The Sand, the Station Master and the Station Master’s Dog
While looking though old papers of my Grandmother’s, we came across two copies of the L. & N. W. R. Gazette, a magazine subtitled “The Organ of the Recreative and Educational Associations of the L. & N. W. Railway Staff.” In the first of them, Vol. 4, No. 31, March, 1915, I came across the following article:
SWANSEA BAY STATION – SANDSTORMS
THERE are many stations situate in different parts of the country served by the London and North Western Railway which are subject to periodical visitations of floods, sandstorms, snowdrifts, &c. Doubtless some account of the effects of such boisterous atmospheric influences and the manner in which they are met might prove interesting to railwaymen. Take, for instance, Swansea Bay Station, which is situated about midway between the stations of Mumbles Road and Swansea, Victoria. This portion of line runs practically along the seashore, being subjected to very severe sandstorms, and great are the difficulties to be contended with by the Station Staff and the Permanent Way employees when a south-easterly gale is raging. Sand extends on the sea front for some miles, and in rough weather it gets carried in clouds on to the railway and the station premises, sometimes blocking the lines and occasionally necessitating the adoption of single-line working.
Immediately a storm arises the Permanent Way local gangs are called out, and, as is often necessary, men have to be requisitioned from each of the stations on the line up to Pontardulais, and even from places as far North as Llandovery and Knighton. The shoveling of the sand from the metals, whilst it continues to enshroud the men, is very hard and difficult work, and great caution is necessary in watching the approach of trains. Recently about 70 men were engaged in day and night shifts continuously for several days in the task of keeping the lines open, and it will give some idea of the effect of such weather when it is mentioned that several trainloads of sand are shovelled from the railway into trucks during and after a “fair gale,” representing many hundreds of tons all blown over the sea wall and fencing in the form of clouds.
The station lamps get badly damaged with the sand (which fact the Gas Department would gladly corroborate), and trying is the duty of the Station Master and Staff in attending to the trains and station duties, the sand even penetrating into the innermost recesses of the offices. The only means of moving with safety outside during such storms is by wearing goggles as a protection to the eyes.
We reproduce a photograph of Mr. Andrew Thomas, the widely-known and respected Station Master, who has been associated with Swansea Bay Station ever since it was opened in 1892.
In the photograph appears the Station Master’s dog, who is nearly as well known as the Station Master. It is his practice to meet the trains, fetch and carry the ticket bag from one platform to the other, &c., but he always runs into the office when a goods train passes the station, having, we presume, recollection of once having been run over by a goods train. On the other hand, he never runs away from a passenger train.
Mr A Thomas was my great grandfather. My father recalled being told about the dog being hit by a train. Apparently the dog was on the line between platforms when the train came along and Dad’s grandfather ordered him to lie down, which he did. However, it was a particularly long goods train and the dog stood up just too soon and was clipped by the brake van. Dad always thought that was the sad end of the dog’s story, so he was rather pleased to discover that the dog survived and carried on working at the station with Great Grandfather Thomas.
The other copy of the Gazette was Vol. 6, No. 61, September 1917. I found this piece in STAFF AND GENERAL NEWS:
On May 10th last, Mr Andrew Thomas retired after 40 [hand-corrected to 46 by my grandmother] years’ service with the Company. Entering the service as a young lad at Knucklas station, and after being employed in various capacities at many of the Central Wales stations, he was put in charge at Swansea Bay in the year 1890, which post he held for 26 years when, owing to ill health, he had to give up the position, and for some little time past he has been performing less arduous duties in the Swansea Goods Offices. At the time he was appointed to Swansea Bay, the station was still situate at that part of the line known locally as “The Slip.” Two years later the station was demolished and the existing one erected some little distance from the site of the old one.
Of the subject of our sketch it can truly be said that during the whole of his railway career he served his company well and honourably, and there is no doubt the Service and his fellow men will be the poorer by his retirement. If any social function or any general collection was being made for the benefit of a necessitous cause, one was always assured of a most sympathetic and active interest on the part of Mr. Thomas. Of an unassuming personality, he did what he did unostentatiously, and there’s many a poor traveller who found in him a good friend.
For many years, until his retirement, he took a keen interest in the work of the North-Western Temperance Union and was the treasurer for the local branch. He also associated himself and took a keen interest in the St. John’s Ambulance.
The hope of all his friends is that now he will so far recover his health that both he and Mrs. Thomas may live long to enjoy his well-earned retirement.
And he did. Here he is with his wife Annie, as my father remembers them in the early 1920s.
Finally, a couple of links: the London & North Western Railway Society has a website with a considerable amount of information on the rail line in its heyday. And the Heart of Wales Line Travellers’ Association (HOWLTA) works to promote the interests of passengers on the line today.