an inside story from
Craig Munday, Steve Curtis
I was watching a talent show recently. and an escape artist brought out a wooden trunk, complete with chains to elaborately release himself. The box looked exactly like a mysterious box that used to come down on the "Murphy" mid morning on Thursday. Nowadays PAYE is almost universally used across large organisations and most transactions cashless these days. I thought some younger readers in particular may be fascinated about this charming ritual. I caught up with Steve Curtis and we had a natter about this weekly delivery. He picked up the story...
During the1980’s/90’s when I worked on the Railways, Thursdays was a very important day. On the down ‘Murphy’, the 05:45 from Barnstable in 1986, but could have been from Bristol TM in earlier days. A heavy wooden cash box chained to the metal bars would be put on at Plymouth usually in the rear Full Brake for stations to Penzance. The trunk contain the wages for BR staff in a leather pouch placed inside the box. Each station had their own key, and at larger stations the Chargeman would go in unlock the wooden safe box and retrieve their stations bag and sign the book. Smaller Stations that had a Booking Clerk, would retrieve the bag from the box. I remember at Camborne Frank Trythall, the Booking Clerk there would meet the train on Thursdays and retrieve the wages bag from the box. Smaller stations like Hayle, where there were only two staff, one early one late, a mere Leading Railman would collect the bag. There was definitely a sense of trust in those days, as anyone could retrieve someone else's bag and pocket the money, but in those days Railwaymen were ‘Family’ and you don’t steal from Family.
The Box would return to Plymouth on the same stock working the dinner time stopper from Penzance to Plymouth. This was of course in the days on Loco Hauled trains and of course you also had to retrieve any parcels or mail bags for your station too while passengers boarded and alighted the train. BR envelopes could be circulated around the Country with OCS in the top corner (On Conditional Service).
Look out if it was worked by a DMU, you’d have to clamber over parcels and mail bags just to get to the safe box! But that was rare.
Kind regards, Craig Munday / Steve Curtis
Sending back the takings
If I could add... “ and sending away the takings”
A similar travelling safe was also used to send the stations takings, if I remember correctly, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Under BR in the mid 80’s this was to Plymouth then later I think, to Bristol Temple Meads.
In the nineties under privatisation, in Cornwall, the Plymouth and Bristol options were no longer available so all station and on train accounts except Penzance and St Erth, were sent daily, in the safes to Truro. The collated cash was then collected by a well known courier but cheques & credit card slips had to be taken down town to be paid in at the bank
Eventually commercial couriers were brought in for all delivery of wages and collection of each station’s own cash & accounts and the safes were taken out of use. This was probably a good idea as by then the newer units were being used and it was usual to find the safe chained to a passenger handrail by the door of a 150!
(ref. Craig M’s piece 19th February 2023)
He's been on a rather long holiday, we hope it all went very well.
Weston super Mare