Steam, Diesel & Electric

No.6longannett

A little while ago I was given a pile of back issues of Railway Magazine, from the 1930s and 40s, one of which just happens to be the February 1936 edition. Eighty years ago this month, Railway Magazine readers were enjoying articles on; 100 years of German Railways, The Early Days on the London & Greenwich Railway, North American Railway Speeds in 1934, Early Locomotives in Canada, and Part 1 of The Culm Valley Branch of the GWR, as well as regular features, Locomotive Practice & Performance, The Why and the Wherefore, Pertinent Paragraphs, and What the Railways are doing.

In the ‘What the Railways are doing’ feature, was this little gem; “On New Year’s Day, the Bristolian made an inauspicious start to the year in consequence of “King” class 4-6-0 No. 6011 developing a hot box, and having to come off the train at Foxhall junction, Didcot. A “Hall” class 4-6-0 was commandeered, and having regard to the stop and consequent delay, and the 6ft.wheels of the substitute, good work was done to get the train into Bristol no more than 31 min. late.” No internet then – just image waiting best part of 2 months to hear what was happening!!

It might be just me, but I got the impression, from flicking through these pre-war, and war time, editions, that there was a much more ‘World’ railways theme in them. Photographs and articles about European and North American railways feature in many and ‘correspondents’, from around the globe, feature in the letters pages.

The ‘steam diesel and electric’ is Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway’s NCB No.6  acting station pilot, the diesel is sat in the head shunt and the electric bit is Longannet power station, visible in the back ground, just above and to the right of the diesel.

For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Bobby on the bells

As Ex-LYR 0-6-0 No.957 trundles through Damems Station, with  a goods train from Keighley to Damems Loop, purely by coincidence, I have caught the bobby,  sending a message, on the telegraph. The Damems bobby is also station master / porter, and there’s a level crossing to open and close, you can just see the gate to the left of the engine. On a busy Gala day I can imagine the Damems bobby is a pretty busy chap, despite being in the tiniest of boxes on the tiniest of stations, barely more than a coach length and reputedly the smallest in preservation.

Trains only stop ‘by request’ at Damems, passengers wishing to alight there must inform the guard. The Damems bobby will stop the train, by flag, if passengers wish to board the train. The platform at Damems is quite low and the bobby, in his ‘porter’ mode places small wooden steps by the door so passengers may board/alight in safety. If you are wondering why anyone would visit Damems, and relatively few folk do, I can provide one very good reason to pay a call to Damems Station the lavatory. By comparison with the station the conveniences are splendiferous, a closet of commodious proportions – not quite a throne room, but. Well you’ll just have to pay a call at Damems yourself and find out!!

PS the K&WVR gala starts next week 3rd of March

For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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2001 – not a space odyssey

2001conRailway Magazine, January 1936, and CJ Allen’s Locomotive Practice & Performance, with additions by OS Nock, is all about the P2s and, in particular, over the Edinburgh to Aberdeen route.  Train loadings in the detailed running logs were in the 475 to 500 ton range, over a very difficult stretch of railway – the very loads and railway these engines were designed for.  The ‘performances’ ranged from ‘a little disappointing’ to ‘very fine’ and seem to have been determined as much by the driver’s intentions as engine capabilities.

The P2s were all pretty ‘experimental’ locomotives being built with different types of valve gear, boiler, and firebox arrangements, even the shapes changed, some were built with Gresley’s ‘classic’ Bugatti style streamling, others, like No.2001 Cock O’ the North, began life with the V front design, as pictured, and then became streamlined.  In 1943 / 44 Gresley’s successor Edward Thompson rebuilt them all as A2 class 4-6-2s, a choice which was not without some rancour and division, but I am not going to add to it.

On the subject of rancour and division; one of the original P2s was named after one of the most unpleasant members of the Scottish ‘nobility’ ‘Wolf of Badenoch’, a.k.a Alexander Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan. Wolf of Badenoch, it seems, was a bit of a ladies man and not very fond of stroppy churchmen. His run in with Bishop Bur, Bishop of Elgin, ended with Badenoch burning down Elgin cathedral, a church, and monastic ‘hospital’. In today’s more enlightened times, a new P2 is under construction, by the same  dedicated group of enthusiasts, who built No.60163 Tornado – we can only wish them well.

