Rough trip

The 08.35 Ex-Waterloo  – Weymouth was a regular 3link turn and the usual motive power was a Bulleid WC /B-o-B but, not today. Waiting at the end of the platform was one of Riddles’ Class 5 4-6-0s, the 08.35 wasn’t an express service but, the load was usally 10 or 11, equal  to 360 to 400 tons, a fair load for a class 5. Climbing onto the footplate and the day at the office got a whole lot worse, the engine we should have had was a last minute failure and this one was the spare.

There had been little time to build a proper fire, the fire doors were shut and the blower on, steam pressure was at 180, the boiler, a little more than half full, not a great place to be 5 minutes from the off. This was the good news, the bad bit was that the tender was full of ‘bricquettes’ less politely known as ‘donkey’s bollocks’, which might have burned hotter! One of the less pleasant side effects of the bricquettes is the dust from them really made your eyes sting – black faced, and with red rimmed eyes, at the end of the shift you looked like an extra from Zombie Apocalypse.

However, I was just at the start of the shift and relief, at Bournemouth Central, was over a hundred miles away. Boiler pressure had risen to 200lbs by the time we got the right away. When ‘sooty’ shut off for the slack through Clapham Jct. it was back down to 180, it was going to be a rough trip.

The photo shows one of the Caprotti fitted versions of the Standard Class 5, No.73129, at the head of the mails during one of the Great Central Railway’s Gala events, sadly not a ‘Standard Arthur’ at the head of 11 BRMKIs in SR green livery…….

TBC

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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Rough trip

The 08.35 Ex-Waterloo  – Weymouth was a regular 3link turn and the usual motive power was a Bulleid WC /B-o-B but, not today. Waiting at the end of the platform was one of Riddles’ Class 5 4-6-0s, the 08.35 wasn’t an express service but, the load was usally 10 or 11, equal  to 360 to 400 tons, a fair load for a class 5. Climbing onto the footplate and the day at the office got a whole lot worse, the engine we should have had was a last minute failure and this one was the spare.

There had been little time to build a proper fire, the fire doors were shut and the blower on, steam pressure was at 180, the boiler, a little more than half full, not a great place to be 5 minutes from the off. This was the good news, the bad bit was that the tender was full of ‘bricquettes’ less politely known as ‘donkey’s bollocks’, which might have burned hotter! One of the less pleasant side effects of the bricquettes is the dust from them really made your eyes sting – black faced, and with red rimmed eyes, at the end of the shift you looked like an extra from Zombie Apocalypse.

However, I was just at the start of the shift and relief, at Bournemouth Central, was over a hundred miles away. Boiler pressure had risen to 200lbs by the time we got the right away. When ‘sooty’ shut off for the slack through Clapham Jct. it was back down to 180, it was going to be a rough trip.

The photo shows one of the Caprotti fitted versions of the Standard Class 5, No.73129, at the head of the mails during one of the Great Central Railway’s Gala events, sadly not a ‘Standard Arthur’ at the head of 11 BRMKIs in SR green livery…….

TBC

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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“And now for ……..”

The last few postings have all been about my own footplate work during the last years of steam on BR but, what of heritage steam footplate work and serving staff working with heritage traction on the main line.  If the levels of wibble on social media is anything to go by the production of huge volumes of unburned gases, or ‘clag’, often raises temperatures, if not steam.

My own credentials are firing on more than 20 different classes of locomotives on every kind of duty except a troop train and a breakdown train, firing with soft coal, hard coal, and coal eggs: Oh! And I never worked a circus train,  funeral train,  pigeon special, or royal train but, I did work the Royal Wessex and the first East Devon Rail Tour, enthusiast special, to Exeter and back!

The important thing to remember, in all the debates, is that what really counts is, did the driver have the steam he needed to run the train to time, was coal and effort wasted through excessive blowing off and did you have a good day at the office.

