History‎ > ‎

The Torver Flyer (JD)

A Recollection of the Torver Flyer                by John Dawson

There have been so many changes in Torver during the past two decades or so, that it may come as a surprise to younger residents to realise that as recently as the 1940’s, the local children were taken to school in Coniston by rail.  There were about 30 of them, aged between 5 and 14, from an area that included the outlying farms, like Hazel Hall and Bank End.

They gathered each schoolday morning on, or near, the platform next to the Church House.  What would now be regarded as essential supervision seems to have been very sketchy if not entirely absent.  The older children looked after the younger ones - often their brothers and sisters, (and they could be very protective) when not otherwise engaged in activities of their own, such as sliding on the ice which seems to have formed quite frequently in those days in the wet fields across the line.  The little ones, meanwhile, kept watch for the appearance of the train from the Broughton direction.  Just to make sure that everyone knew what was going on, the driver would sound his whistle as he approached the station, and everyone rushed panting on to the platform, hastily gathering discarded hats and scarves.

It was not a big train.  Two carriages sufficed, of the kind divided into separate compartments.  The journey took about a quarter of an hour, and seems to have been greatly enjoyed by the children.  The number of adult passengers was usually small, and no doubt most of these folk sought a relatively child-free compartment.  Not that any serious misbehaviour has come to my notice - the head-teacher at Coniston school was a powerful deterrent to anything of that sort.  When little Avril Gibson did contrive to fall out, the cause was her eagerness to get home and the train was all but stationary!

There was usually a short wait at Coniston station at the end of the afternoon, - but what a wonderful playground this was, especially the cliff-like slopes below the top Banks.  Here, if anywhere, was the ideal site for a serious accident, but Torver children are not daft, and most of them, fearful of missing the train, were a bit breathless after running up the hill, watched by the policeman on the bridge, and up past the Sun and under the bridge.  Then would come the early warning of his arrival from the train driver.  The railway staff, of course, were well known to the pupils, and some not averse to, say, giving an occasional ride on the footplate, or making a non-scheduled stop for passengers alighting or boarding.  We may imagine the small, lively crowd clustered around the open window as the favoured one, having jumped down, scampered off, perhaps for a visit to Granny, (or should I say, “our Nan”?).

The bus never developed the same lively atmosphere.  For one thing, Torver had to share the vehicle with pupils who lived right down the valley, and the bus company did not provide the small number of known, and possibly related, local men.  And now the Torver railway station is a private house, and the bridge which pointed the way to Ulverston is long gone.  But those who rode the Flyer in their schooldays will never forget its very special atmosphere and associations.