In the pilot episode of what would subsequently become the first part of a series, Cecil Parkin travels to the small country railway station of Hatley to take over as its station master. He is pleased to find that his old girl-friend May Blanchflower runs the station buffet, less so that she is now married to porter Jack Skinner. Certain aspects of the station's running leave a lot to be desired but this is as nought compared to the news that new transport minister Doctor Beeching intends to close small stations like Hatley.
It's the early 1960s and steam trains are giving way to diesel. Cecil Parkin arrives to take up his post as the new station master at the rural station of Hatley. He is pleased to find that the buffet manageress is May, an old flame of his, although she is now married to Jack, the porter. There is far worse news, however, when Cecil reads that the new transport minister, Beeching, intends to close down rural stations like Hatley as being uneconomical.
As the staff read of more of Beeching's cuts, Oscar, the turkey belonging to wheeler-dealer signalman Harry, and ear-marked for the station's Christmas dinner, escapes, halting a train. Cecil is not amused and calls a meeting to discuss the general lax behaviour at Hatley. He complains about the chickens under the platform but relents when he learns that they are kept for her egg sandwiches by May, for whom he still carries a torch. May is disappointed that Cecil has become pompous but he explains that he can no longer be one of the lads now he is station master. Jack...
Cecil continues to pine for May and Jack continues to be suspicious asking Ethel the booking clerk to spy on them so she learns nothing. To streamline the station and impress an efficiency inspector Cecil plans to use the old public address system for announcements and gets Ethel to read them. However she is very nervous and the experiment is not a success.
Ethel finally persuades May to admit that she and Cecil dated briefly during the war and relays this back to Jack in garbled form. Everybody pulls together to move Cecil's belongings into the station master's house, after which he buys them a drink and looks forward to their team-work preventing Beeching closing the station. He then has a bath but is interrupted by Ethel and May who bring him hot water and suggest he gets a bigger sponge as he tries to hide his modesty.
Whilst Cecil is out a coffin arrives unexpectedly at the station, of which the local undertaker knows nothing. The staff decide to hide it in Cecil's office but he returns before he is supposed to and the coffin is passed out of the window, flattening Ethel's daft young son, assistant porter Wilf. In fact the coffin should have been sent to Hagley station, not Hatley, as Cecil knew all along.
Cecil buys May a set of red undies for the eighteen birthdays she has had since they last met though she is reluctant to accept them. Vera, the station cleaner, tells Jack about them but Ethel saves the situation by telling Jack that May asked Cecil to go and buy them for her to look good for her husband - who gets very frisky as a result. Lady Lawrence is expecting the delivery of her horse but a lion arrives instead. It's feared the lion ate the horse until it is discovered that there were two trucks and the one with the lion in arrived at Hatley whilst the horse ...
Whilst the staff hide a pig destined for the dinner table from Cecil, tax inspector Edna Taylor arrives at Hatley, claiming that they have been engaged for six years but recently she has heard nothing from him. She is not pleased to find a letter from him ending it all as he has found the 'love of his life.' Fortunately for May he fails to name the woman in question but when the train lurches and Cecil falls on top of May's daughter Gloria, Edna gets the wrong impression and Cecil ends up in the dog-house - or rather the pigsty.
Jack and Cecil are down-hearted to learn that May has applied for a better paid job at the larger Loxley station, working for lecherous station master Fred Foster, but their own applications for a transfer and Cecil's refusal to give May a reference bear no fruit. Fred comes to Hatley where Harry names him as the man who broke up his marriage - and thanks him for it. Fortunately Dr. Beeching himself comes to their rescue, by closing down the Loxley line.
After Gloria is locked out of the house Cecil lets her stay the night on his couch, leading to a row with Jack over parenting. The two men fall out again when Cecil feels that Jack should have a medical as to his suitability for the job in the light of his bad leg. However Cecil ultimately back-tracks over the medical so as to impress May. Ethel has a date with skirt-chasing Percy the train guard at the local dance.