All manner of things can and do affect the way an engine is fired and even engines of the same class  sometimes need to be fired in a different way to the majority of their class mates. And speaking of mates, what also makes a fireman is how well he works, not only with his own regular mate but, with other drivers and with the crew from other depots who he relieves or, is relieved by. The real test was not on those days when the road was clear, the needle on the red line, and you had a tender full of grade A steam coal – no the real test, was a poor steamer, shovelling dross from the back of the tender and working with the fire irons, just to keep the brakes off.  That was when you found out how good you were as a fireman, as part of a team, and how well your mate knew the road!

The black out of Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway,  is being performed by GWR 2-8-0 No.2807.

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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Ashton Goods III

Our load was not unduly heavy and though the WDs have a reputation for ‘rough’ riding they steam well enough which, is of more concern to the fireman. However, they don’t fire themselves and 10 miles of rigorous climbing burns the odd shovel full or three. And so, with the injector gurgling away, it was time to put a few rounds into her. My previous experience of this climb had all been on my rides out with the Red Bank vans, double-headed, a Black5 / Jubilee combination, and on passenger timings; by comparison we were just jogging along.

Arthur had been watching my youthful enthusiasm with the shovel and got off his seat to have a look in the box. His comment was something along the lines of ‘we’re going to Ashton – under – Lyne not outer Mongolia’, sit down and have some tea and a fag’; I didn’t need telling twice.  Golcar rolled by and Slaithwaite too,  before long we’d be into the 3 plus miles of Standedge Tunnel. Arthur looked at my fire again and said a few rounds down the left hand side would see us through the tunnel and we’d be coasting after that.

We were routed through the old single bore tunnel and barely the trains length into the tunnel we began slipping. Slipping isn’t good at any time, in a narrow, single bore, tunnel it becomes very uncomfortable very quickly. As the slipping continued, it became difficult to tell if we were going forwards or rolling back and to add to the difficulties the cab was becoming very hot and filling with fumes. This trip was becoming a baptism by fire, in more ways than one, and just a little bit scary for a 16 year old passed cleaner. Arthur told me to open the cab doors, lie down on the floor with my head above the steps. The air was marginally cooler and more breathable here but, no one was more pleased than me when she regained her feet and the slipping stopped. When I asked Arthur how he knew which way we were going he told me he held the brush out of the cab till it touched the tunnel walls and this told him we were still going forward.

Hitting the fresh air at Diggle never felt better and the steady drift down to Ashton – under – Lyne was something of an anti-climax. I’ve used the name Standedge Tunnel throughout this piece however, I’m pretty sure it was frequently referred to as ‘Diggle’ Tunnel. Last but certainly not least, I would have to say that the slipping in the tunnel was the one and only time, in my footplate career, that I was genuinely worried.

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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Ashton Goods II

Having eased our way out of the yard and onto the main line we began a steady plod, back past the shed, and on up to Morley tunnel. I made sure we had plenty in the box before we entered the tunnel, which is a couple of miles long with the summit of the drag out of Leeds in the middle of it.  Changing from going uphill, to going down, or vice versa, can be tricky with a loose coupled train. Some years later, when I was a fireman at Wakefield, an old driver told me, ‘wagons is like sheep lad you have to count ’em out and count ’em back in again.’

Clear of the tunnel Arthur shut off and we coasted down past Lady Ann Crossing, clanking our way through Batley  Station and on towards Dewsbury before he gently eased the regulator open again. There’d be no more ‘coasting’ until we cleared Diggle on the other side of the Pennines.

On the footplate, on the Dub Dees, you can feel every power stroke when they start to put some effort in. This, along with oscillations between the engine and tender, means there’s a tendency to rattle coal down from the shovelling plate all over the cab floor and various methods were employed to prevent this, the most common of which, was to put the brake stick across it, reducing its apperture.

