My Grandfathers Clock

It’s no secret that I like travelling.  In particular I love travelling by trains and I hate travelling by planes.  I have always liked travelling by trains even when it is more practical to fly or drive by car.

Train stations are amazing places.  So many people coming and going.  Some in a hurry, some leisurely drifting around.  Some people waiting to meet long lost friends and families and others saying goodbye at the end of the platform.

Trains allow you to meet people, some good and some bad but unlike driving, you can read, talk freely or even play around on a laptop or iPad.   Train journeys can often take you to places you can’t see by car so you can see countryside in a more unspoilt state than many roads and infinitely more peaceful.  Travelling by train in cities is interesting too though it is amazing how few people actually keep their back gardens tidy on the trip into London.  The disgusting state of some of the gardens is however more than compensated by the lack of traffic jams, congestion and parking problems.


Set in central Cairo, no matter how busy it gets in the station, it is much quieter than the traffic nightmare outside.

I have been on some quite great train journeys but none of them have yet been truly great… yet.  Berlin to Prague and particularly Prague to Krakow was breathtakingly beautiful.  Travelling by train from the Med down the Nile to southern Egypt perhaps does count as a great train journey, at least if you’re not Egyptian.  The way you go from the sea to busy, busy Cairo and then meander ever southwards for hundreds of miles until you seemingly come to the end of civilisation itself with the desert forever encroaching closer to the river is incredible.

There are several scenically beautiful journeys in England by train which I always remember.  London to Cornwall where the sea washes over the trains in stormy weather.  Also the long journey north from London to Edinburgh, passing through the great York station and over the dramatic skyline of the Tyne before going through Newcastle and travelling on the wild Northumbrian coast before coming out in the centre of Edinburgh right under the castle.

No matter how many times you do it, going on the Eurostar from London and then going under the sea to France, Belgium, Germany and beyond is always amazing too.  Probably to people who live on continents it is no big deal but travelling by train abroad when you are on a big island is something not to be taken for granted.

I probably first got my taste for train travel from my Granddad.  When I was about 5, I would spend 5 or 6 weeks of each summer with my grandparents and once or twice a week we would go on the train somewhere. 

My Granddad was a very active man and even on quiet days we would go and build kites that would fly hundreds of feet high.  Sometimes we would go to the shore just over a mile away and set up huge bonfires with washed up wood, seaweed and car tyres.  If we were lucky a tractor tyre would be found, they being so much bigger were all the more satisfying to burn.  The fires caused such black smoke from the rubber we could see them all the way home and sometimes they would be smoking away the next day.

Greggs sausage roll

Still my favourite snack, a sausage roll. Pork or beef sausage meat encased in pastry. Yum-yum in my tum!

Some days we would go on the bus to the local town and do some food shopping.  Grandma would often like to have a cup of tea and a scone or piece of cake.  I would like to have a sausage roll.   Things were so different then, there weren’t many places to drink or snack at and my Granddad always thought doing so was a total waste of money when at home he could make 200 cups of tea for the price of the one he bought.  I am sure he would have hated Starbucks and the like even more than I do and I can’t stand them myself.

Northern England Train map

We were based near Workington midway up the west coast and from here we would go everywhere on this map

The highlight of the week was going on some train trips.  As pensioners they would get free or heavily discounted tickets and as a 5 year old I probably did too.  We would go all over the place and must have gone to 20 or 30 places by train each year.  Sometimes to the sea at Blackpool or Southport both just above Liverpool and which would take several hours to reach.  We often used to go to Preston, it was a great adventure and the scenery on the way was incredible.  They had lots of shops and just outside the station was a small restaurant that did the nicest chips.  We went there a lot and when I had a spare half hour in Preston 30 years later I went straight there but sadly the restaurant had closed.

Once my grandparents missed the change of station at Carlisle and we continued for another hour or two to Glasgow in Scotland but the train company were nice enough to let us return without paying for it. 

Ribblehead Viaduct on Carlisle-Settle line

Over 100 feet up above the Yorkshire moors

We must have gone on the famously scenic Carlisle to Settle train line but sadly I can’t remember any of it.  I do remember visiting Skipton in 1979 and being worried that the mass-murderer The Yorkshire Ripper might catch us.

