Stephenson to Stanier

Two giants from opposite ends of the age of steam, Stanier and Stephenson. Stanier’s Black 5 was the maid of all work, ‘Sans Pareil’, a real go anywhere, pull anything, kind of engine;  LMS and BR crews loved them, and so did I. I did a lot of learning on the Black 5s; how to build the brick arch, by helping the boiler man do it, how to lift the fire bars to clean the fire, using a pair of tongs, how to light up and raise steam after a wash out, and, eventually, how to fire one out on the main line, crossing the Pennines from Leeds to Manchester.  Spending time cleaning them was the day job, all of the above were ‘extra curricula activities’ – they were also the ‘unofficial’ apprenticeship to becoming that most exulted of beings, ‘the passed cleaner’.

Stanier and Stephenson weren’t just at opposite ends of the steam age in terms of time. When Stephenson began building his locomotives everything was ‘hand made’ there were no ‘standard’ parts, not even the nuts and bolts: Stanier’s restocking of the LMS was a very serious attempt at ‘standardisation’ across the entire range of locomotive types and his Black 5s and Class 8F 2-8-0s were the most numerous of any class on British Railways.

In the photograph, No.44767, with outside Stephensonlink motion,  and named George Stephenson is piloting, No.44871, with a Keighley – Oxenhope service during one of the K&WVR gala weekends.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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One fine day

It was one fine day in 1911 when the first of a great many, MR/LMS 3835 / 4F class 0-6-0 s rolled off the production line. Designed by Henry Fowler there were 197 of the 3835 class. Post Grouping a further 575 were built; designated Class 4F they continued to be built right into Stanier’s reign at Derby, with the final batch, of 45, being built between 1937 & 41. Their construction took place at Derby, Crewe, Horwich and St. Rollox, as well as quite a few built by outside contractors, including five,  by Armstrong Whitworth, for the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, in 1922. Kerr Stewart and Andrew Barclay, names more associated with small industrial locomotives built 50 and 25 respectively, the North British Locomotive Co. built 80 and Armstrong Whitworth’s final total was 55.

Like many ‘nominally’ ‘goods engines’ the Derby Fours / Duck sixes would be put to service on branch line passenger duties or, in busy times, they could easily wind up on ‘Excursion’ duties with a train load of day trippers ‘off to the seaside’. My pal, the late Walter Hobson, made just such a trip with one, from Bradford Forster Square to Morecambe, when he was a passed cleaner at Manningham, in the 1960s.

In this photograph we see, No.43924, a Midland Railway example of 1920 vintage, on a Midland Railway branch line, hauling a Midland railway innovation, the Pullman coach; first used by the Midland Railway in 1874/5. Though the Pullman coaches No.43924 is hauling are not Midland Railway examples but those of the rival LNER. Despite their apparent opulence these two coaches, LNER Nos. 83 & 84, were 3rd Class Pullman ‘Parlour’ cars; they have now been named Ann & Mary.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Gas, Bangs, and Pontop

Just visible, on the skyline to the left of the electricity pole, is the BBC transmitter at Pontop Pike I mention this because, as I’m sure some of you know, the Pontop & Jarrow Railway was one of the earliest railways in the country. The P&JR opened in 1826 and was, some years later, incorporated into the Bowes Railway. Sections of  the Bowes Railway’s original rope worked inclines are still in operation at the heritage Bowes Railway.

Tanfield Raiway’s Marley Hill engine shed, which is where No.2 is kept, between turns, is an original Pontop & Jarrow Railway building. Marley Hill MPD is believed to be the oldest engine shed in Europe still fulfilling its original functions of housing, servicing, and repairing locomotives, on the railway. In addition to the engine shed short sections of the track at Marley Hill were also  part of the P&JR.

The ‘gas’ and the ‘bangs’ both relate to No.2 herself; the R W Hawthorne Leslie 0-4-0ST, in the photograph. Works No.2859, she was built in 1911, and sold to Keighley Corporation Gas works, where she remained until the beginning of the second world war when she was sold to the Ministry of Supplies and put to work in a munitions factory near Dumfries. After the cessation of hostilities No.2 was transferred to ICI Nobel division and moved to Annan  before being saved and moved to Tanfield in 1976. No.2 has seen several spells of service at Tanfield and she was last overhauled in 2012 /13 – so she will be around for a few more years, all being well.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Spring Auto

It’s Severn Valley Railway’s Spring Gala time again, this year with a Southern theme. Fresh from overhaul B-o-B class 4-6-2 No 34081 92 Squadron is the star, with Ex-BR class 9F No.92214, and Ex-LMSR class 2MTT No.41312 adding a dash of Somerset & Dorset to the mix. I had a couple of trips over the Waterloo – Salisbury road with No.34081 92 Squadron, during my Nine Elms days and worked on the Ivatt tanks, as a passed cleaner, at Farnley Junction, though sadly I never did get a real go on a 9F, just one short trundle, with a goods working, from Stourton to Skipton, during the couple of months I spent at 55A Holbeck.