We were checked at Battyeford, probably as a result of something crossing our path at Heaton Lodge Junction. Once we came to a stand I climbed off the footplate and made my way to the track side phone to call the bobby and carry out rule 55. Back on board and just time for a lid of tea and a fag before the board came off. Another mile or so, by Bradley Jct., the climbing starts in earnest with 3 miles of 1:147  and another of 1:104 to follow – it goes on like this for the next 10 miles or so………

TBC

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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Ashton Goods

After the embarrassment, on my last trip, of waking up half of Huddersfield, sat in Hillhouse Yard with the safety valves roaring, my next turn had drama of a different kind. Again an early morning goods working but, this time to Ashton – under – Lyne, on the outskirts of Manchester. Whilst still a cleaner I had ridden out a couple of times on a Dub Dee, on a goods turn to Mirfield, this turn was my first on one as the fireman – and we were going a lot further than Mirfield.

It was on this trip that I learned the 7/8th Whitworth spanner was used not for unscrewing nuts but, holding up the damper handle. The preliminaries completed and the all important can of tea brewed we trundled off shed and down to the yard to pick up our train. Once I’d hooked on, the next job was to put the lamps on; top and middle for a through freight, remembering to take the red glass out of what had been our tail lamp. When I climbed back on to the footplate the guard had been up and given the driver the load – I watched for the tip that he was back in his van and my mate whistled up for the road.

Getting a loose coupled goods train away is a steady job, easing out the couplings on 30 or 40 wagons, the whiplash effect can cause links to snap, or the guard to be injured, if you try to do things too quickly.  Again I’m looking back watching for a light from the guard, so we know he’s with us and not left behind in the yard. My mate is driver, Arthur Smith, and when I see the guard wave his lamp I give him the nod, and we’re under way……….

TBC

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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Hillhouse Goods

After my first firing turn on the late shift station pilot, my next outing was a much more enticing prospect – a very early morning turn, and a run with a fitted goods from Copley Hill Goods to Hillhouse Yard in Huddersfield. Passed cleaners, generally, got all the turns that were ‘unsociable’; really early mornings and late afternoons where you were finishing at 2 and 3 in the morning – those were the jobs they copped for. I didn’t care, I was being let loose with a real train, not chugging up and down in station limits.

The journey is around 18 miles from Copley Hill, it begins with a climb  to the middle of Morley tunnel a dip down through Dewsbury and then rising again, from Ravensthorpe, all the way to Huddersfield. I’d ridden out over the route before but, now I was the fireman it was a whole new ball game. Our engine was one of Farnley’s allocation of Crabs, I no longer have my old note books, so I can’t tell you which of them it was. What I can tell you is that I seriously over fired and we were sat in Hillhouse Yard, at about 5 / 5.30 a.m. with the boiler full to the whistle and blowing-off. I wasn’t popular with the locals, I’m guessing.

I didn’t have a photo of a Crab with a goods working, but I did have this one, from a while ago, when the ‘Crab’ was in her British Railways livery. She is pictured here crossing the Irwell, at Summerseats, with an early morning Bury – Rawrenstall 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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04:40 Salisbury, the back working – Andover – Waterloo

My driver, Eric ‘Sooty’ Saunders, lived in Feltham and when we were on this turn he liked to get to Waterloo a few minutes early, if we could, because that gave him time to have a quick word with our relief crew at Waterloo and catch his train home. To do this we needed to run to an average of more than mile a minute and our start out of Andover reflected this.

Three miles of 1:170 and then a short dip down towards Hurstbourne saw our speed  nudging into the 60s as we passed the box. On the short rise to Whitchurch, ‘Sooty’ dropped the lever a couple of notches and the gradient was barely noticed. On a tight schedule, this was where you could gain time, build up speed on the downhill bits and then use the momentum and a couple of extra turns on the reverser to keep speed up as the gradient ramped up.

