Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Western Railway: Memories of Don Filleul

Back in the second half of 2011, when I had just started writing for La Baguette, the St Brelade's Parish Magazine, I exchanged an email correspondence with Don Filleul, and out of this, with some extra research at the library, came the first of a series of articles, entitled "Parishioners Remember", giving a chance for readers to listen to the memories of older Parishioners, of Jersey in years gone by. This particular piece came out in the Christmas edition, 2011.

If you have a memory about St. Brelade in days gone by, that you would like to share with readers of La Baguette, please contact me, as I'm still interviewing people in the Parish, and telling their stories in the Parish Magazine. It need not be as far back as 1936 - there is plenty of scope for post-war memories of the 1950s to the 1980s, all of which are now decades past.

The Western Railway: Memories of Don Filleul, a former States member, and St Brelade Parishioner.

Don was born at Greve d'Azette in 1926, very close to the station of the Jersey Eastern Railway. He still has very early memories of those trains. "I can remember travelling to Gorey, and to the Snow Hill terminus.", he says, "And thus began a lifetime devotion to railways."

The Jersey Eastern Railway ceased to run on 21 June 1929, because of declining profits, and henceforth, train excursions were on the Western Railway. The young master Filleul was taken frequently to Corbiere on the Western Railway, mostly with an aunt as his main companion on these journeys. Some of the coaches can still be seen at Pallot's Steam Museum, with their facing seats, and no corridors between carriages.

There was little to offer at Corbiere but the view, so they just returned, but for the young boy, travelling by train was enjoyable in itself. "It must have taken about half an hour from Town to St. Aubin", he recalls, "and there was a wait there before the onward journey to Corbiere." He remembers that he developed preferences for certain engines, and also disliked others - "Anyone remember the one painted light green? I didn't care for that." He was intensely interested in the engines, all of which had names. But he never got to speak to the drivers - "Auntie did not allow me to make friends with the drivers. In those days such contact was out of order."

By the 1930s, the Jersey Railway was under pressure from the buses which could travel over a wider catchment area than trains.

During the winter, all the rolling stock of the Jersey Railway was stored in the St Aubin station, and on the night of 16 October 1936, a fire broke out. This destroyed much of the station building, 15 of the carriages, and damaged the Terminus Hotel. Don's father took him to see the devastation. "The horror of course was the fire at St. Aubin's station, the destroyed coaches the awful stench of the place is almost still with me.", he recalls, "Dad took me there - he was also a bit soft about trains, and we stared with sadness at the catastrophe."

That was the final blow to the already struggling railway company, and it was decided to close the railway entirely. The track and remaining rolling stock was sold off, and the way between St Aubin and Corbiere became a public walk, which it remains to this day.

The Terminus Hotel later became the Parish Hall and offices, replacing the use of the Church Hall at St Brelade's Church for Parish Assemblies.

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