For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Paddling out a Mogul

31806exquornmarmk1When I first moved  to the Southern I spent a couple of months at 73A Stewarts Lane, which was, at the time, pretty much done with steam. However, there was one turn which did still have steam traction, an early, Saturday morning, working from Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge. It was on this turn that I fired my very first Southern Railway locomotive – a Maunsell mogul, just like this one, with a train of around the same proportions, though the stock, appropriately, was painted in SR green.

When I moved across to 70A Nine Elms I did a few more turns on these engines, but never again on a passenger duty. I recall a night goods working to Basingstoke which was a fairly regular turn for them, or their big sisters the S15 4-6-0s. Not all my memories of these engines are rose tinted; far from it. One of the most difficult fire cleaning jobs I ever had was on one of their number. It was during that brief spell at 73A and the fire box was full, from front to back, and I swear the clinker was a foot thick – and believe me there was a lot of cussing and swearing going on. The whole lot had to be shoveled back out the firehole door, the same way it went in, before being jettisoned via the cab door, using a paddle, ( A “Paddle” is a metal handled shovel about ten feet long).  You should try it some time – it’s good for the soul!

In the photograph, No.31806, on a very windy day, is departing from Quorn & Woodhouse with a train for Leicester North, during the GCR’s ‘Winter Gala’.

For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Marmite

34053awayquornOutside the gate of Nine Elms MPD was the Brooklands Arms – the ‘Brook’, was a den of iniquity if ever there was one, lock-ins, and card schools were a speciality. Inside the gate was another world altogether and one which, early in 1963, I was about to become immersed. I hadn’t planned to end up at 70A, that was just the way things turned out. My chances of becoming a ‘main line’ fireman at my first depot, 55C, were slim and the only chance seemed to be a move South were jobs were plentiful and railway shift work was rapidly becoming unpopular.

I had barely seen a Southern Railway locomotive let alone fired one, and to my eye, accustomed as it was, to the engines of Stanier, Gresley, Thompson and Fairburn, the Bulleid Pacifics did look a little alien. However, once I got to grips with soft coal, wide fireboxes, and the particular likes and dislikes of were to put the coal and in what quantities, I grew very fond of them, [Bulleid’s Pacifics], indeed. The hum, at night, of the Stones generator, and the electric lighting which resulted, the rocking grates which made disposal so much easier and above all their phenomenal steaming qualities, made it hard not to like them. And it was such fun, on trains like the ‘up Royal Wessex’, to hurtle through Basingstoke Station, it’s platforms packed with commuters, hanging on the whistle.

For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Grey Van Man

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My railway days ended at 56A Wakefield (Belle Vue);  I had put in for a vacancy at Blyth, which did still have a few steam jobs but, as it turned out I didn’t have enough seniority for the Blyth vacancy and my second choice had been redundancy. And so, when the place closed, I became ‘redundant’, a brief letter, a few extra quid, and that was it. Seven years of steaming about the country, on railways as diverse as the LSWR main lines from Waterloo to Bournemouth and Salisbury and the freight only Dearne Valley line to Denaby, on footplates great and small, was now just a memory.

In those final weeks there was an awful lot of working ‘engine and van’, or worse, you went to work, your job was ‘caped’, and you sat around for a couple of hours and then got sent home – not as much fun as it sounds. A lot of 56A’s work was coal and in 1967 more and more of it was going by road.

There was no M62 motorway back then and we could see roads, like the A58 or A62, and the ‘traffic jams’ being created by the coal lorries, as we sat in sidings or loops in places like Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmeroyd,  not to mention a great many other points west, as we steamed over the Pennines. Coal and coal trains belonged to the grim and not so distant past; in 1967 everything was going to be clean, cheap, Nuclear power and a bright shiny future. Well that was what we were being told, but not everyone was enthusiastic about the new marvels of the age.

For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Working on the crane gang

shedcranePhoto: Real Photographs Ltd., Photographer ‘unknown’.

The crane is marked ‘Thornton’  and ‘N E’ so this might be Thornton MPD, post 1923, if anyone can confirm this, or suggest an alternative, please feel free to do so, and any details about the locomotive would, likewise, be welcomed. It’s a reasonable bet that it’s an 0-6-0 goods engine, but of which class? From the way the crane driver and fitters are standing, it looks very much as though they posed for the photographer – don’t know what they’ve done with their hard hats and hi-vis overalls though!

