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Pegged both ways

In 2019  it will be 65 years since I began writing down engine numbers in a note book.  For seven years,  in the 1960s, I was a British Railways fireman at numerous sheds including 3 years at 70A, working on the former LSWR routes to Bournemouth and Salisbury. After graduatng from the University of Leeds, in the late 1980s, I’ve written about railway life, work, and the railway itself, in books, magazines, and newspaper spplements, not to mention taking 1000s of photographs of  steam engines at sites and locations all round Britain.

Steam Age Daydreams began in 2014 and since then over 600 blogs have appeared on all manner of topics. The most popular one, by a long way, was the  one from May 2015 about my 105mph run with Merchant Navy Class Pacific No.35005 Canadian Pacific – the link below will take you to it if you haven’t already read it. http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=1848

I am writing this to let you all know that when the current webhosting contract expires in December there are, currently, no plans to renew it – Steam Age Daydreams will cease.

The book about my lifetime of involvement with matters railway will still be available on Amazon – Below, is the link to it.

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

 

 

 

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Passing time?

It started in the classroom as some boring old fart droned on about the square on the hypothenuse, or how many pecks to the bushel, (Google that one). Now I’m the boring old fart musing  about the passing of time.  I have to admit I quite like the passing shot too and sometimes the results turn out better than the shot you lined up for.

Passing time has its own railway connections, of course, and many a railway photographer is grateful for knowing them – it cuts down the time standing in a field, expectantly. It must be said that passing times aren’t published for the benefit of railway photographers, even if many of us believe that is exactly why they are!!

I passed a fair bit of time on the footplate of this engine, in 1963 and 64, before her premature withdrawal in 1964, though not in this super shiney condition, nor on the Settle – Carlisle line. My own passage over the Pennines was via Copy Pit or Diggle with Dub Dees and usually with rafts of coal.

If you’ve more time to pass, check out the archive, there are over 500 articles to choose from on all manner of time wasting topics but, no algebra.

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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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When I’m cleaning smokeboxes

George Formby used to do one of his dirty ditties about ‘The Wigan Boat Express’, not that Metropolitan No.1 ever went anywhere near Wigan with an express boat train. And to the best of my knowledge there never was a Wigan Boat Express either. It’s more that cleaning smokeboxes is a dirty little duty, a chore with the wrong kind of char. On a prepare and dispose turn you’d get 3 or 4 of them to shovel out, sometimes more. Emptying the smokebox was only one part of the disposal process, for the fireman, there was cleaning the fire and raking out the ash pans too. The whole ritual seemed designed to create sufficient sweat that every stray partical of ash and coal dust ended up sticking to you.

Not all smokeboxes are equal – I’ve opened the smokebox door on many a West Country Class, 34101 Hartland included, with char up to the dart, still glowing hot at the bottom. Those Bulleid smokeboxes  go a long way back too. You did sometimes wonder if the fireman who disposed her last had actually bothered to clean the smokebox.

And some are not so very big at all, like this one on the Burrows Well Tank ‘Willy’ which  barely holds enough char to fill a wheel barrow.

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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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No smoke without fire

How  very transitional, a steam engine coming to the rescue of a failed diesel, or even been given the job of piloting one. However, in this instance the diesel is there to alleviate the fire risk caused by this summer’s drought; though as can be seen, No.45699 Galatea was putting in a little effort too. And, if one can be thankful for small mercies, at least the diesel almost blends in; unlike the hideous blue one with the Union Jack, which sticks out further than a sore thumb.

No.45699 Galatea has just hit the 1:100 gradient, you can see that change about 4 coaches back, as she powers across Birkett common towards Birkett tunnel. This stretch of the line has, over the years, seen some memorable test running; during 1937 it was the turn of Leeds crew Driver W. North and Fireman H. George of Holbeck who with engine No.5660 Rooke completed the Carlisle – Leeds run of 113 miles in 115mins 38sec.  On that test run the section from Carlisle to Aisgill summit, a distance of 48.4 miles, was made in 48 mins 36 sec, the load was 305 tons.

On the marginally more difficult north bound working this same engine and crew made the Leeds – Carlisle run in 117 mins. In his book the “Jubilees of the LMS”, John Clay, (from which this information has been taken), notes that on the banks the engine was worked at 35 – 40% cut-off and full regulator. He also comments that the fireman was to be commended as there were no reports of steaming problems. Nice to see the fireman being given his dues.

