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Recollections of Wolverton Works
Men leaving the old Wolverton Works

Not so long ago ‘a job for life’ was considered the norm, and nowhere was this more apparent than on the railway. In fact shortly after leaving school, whilst testing the waters for meaningful employment I found this most evident at Wolverton Works, where, having opted for incarceration in some enormous railway office, it seemed instead that an early appointment had been booked with God’s waiting room. In fact for a select cadre the average age was a mind boggling 50, and with most of these having seemingly been fixtures before the Second World War, it appeared that when duty called they had all joined up together and then - mostly - all came back together. But of course their bravery was unquestioned, and some would bear a permanent disability as a result. So having seen off the Boche it was back on life’s sedentary track, to await a post pension arrival at that great railway terminus in the sky. But ye gods, nine months of paper shuffling, interspersed with the long - apparently mandatory - stares into the middle distance, was more than 19 year old flesh could bear, and there was little option but to pull the communication cord, and seek life’s adventures elsewhere. After all these years the site accommodates part of a Tesco complex, but no doubt upon this many of the railway warriors are still gazing down from on high - with long, mandatory stares. Yet after 40 years their faces begin to reappear, for as one ages it seems that events from the past become clearer, whilst those of more recent days are merely a blur. So what became of pipe puffing ‘Taffy’ Maycock, a genial, fatherly figure, whom I sometimes drove during the lunch breaks to the little cemetery along the Newport Pagnell road, there to visit the grave of his son, who, whilst in the R.A.F., had been killed in a motorcycling accident. And the chap who sat at the next desk and made periodic ‘choo choo’ train noises, quite to the bemusement of Mrs. Barnett, who, through heavily rimmed bifocals, transfixed him with her unique glare of scorn crossed with pity. As for titillation amidst the tedium, every so often a long legged lovely from the typing pool would sweep through, and in fact it really was a typing pool, for there were no desktop computers in those days. And then there was the ‘Works Manager,’ a hallowed being whose presence was often rumoured but, at least for us minions, yet to be proved, for as with the Himalayan Yeti no firm evidence seemed to exist. However, legend told that he drove a high powered exotic red sports car, which had once been owned by the comedian Max Wall, and this seemed to be confirmed by the chap who sat next to me, who, apart from the repertoire of ‘choo choo’ train noises, would sometimes burst forth with ‘GT 88, cannot wait, cannot wait,’ an apparent reference to the personalised registration, and the alleged impatient manner in which the vehicle was driven. Indeed, I found this quite plausible, for whilst ambling home of an evening in my customised Minivan (go fast stripe, and no hubcaps) my musings would often be startled by the sudden ‘whoosh’ of a red streak. But since our relative velocities differed by a magnitude of Warp Factor Six, in the ensuing blur it was quite impossible to confirm a positive sighting. Thus, for those deemed unworthy an exalted acquaintance could never be made, and not having transcended my clerical bounds I left British Rail quite deferent to my place in life’s firmament. But in recent years came a life changing moment, for during a visit to the National Railway Museum, at York, my unbelieving eyes chanced upon a sign which - oh, may the Heavens be praised - read ‘Works Manager’s Office, Wolverton Works.’ For as I gazed in knee trembling reverence I realised that this wood panelled splendour had indeed once been that forbidden Shrine, which, as with all that is great and is good, was now preserved as a permanent exhibit. However, as to whether this will ever apply to the elusive Works Manager, that I have yet to discover.