Lovers of golf and steam engines

Driving a steam train and supporting golf

Driving a steam train and supporting golf - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In these difficult times, when the coronavirus has put paid to golf and so many other activities, one’s thoughts tends to look backwards.   
This occurred as I recently passed the development site that was formally occupied by the Racal Factory in Harbour Road, Seaton, whilst looking up towards Axe Cliff Golf Club. 
Harbour Road is a relatively new name for this road. Those of us with a longer local connection will have known it as Station Road,as it was on the site of the old station that the Racal Factory was built.   
At this point, the reader will be wondering what on earth has this got to do with golf? 
The answer is Harry Pope. Harry was a competent golfer at Axe Cliff, his son Geoffrey was one of the finest golfers that long established club has produced.   
Playing off a low single figure handicap, at a young age, he went on to win the Dorset Boy’s Championship in the early 1950s.   
But it is to his father I return, for as a contemporary of his son, my admiration for Harry was immense.   
Why? Because he drove the steam engine between Seaton and Seaton Junction. To most young boys, there was no greater or more important job than to drive such a machine. 
The station boasted a fine spacious booking hall, which led on to the platform, affording lovely views of the river Axe to the East and the goods yard to the West.   
If one parted with half a crown, a return ticket would be issued that took one into the very centre of Exeter inside an hour, with just the one change at Seaton Junction. 
Like the Racal factory, nothing lasts forever but one does wonder in these days when global warming is a concern, whether Dr Beeching and his savage cuts to so much of the UK’s rail system was a good thing.   
There are few better ways of moving lots of people and freight, in an environmentally friendly way, than by train.   
Though I suppose it would have to be electrically driven. 

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