Railway Timetables – my part in their downfall

After the excitement of a ride out over the Pennines with the Red Bank vans it was back to the day job cleaning engines, for the princely sum of £3 -12s – 0d a week – £3.60 in new money.  It wasn’t all cleaning engines though, some days, if you were in the Charge-Hand cleaner’s good books you might be helping the boilersmith build a brick arch – though more likely was a day on the pit shovelling ash out of the pit and then up into a 16ton mineral wagon. Handy practice for the shovelling to come.

Farnley Jct. crew worked across the Pennines to places like Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham,  Manchester, Liverpool and points in between – hence the photo of an L&Y engine and train. However, 55C wasn’t an L&Y shed it was originally a LNWR outpost; it opened in 1882 and closed in 1966, though I moved to 70A Nine Elms well before then but, that’s a story for another day.

The mess room at Farnley Jct. would, today, have been condemned as a health hazard, in 1962 it was simply a den of iniquity. Men on ‘spare’ turns,  shed men and cleaners playing card games and dominoes, wooden benches to sit on,  an ‘Oldham’  hot water geyser that looked like it was put in when the shed was built,  a big cast iron stove kept us warm in winter. In addition to learning, by heart, Rule 55 it was in the mess room I learned to play ‘Chase the Lady’ ‘Rummy’ and ‘5s&3s’ – essential elements in footplate life!

After months as a cleaner, the day arrived when I was booked to see the Shedmaster, Mr. Warren, and yes his nickname was ‘Rabbit’. I learned my rules and the ‘passage of steam’ until I could have recited them in my sleep but, it was a nerve wracking  half hour nonetheless. I passed, of course, now I was to be let loose  on the main line as a ‘real’ fireman. And so, on the Saturday evening I set off, on my trusty push bike, for my first ‘official’ firing turn.

To be continued……..

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:

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Getting stuck in – Cont’d

By the time I’d put the ‘few rounds’ on we were passing through Batley and the real fireman was clearing up the mess I’d made of the footplate – coal everywhere. His next job was having a look at the fire to see if I’d shovelled all the coal into one big heap. He put a few more rounds on to ‘even things up’. Dewsbury sped by, the injector was singing away and it was time for me to try again, same order, a few down the sides, under the door, and the back corners.

This was the easy bit of the route though; the line starts out of Leeds on a long brick built viaduct and climbs steadily to a summit in the middle of Morley tunnel from where  it dips to Ravensthorpe and Thornhill before beginning to ramp up again.. Beyond Mirfield, through Heaton Lodge Jct and Huddersfield, all the way  to Standedge Tunnel, a distance of about 14 miles, the line rises on gradients between 1:147 and 1;105. From here the real firing began and I was a spectator, well not quite. I was opening and closing the fire door between each shovel full – it was all great fun.

After clearing Huddersfield station there’s a short section at 1;96,   three short tunnels. Huddersfield, Gledholt and Paddock, after which it is pretty much 1:105  the rest of the way to Standedge, around 7 miles. The roar from the two engines as the reverser was dropped a few notches was music to the ears. Every shovel full the fireman on the pilot engine put on gouts of black smoke erupted mingling with that which we were chucking out -an epic scene as the two engines got stuck in to climbing the Pennines. The whole drama lasted, at best, ten minutes but, what an awesome ten minutes they were.

Everything in the firebox needed to be in good order at the top of the climb, at Marsden, as you plunged straight into another long tunnel and firing in a tunnel is a no, no.  Standedge tunnel is a few yards over three miles long and is about the only level stretch between Leeds and Manchester, on this route; Diggle troughs are at the west end of the tunnel. From here it is downhill all the way to Red Bank sidings and all that remained to be done was clean up the footplate and run the fire down.  Once inside at Red Bank the relief crew were waiting and we made our way down to Manchester Exchange / Victoria for a ride home on the cushions.

A new instalment on Saturday

 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:

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Getting stuck in

55 years before this photograph was taken I was learning what ‘getting stuck in’ meant, on a Black5.  That May morning I’d packed an extra butty and told my mum I’d late home from work , I didn’t say how late or why. I’d been a cleaner at Farnley Jct. 55C, for about 6 weeks, and had persuaded driver Donald Dent to take me along when they went off shed to work the ‘Red Bank Vans’, the returning Manchester – Newcastle newspaper train. It wasn’t my first ‘off shed excursion’ but, it was the first  real main line run  – and all the way over the Pennines to Manchester too.

I really had no idea what was coming, the Red Bank vans was a very heavy train and always double-headed, usually a combination of Black5 / Jubilee.  On the day, as I recall, it was a pair of Black 5s and I was on the train engine. I’d spent my cleaning shift cleaning the engines – and then helped to get ours ready. By the time we backed on at Leeds City station I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d won the lottery.

