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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 61 - Autumn / Winter 1986 / 87

The Wendover Documents by Mothy

It's now over a year since the Wendover signal box was dismantled by a Quainton team. As reported by Alan Vessey in issue 59, a large number of railway operating documents were discovered in the roof cavities of the box. Since then I have been studying, in my spare time, a set of Metropolitan Railway telegraph forms, complete from January to late July 1922. These mostly consist of details of wagon movements and, as such, provide a wealth of information for the railway historian. However, they also include a lot of other varied information, from requests for relief staff to lost luggage enquiries, from station requirements to private messages about meeting relatives off trains. One problem encountered with these forms has been de-coding them, as they are written in telegraph code. Most are in the standard railway type telegraphic codes, but the Met. seem to have invented a few of their own. For instance, does anyone know what type of wagon a Paco is?

One of the most common references during the winter months was on the subject of meat delivered by rail for the RAF at Halton:- During January and February there was at least one wagon daily, consigned to the RAF branch at Wendover. These wagons were all described by company and name - and it transpires that they originated from all parts of the country. The most common were from the Midland Railway, but others included Great Western, Lancashire & Yorkshire, London & North Western and the CR (Caledonian Railway?) to name but a few.

The Calvert brick traffic also appeared to make a contribution to the Met's traffic - and was more than noticeable during March 1922. Over the month seven wagons, each of nine tons, were delivered to Richards of Stoke Mandeville. Was Richards a building contractor and if so what was being built in Stoke Mandeville at this time? One interesting point was the delivery charge given: £2 2s. per load. I wonder what BR would charge now for the same trip.

The telegraph system seems to have been used to relay news and advice on other railway companies, including problems other railways were having. The Irish railways were mentioned frequently in this respect, several telegraphs telling Met. stations not to book goods through to Irish railways that were having 'labour problems'. Those mentioned included the delightfully named Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway and also the West Clare Railway.

Locomotive failures and difficulties were mentioned on the telegraph forms, but no mention of Met. No. 1 anywhere. One engine mentioned was Met. No. 110, which was reported as being failed by its driver, due to a hot big end (right hand). In response to his telegraph, Finchley Road office requested he continue to Aylesbury with No.2 goods, then proceed to Neasden light engine. Later the same day Wendover reported to Finchley Road that the No. 2 goods engine (presumably the replacement) was to take the 10.24 up passenger train. Not a good day for locos on the Met!

At one stage a series of messages from Wendover to the signal fitter at Aylesbury told of problems with the No. 9 points. The first message read that the No. 12 goods could not get into Wendover yard because No. 9 points had failed. The next message said that the platelayers could find no problem, but this was followed later in the day by another, stating that points still were inoperative. It seems that, by the time the signal fitter did get to Wendover, the points were working again.

Various messages were sent during the year referring to the Met/GC joint crane, which, of course, is now in our possession at Quainton. In May 1922 it was at Pinner and a message was sent to Wendover asking for someone who understood how to work it. So we are not the only ones who have had problems with it. Later, in June, it was in use at Granborough Road, when a request was relayed from Amersham for use of the crane. When asked why they wanted it, they said they had the War Memorial stone (3 tons 5 cwt) to unload.

The above are just a few of the many interesting facts that can be found on these telegraph forms. The list of different subjects is endless, with everything from lost property, station repairs, wagon numbers, requests for taxis, special trips and engine failures, to personal messages, requests for relief, money movements and disciplinary messages. Once great concern being expressed when Amersham lost two crates of wet mackerel!! If these stories have been of interest let the Editor know and I will try and produce further articles based on these documents. I hope to finish sorting through them as soon as I can, after which they will be handed over to Alan Vessey as part of the Society archive material.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1987 and so does not reflect events in the 27+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

The Wendover Documents by Mothy - Quainton News No. 61 - Autumn / Winter 1986 / 87

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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