Back in the mid – 1950s, following my success in passing the eleven plus examination, I was offered a place at the Hugh Clopton School for Girls at Stratford upon Avon (later The Stratford upon Avon Grammar School for Girls at Shottery Manor). When I first started there a lot of Leamington girls chose to travel by train, as did many of the boys who went to King Edward VIth Grammar School. This soon became routine and we adapted to catching the train at about 8.10 in the morning.
At the beginning of each term, wearing our green and white uniform (later changed to purple, with a pale blue shirt), we collected our travel passes, in this case, a small red card which expired on the last day of each term. We then proceeded up the steep flight of stairs to the platform to await the train.
This was still the ‘age of steam’ and the train usually consisted of a small, ‘matchbox’ engine and two coaches. By the late fifties this had been replaced by a diesel train which, above all, was certainly much warmer in the winter! I have vivid memories of the waiting room on those cold winter mornings. There were several wooden arm chairs and we would draw them up before the blazing fire which had just been lit by a porter. The trains were freezing cold as the heat generated by the steam engine only filtered through as we neared the end of our journey. This certainly made us hardy individuals.
By the early sixties the numbers travelling to Stratford were very few as children were then offered places at Blackdown High School and Kenilworth Grammar School, but these were happy days and friendships made then have survived the test of time, which we happily recall whenever we get the chance to meet up.
My lasting memory of the journey is railway tracks, sidings, signal boxes. fields and hedges, and village stations, each with their welcoming stationmaster. To me, it was a living, working Hornby train set! Such special days. Would children do it today? I doubt it.
Tessa Whitehouse, née Chapman.
Extracted from The Leamington Omnibus, LHG Newsletter, Summer 2014