Making our own railway

Between the beaches of Cleethorpes and the docks of Grimsby was a no-man’s land littered with abandoned industrial sites.  It featured a collection of huge concrete slabs once used for wartime beach defences, and now piled up crazily and making a good fort to defend in our cowboy fights.

Beyond it there were unused and rusting rails that had once formed a narrow gauge industrial railway, plus the abandoned chassis of a railcar, now just a metal skeleton, but with intact wheels.  A group of us from diverse backgrounds came together.  It took 6 or 8 of us to lift the rails one at a time and position them in a parallel line going downhill to a ditch at the far end, but then we had a track.

It was hard work heaving the wagon chassis up to the top, but we managed it, and then we had an improvised railway.  We wedged the wagon at the top of the track, then clambered aboard, clinging onto the sides as best we could.  The wedge was kicked away, and the wagon trundled down the hill, gathering speed as it did.  The trick was to jump off before it careered off the end of the track and into the ditch.  We always made it safely, albeit with occasional scrapes and bruises as we jumped clear to land on the rough grass at the sides.  The bravest of us, who tended to be the older boys, stayed on until just before it crashed.  Then we manhandled the wagon back up the track for another go, which took a great deal of pushing and heaving.

For weeks it was a regular feature of Saturday afternoons.  We would meet each other there, and when there were enough of us to move the wagon, the game would begin again.  We'd manage maybe half a dozen runs in an afternoon.  There was no formal ending to it, just as there had been a fairly random get-together at the onset.  Gradually one or two of us dropped out over the weeks, until there were not enough of us to shift it.  Then we played other games instead. 

The game was so dangerous that it was inconceivable that any parent or guardian would have allowed it had they known about it, and it is highly unlikely that children today would be allowed the freedom to do it.  But it was immense fun, and the danger was part of that fun.