Huddersfield Daily Examiner (23/May/1949) - Last Train to Meltham Became an Excursion
Last Train to Meltham Became an Excursion
Station Staffs Gazed in Surprise at the Crowd
Passenger trains to and from Meltham ceased to run after Saturday evening — because of lack of public support. In recent years a mere handful of regular passengers had travelled on the trains; everyone else went by bus, which was cheaper and provided a more frequent service.
Small wonder, then, that the station staffs at Huddersfield and Meltham and the intermediate stations opened wide their eyes when they saw the crowds of men. women and children — many with cameras slung over their shoulders — who travelled over the route for the last time on Saturday.
The Huddersfield inspectors and porters thought it was remarkable when as many as fifty-six set off from Huddersfield at 6-29 p.m. for the last trip up to Meltham. Amazement was written on their faces when they watched over 150 alight at the end of the return trip.
Like a Day Excursion
"If there had been as many people as this on an ordinary day there'd have been no need to shut the service down," exclaimed one.
"Ay," chimed in a porter, "I've seen this very train go up to Meltham scores — nay hundreds of times — without a wick soul on it."
It was, indeed, more like a day excursion to the seaside than the journey of a humble branch line "local." But we all retain something of that boyhood attraction for trains, and there is a sentimental feeling created in the contemplation of the fact that a train is about to make its final journey.
In this spirit they came, to take part in the last rites — and at the same time to celebrate and commemorate...
"Last train to Meltham — Meltham train," shouted the inspector as the engine drew its customary three carriages into Huddersfield station at the start of the outward run. "Last train to Meltham," echoed the porters who had joined the crowd of waiting passengers.
Guard Laurie Simpson, of Low Moor, waved his green flag, and the train chugged out — "bang" on time. "Bang" in more senses than one, for the Huddersfield station staff had decided to bid the train a railwayman's goodbye by placing a dozen fog signal detonators on the rails.
More people entrained at Lockwood, Netherton and Healey House. Heads leaned out of every window as passengers admired the oblique prospect of Lockwood Viaduct and the beauty of the trees and the grassy banks speckled with bluebells as we passed through the Beaumont Park cutting.
For most it was a forty-minute wait at Meltham, the terminus: nearly everyone was making the return trip, just to mark the occasion. Many more booked tickets at Meltham for the journey to Huddersfield.
As they loitered about the platform or took "snapshots" of the engine and its driver and fireman, Mr. James Trowman, for twenty, years stationmaster at Meltham, said to me: "I'm very sorry to see it go ... but there it is."
On the engine footplate, Driver T. McCurley, of Wibsey, was in reminiscent mood. "When they put me on this run as a fireman thirty years ago," he chuckled, "I thought Meltham was a place in Wales. I know now where it is."
Before the Buses
Guard Simpson reflected, with a note of regret: "I never thought the Meltham run would come to this — it was so busy once."
And Mr. Frank Oswin, porter at Meltham for thirty-six years — who, though off duty, had come with other Meltham folk to see the last trip begin — commented:
"I've seen this train, with five coaches, packed to capacity. But that was before the buses started."
The stationmaster persuaded ninety-year-old Mr. Francis W. Creaser, of Calmlands, Meltham, to join the train as far as Healey House. For Mr. Creaser was by way of being a V.I.P.
He it was who, eighty years ago, travelled on the first train from Meltham. In a recorded radio broadcast last Friday Mr. Creaser told listeners that he could remember the cutting of the first sod for the branch line in 1864.
His brother, Mr. Jonathan Creaser, of Imperial Road, Huddersfield, who is seventy-six, was also a passenger. He was a contract ticket holder on the Meltham service for many years.
Punctually at 7-25, with a toot on the whistle, the return trip began, and as we neared Healey House more fog signals went off. At Netherton, another batch of passengers — and a flurry of waving handkerchiefs from the little crowd left behind.
Among the newcomers were the Meltham train's most regular (and almost only) passengers in recent times — Mr. Arthur Avery, of 75, Moor Lane, Netherton, and Mr. C. E. Watkinson, of 392, Meltham Road, Netherton.
They, too, were bidding a regretful farewell to the train, as the last remaining contract-holders. Mr. Avery’s contract expired that very day: he had held one for forty years.
The other day Mr. Avery and Mr. Watkinson made a joint presentation — a parting gift of a pipe and tobacco — to Mr. John Moss, porter at Netherton station, who henceforth will be a goods porter (for goods trains will continue to use the Meltham line).