I’d been firing steadily, 6 to 8 shovels full, wait for the exhaust to clear then another round of 6 or more, ever since we left Andover, and, as we sped through Overton my shovelling was almost done for the day. Beyond Worting Jct. much of the route is on falling gradients, apart from a little hump between Farnborough and MP31. Roaring through Basingstoke, hanging on the whistle, we were now into one of the fastest sections; under clear signals we shot through Hook at well over 80mph and the dust was beginning to fly, time for a splash round with the pet pipe and finish the dregs in the tea can.

The 18 miles from Hook to Woking were completed in under 15 minutes, we had our ‘time in hand’ and the clear road through Woking meant we were still on course for ‘Sooty’ to catch his train home to Feltham. All that was left to do, as we cleared Surbiton, was put some water in the bucket for a quick wash before we got off the footplate and headed home.

The locomotive in the photograph, No.35005 Canadian Pacific, is pictured at the GCR before the track was doubled. I have a lot of history with this engine and have added this link to the article which gives some further details of that history. http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=1848

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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04:40 Salisbury, the back working

Having had our break, we relieved the crew of an ‘up’ who worked the train in from Exeter; they helped take water, whilst I pulled some coal forward in the tender. There was a decent fire in the box and plenty of water in the boiler but, when I’d finished pulling the coal forward I put a few rounds on, just to keep things going until we cleared Fisherton tunnel. We had the road and I was looking back, watching for the tip from the guard, when the safety valves opened;  time to stick the injector on, just to keep her quiet for a few more seconds.

As Tunnel Jct. Box rolled  by I was having a look round the fire to see if there were any thin spots. Things are fairly gentle up to Laverstock Box but, from there on, the next 7 or 8 miles through Porton and on up to the summit at Grateley gradients are in the 1:140 to 1:170 range, steep enough with 12 on for 425 tons. Parts of the line around Porton are in deep cuttings and I can hear the exhaust beat change as we enter them, no time to look though, as there’s some shovelling being done. We’re doing about 50mph and speed is increasing steadily Allington is passed at 60, just three more miles of climbing and then,, on the descent to our stop in Andover, we  get into the mid 70s before it’s time to shut off and begin braking.

On the run down into Andover I get time to enjoy a lid of the tea I brewed just before we left Salisbury. Time too to have a swill around with the ‘pet pipe’, damp the coal down, and get things ready for the pull away out of Andover, around three miles of 1:170. With a start to stop average, on this leg of the journey, from Andover to Waterloo, of a shade under mile a minute, we need to be away sharpish………

The photograph shows, WC class 4-6-2No.34054 Sir Keith Park, close to the summit of Eardington bank on the Severn Valley Railway.

TBC

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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04:40 Salisbury

Few folk would queue up for a turn which started at 03:43 but I loved it; and because it was unpopular I was often able to swap a P&D or an ECS turn for it. Booking on took place at Vauxhall Station,  then you rode up to Waterloo to begin the days work, quite why this was I’m not sure. The 04:40 Ex. Waterloo to Salisbury was the archetypal ‘milk train’, calling ‘all stations’, though it was actually newspapers and parcels, with a couple of coaches for the occasional Squaddie on his way back to camp.

9 times out of 10 the engine booked for the job was one of these BR Class 4MT 75xxxs and No.75078 was one of the regulars on the turn, as was another of the preserved ones, No.75079.  When this was my booked job, and with my regular mate Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders, I often got to do the driving, from clearing Clapham Jct. to Basingstoke or, sometimes, Woking to Andover, a real treat. The return working was the exact opposite of the run down to Salisbury, calling only at Andover and then Waterloo. If I recall correctly, the timing for the 66 miles from Andover to Waterloo was mile a minute, or very, very, close to it.

The ‘up’ working was usually a Merchant Navy, and for quite a spell, it seemed that every time I was on the turn No.35013 Blue Funnel was the engine and what an engine she was.  On leaving Salisbury for London  you are soon into the short 440 yds tunnel beyond which the line to Romsey bears away to the right at Tunnel Jct. and the London line begins the climb to Grateley, so you need to be in good order when you get the right away………..

TBC

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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