather lined table. You stood at a distance of about a yard and skimmed a "Cheese" at the skittles The Cheese was a wooden disc about 4ins. diameter and 1inch thick. We had great fun at it.
When we tired of skittles we would wander around the back of the pub and play games in the barn building there, go across the road to "Wesleys" bus garage to look at the coaches. One of the Wesleys was often there and would let us climb up in the cabs. Wonderful times for us, I remember so well they must have been good.
Bugbrooke was another village where Mrs. Kirkton had publican friends and trips there gave us time to play in the outbuildings of the pub, which I can't remember the name of.
But the most famous trip with the Kirktons was to East Runton near Cromer on the East coast of Norfolk. They had a relative or someone she knew who had a caravan there. Cromer was a popular seaside place near Hunstanton and Yarmouth, famous for Cromer Crabs,
A week's holiday was arranged for us to stay in the caravan on the cliffs overlooking the sea. We started out in the Wolseley, Mrs Kirkton peering through the steering wheel and Frank in the front beside her, me in the back. We had got about halfway there, 40 or 50 miles, when the car broke down. Somehow, perhaps from an AA telephone box, Mrs Kirkton phoned her garage back in Northampton. They said they would send someone out to us. Bear in mind that there was very little traffic about then. just the occasional car, so we were really in the wilds. The fact that I remember it means it must have had an impression on me, but I didn't have any fears and eventually help arrived and we were on our way again. We had a good time there, living on fish and chips and cheese which Frank had a passion for. Somehow we made it home safely but a few weeks later there were severe gales there and the caravan site was virtually blown away!
I have recently made contact with Frank through this Web site, and we have been able to share those memories by email. He is now a widely travelled man with diplomatic responsibilities having had quite a different life to mine. How surprised we would be if we could have known how our lives would turn out, but that would have spoilt the life adventure.

3. The Age of Steam
I was very lucky to be a boy when the railways were still powered by steam engines. They were like living beasts, like dragons snorting steam and fire and hissing and clanking away. You certainly knew there was something going on up front when you rode in the train and were lucky to escape a blast of smoke and soot. The present day trains are so quiet, clean and sanitized by comparison but boring consequently. Give me the filthy smokey steam age trains any day!
To "spot" the best express steam trains and locos we had to go from Northampton to Blisworth which was on the main line from London to Scotland LMS London Midland and Scottish Railway Company line. In their wisdom, the Northampton authority rejected the main line railway when it was built and so it by-passed the town going straight to Birmingham. This was a doubly stupid decision because 1, it lost the town the trade and passenger connections, and 2, it resulted in the railway goods centre being developed which cursed the town with the continuous noise of the shunting yards all night long!
Their loss was mine and my pals gain because to go train spotting we had to catch the shuttle train from Northampton to Blisworth where passengers could pick up the main line trains to the North or South. The shuttle train was a little Tank engine hauling two carriages with separate compartments. On holidays from school we would pack up a haversack of sandwiches and fizzy pop and take the bus to Castle station where we would meet up for the day out.
Our routine followed the same pattern every time. We got our tickets and went through to the main platform where there was a 1d (penny) machine that would stamp out a metal label strip with selected letters. probably for parcels but we delighted in punching out a strip with our names on. Then we made our way to the branch line platform where the shuttle train for Blisworth would be. As soon as it was there we would board a compartment in one of the 2 carriages, hopefully near the engine at the front. They were single compartments, slam door they call them now, with long seats either side and windows that could be raised and lowered with a leather strap. The guard waved a green flag and blew his whistle and we were off! We hung out of the windows until Hunsbury Hill tunnel when there was a mad scramble to get the windows up before the smoke covered us. Out into the light again and we were hanging out of the windows. All this was quite against the rules but no-one bothered to stop us, thank the Lord!
When we reached Blisworth we disembarked and made our way out of the station onto a country side road. The station was outside the main village. I see from Google that the branch to Blisworth and the station no longer exist, but Hunsbury Hill tunnel is there on the line to Roade where it joins the main line to London. The fields we were making for have now been built over, but then it was open country. after half a mile or so we came to a field alongside the railway tracks. there was also a disused quarry which provided a diversion from train spotting.
The trains we looked out for were the named expresses. The "Royal Scot", the "Mid-day Scot", the "Coronation Scot", the "Irish Mail" all hauled by named locomotives. The Coronation class locos we called "Streaks" and knew them before they came into view by the sound they made at speed. A regular "Pssst, pssst" from the pistons I guess.
The "Duchess of Hamilton" locomotive has been preserved and with streamlining it was truly magnificent. These pictures are from Wikipedia.
Duchess of Hamilton loco Duchess of Hamilton Duchess streamlined Duchess streamlined.

I never saw the streamlined version, the streamlining was taken off
in 1946 as it caused trouble with maintenance I have read, but it looked magnificent in the boys magazines I read.
These trains were flat out on that stretch of line, perhaps at 80+ mph. You could tell by the clackety-clack of the wheels over the rail joints being almost a continuous brrr, brrr.
As they thundered by the fire in the firebox could be seen as the fireman on the footplate shoveled in the coal, and the engine driver would wave back at us as we waved our arms madly to get a response.
At the top of the field where we watched the trains was a road with a bridge over the line and on the other side was the signal box for the approach to Blisworth from the North, If there was a friendly signalman on duty he would let us in the box. Steps had to be climbed to get in, then inside was a magical world of dinging bells and tea brewing aromas. There were a series of bell dings of different tones for a train passing the previous box and to be sent to the next box on. The signalman would say "That's the Royal Scot coming, pull that lever boys" We would grasp the huge lever and with his help pull it towards us to set the signal off. Then, leaning out of the window to await the train, listening for the sound of the steam loco. Almost out of nowhere the incredible flash of the steam and fire and smoke the train thundered by and the clackerty clack of the wheels on the rails faded as it sped on.