I’m no expert in these matters, but I suspect the crane is part of a ‘breakdown’ crane / train and engine lifts for the fitters are a bit of an ‘extra duty’ for the crane driver and his machine. Many of the larger MPDs carried out fairly substantial maintenance work, and remetalling white metal bearings, like axle bearings, was not uncommon. As a fireman, you didn’t have too much contact with the fitters, but I do recall, from the MIC classes, that fitters would often be called upon  to speak when the discussions were about  issues with injectors, or the vacuum brake. The Mutual Improvement Classes were a god send for many footplatemen, and was usually the only ‘training’ they received,  as there was no ‘formal’ training provided by the railway companies.

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Them wor t’ days.

173NBR

Photo: Real Photographs Ltd., Photographer ‘unknown’.

These 0-6-0s were ‘designed for long distance main line goods traffic’, on the North British Railway and between 1888 and 1900 168 were constructed, most were built at Cowlairs, with around 30 being built by outside contractors, Neilsons and Sharp Stewart. What is immediately apparent is the lack of anything even remotely resembling a cab. One can scarcely imagine what it was like on the footplate, on a dark and stormy night, in the height of a Scottish winter, crossing Rannoch Moor or dragging up the climb to Whitrope summit in the Scottish borders, both NBR routes.

Despite appearances these engines did survive longer than you might imagine, they became, following some fairly hefty ‘rebuilding’ the LNER Class J36 and one of them NBR No.673, BR No.65243 Maude survived long enough to make it into preservation.

No location details are given but, judging by the piles of smokebox ash and clinker, a shed or a goods yard stabling point is a distinct possibility.

For anyone interested, I have a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Marley Hill MPD

20tanshed

Shed bashing, for many a young lad in the 1950s and 60s, was a regular weekend pastime. Sundays were the best, because fewer trains ran on Sundays and almost all the sheds were full. Shed bashing involved a lot of scurrying about, trying not to be seen, at least not by the Running Shed Foreman or his deputy. For myself and a couple of chums the years 1964 and 65, even though I was a main line fireman, were the ‘pilgrimage years’.

In 64 and 5 we did a complete bash, or almost, of all the sheds, and most of the routes in Scotland, Wales, and the West of England. On the Scottish Tour we spent almost every night ‘sleeping on the train’ and, memorably, rode a Glasgow tram out to the shed at Yoker – 65G. Yoker was a tiny two road shed with huge wooden doors, anything further removed from ‘top shed’ was hard to imagine. In 1960, as far as I can tell, Yoker had six locos allocated, 5 Class 3F 0-6-0Ts of 1895 vintage and one Class 2F 0-6-0 No. 57259,  a Drummond designed ‘standard goods’ built in 1883. The allocation in 1964 was probably even smaller and, if memory serves, there was just one engine on shed when we got there. Still, the tram ride was nice!

The shed in the photograph is the 1855 built Marley Hill MPD, to the right of No.20, there’s a vintage belt driven workshop,  behind No.3 Twizell, the engine on the left, is a forge and, on occasions, this can be seen ‘working’, or at least a demonstration of the work which would have been done when Marley Hill was a ‘regular’ working depot.

For anyone interested, I have a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, 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: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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Pictures of trains

178crewsadd
A little while ago, in his “Thin Red Line” column, David Wilcock, the railway journalist and photographer challenged railway photographers to become more imaginative to look beyond the ¾ front view from tried and tested locations – the ‘Kinchley Lane syndrome’, as he described it. As an exemplar Wilcock chose the work of Colin Gifford, and Gifford was, unquestionably, one of the great railway photographers. However, what Gifford photographed was the death throes of the steam operated railway, warts and all. Grimy, steam-oozing, work stained locomotives in back streets and sidings, in run down engine sheds, or down some ‘freight’ only branch line, scenes which, sadly for some, are no longer with us. The pits are shut, many of the terraced houses have been demolished, one of Gifford’s more potent images is of terraced houses in Accrington being demolished, as a goods train passes in the background. Now, even the humble 20ton mineral wagon is a part of the ‘heritage’ ‘Windcutter’ rake. Today’s railway photographers simply do not have the trains, landscapes or opportunities that Gifford and his peers worked with. In short, we are where we are.

