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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 33 - Winter 1977 / 8
Change at Quainton Road for Brill, Sir! - Metro
I was a young parcel sorter on the Metropolitan Railway in the 1920's. My depot was at Baker Street Station, which is now part of the Times cinema complex, but at that time, about twenty horse delivery vans, and as many motor vans operated from the premises, delivering all over west and north-west London. There was also a fleet of large lorries used for the transfer of parcel traffic to all the London main line station parcel depot's ..... so, what has all this got to do with Brill?
Well, parcels with labels stamped with station of origin, came through the depot, and were sorted by the boys; names like Granboro' Road, Quainton Road, Brill, Wood Siding, Westcott, Waddesdon Road, and many others. From Aylesbury came the famous "Aylesbury Butter", carried in the Metropolitan's own milk vans, which, on arrival at Baker Street's platform four, had to be unloaded in about twenty minutes by a group of the boys, two of us in the van to throw the 28lb boxes out to the others on the platform, while others stacked the butter on to barrows, ready for taking up on the parcel lift to the depot, on ground level.
Not got to Brill yet, have we! Well, we will soon be on our way, but first, let me explain, I am a Londoner, and my travel pass was only for the Metropolitan Railway, and covered the Met from St Mary's, Whitechapel, Cannon St., South Kensington and in the north, to Wembley Park. Beyond Wembley Park, rail staff paid their own fares, true, at a reduced rate, which meant to me on my low rate of pay, that beyond Wembley, was a place of mystery. It was the country, for we must remember that in the 1920's the building of estates were only just getting under way. Places as close to London as Neasden were not fully developed until the late 1930's, nor was Wembley itself, so, in a way, I had no reason to venture beyond Wembley to see the country-side, until .....
The senior clerk in the parcel sorting office, was also the chap who dished out privilege forms to the staff, and one day he said to me, "You never used your free travel passes last year and you are allowed two a year, to any station on the Metropolitan & Joint Lines. As you are on night turn of duty next week, why not take a pass for next Saturday, when you will be off duty from 8 am? I will make a pass out for you to Brill Station, and you can get out at any station you like on the way down the line, if you wish". So I was handed a ticket, a nice yellow one, and inked on this ticket, was "Willesden Green", where I lived, to "Brill", and back, to be used within one month of date on the back of the ticket.
So, the great adventure started, I did not in tend to go to Brill on my first Saturday's outing, in fact, I did not bother to consult the time-tables for the Brill line. Aylesbury took my fancy, and having arrived home from my night duty, and changed into my 'Sunday best suit', I found myself on Willesden Green Down fast platform, where apart from the 'peak periods' all fast trains stopped in those days.
The train was fairly full of hikers, which was a popular 'sport' in the '20's and '30's. This was before the age of motor cars, those tin boxes on wheels which swept the country, most of them with a spare can of petrol strapped to the running board, with the magic name "Pratts" on the can! There weren't many service or petrol stations around in the Brill days! I was able to get a window seat and to survey what was, to me, very strange country as we raced through Wembley.
At Rickmansworth, two of the male hikers said they were going to watch the 'engine change' from electric loco, to steam loco, and I also got out of the compartment to watch, little did I know that in a few years time I would be taking part in this operation myself. So little did I know of the line at that time, that I had thought the electric loco went right through to Aylesbury .. ...and I was not the only parcel boy who thought this happened. As we have said , beyond Wembley was a world that we knew nothing of!
At Aylesbury, I found a new world, an "Up Sheffield" Great Central train was in the platform taking water, prior to its next stop at Harrow on the Hill and the hustle and bustle 'of this miniature main line station, took me by surprise. A small Great Western engine was running round its train ready for the trip back to Paddington and the whole atmosphere was very much in contrast to what I had expected. I had thought of Aylesbury as a sleepy country town, but a further shock was to come when I got to the exit barrier and showed my pass to the collector, "Ah!" he said, "You will have to change at Quainton Road for Brill, Sir, and you have an hour to wait for the railmotor, so why not have a look round the market, Sir, just up the road, Sir".
Now, you might say, what's all this "Sir" about, to a teenage boy? Well, we ARE in the 1920's and the word "Sir" was used a lot, and to this ticket collector, I, with my pass, might have been a Director's son having 'a look round'. In those days, one had to kow-tow to these type of people, for you lived in a time when you could get kicked out of your job very quickly. With nearly three million people out of work (todays one and a half million is nothing to the '20's, there was no social security then, you just went hungry) so our ticket collector, having looked at my Burton's fifty-shilling suit (£2.50) decided I might be a director's son, which made me pull my Woolworth's sixpenny tie straight, (2½ p), thank him for his help, and go to the Aylesbury Market.