My granddad retired when I was just over 2 years old.  It is probably my oldest memory as we went to a hotel/restaurant where he was presented with a long-service reward and a grand clock for working in the postal service for 45 years.  I remember being slightly the centre of attention being sat right next to my Granddad when the photo was taken.  Everyone was very worried I would knock the clock over when I lifted the glass case off for our photo to be taken.  There was no need to worry of course, I may only have been two but I wasn’t stupid!

It's My Grand Fathers Clock

My Mam, my Granddad and that little blonde cutie is me!

Afterwards we came home to my grandparents house, it was very cold outside, at least to me.  My Grandma made me a slice of toast before going bed.  She always made the best toast whether it was because of her brand of bread (probably) or variety of butter (possibly) or because she was Grandma (definitely).

We would sit in front of the coal fire and I would get as close as I could without burning myself or getting told to move in case I fell in. However nice Grandma and Granddad were, there house outside the living room was always absolutely freezing cold unless it was hot outside.  It was always a quick trip to the toilet and to brush my teeth before jumping into bed with a hot-water bottle pressed next to my legs.

My Grand Fathers Clock

Local newspaper report



About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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11 Responses to My Grandfathers Clock

  1. Diane Tibert says:

    A lovely story. I’m with you. I can’t bring myself to buy a tea at the coffee shops when I can make a better one and cheaper one at home.
    That clock looks awfully familiar. My mother has one. I believe she would have gotten it in the late 1970s. It was a Christmas gift. She still has it on a shelf in the livingroom.


    • Thank-you. Yes people don’t really get new clocks like that any more do they? They’re still quite ornate and pretty to look at but I guess tastes move on. I’d still have one though but then I’m old fashioned!


  2. blosslyn says:

    I remember travelling from Portsmouth to Yorkshire as a child, changing at London, by steam train many times and loving every moment, I still love travelling by steam now. Lovely story took me right back 🙂


    • That must have been a great trip, especially arriving in London en-route. The thing about going by train as a child is that every little place is such an adventure. They could have taken me anywhere (and often they did) and I would have been more than happy with it. Thanks for commenting!


  3. gn0mel0ver says:

    Beautiful story, Stephen. And your beautiful! I have never been on a train and you make me long to go. What an adventure! Where is the clock now?



    • Thanks Jenni. Yes my mother was quite a babe, at least before I came along. She always liked her clothes and there are some great photos of her wearing late 60’s clothing. I still remember one or two very 70’s outfits she would wear when she took me out to the playground.

      You haven’t been on a train!!??!! Oh wow. There is such an expectation of adventure and excitement at train stations and it such a unique way to travel too. It’s very easy to let your imagination run away with itself around trains! I hope you get to travel by train one day.

      I am not entirely sure about the clock now, I would hope it is at one of my cousins houses but I don’t rightly know. I will look into that, thanks!


  4. What a wonderful story, Stephen! It’s no wonder you’re such a traveler! This explains everything. That’s so cool you got to experience that as a child. I love the train, too, but haven’t been on many in my lifetime. It’s not something we do much in the states, unfortunately. It would make a sense if we did. Pictures are gorgeous. I love the old photo! You are such a cutie!!


    • Thanks Amy. Yes it does, doesn’t it? I probably did these summer train journeys for 3 or 4 years when I was little. I never got bored of them. Trains were so exciting with the excitement of the train arrival, all the noise and the sights of people with their bags. The guard with his whistle and flag and all the scenery passing by as you magically reach your destination. If there was a tunnel then it was always a big bonus!

      I saw when I did my post on maps how few trains there are in the USA though I see there are some plans for more soon. Especially for the cities on the East Coast and California it would make so much sense and there is none of that security you have to go through when flying.

      There are some great trains stations in London all with different styles and other great ones all over the U.K. and Europe but it would be neat to see Grand Central Station one day and also take a ride through The Rockies too.

      I’m glad you like the old photo. Yes I was, sadly it has probably been a bit downhill since then but I take all compliments no matter from when!!


  5. What lovely memories. A very interesting read.I too have happy memories of the old steam trains, in my childhood days.


    • Thank-you. It is a long time ago now but they are still some of the best memories I have. We went on a heritage steam train in Norfolk last month and it was wonderful to hear all the old noises and smell the steam and smoke!


  6. Pingback: A love-letter to Grandma | Stephen Liddell

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