Ex-GWR 0-4-2T, No.1450, photographed here alongside Northwood Lane, heading for Bewdley, during the 2014 Gala, will do a double-headed run with the fresh from overhaul Ex-GWR 0-6-0PT, No.7714, which should be a fine sight. In my view, there’s something about these little 0-4-2Ts, hauling a single auto-coach, that somehow captures the essence of the bygone GWR branch line. The Pannier tank, No.7714, will also be hauling the afternoon goods train up Eardington bank, just as the sun will be fading, at around 17:15 / 17:30, another little Great Western branch line classic. Well, if the sun shines it is.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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The end of Southern steam

Galas with a Southern twist are in  vogue this year, 50 years after the last steam service ran on British Railways Southern region, in July 1967. My own association with the Southern region began with a transfer from 55C Farnley Jct. to 73A Stewarts Lane and my first main line firing trip, with a Southern locomotive, was on one of Maunsell’s moguls. It was a Saturdays Only service from Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge and my abiding memory of the trip was arriving at London Bridge with enough fire in the fire box to take us over Shap. Proof, if ever it was needed, of the benefit of knowing the road and the difference between soft Welsh coal and Yorkshire hard coal in how quickly, or not, each one burns.

This trip was also the only time I worked a passenger service with a Maunsell mogul, all the other duties I worked on them were either goods or engineers trains. These turns were all after I transferred from 73A Stewarts Lane to 70A Nine Elms, and mostly between Nine Elms and Basingstoke. We had a regular turn with them on a late night goods to Basingstoke, were we were relieved, by Salisbury men, I think. The return working for us was on the early morning stopper up to Waterloo, this was usually a Standard class 5, but could be a class 4, if you dropped lucky you might get a WC / B-o-B.

When the end came on the Southern, I had already moved back north and was still firing steam engines. I had a few months at 55A Holbeck, followed by a stint at 56A Wakefield, until it closed and I was ‘surplus to requirements’ – and that really was the end.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

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Gas works railways

Back in the days when coal gas was manufactured to provide the nation with lighting, heating, and cooking, no self respecting Gas Works was without a railway. Some of these gas works railways were quite extensive, such as that at Beckton, in East London. Nearer to home was the Redheugh gas works, at Gateshead, designed  Mr. V. Wyatt, who was, previously, Engineer to the Chartered Gas Company of Beckton.

Gateshead’s first gas works had opened in 1819 but a growing demand saw the opening of a new gas works at Redheugh, in 1876, for the Newcastle and Gateshead Gas Company. The site at Redheugh, which developed over a twenty year period had a network of rail tracks, gas holders, chimneys and other installations and was between the Tanfield Branch railway and the River Tyne. A number of former gas works locomotives have survived, including a 2ft. gauge rarity, built by Thomas Green of Leeds, for the Harrogate Gas Co., and now preserved, in working order, at the South Tynedale Railway, in Alston,  Another former gas works locomotive is this lovely little Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST, of 1911 vintage. Built for the Keighley Gas works, No. 2 also saw service with the Royal Ordnance factory and later Nobel’s Explosives, before arriving at the Tanfield Railway in 1976. Returned to traffic after an extensive overhaul, in 2013, No.2 is now in regular service. She is pictured here, shortly after leaving Andrews House, with a train for Sunniside.

 If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

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Coal, water, and turn

The scene is Grosmont MPD, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and resident Ex-LMS Class 5 4-6-0, No.44806, awaits coaling as, in the background, Ex-GWR 2-8-0, No.2807, takes water prior to going off shed. Coaling, watering, and turning was the meat and drink of the shed gang’s duties but, so too was 5s and 3s, Beanies,  Chase the Lady, and Solo was also popular. The shed’s contingent of cleaners often got to ‘help’ the shed gang in these basic but, essential duties and they learned how to play cards and dominoes too!

This ‘unofficial’ helping would often involve delights, such  as getting in the ash pit and raking out the ash pans; a task performed with a ten foot long metal rake. The depth of the pit meant that you performed this joyous task bent over, at roughly 45%, choking on the dust, from the ash and clinker you were dragging from the ash pan. Oh! the romance of the footplate – it was ‘tough’ love sometimes! On the plus side you got to drive the engine  from the pit to the shed road. Helping on the prep jobs you learned how to make up the fire from the ‘bit under the door’. The ‘bit under the door’ is the small amount of fresh coals which the steam rise kept going, while the engine awaited its next turn.