The only stipulation I had been given was that, when we passed the shed, I was to keep out of sight. Shortly after passing the shed comes Morley tunnel – one thing in a carriage , something entirely different on the footplate of a Black 5 hard at work, and with another one in front doing the same.  Morley tunnel, I should add, is quite a decent length, around 2.5 miles. After the tunnel I was given the shovel and instructed to, ‘put a few down the sides, in the back corners and under the door’. Having never done this, at speed, and with the engine hard it work, it wasn’t anything like as easy as it sounds. Staying upright and hitting the firehole was, ‘an achievement’, not burning myself or chucking the shovel in the box was another!

The climb to Diggle lay ahead – more in my next blog.

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:

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Aisgill – the long view

Not the usual view from Aisgill – No.46115 Scots Guardsman with Saturday’s Cumbrian Mountain Express is pictured here just above Angrholme farm on the long sweeping curve that will bring her across in front of us for the classic Aisgill shot with Wild Boar Fell for the backdrop.

In the 1950s, when the Scots were in their heyday on the Settle & Carlisle, British Railways used this route, between Lazonby and Crosby Garrett, to test the steaming rate of the new Britannia class Pacifics. using No. 70005 John Milton shortly after the engine was constructed.

The run was made to assess the maximum steaming capability rather than speed but the results were, nonetheless, astonishing. The load behind the tender was gargantuan  850 tons, way beyond anything which would be seen in normal traffic conditions.

The  details I have come from O.S. Nock’s famous Railway Magazine articles Locomotive Practice and Performance and they cover the run, over the Settle – Carlisle route, from Lazonby to Crosby Garrett, a distance of 23.1 miles which was covered in 29.15 minutes – this includes a p-way slack to just 15mph between New Biggin and Long Marton a stretch of line on which the gradient is between 1 in 440 and 1 in 660.

However, apart from a short dip after Appleby, on the approach to Ormside viaduct, the line is on a steady upward trend for the entire 23.1 miles with several miles at gradients varying between 1 in 100, 1 in 120, 1 in 132 and 1 in 166. The steaming rate over this section is calculated at the very high figure of 36,000lbs per hour. To maintain this rate for almost 30 minutes took the combined efforts of two firemen, and as Nock himself says, ‘It should be emphasized, however, that this was the performance of a lifetime, and one that it would be difficult to equal once in a hundred runs.’ (Nock, Locomotive Practice and Performance p193)

The Scot, on Saturday wasn’t on test but, she was going very well and flying a feather!!

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:

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Vintage LMS

We had a handful of these engines on the allocation at 55C Farnley Jct., at the start of the 1960s, when I was a cleaner / passed cleaner there; it wasn’t often we cleaned them though. There was a pecking order when it came to keeping the depot’s engines clean, first the Jubilees, followed by the Black 5s and the Ivatt 2-6-2Ts on station pilot duties and then, if there was nothing else, the Crabs would get a quick flick round with a paraffin soaked rag and some waste.

Despite its size, Farnley, at the beginning 1962, had just  two cleaners, myself and a lad called John Turner, there was also a small compliment of passed cleaners.The passed cleaners hated being back on the shed with a rag in their hands, and on cleaners pay, unless they’d got their turns in. It was rare for there to be more than four or five of us. The Jubilees worked forward the Newcastle – Liverpool and York  – Swansea services, taking over at Leeds City station from the V2s and A3s which worked the trains in from the North. The Black 5s regularly double-headed the Red Bank vans.

Much of the work performed by the Crabs was freight and parcels work and my first firing turn on one was with a goods, from Copley Hill Goods to Hillhouse Yard, in Huddersfield, in the wee small hours. There’s a nearly, might have been, in this tale too. The loco in the photo is No.13065 / 42765 and,  of the Crabs allocated to Farnley Jct, when I was there, one was No. 42766 and another was No. 42865, neither of them made it, sadly.

No.13065 is pictured, with a train of 1930s vintage LMS stock, climbing Eardington Bank on the Severn Valley Railway during the ‘Season Finale Gala’

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:

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Right outside our house

If you ever wanted a house, with a view of the railway from your bedroom window, this is it. No shortage of chimney chatter either as the crew try to build momentum for the steeper sections of the climb ahead. In this rural setting, the little terraced house by the railway is ‘charming’, ‘desirable’ even, swap the trees and hedgerows for more terraces and a mill or two and all of a sudden it’s the ‘house on the wrong side of the tracks’.

It’s easy to forget, when travelling on one of Britain’s ‘scenic’ heritage railways, that substantial parts of the railway landscape, were like the dark side of the moon twinned with Hades. And many a terraced street, adjacent to the railway, make Coronation Street seem positively opulent. Two up two down and a shared ‘lavvy’ four doors down the street, next to the bins, and the railway a 24 / 7 right outside the window, is not a selling point..In some parts, the railway thundered by on huge brick built viaducts at roof top heights – the great railway photographer Colin Gifford pictured their destruction and, in many cases, that of the railways around them too.

