Living at Teynham Station
I am Barbara Mc McCrae (nee Gambrell) and my Dad was Station Master at Teynham from 1946 until 1963. I first moved to Teynham station when l was 6 years old, to live with those huge steam trains. It was a dream, albeit a bit scary. Gas light in the house didn’t do much for my experience, and it was due to these, I got my fear of spiders which I still have today.
Coming from a bungalow, in Lynsted Lane, where I was born, the house seemed enormous. The house had been extended for the former Station Master, as he had a large family, hence four bedrooms. The bathroom was very basic with a gas heater over the bath, with kettles boiled downstairs for the wash basin. No upstairs toilet! The toilet, which housed those horrendous spiders, was outside.
With the house being right on the platform, my Mum insisted on net curtains [white] as we were peered at constantly. She washed them regularly, as they got dirty very quickly, due to smuts from the engines.
I made friends - Rosemary [Boorman], Sheila [Webb], Marion [Wigg] and Lesley [Smith]. I went to the Convent School in Sittingbourne, so at six years of age I was put on a train, in the Guards Van up in the crows nest - I was usually in tears as l didn’t like school - and I had to find my way to West Street from Sittingbourne Station. I went back on the bus to Greenstreet, where my Mum met me at the bus stop.
My bedroom was above the booking office, which could be a bit noisy at times, but I was well respected. As I got older, I was allowed to issue tickets, and even do some paper work. I would take delivery of the tickets down to the goods yard and attach the appropriate ones to the trucks, which usually had boxes of fruit in them to be taken to various destinations, usually London markets. l did drive the engines up and down the siding and had a few cooked breakfasts which were cooked on the engine fire [egg and bacon - a bit black, but tasted so different].
Dad would often hold up the departure of goods trains if farmers were late delivering. Thankful for his thoughtfulness, we were very well treated at Christmas, poultry and fruit for the festive season, but the poultry had to hang outside the back door!! The Station Master’s hat was really quite heavy, and Dad took to wearing a straw hat during the heat of summer, but got severely reprimanded, so back to the proper one.
I don’t remember the year when the electric line was installed, but it caused great excitement, and a few sleepless nights with the clanging of new rails. Life was not to be the same, as the whole atmosphere changed.
A few exciting events. Pigeons were released often. We did have a derailment in the station one Sunday afternoon, just as we were going out on a rare outing. Mum was disgusted as Dad had to crawl underneath the train and he ruined his best suit. We didn’t get to go out!! The ‘Golden Arrow’ sped through with Royalty on board one afternoon, and we all stood with flags - we didn’t see anyone, but it was exciting. A famous racehorse was ‘delivered’, I forget the name, but I just remember it was beautiful and I wanted one! A man looking very much like a wanted murderer got off a train one day, so the Police were contacted. The poor man was arrested but apparently he was quite used to it, as he did look very much like the man in question.
Whenever a new porter started work in the office, I was quick to nip round to give him the once over! That is where, and how, I met my future Husband, so in 1963, I left the station to start married life in Sittingbourne, where I still am. Mum and Dad moved out to be in Station Road where Mum sadly died the same year. Dad passed away in December 1984.
Barbara McCrae (2014)