The Ex-Chippy School Pages
Cliff Rogers was a Chipping Norton teacher for many years. Even in the 1970s after he had retired he continued to provide cover for staff shortages when required. In this article, originally for Chipping Norton Railway Club Newsletter, he recalls how despite having no transport of his own he managed to travel to his home in Cardiff at weekends, gettting VIP treatment in the process!
Early in 1937 I was appointed to the then Chipping Norton Council Boys School and since my home was in South Wales, I usually spent some of my weekends there. At that time my only form of transport was the railway, and I tried the various ways in which I could get from Chipping Norton to Cardiff and back. The easiest way to go to Cardiff was by the express which started its journey at Newcastle, passing through York, Rugby, Banbury and Gloucester to Swansea. I believe it got the name of the North East to South Wales Ports Express! It was scheduled not to stop at Chipping Norton.
Making enquiries at the station I found out that if one wanted to travel beyond Gloucester the train could be signalled to stop at Chipping Norton. There was one other snag to overcome and this was one of time. School finished at four o'clock whilst the express passed through the station as far as I can recollect at about ten minutes to four. This meant asking the headmaster for permission to leave school at about twenty minutes to four, which was not very often given owing to difficulties occurring.
After obtaining my ticket I then informed the signalman that I was going to Cardiff and to stop the train. Usually the stationmaster was on duty, and as I knew him very well, as soon as I arrived on the platform he would see to the arrangements. When the express stopped many faces peered out of the windows wondering what had happened and why at a small country station.
Then Mr. Williams, in his stationmaster's hat, would go forward and open one of the carriage doors for me to board the train, then close the door after me and signal the guard to proceed. I often wondered, afterwards, what the travellers thought when I received this V.I. P. treatment.
The train crossed over the Main Oxford to Worcester line by a bridge thus avoiding Kingham station or as it was known the Chipping Norton Junction, and started its long climb to Notgrove, about 750ft. above sea-level, before dropping down to Andoversford, skirting Cheltenham on its way to Gloucester, the next scheduled stop. It arrived in Cardiff a few minutes before 7 o'clock.
Returning on Sunday could be very involved and I tried various journeys. One way was to catch the Cardiff to Gloucester train, change there for the Cheltenham one, and finally board the train for Kingham. If I was lucky I could be given a lift to Chipping Norton, but usually it meant walking as there were no buses. On one occasion during the winter period, there was about 4-6 inches of snow on the road, and it took me about 2 hours to cover the distance. Another way was to catch the London train in Cardiff and change at Swindon for the Oxford train via Didcot. If the train was on time I was just able to catch the last bus to Chipping Norton, if the train was running late you can imagine the amount of nail biting going on. On one occasion I tried the route Cardiff- Gloucester - Cheltenham then catching the Stratford-on-Avon train as far as Honeyboume and changing on to the Oxford train as far as Kingham.
The Swansea - Newcastle express returned on the Monday morning, leaving Cardiff just before 10 o'clock and passing through Chipping Norton about 12.30. But as school started at 9 o'clock this way was out of the question, although, once I did manage to travel on this train and I had to inform the guard before Cheltenham that I wanted to get off at Chipping Norton. I can't remember the excuse I made. Not very long afterwards I bought myself a motorcycle which saved many a headache.
After the war I returned to Chipping Norton to carry on my teaching duties
but I had to go to Hook Norton one day during the week, usually a Tuesday. The
train left Chipping Norton about 08.00 hours arriving in Hook Norton about 10-15
minutes later and the return from "Hookie" was just after 16.30 hours.
During the summer I very often did the journey on a bicycle, but if the weather
was poor I took advantage of the comfort of the train, especially during the
winter months. On several occasions I had two tickets with consecutive numbers
and once there were tickets over three weeks again with consecutive numbers.
One can understand the concern of the railway companies when there were very
few travellers making use of the trains. This can be put down to such factors
as, the distances at which stations were built from their respective village
or town, eg. Kingham, Chipping Norton, Great Rollright, etc., particularly in
bad weather; quite often times were not suitable; rising fares (foretaste of
the '70s), and the increasing availability and use of the motor car.