Midweek Retro: All aboard for holidays

Holiday makers leave Sheffield Midland Station. May 29 1971.
Holiday makers leave Sheffield Midland Station. May 29 1971.
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How did you travel to your holiday destination this summer?

Plane, car, coach, ferry – or maybe even a train.

Despite the more recent water features outside Sheffield Midland Station the facade of the building still looks largely as it does in the old photos but a lot has changed on the railways.

Ok, so even more recently there has been a revival in fortunes for thirsty travellers wanting a drink when they arrive in the city thanks to the opening of the popular station bar.

But many families now go on holiday without ever going near a train and if I’d asked where your holiday started in the 1960s, most would have answered, at the station, of course.

Reader Roy Needham remembers clearly taking many summer trips by train – but that was before ‘the Doctor’s Revolution’.

Roy said: “During the 1950s before Beeching played havoc on the railways, closing stations, excursions were organised from all the small stations to the sea on a regular basis. Cleethorpes was the main attraction and the cost of the trip was around five bob (shillings) – 25p today.

“The train started at Deepcar, Oughtibridge, Wadsley Bridge and other stations and they were always well supported. On the return trip the train would be put on a siding to allow the express train to pass.”

The reshaping of the British railways in the 1960s meant an end to many of our smaller stations and some might argue that the service has never recovered, especially as they take a close look at the problems with today’s trains and the cost of a ticket.

Here is how The Star reported the news on Wednesday, March 27, 1963, under the headline Axe for 2,0000 stations and 80,000 will lose jobs under master plan.

It said: “The axe will fall on 2,000 passenger stations and many train services if Dr Beeching’s drastic surgery on British Railways is approved by the Government.

‘The 148-page report, by the British Railway Board, headed by Dr Richard Beeching, has been submitted to the Minister of Transport, Mr Ernest Marples.

‘The master plan, which amounts to a revolution on the railways, estimates that, finally, 80,000 railway workers might lose their jobs under the proposals.

‘If the plan is implemented in full, it is calculated that it could result in savings of between £115 million and £140 million against which would have to be offset certain interest charges on capital investment.

‘It proposes a reduction on special trains at peak holiday times and the substitution of seat reservation schemes and a new fares policy similar to those of airline companies.

‘The report – obtainable from the Stationery Office at £1 – urges improved inter-city passenger services and, on the freight side, proposes a system of express, regular-schedule “liner trains” linking 55 special terminals, including Sheffield.

‘It suggests new arrangements for the transport of coal which, it says, could give a worthwhile reduction in the delivered price, and the closing of many small goods centres and rapid withdrawal of freight wagons over the next three years.

‘The Board thinks that the major part of the reduction in manpower necessitated by the plan could be covered by natural wastage and strict control of recruitment.

‘But the Board consider much – though not necessarily all – of the railways deficit should be eliminated by 1970 if the plans is implemented with vigour. The proposals are described in the report as conservative with regards to closures and restrainedly speculative with regard to new developments.”