Like much of the railway, the wrecking balls and piles of burning timber are no more; the huge smokey engine shed is now the supermarket car park, the mill a ‘themed’ hotel, progress, of a kind.

No.44806 is pictured at Esk Valley, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

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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Ton ups – then & now

Like many of you, I dare say, I watched the programme about No.60163 Tornado doing a ton on the ECML, and, for the telly, it wasn’t a bad effort. By coincidence the programme was broadcast exactly 52 years after my own ton up moment on the LSWR main line on the night of May 15th 1965, with locomotive No.35005 Canadian Pacific.

The first, and probably most notable difference was there was no day long fitness to run exam;  No.35005’s exam was made by the driver in the course of oiling up. There were no special preparations of any sort, it was a regular turn, the 21:20 Waterloo – Weymouth mails. Driver, Gordon Hooper, wasn’t my regular mate and he never said a word about record setting or doing the ton – we did both.  However, some things were very similar, both engines rode well at speed and though I didn’t have a second fireman, I did have Inspector Brian Smith working the fire doors for me.

There wasn’t an invited audience, Press pack, or camera crew but, there were a number of performance loggers riding in the train; no GPS either, back then, it was all done with stop watches, tablets were what the bobby or the doctor gave you. We didn’t get three chances to reach the ton, just the one before we had to slam the brakes on to stop at Winchester.  By this point we were less than half-way through our working day. We worked the train forward from Winchester to Southampton where we were relieved – and then worked back to Waterloo. Just another day at the office – well not quite!

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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Wild Boar Fell

With Wild Boar Fell for a back drop, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, sweeps under the Kirkby Stephen – Garsdale road,  close to the summit of Aisgill, with Saturday’s Cumbrian Mountain Express. For many years this route was ‘home turf’ for the Scots, and only in the later years of steam did the Britannias and A3s begin to turn up in any numbers.  The two trains over the route, most commonly associated with the Scots, were the Thames Clyde Express and the Waverley, but they were not the only express duties the Holbeck Scots covered on the Leeds – Glasgow or Leeds – London St. Pancras services.

In 1948, when BR began, 7 Scots were allocated to 20A / 55A Leeds Holbeck, Nos. 46103,08/09,12/13,17, and 33; with the addition of No.46145 they were all still there until 1960, when they began to disappear.  Nos. 46103, 08, and 33 were the first to go, just as the first two Britannias arrived, Nos 70053/4 and they were joined by the A3s Nos. 60080,82,88,91/92, quite what generations of LMS men made of the ‘hand me down’ A3s is hard to say.

For a couple of months, at the beginning of 1966, I was a fireman at Holbeck, though, sadly, not on any of the above. The nearest I got was a run to Morecambe with a Black 5 and Cleethorpes with a B1 before moving to 56A Wakefield (Belle Vue), a misnomer if ever there was one.

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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1000 likes on FB offer

To celebrate Steam Age Day Dreams having reached 1000 Facebook followers, for the next 10 days the ebook version of “Gricing” is £1 off,  at just £3.95“Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children” –  a different take on our great railway heritage from someone who has 60 years of 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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

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The perfect puffer

This little railway scene, was once a part of George ‘The Railway King’ Hudson’s empire, when it was bought by his York & North Midland Railway, in 1845,  today it’s a slice of classic NER / LNER / BR (North Eastern Region). The station, built by the North Eastern Railway, to a design by their in house architect, Thomas Prosser, is little changed since 1908. Originally named Goathland Mill, it is at least as well known, to Harry potter fans, as Hogsmeade and to lovers of Heartbeat,  as Aidensfield. The effect this has had on the numbers of visitors to Goathland is staggering.

Thompson’s B1 was the archetypal secondary route passenger service locomotive on British Railways North Eastern Region’s lines in 1950s and early 1960s Britain. Designed during World War II, in LNER days, many of the B1s were built post-Nationalisation by British Railways, with a batch of ten being constructed at Gorton Works, which were opened, in 1848, by the Sheffield, Ashton – under – Lyne & Manchester Railway, later the Manchester Sheffield & Lincoln, and then the Great Central Railway. B1 No.61349 was the last locomotive constructed at Gorton, in 1951.

The MK1 coaches were introduced by BR in 1951 and the maroon livery was adopted post 1956. The original bogies  on the Mk1s gave a less than smooth ride which led to an ‘improved’ version entering production in 1958, with the modified MK1s becoming known, at  the time, as the ‘commonwealth bogie’ stock.

And finally, four little puffs of smoke as No.61264 eases out of  Hogsfieldland Station in the warm spring sunshine … aaaaaH!

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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