The memoirs of a former stationmaster on the North Yorkshire coast line are set to become a classic, says Harry Mead

AND so they are - visions afar...

Ray Carr's farmer-grandfather conducted daily prayers at breakfast. Ray remembered: "His voice was the signal for the immediate cessation of conversation and abandonment of newspapers as each one present rose and knelt at their chair.'' A railworker neighbour of young Ray drowned himself rather than face the "disgrace" brought on by his theft of firewood from the rail company. With two children to provide for, his widow told Ray's mother that she put "one or two currants" in her teacakes, which went unbuttered.

When Ray himself was a railwayman, a porter at Leeds was sent home because of his untidy appearance. A chapelgoing landlady of Ray's, who tolerated hearty singing at the piano during the week, locked the piano lid on Sundays.

These and many more memories of a distant, more straight-laced past, were set down by Ray in a journal that chronicles his life from boyhood at Carlton Miniott, near Thirsk, through a long railway career in Yorkshire, into retirement at Staintondale, between Whitby and Scarborough, on the scenic coast line, where Ray had spent 25 years as stationmaster.

Disarmingly, Ray, who died in 2005 aged 99, dubbed himself "the other Carr". His younger brother, JL (Joseph Lloyd) Carr (1912-1994), enjoys almost a cult reputation as a novelist and highly-individual publisher. His novel The Harpole Report was hailed by Frank Muir as "the funniest and truest story about running a school I have ever read". The reviewer of a later book said: "Every one of his previous novels has been described as a classic.

This is yet another.'' JL's elegiac story A Month in the Country was turned into a film with Kenneth Branagh. He also produced a now-famous Dictionary of Extraordinary Cricketers, a series of quirky mini books on topics as diverse as The Peasants' Revolt and Eponymous Places, and lovingly-drawn pictorial maps of the old counties, crowded with detail.

But Ray's journal, posthumously published by a micro-publisher friend and his business partner, brings "the other Carr"

confidently out from his brother's illustrious shadow.

It could be the novelist Carr who pictures a certain railway clerk as "a small man with a heavy black beard and a loud, harsh voice. He wore a cloth cap at all times and stumped about with a heavy walking stick".

Or who recalled a stationmaster with a striking double addiction - tea and his carpet slippers. "If by chance he was drinking tea when a local train arrived, he would don his gold-braided cap and saunter on to the platform, cup in hand, carpet slippers on feet, give the guard the right away' signal and retreat to the house or office fireside."

Ray's eye-catching parade of characters also includes a senior clerk at Brough, near Hull, who "wore plus fours and spent much of his time patrolling the mudflats along the nearby Humber". Armed with a shotgun he hoped to bag game but rarely succeeded.

"He did once arrive with a pigeon, which turned out to be a tame one, owned by the Station Master's son"

Like all railmen of his era, Ray, who began as a "probationer clerk" in 1922, took enormous pride in his work. But he was never sentimental about railways.

Unexpectedly, his journal doesn't record the last train through Stainton Dale station, when the coast line was axed by Beeching in 1965. But he quotes a letter he wrote exposing the awkward truth that few of the campaigners for Whitby's railways actually used them. Returning from a demonstration to save the coast line, pupils from Fyling Hall School disembarked at the wrong station.

Ray observed a decline in rail traffic, especially passengers, as early as 1938. Over a six week period at Sledmere passenger receipts didn't amount to £1. At Stainton Dale in the final years business was so slack that when staff were told one December that they could keep £5 from the traffic cash (passengers and goods) to share out as a reward for winning the Best Kept Station competition, it took two months to accumulate the money.

Recollections of the 1947 winter, when no through train ran on the coast line for six weeks, and five locos were at one time marooned at Stainton Dale, make particularly good reading. Ray also tells of perhaps the world's most luckless cricket fans. The passengers on an excursion to the 1930 Ashes Test at Headingley, they missed Don Bradman's triple century - because their train failed to stop at the local Kirkstall station. The ground was full when they finally arrived.

But some of Ray's memories now make uncomfortable reading. On Thirsk station during the First World War bystanders shouted "baby killers'' at German PoWs. A local baker who was a conscientious objector had his van smashed. "A conscientious objector in those days must have been a man of moral courage," Ray remarks.

Attractively laid out and amply illustrated, chiefly with family snaps, the journal is to be formally launched this summer at Staintondale, where the two sons of Ray and his late wife Margaret still live. One occupies his parents' retirement bungalow, where Ray, despite his resolute refusal to romanticise railways, virtually set aside a room for memorabilia from the station, including best-kept station certificates, working documents, and several of his railway caps.

Fully deserving its place in the public domain, his journal captures lost ways of life, on and beyond the railways.