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Old ads give train station a new dimension

PUBLISHED: 16:07 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:07 20 August 2018

Acle railway station in 2009, now graced by some nostalgic advertisements. Photo: RICHARD ADDERSON

Acle railway station in 2009, now graced by some nostalgic advertisements. Photo: RICHARD ADDERSON

RICHARD ADDERSON

Only recently I bemoaned here that railway travel is not what it used to be.

Lyons Cakes sign. Photo: PEGGOTTY/MRS PEGGOTTYLyons Cakes sign. Photo: PEGGOTTY/MRS PEGGOTTY

The steam era was still dominant when I did most of my rail travelling - during National Service, and visiting relatives in Surrey.

So, because train travel is something I seldom do nowadays, I was an inexperienced passenger on that Yarmouth to Sheffield return journey which included a fatality on the way there and a total power failure delaying our return!

However, they were offset to some degree by an unexpected mini-bonus. That memorable moment was when our train drew into Acle Station and Mrs Peggotty and I were smitten with the several old commercial advertisements affixed to walls.

They whisked us back through decades, reminding me of my Hornby train-set boyhood or smoky stations with uniformed staff (one with a green flag), luggage-laden trolleys, W H Smith bookstall, milk churns, even Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson’s tearful parting after a Brief Encounter on film...

Deborah Mann, who loves the traditional old advertisements she and husband Alan have put on the walls of their home - the former station-master's house at Acle railway station. Photo: PEGGOTTY/MRS PEGGOTTYDeborah Mann, who loves the traditional old advertisements she and husband Alan have put on the walls of their home - the former station-master's house at Acle railway station. Photo: PEGGOTTY/MRS PEGGOTTY

Nostalgia rules OK...

In the era when those advertisements were prolific at stations, probably most passengers gave them barely a second glance because they were commonplace - familiarity breeding contempt.

Although in 2018 Acle has long been an unmanned halt, yesteryear’s advertisements give it a new dimension. They are probably familiar to passengers regularly boarding or alighting there, but might well have stirred older and infrequent travellers like us.

These were chiefly glossy and colourful enamelled steel advertisements suggesting we buy products perhaps difficult or impossible to find nowadays because in most cases they have ceased production, fallen from favour with the purchasing public or superseded by newer items.

Lyons Tea sign. Photo: PEGGOTTY/MRS PEGGOTTYLyons Tea sign. Photo: PEGGOTTY/MRS PEGGOTTY

As our Acle halt was too brief for us to enjoy them, we drove there a few days later for a leisurely close-up inspection. It transpired that those we saw from the train were not all because others were out of passengers’ sight, affixed to the former station-master’s house - now a private dwelling - adjoining the platform.

Station House is the home of nurse Deborah Mann and her carpenter husband, Alan. When they acquired it, there were only two advertisements on their wall facing the tracks but they have since added others “to make it look nice” and recapture part of the station’s history, she told me.

Also, those advertisements are appreciated by holidaymakers who stay at the couple’s neighbouring property, Acle Station’s former waiting room.

Deborah and Alan still keep a look-out for additions, but often collectability enhances prices beyond their budget.

The Acle advertisements include Lyons Tea, Cakes and Coffee and Chicory Extract; Wills Gold Flake, “the World’s Most Famous Cigarettes”; Spratt’s Mixed Bird Seed and Parrot Food in packets only; Bisto, featuring the famous Bisto kids; LNER (London and North-Eastern Railway); and Brooke Bond Tea.

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