As I said earlier on, I did not intend to go to Brill when I started out from Willesden Green but the ticket collector had assumed that was where I was going. I found the market place bewildering, and decided to explore it with my other free pass, on my next night turn of duty, so I started to make my way back to the station. Then I found myself walking with a number of ladies, carrying shopping bags, pots and pans, kettles rugs, mats and so on, and I gathered that the ladies had been to Aylesbury Market for their once-a-week major shopping outing.
The rail-motor was standing in Aylesbury platform, and it was made up of one coach, a steam loco and another coach, so I entered the leading coach, which reminded me of a London tram, the seats being reversible. I liked the upholstery, which was a change from the Metropolitan red, being a rather faded green. I also liked the chatter of the passengers, who were mostly from the market. It was about prices and their talk was a bit strange to me, for they had a rather country slur to the 'r' and the talk was slow, but steady. At the next stop from Aylesbury, a few ladies got out. They were in no hurry and to me, used to the rush and tear of the London 'rush hours', I fully expected the guard to shout out, "Hurry along please", but this did not happen, and off we went to .... . Quainton Road!
Alighting at Quainton Road, I found myself in the middle of turmoil. Ladies with shopping bags full to the brim and with tin kettles, pots and pans of every size were making their way towards a train standing on a curved platform. This train was made up of one engine, a wagon with cattle in it, a wagon with some type of portable sheds, and a passenger coach. Now I made my first mistake of the day. I asked the Quainton porter, loading parcels onto a barrow, "Which is the Brill train, please?" ... .. he straightened up, looked me up and down with care, and said, "That be 'ere over there", then, as an after-thought, "Passengers ride in the last carriage" ... .. the meaning of this observation did not strike me at once, no doubt he thought the London stranger might get in with the cattle!
The passenger coach seemed fairly full, and seeing an empty seat on the Quainton platform side of one of the compartments, I got in. The compartment seemed full, but three ladies sat with their backs to the engine, and two opposite them. The rest of the seats were taken up with shopping bags and pots and pans. Room was made for me to sit, and I thanked the lady, which opened up the chance to them to find out what I was doing on the Brill line! I said I was on a visit to Brill, and as I offered no more information on what the visit was, they resumed their chatter on their own domestic problems, when suddenly, the guard gave a very long whistle, much longer than they did in London. The reason for this soon became apparent, for as I watched in some bewilderment, all the ladies in my compartment suddenly gripped their seats and stopped talking. Then, with a terrific jerk, which threw me into the seat opposite, we were off on our journey to Brill! The train, as I have said, was made up of two wagons and one coach, with no through brakes and loose coupled. Hence, our regular users knew that the guards' long whistle meant "grab your seats, hang on for dear life, we are off". Before I could regain my seat and composure I was again thrown into the seat opposite, when we stopped for the gates to be opened to let the train cross Quainton Road, the bouncing carriage just about came to a stand; then we moved off again, only to stop, as I learned later, for the guard to shut the road gates behind him!
Another stop seemed due, as I watched the ladies grip their seats, so I too gripped mine, and was more or less ready for it! This one was to let us over what is now the A41 main road. What I was not ready for, was the cascade of pots and pans which came off the luggage rack, and the string that tied all of them together which wrapped itself round my neck ..... I looked like an old time tinker selling his wares!
To the other occupants of my compartment, the whole thing was hilarious, and they rolled about with laughter, so much so, that when the train started, they were thrown into each other's laps, as they were not ready for the move! As for me, I was beginning to wish I had remained at Aylesbury to explore the market.
Three ladies got out at the next stop, leaving two. They said, "Go right through to Brill". By now, I had told them what I was doing in that part of the world, whereupon one of the ladies said she lived but a few paces from the station, and I was to come and have a cup of tea with her and her father before I went back home and the tea would be ready as her father could see the train arrive from the front room.
The cottage was a little way up the hill , and, carrying a collection of pots and pans I went with the lady, who said, "she had to do something for the young gent who was nearly knocked out by her pots and pans". What a nice tea; one to remember, home-made bread and home-made jam, with cream on home grown peaches!! And so I went back to the station for the return journey home, with a promise anytime I came to Brill, I would call in and see "us folks" and bring a friend with me. This I did a number of times, taking different chaps from my work, all of whom were amazed at the 'goings on' ... .. on the Brill Line.
This is a true story of the Brill Line, as I knew it fifty years ago. There are other stories of other incidents, but this one gives you my first adventure into the country, which, if I had not had a free pass, would never have happened!
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 12 November 2017