Memories of ‘The Railway’ pub during the early 1970s
‘The Railway’ pub thrived during the early 1970s as a popular venue for Rainham residents wanting a good night out. Very lively and always crowded on a weekend with a mixed clientele, the customers, the landlord Bob and his wife Doris made it a friendly and enjoyable place for people to socialize.
A wide range of Rainham characters gathered in ‘The Railway’ on a Friday evening. In the saloon bar Dartford football manager Ernie Morgan, identified by his broad Yorkshire accent, became a regular and would speak to anyone, normally about football. During the daytime Ernie cleaned the windows of shops and businesses in the centre of Rainham as he owned a window cleaning business that lasted for many years. He also became a local football legend after taking Dartford to the Southern League championship and an FA Trophy cup final appearance at Wembley. Later he became involved in local youth football and this made him very well-known in the area. Ernie often drank with Chatham Town footballer Brian Laws and a tall, friendly, retired man dressed in a dark brown suit and matching trilby hat named Jim.
Billy Hales who worked in the butcher’s shop halfway down Station Road usually sat at the bar, sometimes with friends or with his wife. He usually had good stories to tell while Ernie Nicholls who owned a well-known haulage company and lived at the bottom of Station Road was also good for a chat, usually about cricket as he played for Bapchild Cricket Club. Peter Foster, a well-known local footballer also became a regular, usually accompanied by his blond haired girlfriend Janet Smith whose father owned a sweet shop in Station Road
Old Sid Clout who lived in Webster Road would buy a pint and sit alone in a corner for about an hour then go home while a former bus conductor named Ralph who had a high pitched voice and always dressed in a navy blue blazer with an Old Anchorians tie would talk the night away. He supported Kent Cricket Club and once went to the West Indies to watch England play a test series.
Rainham cricketers who socialized in the pub on a Friday night included George Phillips from Scott Avenue, Denis Chambers from Pump Lane, Peter and Alan Heath from Childscroft Road, Bill Balderston from Berengrave Lane and Terry Glazier from Maidstone Road. Former Rainham cricketer Roger Varley and a well-spoken man named Max mixed with them. Max was easily identifiable by his black rimmed glasses and social skills as he spoke at length with almost anyone. The pub became so popular with the Rainham cricketers that it served as the club headquarters for a short period during the mid-1970s.
The saloon bar also became a popular meeting place for well-known Gillingham footballers with David Peach and Alan Wilks being regulars at one time. Steve Bruce and Tony Cascarino also periodically socialized there during the mid-1970s. In 1976 David Peach who had played in the FA Cup Final for Southampton against Manchester United during the afternoon turned up in the saloon bar on the same evening with his FA Cup medal hanging around his neck to socialize with his old friends which caused a sensation.
The famous ‘Keg Boys’ usually drank in the public bar with Stan Peace sitting quietly drinking, smiling and staring at people without much conversation. He became a regular at the pub for years and was sometimes accompanied by Neville Huggins and a variety of other people. Others regularly socializing there included Billy Huggins and Maurice Mills who were both well-known local footballers. I sometimes accompanied them late on a Saturday evening to the Thomas A Beckett pub in the Old Kent Road where we would drink and see famous boxers like Henry Cooper and his twin brother George. In the days when drivers could drink, drive and get away with it we drove from ‘The Railway’ to London and back in Billy Huggins’s mini.
Bob and Doris served behind the bar for most of the time and they were assisted by Phil Austin from Station Road, a compulsive talker and joker and he worked alongside a lady named Linda who Rainham cricketer Alan Heath later married. Two other ladies also assisted at different times.
The evening entertainment only included recorded music with Dean Martin’s ‘Gentle on my Mind’ being played regularly while periodic social functions took place. I once remember playing in goal for the Saloon bar against the public bar on Rainham Recreation Ground in a special challenge match with about fifteen players a side and crates of free beer being provided at the end of the match. I also remember a day trip being arranged to Royal Ascot when everyone journeyed from the pub to the racecourse on a coach organised by Bob the landlord.
‘The Railway’ may have a very different clientele today but it thrived as one of the most popular social and drinking venues in Rainham during the 1970s.