Peter Stone

Waterloo Colliery Sidings in May 1971. Photo courtesy Roy F. Burows Midland Collection Trust.

Peter Stone was as a signal man at Waterloo Colliery Sidings for two years in the 1960s when, because of a bureaucratic mistake, he shouldn’t even have been there!

He was born in Middleton in 1947 and started work on the railway nearby as a messenger boy, on the old Great Northern line at Ardsley, when he was 15 years old. During the hard winter of 1962 to 63 he was a lampman, climbing the semaphore signal posts and gantries to clean the signal lights and refill them with paraffin. 

After that he set his sights on becoming a signal man and became a train recorder in the box at Ardsley Spring Lane. After going to night school classes in Leeds and the signal training school at Wakefield Kirkgate he was tested by an inspector at Normanton, and applied for a post at Waterloo. 

By the time officials had realised that he wasn’t yet 18 and a half years old, the mandatory age for a signalman, he had already been “passed out” on the box and was running it on his own. Following a discussion with Woodlesford station master, Tom Swaby, it was decided that it would be too difficult to send him back to Ardsley so he was allowed to stay, making him probably one of British Railways’ youngest signal men.

Peter worked at Waterloo for two years and was then promoted to Armley Canal Road No. 1 box in Leeds but six months after arriving there he was told it was going to be closed as part of a re-signalling scheme, so he was made redundant and became a milkman.

In 1970 he returned to railway employment as a delivery driver based at Hunslet Lane goods station. There he inherited one of the Woodlesford rounds which had previously been done by Hunslet brothers Jack and Jake Gibbs. By that time the station had become an unmanned halt and the parcels had to be collected from Leeds City station. With the closure of Hunslet Lane Peter moved to be a lorry driver at the Freightliner depot at Stourton collecting and delivering containers. He retired from there as a supervisor.

Peter can trace railway ancestry on both sides his family. His father, Gilbert Stone, who was born in Hunslet, was a platelayer in a relaying gang. He was based in Leeds but worked across Yorkshire.

His great, great grandfather, Reuban Thornton, who died in Manchester in 1862, was a railway carter. On his mother’s side his great grandfather was a vansetter in a goods yard in Leeds. He started as a goods porter at Aysgarth and moved south before 1901. Peter’s grandad and great uncle were carters and another relative was a shunter at Starbeck in Harrogate in 1911.

Click on the links below to hear Peter Stone talk about his career and his time in the box at Waterloo.

It was a wild and lonely place

Coal trains for Skelton grange

From signal man to lorry driver

The view from the box window looking towards Skelton Grange. A Stanier “Black Five” is on the Up fast with a passenger train from Leeds. Photo by Bill Tiffany.
A “Peak” passes Waterloo carriage sidings with the Up Thames Clyde Express 1M86 in the 1960s. Opencast coal workings can be seen in the background. Photo by Derek Rayner.
Waterloo Colliery Sidings on Sunday 16 May 1971. Skelton Grange power station is in the distance. Photo by M. A. King.