Railwayman’s appeal to be reunited with baby he saved from burning building nearly 60 years ago
PUBLISHED: 22:43 16 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:31 17 April 2019
His act of bravery made front page news more than 57 years ago.
Now a lifelong railwayman from Norfolk is hoping his new book, which describes the moment he saved a baby from a burning building, may reunite him with the tot he rescued.
Alan Baker, 89, is a volunteer at Whitwell and Reepham Railway Station and first began penning the book about his journey working on steam rails, ten years ago.
Although it took him just seven months to write, it was a decade before A Life on the Rails was finally ready to hit shelves.
Mr Baker said reading it back to himself had given him lots of laughs as he reminisced about days gone by but it was one incident in particular which stands out.
On the afternoon of March 15, 1962, the Norwich resident was making his way along Earlham Green Lane, on the outskirts of Norwich in Earlham, to his local the Good Companions for his Sunday pint when he saw something unusual.
“I went walking down the road and saw flames coming out of a bedroom window,” he said. “Well I thought to myself thass a rummin'. Then a man run out saying there was a little boy inside. He dragged me into his yard, pushed me upstairs and sent me to rescue the boy.
“I did my collar up as I entered the room and when I walked in I saw it was a great fire and I could hear the baby crying a bit.
“I shouted 'alright kiddo, I'm coming' and I crawled on the floor to get to him.”
Mr Baker managed to grab the baby and place him under his coat, before turning to see flames all around. He managed to crawl his way out of the room and, after handing the baby over to his parents, ran back inside to chuck a wet blanket over a paraffin stone, which is believed to have been the cause of the fire.
Unfortunately Mr Baker never reunited with the baby, who is believed to have recovered in hospital, and eventually the family, reported to be a Mr and Mrs Keith Stracchino, moved away.
At the time, the story made the front page of the late final edition of the Eastern Evening News - now the Evening News - on Monday March 19, 1962.
And later, Mr Baker was presented with a certificate from the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire from chief fire officer, Mr French, with the lord mayor of Norwich.
Talking about his book, he described how he would wake up at 2am and remember things to add.
He said: “That's how it all happened. I've put down all the engines numbers and driver's name, apart from one I called 'prat face'. I would write things down as I remembered them.
“I enjoyed writing it. I never thought it would be put into a book. I'm happy to think people like it.”
Mr Baker worked as a railwayman for more than 50 years on the LNER, BR, IC and Anglia, and the M&GN.
His book has been published by the Whitwell and Reepham Railway Preservation Society.
- Are you the baby that was rescued by Alan Baker 57 years ago? Or do you know who they might be? Email reporter Donna-Louise.Bishop@archant.co.uk.
An extract from A Life on the Rails by Alan Baker
On October 10, 1946, Mr Baker fell off a train's tender and hit his side on a buffer:
“I can quite clearly remember going to hospital, the bell on the ambulance ringing this is an emergency case. We entered the emergency bay with the medical team waiting. I was hurried in and laid on a bed with my boots and overalls all dirty, then things went hazy.
“I can remember my Father talking to the surgeon. The remarks I heard were not good, the surgeon had told my Father than an operation must take place, but the chances of survival were very poor. The next recollection was going in the operating theatre and someone put a mask over my face and said 'breath normally'. I did not know anything else.”
A Life on the Rails can be purchased online or from Whitwell and Reepham Railway Station.
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