Wilcock acknowledges that Gifford’s work went beyond simple railway photography, entering the realms of social documentary. Gifford worked predominantly in monochrome whereas today’s photographer works primarily with colour – this alone creates a very different atmosphere and flavour to a photograph. Today a debate rages about the levels of digital manipulation – in Gifford’s era there was still manipulation and hours could be spent dodging and shading and experimenting with different exposures in the darkroom – a finished print could be, and often was, a very different picture to the one captured on the negative.

9466bfstgds

Gifford was an Art School graduate and would, as a result, have been taught about composition, aesthetics, and ‘creative’ techniques and thinking. The benefit of his education in the creative arts should not be underestimated. There is another issue here and one which is central to this debate and that is – one man’s ‘great photograph’ is another man’s ‘what’s that all about’. Monet, Turner, and Van Gogh painted ‘railway pictures’ but one wouldn’t call them ‘railway artists’ as we would Cuneo, or Philip Hawkins. Indeed what seems to be most valued in ‘railway’ artistry is photo-realism. The nearer to photographic reality the railway artist gets the greater is the general acclaim, amongst lovers of ‘railway’ art. Surely there is a contradiction here? On the one hand we want our ‘railway’ artist to produce works with a high degree of ‘photo-realism’ whilst wanting our railway photographers to become more artistic / imaginative in their interpretation of the steam railway.

The best photographs, and for that matter the best paintings, are usually as much about the light and its quality as about the actual subject. I’ve heard photographers on the lineside say ‘if there’s no sun they don’t even bother going out to take pictures’ – and editors do, most definitely, favour the sunlit shot. Why shouldn’t they when it is the light which brings the picture to life.

90711gdsslipedit

However, Gifford made use of the flat light of a grey misty morning in a manner which is hard to duplicate for many of the reasons I’ve already given. Similarly, Gifford’s use of light in his ‘engine shed’ photographs was largely possible only because of the dilapidated structures of the sheds themselves. Today we are very short of dilapidated engine sheds – Didcot, Tysely, Barrow Hill, and Marley Hill, on the Tanfield Railway, are practically the only surviving examples and they are not really noted for their dilapidation. Carnforth with its Cenotaph coaling plant is, to all intents and purposes, off limits.

Over the years there has been a steady growth in the ‘photo charter’ market; photo charters usually consist of smallish numbers of people banding together to hire a locomotive and train, specifically to cater to their photographic requirements, be they run pasts with volumes of black clag, or posed shots, after dark, in a station, with accompanying ‘re-enactors’ in suitable period garb. Even, O Winston Link style, night time line side photography is staged, with the engine crews in on the act. Whether all this is ‘being more creative’ is, perhaps, debatable. What seems to be going on is re-creative, in so much as tableaux are being designed, actors posed, lighting set, not to create something new and novel, but to re-capture scenes, which were once common-place, the lone couple, a la Brief Encounter, or the squaddie going back to barracks, I’m sure you get the picture. This nostalgically mediated past, digitally enhanced, and meticulously detailed does move away from Wilcock’s ‘Kinchley Lane Syndrome’ and ¾ front view, but in what direction.

62712passshot

Unlike yesteryear, when trains rumbled by, day and night, all year round, and in all weathers, today’s steam railway photographer has limited locations, limited running days, and limited motive power and that’s not to mention that trains such as goods, minerals, parcels, TPOs etc; are even more limited, usually only appearing for gala events, or in the aforementioned photo charters. Night time and ‘after dark’ operations are similarly limited in scope and number. The railway landscape too has changed and is still changing. The views of old mills are now of ‘industrial’ units, the rows of terraced houses, which were being bulldozed in Gifford’s photographs, are now ‘modern’ housing complexes, lines of trees and shrubbery obscure once open views.

The very nature of the heritage railway line takes it away from the mundane, workaday, railway Gifford photographed so eloquently. The heritage environment isn’t about bulldozed houses, piles of rubble, and burning rafters, it’s more of a cream tea and gentility vision – pictures of a grim, grey, Northern wastelands don’t really feature as a tourist draw.

If you’ve enjoyed my photographs and blog, why not try my book “Gricing: The Real story of the Railway Children”. This is the link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

Here are some  totally unsolicited comments from people who have read  Gricing:  ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot.’ 

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc; and would heartily recommend it to readers’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ I was given what I believe to be your book called Gricing the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

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