Pigeon Traffic

When I was Area Manager for British Railways at Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, I made a point of dropping into the office on Saturday mornings. One Saturday in 1968 I went in and was surprised to see a railway parcels van in the small freight yard. The station foreman told me this was a van of pigeons and he was just going over to let them out.

This man happened to be the local union representative and we hadn't got on too well up to that point possibly because his first language was Welsh while mine was English. I asked if he would mind if I gave him a hand. It turned out that 
he was a keen pigeon fancier himself and I quickly learned about these birds.

 e went into the yard and climbed into the van. It was quite dark inside but I could discern row upon row of wicker baskets stacked to the ceiling, from out of which there came the sounds of gentle cooing. All we had to do was to take the basket to the open door, open the lid of the basket and set the bird or birds free. We then had to note the time of release on the label on the basket.

These birds had come from a club somewhere in the north of England, possibly Halifax. The owners would log in the time the bird arrived home which was why these special rail moves were made mainly so the birds could be released 
on Saturday mornings. The club members were working men who were off work on Sundays had to go to their jobs on Monday.

I spent a pleasant time releasing the birds and chatting with the union representative about pigeons. It seems they fly at great speeds he mentioned 60 miles an hour. They would certainly fly home faster than British Railways had brought them to this remote part of Wales. This was just one rail car, but in some cases entire train loads of pigeons were moved across the country.

After that relations with the union became easier we had at least one thing in common!

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders - The Interchange September 2015

Home   Articles