The Paper War

(Colin Churcher tells a story of rail activity from years ago in his native England)

Some 40 years ago the General Manager of the then Great Western Railway asked a question.  Nobody knew the answer and with a great flurry of activity every station was asked to provide the information the next day.  This was collated, compiled, neatly typed and placed on the GM's polished desk who merely sniffed, said "Interesting" and threw the paper away.

Nobody dared to ask whether that information would be required in the future and so stations were asked to send in a weekly return just in case.  A new section was created in Paddington to collate and produce the return just in case it was required.

Over the years there developed a storage problem. The obvious thing to do was to send all of the forms to the Audit office in Swindon. This solved the problem for a couple of years until Swindon began to experience its own storage problem. What to do with this paper mountain?

Thurso is about as far north as you can go in Scotland and somebody started to bundle up the paper and send it OCS (on company service) care of the Stationmaster Thurso, taking care not to leave any indication as to where the paper had come from.

This situation continued for a number of years until a new clerk at Swindon forgot to remove all traces of origin from one package and so a few weeks later the complete set of forms came back, a full baggage car load!

Revenge is sweet.

There was now a real storage problem! It was about this time that Analytical Services asked why the return was necessary since nobody had asked for the information ever since the General Manager had.

The return was discontinued and the much travelled evidence was destroyed.

Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, August 1980.

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