Evacuee in Cam

Recollections of Allan Guy

Transcribed from a recorded interview (2000)

"During the war, around 1944, I was evacuated to Cam from London. I was a pupil at Lower Cam infants school whose head was a Mrs Williams and she lived near my aunt and uncle in Cam Green where I was staying. As children did then, I walked to and from school, morning, lunchtime and at 4 o'clock when school ended. My journey home was often blocked at the Railway Inn where the railway level crossing gates were closed to traffic while the Dursley Donkey shunted trucks into Josh Price's coal siding and the siding which served Cam Mill on the Dursley side of the crossing. The Donkey was invariably a 0-6-0 LMS, London Midland Scottish, tank engine, back belching a flowery plume of smoke, which smelt like nothing else. There was lots of puffing, hissing of steam and activity from the railwaymen as they uncoupled and coupled trucks and vans. The Donkey would then chuff off up the line to Dursley and collect more wagons, with diesel engines, farm equipment and woodwork from Lister's and generators and electric motors from Mawdsley's. When it wasn't hauling freight up and down the line the Donkey pulled a couple of plum coloured non-corridor coaches between Dursley and Coaley Junction filled with, what we would today call, commuters. As small boys, the Donkey, Coaley Junction station and the expresses that thundered up and down the Gloucester to Bristol line were exciting punctuations between the rural silence of the platforms. Occasionally, a porter would trundle a handcart to the up side platform and release a basketful of homing pigeons."

"Many branch line engines in Gloucestershire were named donkey, among them the neighbouring Dudbridge Donkey. Life on the Dursley Donkey line wasn't without its excitements. More than once the Donkey ploughed through the level crossing gates at Cam, sending hunks of wood and lamps and metal flying, fortunately without injury to anyone except the driver's pride. In July 1954, Clifford Hill, a Director of Cam Mill, wrote in critical terms to A.D.Cochrane, Esq. the District Operating Manager at Eastgate station in Gloucester to complain about the way the Donkey was driven past the mill."

"He said in his letter 'You'll doubtless be aware that in April of this year we had to submit a claim for carboys of acid stored in our yard caused by a fire started by hot cinders falling from a passing engine. In our letter of April 15th to the stationmaster at Dursley we pointed out that engines passing these works, pouring out hot cinders might cause a serious conflagration and asking if the attention of your drivers could be drawn to this. We regret to report however, that just before noon today a train of, I am told, 19 trucks passed through Cam station towards Dursley and although the writer has lived in this parish for over 50 years, he's never before heard a train go through the station at such a speed. In fact he though at first it was a low flying jet aeroplane. As it passed through the station and our works the cinders set up a blazing trail of fire on both side of your railway and also on our siding adjacent to these works. The wind, being in an easterly direction, caused the sparks and flames to be blown towards these premises and there were flames and smoke within a few yards of our diesel oil stored at the top end of your siding where approximately 20,000 gallons is stored. It became necessary for us to call out a large number of men to have the fires extinguished and as a result no serious damage was caused.'"

"Mr Hill continued 'We cannot overstress the danger to these works from such inconsiderate action on the part of your drivers and firemen and we must ask you to take such action as is necessary to ensure that no repetition of these incidents will occur. To us it was a very frightening experience, which we hope will not be repeated. If it is of any interest to you one of your sleepers on the permanent way below Cam station was burning half an hour after the train had gone through. We should be glad to have your comments.' Unfortunately, I don't have the District Operating manager's reply."

"Back in the 1880's [1] the main line between Gloucester and Bristol was built, initially as a broad gauge with another rail added later so that narrow gauge trains could also use it, which they started to do in 1854. It was the Cam, Dursley valleys' prosperous industries, flour milling, cloth milling and the output of Listers which prompted the construction of the line from Coaley Junction, through Cam to Dursley, along the valley bottom. Work began in 1855 on the two-mile section of track and a year later it opened to freight traffic. Workman's flour mill at Draycott and Daniels in Cam, which produced leatherboard, both had their own sidings. Box Road was presumably so named because of the signalbox, which controlled the level crossing there, which was manned from Coaley junction. Up the line, adjoining the ash path, now grandly called Everlands was a wooden bridge, which was nicknamed Gallows Bridge after an unfortunate incident in which a youth died. There was a sharp dip at Littlecombe near the Ramping Cat public house. For many years a wooden bridge and embankment spanned the gap providing a difficult turning for buses or any long vehicle. Beyond, towards Dursley, lay Dursley gasworks where there was a siding for the delivery of gas coal. At Dursley was a station complete with offices and goods clerks. It was hemmed in on each side by Lister's works. The line was one of the busiest in the Midland system but with the arrival of Dr. Beeching who axed lines left, right and centre, Dursley stood little chance of survival. Passenger services ended in September 1962 and six years later, the last goods train ran, the line being dismantled in 1970."

[1] Should be 1840's