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A family forged by the railways

PUBLISHED: 14:34 28 April 2011

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Derek James shares some more of your memories of life on the railways in Norwich

Once a railwayman, always a railwayman – and that bond of comradeship is now being passed on to the next generation.

Several children and grandchildren of the men featured in recent photographs of the drivers, firemen, fitters and mates are now discovering more about them thanks to the stories in the Evening News.

Relatives from around the world, across the country and closer to home have been in touch to say how the articles are helping to piece their family history together.

And former CNS boy John Sendall, who now lives at High Wycombe was delighted to see his father Walter in one of the pictures and sent this photograph from the family album.

“I have been told the name of the driver but unfortunately never made a note of it,” said John.

“I am told it was taken at Lilleygate, which is where the cattle market now stands. I can remember going there in the post-1940s when the Norwich Co-operative Society had a sports ground there,” said John.

“During the war it had become overgrown and was a magical place for children to play; but it was all swept away when the Harford market was built,” he added.

His dad was born in 1901 and had the railways in his blood.

He and his wife moved to the East End of London in the 1920s so he could work at Stratford Loco, where promotion was supposed to be quicker.

He worked his way up from cleaner, acting fireman and then fireman proper and they moved back to Norwich. “My brother and sister were born in London before they returned to Norwich,” said John.

Walter was driving trains during the war to London and other destinations.

“He loved his job so much,” he added.

Railwaymen, family and friends turned up for their annual gathering at Arkwrights Club in Norwich earlier this month.

“We had a fabulous time. A wonderful night.

“It was so good to see some of the younger ones turn up and to see relatives of men who had spent their lives working on the railways,” said former driver John Pipe.

“I like to think we are a family which wants to stay in touch and help each other whenever we can. Events like this prove we are,” he added.

Among those at the reunion was Ann Crane, who is a member of a proud Norwich railway family.

Her late father Maurice Drake worked on the railways for 30 years. He died in 1978 aged 47.

Her grandfather Walter Drake, was a train driver and he died in 1968 aged 62. “I went rather nervously to Arkwrights, not sure what to expect, and was so glad that I did,” said Ann.

“It was nice to chat with Brian Ward, Peter Leeder and Basil McTilney, amongst many others, who knew dad and a few even remembered my granddad,” said Ann.

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