The railway landscape pt.II

In my previous post I wrote about the changes in the railway landscape when steam haulage finished on British Railways; at Tanfield they have kept alive another piece of the railway landscape – a Victorian engine shed on a colliery railway. Like the railways, the mining industry was Nationalised, and the colliery railways, which had been in private hands, became part of the National Coal Board. Modernising the pit railways was a much slower process than that of BR and steam hung on into the 1970s – a little more than a decade later and the pits themselves were disappearing.

In the 1855 built Marley Hill shed, the roads have pits to allow access under the engines, at the back of the shed, on the left of this photo, is a fully functioning forge, at the other side of the wall,  where No.20 is standing, is a working belt driven workshop with lathes, drilling machines, etc.  Marley Hill shed had pretty much everything that was required to enable the fitters to carry out most forms of practical day to day repair work on the industrial locomotives housed there – and they still do. They wouldn’t have had ‘electric’ inspection lamps though!

There are so many little details, the oil bottles, tool lockers, the everyday grime and detritus, is an atmosphere only time creates, even the overalled figure working in the smokebox could be from another age. You might have noticed that No.3 Twizell has had her dome cover removed – she’d been having work done on the regulator valve – all in a days work at Marley hill.

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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A railway landscape

When you look at this scene it is hard to believe that it’s all a recreation, a facsimile of the Great Central route circa 1960. There’s just so much packed in there, from  dollies in the sidings to telegraph poles, even track circuit diamonds on the signals. To the right of Quorn & Woodhouse’s starter is a 1/4 mile post, to the left you can just see the lineside mail collector for the TPO, every detail of the main line railway landscape has been preserved.

It wasn’t just the steam that disappeared from our railways, it was the landscape too.  What was a station, signal box, and sidings, like those in the photo, became a car park and supermarket. Even on lines which did stay open stations became a platform with a bus shelter, no ticket office, you by your ticket on the train, from someone called the ‘train manager’ or some other  meaningless title.

One wonders what might have happened had all the signalmen, station staff, lampmen etc. been replaced, as they have been; would lines which were closed as ‘unprofitable’ have been profitable if all these wages had been striped out of the equation? We’ll never know, of course, but my hunch is that quite a few would have been. Even a small loss was probably worth it for the social amenity value, provided by keeping the line open.

One thing is certain, a great deal of time, money, and effort, was spent closing railways and even more has been spent re-opening bits that were closed. All of which seems not only a dreadful waste, but an exercise in futility too.

The photograph shows No.73084 Tintagel, (for a day), making a spirited departure from Quorn & Woodhouse station. I fired the real, No.73084 Tintagel, on many trips up and down the LSWR main line, between 1963 & 66 – she never looked this clean!!

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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Baffling smoke signals

This shot of No.34081 92 Squadron, neatly demonstrates the problems of drifting exhaust obscuring the driver’s view. Bad enough in daylight, imagine what it’s like, in the dark, trying to spot that distant signal with exhaust rolling down over the cab.  It wasn’t only the Bulleid Pacifics which suffered from this problem. Many classes suffered from the issue, especially under light or ‘eased’ regulator openings, and all kinds of solutions were tried and tested to try and eradicate it.

On the ‘air smoothed’ Bulleids, alterations were made in the shape of the front cowling, to the size and position of vents in the cowling, and in the shape length and curvature of the smoke deflectors, in the air smoothed casing. Various experiments were carried out on several class of LNER Pacifics; they varied from something which resembled little more than fins alongside the chimney, through smoke deflectors of varying lengths and curvatures, or not, right through to the adoption of the putative ‘German style’ currently being carried by No.60103 Flying Scotsman.

The need for smoke deflectors is created by, low exhaust speeds, large boiler diameters, and low or double chimneys. The large boiler diameter creates a larger low pressure area behind the chimney, the lower exhaust speed means it is more easily pulled down into this area, the smoke deflectors are designed to lessen or remove the low pressure area behind the chimney and thus prevent the exhaust from being drawn down. If that’s not too baffling a way of putting it!!

