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Escaped Death On Rails By Inches 


Train Buffer Ripped Helmdon Man’s Coat Off His Shoulders


John Dytam worked on the LNER at Helmdon for 32 years.  But one particular morning stands out in his memory.  In fact, he admits he is lucky to be alive to tell the tale.


“I was walking along the down track, facing oncoming traffic, one foggy morning to report to the signal box,” he said.


“I was nearly there when I glanced over my shoulder casually – and saw a train bearing down on me.


“I dived sideways and the train roared past within inches of me.  It was so close that it tore the coat of my shoulders and carried it away on the front buffer …”


John never knew why the train was on the wrong line.  He imagines it was brought into the station on this line to be reversed.


He started work for the railway as a platelayer (18s. a week) and, after several years, became a sub-ganger and then a ganger.


14,650 Miles


During his 10 years as ganger, he walked the two miles from Helmdon to Radstone and back every day.


“I knew every stick and stone on that stretch of line,” said old John.  He estimates he must have walked 14,650 miles along the stretch.


His job kept him busy all the year round – but he still found time to be a bell-ringer, and member of the church choir.


He joined the choir when he was eight and started bell ringing several years later.


In his younger days, he used to ring the bells from 10.30 to 11 am, make a rapid change in the vestry and then sing in the choir.  He would do the same in the evenings.


Although he is well over 70 and partly crippled by arthritis, old John still goes to the church on Sundays.  But nowadays he only sings and rings in the morning. 


Mercury & Herald - 4th June 1954




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