Michael L Roach
When guard James Tidball retired from working for the Great Western Railway at Plymouth in 1928 his retirement was reported in the local daily newspaper. We will see why later in the article, and also get an insight into how far passenger guards travelled in those days when trains travelled much slower than now. We read very little about guards and their duties in the millions of words written about railways.
James Richard Tidball was born in the Paddington area of London on 16 September 1861. He joined the GWR on 16 January 1877 as a messenger in the Secretary's Department on the princely wage of 10 shillings (50p) a week. He received regular increases and in June 1884 became a passenger guard at Kensington at 23 shillings a week (There were 20 shillings in the pound). James remained a passenger guard for the next 44 years until retirement, with an unblemished record. He could have been a model employee because he seems to have gone wherever the GWR asked him to go including Swindon, Yeovil, Bristol, Paddington and finally Plymouth where he spent the last 17 years of his working life.
In the 1881 census James (19) is living at home with his parents in Chelsea. In 1891 at Bedminster, Bristol with wife Sarah and 2 children aged 2, and 9 months. In 1901 James is 39 and living at 14 Barfett Street, Kensal Town W10 4NP with wife and 7 children aged 12, 10, 9, 7, 5, 2, and 8 months; and finally in 1911 aged 49 at 33 Edith Avenue, Plymouth PL4 8TJ with wife and 6 of the 8 children that were born to James and Sarah. James would live at Edith Avenue for the rest of his life. He died on 15 September 1936 one day before his 75th birthday. In his will he left £583.
The newspaper report of his retirement appeared in the Western Morning News of 8 June 1928.
FINAL TRIP TODAY
G.W.R. GUARD RETIRES AFTER
51½ YEARS' SERVICE
Today, Mr James Tidball, the last of the broad-gauge Great Western Railway guards, makes his final journey from Plymouth to London with the 1.00pm express. For several years past he has travelled with the North Express to Bristol and then proceeded to London, arriving there at 8.45pm and returning on alternate days by the 9.15am express from Paddington. He has completed 51½ years service, and, although he is 66 years of age, he looks several years younger. Mr. Tidball is one of those men who have helped to make history for the Great Western Railway. Of cheery manner, and always calm and collected, he has a happy knack of meeting every emergency in the coolest possible manner, and with a smile. He started his railway career at Paddington Station as personal assistant to the late Sir Daniel Gooch, chairman of the G.W.R., and he relates many personal incidents of his association with that eminent railway leader.
Briefer reports of James Tidball's retirement also appeared in the following newspapers:
9 June 1928 – Gloucester Citizen
13 June 1928 – The Cornishman
15 June 1928 – Market Harborough Advertiser
Some of those reports say in fact James Tidball worked the last broad-gauge train. There are believed to be about a dozen people living in Plymouth today with the surname Tidball.
Hymeks in Cornwall
King regards, Paul Barlow
All The Best, Alan and Sue
Chris Harvey Bodmin