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 blackout

“Railway in Wartime”, was the name of the event and No.44806 was decorated for the occasion. In Grosmont there was a miltary marching band, a Spitfire in the car park and folk, in 40s / 50s dress, dancing on the platform, to the sound of ‘big band’ music.  I know these events put bums on seats and generate valuable revenue but, the clash with the reality of the railway in wartime could scarcely be more glaring.

During ‘the war’ the mainline railway was just as much under enemy attack as the frontline and a regular target for the Luftwaffe during air raids as this quote from the Locomotive Journal illustrates:  “Within three minutes of attaching, a bomb fell close to their engine killing the driver and severely wounding the fireman. The driver and fireman at the stop block end of the train immediately rushed to the spot, and using a platform trolley lifted the bombed men from the footplate …proceeding along the platform road a few yards a second bomb crashed in the vicinity…. within a few seconds a third bomb fell a few yards away. Blinded by dust and smoke, … they struggled through… handed over their charge to a First Aid squadron.” (Locomotive Journal; 1941, 214)

No dancing on the platform there, or marching bands for that matter. On the footplate, especially at night, during ‘blackouts’ with the cab all sheeted up, must have been a hellish place to be during enemy attacks.  And if being blown up and injured wasn’t bad enough, the railway companies didn’t treat those injured in the line of duty with the respect they deserved, as this piece from a footplateman at one of the Birmingham depots illustrates:  “One of our drivers was on duty during a rather bad blitz when a land mine fell and exploded within 20 yards of his locomotive, inflicting great damage to the engine and serious injury to our brother, which caused him to lose one eye. Now this driver is a shed messenger. For his devotion to duty and harkening to the now-famous slogans “Carry On” and “Go To It,” he has been reduced to shed labourer, deprived of all claim to the footplate; and also, as a generous gesture, deprived of the mean rate. …. Do you think this is justice to a man who has served for 40 years handling trains during an air raid(s)? No, brothers, I say certainly not! Why should we be degraded and cast asunder like dirt?” (C.E.Taylor Locomotive Journal; 1942, 115)

Any serious examination of the railways and the men who ran them, during WWII, paints a very different picture to the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and a nation pulling together during very difficult days. The real railway in wartime, left men stranded miles from their home depots, when the railway was bombed behind them. They were paid overtime for this, the gutter press, however, accused them of profiteering. No, when you take a look at what really went on, marching bands and dancing seem to be in short supply and death, injury, wrecked lives, and destruction are all part of daily existence .

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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Collieries

This is Beamish Pit, now a feature in Beamish ‘open air’ Museum; the colliery as a tourist attraction. The last thing you would have described the collieries that I worked in and out of, during my firing days at Wakefield (Belle Vue), was a ‘tourist attraction’. Many of the buildings with broken windows,  rusting metalwork, a thick coating of coal dust everywhere you looked, and the grey / black mountains of slag, neither picturesque, romantic, or noble, just plain old fashioned industrial eyesores. Not so much ‘God’s green acres’  as ‘muck ‘n’ brass’.

I shovelled and burned many a ton of the coal the miners dug but, I didn’t envy them their job, digging at the bowels of the Earth. Footplate work could be hard graft but, at least you weren’t a mile underground, striped to the waist, and laying on your side with a pick in your hand, hacking at the coal seam. Seeing exhibits like Beamish Pit, on a nice sunny afternoon, it is difficult to imagine what life was like when it was in full production. The lack of safety, no National Health Service to treat you if you were sick or injured, as many were each year, quack remedies if you couldn’t afford to pay for a doctor, no sick pay either. Oh! Yes the good old days were well less than good for the vast majority.

No.18  was built, in 1877, by  Lewin & Co. and worked at Seaham Harbour until withdrawn in 1969. Stored at the harbour for 6 years No.18 then went to Beamish for restoration, she’s still there and still active, aged 140.

