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Recollections of Trains and The Match Factory Fire

Recollections of Trains and The Match Factory Fire – Ken Sharpe

My earliest memories of Hartlepool would be of playing in Church Street where the present Yorkshire bank is. I believe it was an old air raid shelter, but you could not get inside because it was locked up. It was good to play on because it had an unusual wedge shape we could slide down, and when you climbed to the top you could see over the wall to see the trains coming and going from the railway station.  l suppose that was the start of my railway spotting interest.

Once we started we would go to the railway canteen where the railway staff would have their breaks for a cup of tea or a cracking bacon sandwich. They would also tell us what trains would be coming to Hartlepool. When we lived in the telephone exchange in Baltic Street we got a view of the match box factory when it caught fire. After watching it for a while my friends and I went down to the railway canteen and got a grandstand view of the fire - we could see the fire tug spraying water all over the building.

Some of the firemen climbed into a wagon and started to hose down behind the signal box, but it must have got a bit too warm and dangerous because they got out. The wagon was a coupled to a small shunting engine. We came away after a couple of hours or so. The following day we went round to see that they had finally got it out and had started to knock it down. God knows what the passengers coming in to Hartlepool thought .

I remember that we first lived in the flat in the GPO building in Whitby Street, before moving to the telephone exchange in Baltic Street, and then to Heather Grove (No.15).  When we lived in the GPO I used to go the Lex Cinema a lot, especially the Saturday children's matinee where we would follow the adventures of Flash Gordon, Hop-a-Long Cassidy, and Johnny Mack Brown. We used to sit at the front on wooden benches then sneak to back where you could get more comfortable.

When living in Heather Grove, I remember one of the residents, aged about 8 or 9 at the time, was Winsome Dimmock, better known as weather girl Wincey Willis.

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