At Farnley Jct. where I started on the footplate, the cleaners also had turns where they helped with tasks like fitting new brick arches, helping the washout gang and the occasional turn on ‘shed labouring duties – a step up in pay. On the shed labouring jobs you got to shovel the ash and clinker out of the pits and into the ash wagons which would take it away for use in, I believe, the road building business. This was pretty back braking stuff, but great training for the day you became a passed cleaner and went out firing on the main line – or, as in my case, something a little more prosaic – station pilot!

 If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

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“19four feet eight and a half”

Ground zero, for most of today’s enthusiasts, is 1948, the year British Railways was created from, the war time ashes, of the ‘Big Four’. Battered by the blitz and,  the threat of bankruptcy hanging in the air, the creation of British Railways was hardly cause for unbridled joy. Yes, the railways were now publicly owned, but shareholders were still being paid, and Victorian infrastructure, locomotives, and rolling stock were all in daily use.

There were some bright spots, fresh paint and new liveries and the Peppercorn A1s  were rolling out of  Darlington and Doncaster works. The A1s were regular visitors to Leeds,  where I grew up, and I remember riding behind them on journeys to Peterborough, change for Lowestoft, and a fortnight at the seaside. Later, in the 1950s, 37B Copley Hill, had an allocation of 10, in 1955 – Nos. 60117 – 60120, 60122, 60131, 33, 34, 39, and 60141, I rode behind many of them on  spotting trips to Doncaster. Travel there and back on a platform ticket, spend all day at ‘Donny’, beside the ECML .and catch the ‘plant stream’ and then the train back to Leeds Central Station and a bus back home. And no one was any he wiser!

The locomotive in the photo, the new build A1 No.60163 Tornado, is pictured at Selside with the first of the Plandampf services on the S&C on Saint Valentine’s Day.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

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“On the waggon”

On one platform sits a woman with a young child on her lap, on the other a camera man with his tripod, set to record the scene. This picture of seeming rural tranquillity, is from Sunday’s “On the waggon” event at the Tanfield Railway. When I see or hear the phrase  ‘on the wagon’ – I don’t picture a drinker going teetotal, but what does pop up is a line from John Cooper Clarke’s poem, about the back streets of his native Salford,  “Beezley Street” – ‘ the boys are on the wagon, the girls are on the shelf, their common problem is, that they’re not someone else’. The verse continues; ‘the dirt blows out the dust blows back, you can’t keep it neat, a fully furnished dustbin, 16 Beezly Street.

It’s like the opening credits from early versions of Coronation Street, a thousand smoking chimneys – ‘keeping the home fires burning’ – and keep them burning coal. Yes we love a coal fire, but all the attendant mess?  I spent the last 18 months of my railway life at 56A Wakefield and coal was the depot’s bread and butter.  Colliery yards, the daily routine, empties in full ‘uns’ out. Everywhere, everything, everybody, covered in grime and yes Grimethorpe colliery was on the roster, Sharlston, Denaby and Manvers too.

The locomotive in the photo No.3 Twizell, spent her working life hauling wagons at the pit – now like some old pony put out to grass she hauls passengers and gleams like a new pin.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

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A little light and a lot of clag

Much is written about making clag, both serious stuff and the banter, some of it is written by former footplatemen and some by armchair critics. The engine making all the noise, and smoke, is Ex-LMS class 5 4-6-0, No.44767, now named George Stephenson, and fitted with outside Stephenson’s link motion. Not so much as making smoke but, bringing her own atmosphere, as she blasts under Darnholme bridge with a Grosmont – Pickering service.

During 7 years of footplate work I fired on 20+ different locomotive types from LMS Jinties to Bulleid’s Merchant Navy class, even had a go on a B1. I worked with hard coal, soft coal, and coal eggs and had jobs where you were walking into the tender to get to the coal. I worked every kind of service from the Royal Wessex to station pilot, engineers trains and ‘Spotters Specials’,  coal trains over the Pennines and fish trains from Hull docks, so it would, I think, be fair to say I have some experience in the clag making business.

In the books they tell you to fire light and bright, firing to a pattern with fist size lumps of coal – and sometimes you had to do just that. However, like any workman, on any job, you look for ways to make your days work easier. If it was easier to ‘box’ her up and sit down for a few miles, have a swig of tea and a fag, well that was what you did – the colour of the exhaust was of little consideration.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook  copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99  – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.

This is the link to Amazon for your copy:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY

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