It was Midland Railway which constructed the rail route from Nottingham to Lincoln, opening it on 4th August 1846. The railway came to Bleasby two years later in December of 1848 when our station was opened, then named “Bleasby Gate”. We were equipped with a smart station building, including waiting room, and an attractive station house (still standing). The crossing was paved with granite setts (one wonders what happened to those). There were some losses – Bleasby Gorse, otherwise known as the Goss, was a notable fox cover which was disturbed by the works, so shortly after the railway was laid a new cover was established on Goverton Hill to replace the original and this, according to records, maintained the reputation of the original. From the surveyor’s plans it can be seen that several fields were cut in two – it particular a triangular shaped field still bears evidence of that severance, with its larger part on the other side of the line. The surveyor was Paul Bausor, a man associated with the workhouse, and the plan is dated 22nd July 1846. The fact that Bleasby often flooded was noted and the line is raised up significantly going through our patch. An early employee of the railway was Charles Allen, described in 1851 as the “railway gate keeper”, and in 1861 the “gatekeeper on railway”, living in “Railway Gate House” was George Williamson, along with wife Ann, eight children and a grandson – George was still there in 1881, then termed “Station Master”.
It seems that the good people of Bleasby were not initially great train travellers and demand for rail travel to start with was so low that trains only stopped here on Wednesdays, Saturdays being added in November the next year. It was July 1863 when a full passenger service was provided.
The Station Master and Village Policeman lived close together in the early days – the policeman in one of the Station Cottages. Between them they appear to have kept a close eye on the comings and goings of train users!
By 1889 the station’s name was reduced to just “Bleasby”. In 1891 the station master was James Palmer who lived at the Station House with his wife, Juliana, and their three children plus a lodger, Robert Hitchcock, was a 16 year old railway porter. By 1901 there was a young station master in 29 year old Ebenezer Tagg, with his wife and 3 young daughters. 1911 sees George Stapleton as the Railway Station Master.
During the Second World War the crossing gates were closed at night and for some considerable time after the war had ended. If people wanted to get in or out of the village by car after midnight they had to wake the station master who, as also the crossing keeper, was responsible for ensuring the gates were opened and closed. Or it could be the station master’s wife who came, having made sure she was fully clothed before descending the stairs. In 1939 however it was Florence Staunton who was in charge, described as the “female crossing keeper” – Harvey Staunton was the railway porter.
Although during the war all were urged to consider “Is your journey really necessary?” Bleasby Parish residents were lucky in having the railway running through the village – even though there were only three trains a day each way, all stopping at each station but, of course, no station names were displayed. By the time they reached Bleasby it was “standing room only” and people had to stand in the corridor and also between the seats, which were in those days in individual compartments. Fares were 1s 3d to Nottingham and 10d to Newark.
In the 1960s and early 1970s many an hour was spent on the station platform by schoolchildren, in all weathers, some heaving around large musical instruments, waiting for the train to take them to school in Newark. The cold east wind roared down the line: the trains were often late, delayed by fog, accidents, industrial disputes, engine failure and virtually any kind of snow. If the length of the delay was known, the line could be crossed to take advantage of the cosy fire in the waiting room on the opposite side. In those days the station master was still always in attendance during the day who, as the signal man, opened and closed the gates. At night the crossing gates were still closed and a bell had to be rung by drivers of vehicles in order to alert the family who lived in the Station House to open them. The station master was in ‘collusion’ with the village policeman, who by 1927 lived in the new police house further up the village (still called The Old Police House). The next morning the policeman would be made aware of all who had entered the village overnight. As all the main roads out of the village entailed going over other level crossings, also manned, Bleasby was a fairly safe place to live!
It was December 1973 that automatic barriers were installed, half barriers, so that when they failed, drivers would tack across the tracks, often guided by well-meaning but reckless locals! By then there were platforms on either side of the road and the station buildings had been demolished.
In 2016 new full barriers were installed - the crossing was closed from September until work was completed and that meant longer road journeys to reach Bleasby village, usually via Southwell. It is much safer now in that it is not possible to cross the lines at all when the barriers are down - but there have been teething problems!