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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Sun, steam, and shadows

Maybe I should have called this, point, press, and hope, because that’s what I did. No.92214 is rolling off shed at Loughborough, a last minute replacement for the failed Standard class 5, No.73084 Tintagel, which had steam brake problems, during the Great Central Railway’s ‘End of Southern Steam’ Gala.

Since her restoration, No.92214, has been painted Black, Black and named Cock O’ the North, Green, and Green and named Leicester City, her current guise. She has also doubled, on ocassions, as No.92220 Evening Star. Built in 1959, No.92214, remained in service just six years, being withdrawn in August 1965. Surely a criminal waste of energy, money, and resources; especially as she was but one, of many, of the class 9Fs which met a similar fate.

What always strikes me is that far more angst and ire is generated by No.92214’s paint colour, name, or number, than the systematic, industrial scale, vandalism perpetrated upon the railways in the name of so called modernisation. Yes, of course modernisation is, at some point, inevitable. However, that which was conducted on British Railways was rushed, botched, and more costly, in every way, than it need have been.

Some years back, when 35005 Canadian Pacific was returned to steam at the GCR, I had lunch, on the ‘commemorative special’, with the CEO of Canadian Pacific’s European operations. During our chat he told me of CP’s expenditure on a survey to reopen the part of the GCR route, to reduce bottlenecks in CPs freight movements between Felixstowe and Liverpool. These bottlenecks in East – West movement are still there but we’re building HS2 – nothing improves.

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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Special 4

If the discs are indicating a BR headlamp code, then this is an express freight, being worked by No.34081 92 Squadron. However, if one reads it as a Southern disc code it could be for a special boat train from Southampton docks to Waterloo. Van trains like this were also regular ‘special’ workings from Southampton docks to Nine Elms goods, carrying fruit, often Bananas, brought in by the Union Castle Line boats.

These ‘banana trains’ could be hauled by anything from a U or N class mogul to a WC / B-o-B, if you were very lucky. More often than not they were in the hands of one of the 73xxx Standard class 5s or their little sisters the 75xxx Class 4s. The load would be three or four times that being pulled by 34081 92 Squadron. For many years No.34081 92 Squadron was an Exmouth Jct. engine and might have carried this code for Exeter or Devonport Jct. and GWR lines via St. Budeaux.

One of my own early trips to Southampton docks was to work one of these van trains. We travelled passenger to Eastleigh, walked down to the loco to collect our engine and then ran light from Eastleigh to the docks to collect the train.  These duties were always listed as Spl 1 or Spl 4, etc., depending on how many trains were needed to shift the ‘boat loads’.

I cannot close without a word of praise for the guys who overhauled 34081 92 Squadron. She looked absolutely wonderful and the livery is a delight too. Top job guys.

PS this is also my favourite photo from the gala too.

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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Every picture

Every picture, they say, tells a story. In this one it looks as though, No.34053 Sir Keith Park, is making a dashing exit. It is, however, quite the opposite, the regulator was closed and the exhaust effects are all down to the blower,  speed was little more than a brisk walking pace, unusually sedate for a gala.

50 years ago, when steam on the Southern was ending, the final weeks were anything but sedate and there were some seriously mad thrashes, especially with light loads, and several engines managed 3 figure speeds, around Fleet, on the ‘up’ road. 100mph is fast, in a comfortable car, on the footplate of a run down steam locomotive, just weeks away from being cut up, it is best described as exhilarating. It’s exhilarating even when they are in good fettle – I’ve got the t-shirt, as many regular readers know. For those who don’t, I was the fireman on 35005 Canadian Pacific on 15th May 1965 when she reached 105mph, on the run down to Winchester, with the 21:20 Ex Waterloo – load was around 360 tons.