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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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50 years down the line

Saturday August 11th 2018 and No.45690 Leander  clears Shotlock Tunnel with the re-run of 1T57 aka ‘Waverley’ in real time. No.45690 Leander was one of three engines working over the Settle – Carlisle line on this auspicious occasion. All three were diesel assisted because of the fire hazard brought about by the drought. In this photo the load was being shared in what seemed to be 50 – 50.

By contrast, in this shot of No.45699 Galatea with the ‘up’ Cumbrian Mountain Express, at Birkett common, where No.45699 Galatea was putting in a little more than 50% with matching clag and a feather at the safety valves. And then there was No.60009 Union of South Africa – perhaps the less said the better.Some of you might have noticed Steam Age Daydreams has been missing from Facebook – it will not be returning. Please feel free to let other SADD readers know that in future all updates will appear only here.

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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September 64

Regular Steam Age Daydreams supporter, David Fisher, very kindly sent me a copy of Clive Groome’s book,  “British Steam The Final Years – (Extracts from the diary of a Nine Elms Engine Driver)”, and in there, under the entry for the 1st to 5th of September 1964, I was Clive’s fireman on the 19:54 Waterloo – Basingstoke service. I must have been covering for his regular mate as the 19:54 was a 4 Link duty and I was a 3 Link fireman,  where my regular mate was Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders.

The engines Clive lists on the down runs were all BR Standard Class 5s Nos. 73043, the now preserved 73050, and the ‘Standard Arthurs’  No.73083 Pendragon and 73112 Morgan Le Fay.  Clive comments on my efforts by saying I, ‘Worked hard to good effect’ – which is nice to know. The 19:54 Waterloo – Basingstoke had been my first real trip out on the former LSWR main line, after I arrived at Nine Elms in 1963, that Clive had noted in his diary, 18 months later,  working with me, and on this turn in particular, makes his comments even more enjoyable.

The return workings, which  Clive also comments on, were all made with West Country Class Pacifics; Nos. 34025 Whimple, 34047, Callington and 34104 Bere Alston.  The comments about this were that all of them got up to 50 plus from starting out of Farnborough to passing MP31 but, No.34025 made it over the top at 55mph on 35% cut-off and full regulator – I must have had three shredded wheat for breakfast that day!

It is no surprise that I was working with Driver Groome, as No.3 Link was very much a cover Link with whole weeks booked “HR”, ‘Holiday Relief’. On these weeks you might find yourself covering one fireman for a whole week or for a different one each day and, as a result, you fired for  different drivers and on different turns each day. In this instance it very much looks as though I was covering for Clive’s regular mate for the whole week.

I do find it strange sometimes to be able to read about events which took place in my life, more than fifty years ago. Knowing exactly where on the planet you were, at what time, and, were my efforts with the shovel feature in timing logs, knowing to the very second, is so unlike the usual experience of the past where everything is so much less precise.

The Photo, taken at Quorn & Woodhouse on the GCR, shows BR Class 5 Standard No.73084 Camelot, aka No.73156.

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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When the last fires dropped

50 years ago I stepped off one of these work horses for the last time, collected my final pay packet – redundancy beckoned. No more baked onion, cooked on the manifold, or cheese toasties done on the shovel. No more signing on at 04.00 for, a freezing cold, tender first run down the Dearne valley line either. The last six months of terminal decline did little for moral.

In my all to brief footplate career, I count myself lucky to have been able to experience a whole range of different workings from a humble branch line goods to the Royal Wessex. I fired for young drivers only a few years older than me and for others who had begun their railway service in World War I. At Wakefield, my final depot, even the link system was scrapped, because so many turns were now single-manned diesel jobs. All the firemen were put in one long link covering the remaining steam jobs and diesel turns requiring a second man. A situation which could see you working with a different driver every day you were on duty.

More and more duties were signing on and off at Healy Mills and I was spending quite a bit of time on English Electric Class 3s, not what I signed on for. Once I knew that I hadn’t got the vacancy I applied for at Blyth, it was all over. No fairy tale ending, no big send off, just mount the bike jump on the kick-start and go home. I didn’t even take a souvenir, though I do now have a 55C shed plate – the place where it all began. Amazingly railway preservation and operation has now been going for longer than British Railways was in existence and some of the preserved locomotives have spent more time at work, in private hands, than they did during their BR service.

