NOT many women were given the opportunity to work before the First World War. Alice Elliott and her mother were exceptions to the rule.

Alice was just 17 when she became crossing keeper at Durley Halt, on the branch line between Botley and Bishop’s Waltham.

That was 115 years ago in 1907. Before that her mother, the wife of one of the men who helped to lay the line, was in charge.

On Thursday, April 8, 1954, the Daily Echo marked the retirement of Alice, who became Mrs Charles Tubbs when she married a railway worker at Curdridge in 1912.

Alice’s story is a charming reminder of a different era, one in which the steam train played great importance in a rapidly-developing country.

She was born in the railway cottage of which her parents were the first occupants. In 1909 there were 13 trains in either direction on weekdays, and seven Sunday trains.

Daily Echo:

First and third class passengers were catered for and the fares from Durley Halt were fourpence (2p) and one penny and a halfpenny to Botley, and fivepence and two pennies and a half to Bishop’s Waltham.

The bus service killed the line and in 1932 it was closed to passenger traffic.

Twenty years later there was a single daily goods train each way, which was flagged over the crossing by one of the men on board.

Daily Echo:

Seven years before the passenger service was abandoned the guard on the train was dispensed with, so Alice became station master as well. She had to meet every train at the Halt, see that passengers got off and boarded safely, ensure that all doors were properly shut and send the train on its way. Three oil lamps had to be lit every night.

In busier times all trains were signalled over the crossing, and it was Alice’s proud boast that there was never an accident at her gates.

Railways had always dominated her life and her husband, Charles, was one of the men who helped to build Durley Halt – that’s when he met her – and was also one of those who helped to dismantle it.

Daily Echo:

Between them, Alice and Charles gave 95 years’ service to the railways. Their two sons were both railway workers and their daughter served seven years on the clerical staff throughout the Second World War. Her brother was a platelayer, who helped to maintain the tracks.

After their retirement the couple settled down to a well-earned rest in a cottage just up the lane from their old home.