MEMORIES OF TONGHAM
Arthur Edwards

I moved to Tongham from Bagshot Lea in 1901, at the age of 7 years. The LSWR ran direct from Farnham to Tongham and then on to Ash Green, Wanborough and Guildford picking up the Aldershot loop at Wanborough. Tongham station had been a very important place as, before Aldershot and the Camp were built all the material for their construction came to Tongham and were then lifted on by horses and wagon. In addition, a long siding left the east side of the main line and headed for the present Greyhound (pub) at Ash and then turned sharply west to run parallel with the Ash Road and High Street finishing near the Wellington church.

I think a few troops entrained at Tongham for the Boer War but by that time Aldershot Town and the Government Siding were both long enough to cope with troop trains, or horses and guns. The Stationmaster at Tongham when we came was a Mr. Lovelace, who lived in the station house down in the station yard.

There was no footbridge over the railway, only the road bridge, the present footbridge being added later.  Level with the top of the bridge was the station entrance hall, the booking office and the Stationmaster’s office, and the passengers went down a staircase to the platforms and waiting rooms at rail level. The stairs took them first to the up line from Farnham and then across the metals to the down line from Guildford.

There was a clear view of both up and down approaches for about two miles and a porter had to ring a large hand bell a the bottom of the staircase when he saw a train coming. Under the bridge there was a porters’ room and lamp room where all the station and signal lamps were cleaned and filled daily. The signal box was just through the bridge and on the Hogs-Back side of the line. On the north or Aldershot side were the sidings of the goods yard with a hand crane to deal with heavy items.

By the time of my arrival in Tongham (1901) the large siding supplying Aldershot had been removed but there was a siding for the Aldershot Gas Works leading off from the west end of the platforms and reaching the gas works and the crossing over the Ash Road near the county boundary. The gas company had a small shunting engine to deal with some thousands of truckloads of coal, coke, tar etc. and was always very busy.

The South Western’s engines were not permitted to stray onto the private sidings of the Gas Company nor onto the small siding that went into the premises of R Hyde and Co. (afterwards Burney & Blackburne). The engines would shunt the trucks on their way and the people with large leavers would accept them for loading or unloading.

As well as the Gas Works materials there was, at Ash Road, Bartrams the horse slaughterhouse and chemical fertiliser manufacturers, and they passed a fair amount of very smelly products through Tongham Goods. The local farmers also used the station and I think at one period fruit from the local orchards caught the early morning train for Covent Garden. Hydes Dog Biscuits and Puppy Cakes – and bird seed – also provided a lot of business. Later Burney & Blackburne, Motorcycles took over part of Hydes and in their turn produced produced Stokes Mortars as war work.

On 30 March 1918 I married the Stationmaster’s daughter, but after six weeks I joined the Royal Air Force, and my wife went to serve as booking clerk at Tongham, thus releasing the male clerk for military service, and it was 1919 before we all got back into civilian life again.  My Stationmaster father was having to cope with Ash Green and Wanborough in addition to Tongham and used to have to go up to check these twice a day.

After stationmaster Sinstead retired the station house was occupied by a clerical grade whose job was to deal with railway matters as the business declined until the line and stations of Tongham and Ash Green were axed by what I suppose was the ‘Beeching Plans’.  I believe it was this young man who later on was responsible for disconnecting burning trucks containing ammunition that had been parked on the Farnham side of the station and had been set on fire by enemy aircraft. For this he was given the George Cross but lived only a short time to enjoy it.

Things did not always go smoothly, even at Tongham. For years it had been the habit of the local farmers to borrow a tarpaulin from a railway truck to cover their hey or straw for a couple of nights while getting in the harvest. Well, some ‘well wisher’ reported to railway headquarters that there was a rick in the local farmyard with a cloth labelled LSWR.  Of course there was hell to pay and the Stationmaster nearly lost his job.

Then while my wife was in the process of learning the ropes prior to taking over as Booking Clerk, another ‘well wisher’  reported that the male clerk had a girl in the office with him, and this ‘well wisher’ (a local Army Captain’s wife) was not getting attended to as quickly as she should. In this case my stationmaster father-in-law was orders to go round and personally apologise to her.

The only other thing I recall about this period was that, as you know, they had blank railway tickets not printed with the destinations, and these tickets had to have the destinations filled in, and also recorded on the monthly returns. Well unfortunately one of these tickets got through without trace, and after tying to track it down without result, at the end of the month my wife was fined 25/-, the maximum fare possible on that line. I think she was then (1919) getting £1 per week.  I was then myself away in the Royal Air Force, so took rather a dim view of things and was glad when demobilised to get back home and take her out of ‘Railway Life’


Last updated: Friday, 26-May-2017 07:55:58 BST
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