Boy, 14, left to operate these crossing gates in Portsmouth

The old Burrfields Road, Copnor, railway crossing on the day it closed PPP-150217-105414001
The old Burrfields Road, Copnor, railway crossing on the day it closed PPP-150217-105414001
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If you are connected in any way with ‘health and safety’, you had better look away now.

It is the picture on the right which prompted David Baker to get in touch with a tale which would horrify today’s box-tickers.

David, now of St Augustine Road, Southsea, was born and then lived in Dartmouth Road, Copnor, a stone’s throw from the old gated railway crossing in Burrfields Road.

So when I published this photo earlier this month it sent David back in time with memories which will strike a chord with many of you. It was taken the day it closed and the day the road bridge over Burrfields Road opened – April 27, 1965.

He says when he was 14 and a keen railway enthusiast he spent a lot of time at the crossing.

He got to know the gatekeeper who lived in a cottage adjacent to the crossing with his wife, children, chickens and a couple of dogs.

‘I used to spend time in the shack where he used to teach me the workings of the various equipment he used with bells and buzzers and two large levers similar to those in a signal box,’ David recalls.

‘Those levers were used to control the wicket gates alongside the main gates.’

He remembers crowds of workers with their bicycles going to and from work anxiously waiting for the gates to open after a train had passed.

David continues: ‘The gatekeeper, whose name I think was John, taught me how to use the levers to lock and unlock the small gates.

‘One day he asked me to look after the gates so he could go and make a cup of tea. Can you imagine a 14-year-old in charge of those gates?

‘After hearing bells and buzzers I knew a train was due so I had to operate the levers to lock the gates.

‘I was confronted by a number of tired and angry workers shouting at me to unlock the gates.

‘Fortunately I stood my ground and kept them shut.

‘I often think health and safety would have had a field day,’ says David.