This run also set the fastest known time, with steam, between Waterloo and Basingstoke 41 mins 30 sec net.  actual 43mins 46sec. However, I do have details, kindly provided by Steam Age Daydreams follower, Joe Jolliffee, of another run, on which I was the fireman.  In December 1964, on the 17:30 Ex-Waterloo, with No.35024 East Asiatic Company, we passed Woking in 23:55, 40 seconds up on the time with 35005 Canadian Pacific, on May 15th. Sadly, the rest of the run to Basingstoke was marred by a succession of signal checks, so we’ll never know what might have been the actual time.  It was, however, generally considered that with a load of around 360 to 400 tons it would, without checks or TSRs, have been possible to do it in 40 mins.

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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Hitting the buffers

No.73084 Tintagel  storms away from Qourn & Woodhouse, looking and sounding fantastic on her first public outting; Thursday morning, at the Great Central Railway’s gala preview day. No.73084 Tintagel, is, in fact, No.73156  disguised  to fit the ’50 years since the end of Southern Steam’ theme of the gala. No.73084 Tintagel was a Nine Elms engine when I worked there and I have worked on her footplate many times, on the 54s out of Waterloo to Basingstoke, and on Boat and Banana trains too or from Southampton Docks.

Generally reliable engines, the Standard 5s  could, on occasion, put in a fine performance, belying their class 5 status. However, get things wrong and they could turn their nose up very quickly. Too much fire under the brick arch,  or not enough air getting through the back damper and pressure would drop like a stone. In my own experience I would have to say that given the choice I would take Stanier’s 5 over the Riddles version, even if the later did give the fireman a ‘cushioned’ seat, whilst Stanier gave them a wooden one.

Sadly, this was to be No.73084 Tintagel’s only run that day, a steam brake failure led to her tapping the buffers at Leicester North, while running round her train. Fortunately, no damaged done, and she worked the return trip; to be replaced by the engine on stand by duties, Ivatt mogul No.46521. Some midnight oil burning must have gone on as, just as I was heading back home, around 3pm on Friday afternoon, she made a test run, light engine. Presumably, if all was well,  she would be available  for traffic on the Saturday services. I hope so, as the general verdict of those, at the lineside, who did see her was that it was good to see a Standard 5 back at work.

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 Great West North Eastern Railway

Hauling the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s handsome teak set, visiting GWR pair, 0-6-0PT No.7714, and 2-6-2T No.5199, round the curve at Darnholme and emerge into the autumn light. It was nice to see No.7714 working again, the last time I had seen her was at Arley, during the night running, at one of the SVR galas 8 or 9 years ago.

In 1965, in the company of a couple of railway chums, I travelled all over South Wales, mostly by public transport, and being hauled by engines like those photographed here. We made our pilgrimage to Woodhams and stayed in a B&B, in Barry, which had  feather beds and a wash stand in the room; the landlady brought hot water in a jug.  Our first port of call was Severn Tunnel Jct. a mainly freight shed with a substantial allocation, including a handful of the 51xxs and 3 of the 61xxs; No.5199 was not amongst them. We went, on one evening, to the cinema in Port Talbot; Port Talbot looked like Hades, when we came out of the movies but, I couldn’t tell you what we watched. After bashing round Cardiff, we  eventually made it all the way out to Carmarthen, before I headed back to London and  my next turns of duty at 70A.

The visit to Woodhams was very strange for me, as there were engines there which, only months before, I had been firing out on the main line. No.35018 British India Line, which has just returned to active service, was one of them and No.34010 Sidmouth was another; though in her case the return to steam is ‘on going’. Nos.34016 Bodmin, 34028 Eddystone, and 34039 Boscastle were all there and, again, all engines I had recently worked  on – survivors all. Two years later the whole Southern fleet was withdrawn and steam on the SR was all over, until it wasn’t.

I made quite a few trips working the 08:35 Ex-Waterloo with the West Countries and with No. 35018 British India Line, on the return working, of the same duty, as well as on the 17:30 Ex-Waterloo. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine, that after one of those trips, they were withdrawn, making me, possibly, the last fireman to have worked on them – we’ll never know.

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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Trains of thought

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