The Team At Kings Cross

Kings Cross Railway Workers Blog

In October this year I received an email from the Camden Guides Association about a voluntary Oral History Project, interviewing Railway Workers of Kings Cross. Full training would be given.  Immediately I thought this was something I wanted to be part of, although completely out of my comfort zone but something that fascinated me, both as a Camden and Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide, and the fact that I am very familiar with the history of the area, or I thought I was! This is an area I regularly guide around.  This and added to the fact that my ancestors in the 1800’s and 1900’s also lived not that far away on Ossulston Street and would have witnessed both the building of Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations.  They were local cab drivers and would have met passengers arriving from these trains.

I was not disappointed at all.  It was a brilliant experience.  Digital-works were both welcoming and very professional.  They provided training on the sound recording equipment and interview techniques. Day 2 of the training and we met some of the retired employees we were due to interview to gain some background information about them. The stories they had to tell were diverse and very interesting.  Then these guys took us for a tour around the Kings Cross Station they remembered.  More memories came flooding back, watching their bewilderment about how the area had changed almost beyond recognition from their days on the trains was a memory that will stay with me forever!  They explained about life on the picket lines, showed us hidden tunnels around the platforms, explained what it was like to drive some of the iconic trains associated with Kings Cross. They loved reminiscing about the old days and it was fascinating to listen to their stories.  Stories that would have been lost had it not been for this project and certainly facts that you would not find on Wikipedia and that is for certain!

The final day of training was designing a series of questions to ask these guys.  I could not believe how hard this task was, but a very interesting learning curve.

A few days later and our days of interviewing started. We were each allocated 2 days. We were put into teams of 3 and taking it in turns to do the sound recording, note-taking and interviewing.  We were all given a briefing in advance of the retired workers we would be interviewing.  To be honest I am not sure who was more nervous, us or the railway workers!  

The stories we heard were fascinating, from the first female train driver, last man to drive a steam train out of Kings Cross and life as the first black female to work at Kings Cross.  Stories about what made Kings Cross such a special place to work, the development of the trains they drove, the iconic trains of Kings Cross, gaining permission to cross picket lines to feed the station cats, refusing to carry certain publications on their trains after certain disputes, gaining permission to use the female toilets, discrimination but also unity, the apprenticeships, descriptions of what the area was like before its recent transformation, the banter, the nick names they had for each other were just some of the many stories we heard. There were the sad stories of the downside of being a train driver, dealing with the suicides on the tracks, but the comradery and support that develop from these situations. Stories of meeting celebrities and royalty.  These are just a few of the many stories that give such an interesting insight into life on the railways at Kings Cross.  Ones that cannot be researched in archive centres.

The team go to the National Railway Museum

The project then progressed to a surprise visit to York and a visit to the Railway Museum accompanied by a few of the members we had interviewed.  Walking around with rail staff, we could not have wished for better guides.  For me one of the many highlights was to ‘meet’ the Mallard train, which when guiding I talk about outside the office of its designer Nigel Gresley.  Did you know that trains can have ‘flat tyres’? Shall we say, I do now. This was explained to me in great detail!

Why not take a look and listen to the stories from the guys themselves and make your own conclusions.  If you do want to hear my dulcet tones, then listen to the interviews with Tony Dent and Helen Zato.  However please do listen to the stories from life gone by on the trains. 

Rail Workers and Kings Cross Station (

If you would like to see more projects from digital-works please visit the website

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