While back in the UK earlier this month, I found a couple of old items from the SMJ in my attic. One was a British Railways Rule Book. It is dated 1950. Inside is written in very neat handwriting "W J Steel, Byfield." This book is in excellent conditoon considering its age. I got it from Byfield signal box in early 1966. The line was being demolished at this time.
More interesting, but in much worse condition, is another black book, 6 inches wide and four inches high. This has the letters SMJ in gold on the cover, which is falling to pieces. Each page is marked SMJR Number-Taker's Book. The entries are in columns and dated around the late summer of 1922. I assume each entry relates to an individual wagon. I rescued this book from Woodford West Junction signal box just as the team arrived to take it down. It was lying among the trash between all the wires underneath the box.
It gives a snapshot of history. For example, on Monday September 18, we can see that a Midland Railway load from Arley to Princes Risborough passed through. The writing is in pencil and it is not very legible. Sadly this book is falling apart, the pages are yellow and brittle and the binding has collapsed. It's too far gone to restore but it's quite interesting.There are some unusual journeys listed. On September 22 a load passed going from Shrewsbury to Ruddington.Later in the month a wagon passed from Penmaenmawr to Princes Risborough.
I also found my "Private" notice removed from a door at Towcester station. It will go on the bathroom door at my house here in California!
On my Flickr site, I have loaded a few SMJ pictures, but I have not got round to sorting out my colour pictures. Go to www.flickr.com/photos/the-evanses. Look under sets of "SMJ" and "Industrials". They are scanned from old prints, although I do have the negatives. I have uploaded a few samples elsewhere on this site.
The 1911 census has William John Steel aged 18 ( so born c.1893) living with widowed mother Ann Maria Steel and younger siblings Anne Maria (14), Harry Thomas (12), Luke Bejamin (8), Albert James (5), and Ernest Stephen (3) at 10 Sidney Road Woodford Halse. William is an "Engine Cleaner", employed by "Railway Co".
John James Steel (b.c.1861) and Anne Maria Maycock (b.1866)had married in Daventry in 1892.
The house today can be seen on Google streetview here (second house from left).
Thanks for this interesting update, Dick. It's a real piece of history! Bill Steel had beautiful handwriting.
JohnI've been in touch with Rex Partridge ( Byfield & Woodford railway historian) concerning your books. He knew W J Steel quite well. W J was better known as Bill Steel. Apparently he started his railway career as a SMJ number taker at Woodford West, then later became a signalman, serving mainly at Woodford West but also at Burton Dassett for a short time. He was working as Byfield signalman almost until the line finally closed. So the SMJ number book and the rules book both belonged to him. Bill had various relations who worked mainly on the GC line railway from Woodford Halse shed. Tragically Bill's son, Dennis, died after receiving injuries caused by a blowback when he was firing a L1 tank from Woodford. A distant view of Bill at Byfield can be seen on Page 127of Jordan. Other Byfield signalmen included Bill Gubb and Ted Jones.( This is an updated reply following further conversation with Rex, I got some of the details wrong in the original reply which I've now deleted)Dick