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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200 years of progress

In 1815 this was the white heat of technology – a beam engine with a few cogs and wheels, which, if only it would stop breaking the rails, or itself, would pull 10 times the tonnage of a horse, further and faster. They say money makes the world go around, it certainly made the wheels on the engine go round and round. These engines were not the mass made product of the later Victorian age, they are craftsman built, every nut and bolt made by hand; and a great deal of head scratching trial and error.

The arrival of Puffying Billy had taken milennia, in just three generations since we’ve gone to the world wide web,  put men on the moon, have mass surveillance, and the Maglev. You can travel to Tibet on a high speed train, have a Pizza delivered to your door, swim with dolphins and blow each other to bits a million times over. And a few other things besides.

And in all that change it was the steam engine, steam power, and steam locomotives which have provided the driving force – even nuclear power stations turn water into steam to drive the turbines. The really odd bit in all this is that despite what many folk think steam power wasn’t the bright spark of James Watt, it wasn’t even British in origin, nor even 19th century – the ancient Greeks discovered the power of steam – the Aeolipile, a form of steam turbine, was invented in the 1st Century AD  by Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician and inventor.

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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‘dreamin’ in the midday sun’

On a hot summer’s day a shady spot, under the trees, watching the trains go by is as good as it gets. And every school holiday from 1954, until I began working on the railway, in 1962, was spent, ‘watching the trains go by’ – it’s why Steam Age Daydreams, is “Steam Age Daydreams”. The following details, from a recently acquired note book, are for a trip from Leeds to Doncaster at Whit weekend 1958 – I could, quite easily, have been there myself as my own trips to Doncaster were fairly frequent – with the ‘Plant stream’ being a highlight.

There are 168 numbers listed representing close to 30 different classes of locomotives, including the ‘one of’ W1 Class 4-6-4 No.60700. No.60017 Silver Fox was another on the list – in 1936 she held the British record of 113mph, attained on ‘Stoke bank’, hauling the ‘up’ “Silver Jubilee” service. The other A4s that day were No.60025 Falcon, 60029 Woodcock, 60032 Gannet, 60033 Seagull, 60006 Sir Ralph Wedgewood,  60010 Dominion of Canada, and the ‘preserved’ No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley. One of the half-dozen A2s in the list was the rebuilt P2 No.60506 Wolf of Badenoch. In amongst the A3s was No.60103 Flying Scotsman and 60110 Robert the Devil. The 7 A1s present included No.60113 Great Northern, the controversial rebuild of Gresley’s first Pacific.

The bucolic scene photographed is in the open air museum at Beamish and the signal box and station are from Rowley, brought here brick by brick and re-assembled. The locomotive, 1938 built Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST ‘Wissington’, is, like me, visiting the museum.  Wissington’s working life was spent hauling sugar beet from farms in west Norfolk to the BSC ‘Wissington’ sugar refinery.

At the end of her working life Wissington was donated to the the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Preservation Society in 1978; following a lengthy overhaul she returned to steam in 2012. Both the Midland and the Great Northern were represented in the notebook, the GN by J52s and  J50s, the Midland, well Midland design, by 3F No.47405. There was also former GCR D11 ‘Director’ 62666 Zeebrugge and an Ex-GER 0-6-0 J69, just to round out the numbers.

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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“Nice bit of Wensleydale Gromit”

Back in 1964 I was one of, if not the last, firemen to work on this engine before she was sent for scrap. We had her on Bournemouth – Waterloo service and then next thing she was withdrawn – no idea why, she certainly wasn’t a failure when we stepped off at Waterloo.

I could never have imagined then, that 54 years later I would be standing in a meadow, in the heart of Wensleydale, watching her steam by on her way to Redmire. Even now, several hours later, it still borders on surreal, a Merchant Navy Class Pacific sauntering along a North Eastern Railway branch line. Sometimes the truth really is stranger than the fiction.

The reason behind No.35018 British India Line being there was the 1940s event in Leyburn, the principal village along the line. When the Wensleydale Railway didn’t have a steam engine for the event, West Coast Railways stepped up to the plate and offered them the use of No.35018 British India Line, for the weekend – top marks to WCR for that.

While there every chance that this is  the first time a MN that has been up this line, there is at least some connection with the 1940s event, as the MNs rolled off the drawing board and onto the rails in the middle of WWII, 21C1, (later No.35001 Channel Packet) entered service in June 1941 and the first ten were all in service by July 1942. No.35018 British India Line was one of the second batch of 10 and was built in 1945, she was the 1st to be ‘converted’ and also played a part in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials, so she’s a bit of a star.

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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