I met a chap in a pub who said he used to live in a small village that he said you will never have heard of called Slinfold. I told him I knew the place well because it used to be on the Guildford/Horsham railway line which I travelled through twice a term on the way to and from school. He turned out to be a railway geek and couple of days later he sent me a couple of links to various articles about the closure of the line in July 1965.
I did follow them up and to my amazement I noticed several references about Christ Hospital boys singing Abide with Me as the last Guildford train left CH station. One of the links had a forward to CHOBA which is how I have arrived at this Forum.
And it’s all true………it’s not an urban myth. A bunch of us were there to witness the last train but the circumstances were not quite as you might imagine and might be of interest to one or two of you.
We were all leaving in a couple of days and were probably slightly refreshed having cycled to purchase some refreshment from a nearby off licence. It seemed like a good idea to watch the train leave and couldn’t believe how many train spotters etc. were on the platform doing the same thing. We stood out like sore thumbs in our housey clothes and instantly became local celebrities posing for photographs and being interviewed by the press. We certainly did not need all the attention because we very definitely should not have been there……..it was probably about 9 pm.
We realised we might be in a spot of bother and somebody decided that we might get away with it if we sang a hymn as the train left. We gave them a quick rendition of Abide with Me ( first verse only ) which drew rapturous applause and hand clapping etc.
The next morning , Littlefield ( housemaster who was also Hall Warden – and what a nice man ! ) ) very sternly told me that the Headmaster ( Mr Seaman ) wanted to see me immediately after breakfast which I have to say put the fear of God in to me. I was probably more worried about the alcohol we’d drunk than anything else. Anyway I went to his study which incidentally was the first time I had ever been in it for the whole time I had been at the school.
He asked me immediately if I had anything to do with “last night’s escapade” at the station. The only answer was “yes sir” following which, to my total surprise and relief, he warmly praised and congratulated me and said it was a most splendid thing I had done. Couldn’t believe it …..phew !
The reason he knew about it was because it was in the morning’s papers – think it was The Guardian or perhaps The Times and he had been telephoned by several newspapers for the full story. If anyone has access to back copies they should be able to find the article.
So there we are. Nothing pre- meditated about it at all and just a case of thinking on your feet and a wheeze ( which handsomely worked ) to get out of trouble.
I do have a splendid photograph somewhere of all the miscreants sitting on the railway line with The Station Master. I’ll try and find it just in case it’s of interest to anybody.
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I cannot recall when the Brighton line closed, but just before it did, Pongo Littlefield allowed me to join a group of us to to take a Saturday picnic trip into the downs. I seem to recall a guy named McGarry was the leading light in organising it. If I remember right the line wasn't electrified and the stock was an elderly sort of diesel electric unit.
I gather most of the line is now a cycle path.
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That was the train I used (Sharpenhurst Flyer?). A truly old-style smoke belching train that stopped at every halt. By the time I got to Brighton it had usually taken twice as long than if I cycled.michael scuffil wrote:The Brighton Line was served by a steam engine while I was at CH . The route took it round the back of the 1st XV pitch. It was a very slow train. I used it once (there and back) on school business (French plays at the Brighton Pavilion). I never had any cause to go to Guildford.
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