3 Candles on my cake

In celebration of Steam Age Daydreams 3 years on the web and more than 100,000 visitors to the website, next month will see the publication of a feature length post, based on my time as a footplateman, in the 1960s.

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And for the first 3 weeks of September only, Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children, in either book or eBook form, will be on offer at £13:99 & £3:99 respectively.  The link below will take you to them.

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

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Jubilees of the LMS

In the Preface to John Clay’s book, “Jubilees of the LMS”, he says; ‘The Jubilee story is the story of  an ordinary class of  medium-sized express engine in which a share of good and bad had been mixed. They could, at times, cause great suffering and near despair to those who toiled on their footplates……’  However, it has to be said that they were being ‘improved’, even as they were being built, in some cases.

In my own, albeit limited, experience, that 3rd cylinder came at a price, they ate more coal and drank more water than the Black 5s, for very little noticeable improvement in performance. Speaking of performance, according to Clay, the highest authenticated speed for a Jube was 97.5mph, achieved by engine No.(4)5579 Punjab on a St.Pancras – Kettering run in the late 50s. In trials conducted in the 1930s, No.(4)5660 Rooke, with a load of 305tons, covered the 48.4 miles from Carlisle to Ais Gill summit in 48mins 36sec.  To put that in context, the Fellsman / Waverley service of today, like the one photographed above,  is given between 48 and 51 minutes to reach the water stop at Appleby.

The quirkiest little snippets I came across while reading Clay’s book concerned engines No.(4)5573 Newfoundland and No.(4)5659 Drake. In 1946, No.(4)5573 Newfoundland ran in an experimental Blue / Grey livery, and, in 1955, No.(4)5659 ran, in service, in pink undercoat – bet that caused a stir.

The photograph shows No.45690 Leander, close to Aisgill summit, with the return working of the ‘Waverley’  the York – Carlisle – York steam hauled excursion.

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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Sunday tea on top of Aisgill

Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago I cleaned engines, just like this one, for £3 – 12 – 0, (£3.60p), for a 42.5 hour week. Starting in a new job has its own rituals, being sent on fools errands, or, as happened to one cleaner at Farnley Jct. being put in a wagon and sent off-shed down to Copley Hill Yard. My ‘initiation’ was being shut in the firebox, of an engine on washout, and smoking rags put in the ash pan below me – nice!

Cleaning engines is a mucky job but, there were perks, we got to play aroud on them, moving them about the shed; taking them off the ash pits and putting them in the shed, turning on the triangle, shunting out the washouts and so on – all under supervision of course. There was always stuff going on and, if there wasn’t we got up to no good – water fights with the washout bags was a favourite, baseball with a brake stick and coal eggs was another.

We’d be given a couple of engines to clean and then be told to ‘keep out of the way’ once you’ve done. These were the times you could go off shed, to Copley Hill Yard, with the shed pilot, to take the stores wagon and the ash wagons, returning with fresh supplies of coal and stores. In freezing weather we were kept busy stoking the braziers, to keep the water columns ice free, which was fun. Much like making a 100+ mile round trip, to take photographs of a ‘black’ Jube, at the top of Aisgill, on Sunday tea time.

In the photograph, No.45690 Leander is  seen working the  returning Dalesman from Carlisle to York.

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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Leaving town

George ‘the Railway King’ Hudson is quoted as saying, ‘we’ll mek all t’ lines come to York’, sadly the line no longer goes to York, it terminates at Pickering, which is where B1 Class 4-6-0 No.61264 is heading. The road on the left takes the traveller towards Whitby and connections for Captain Cook, who began his naval adventures thereabouts, with a local firm,  aboard the collier Freelove.  Some have suggested that Coleridge’s ‘Ryhme of the Ancient Mariner’ is loosely based on Cook’s voyages.

Another Cook, Thomas Cook, became world famous for voyages of a different kind. Cook more or less invented the day trip package, first, in 1841, by train trips to Temperance Society meetings and later to the Great Exhibition of 1851, selling 150,000 places; he went on to organise tours of Europe, Egypt, and the USA, though these weren’t day trips. Leaving town in the days of Captain Cook involved the stage coach and could be something of a perilous adventure; eighty years on and the railway is providing the traveller with a trip for a dip in the briney or to  the Great Exhibition.

Today the far flung Islands and places of Cook’s great voyages of discovery are the destinations for cruise ship passengers and jet lagged tourists.  A trail of Blue Plaques mark the spots from Whitby to Botany Bay and back. And, according to a report on Wednesday night’s Look North News, there’s to be an auction to sell off a replica of Cook’s ship, the ‘Endeavour’, which has been moored at Stockton, for the last 25 years. Stockton, twenty five, and hundreds of years, -I’m sure there’s some connection.

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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Bridges

Bridges, one over, one under, one of brick the other stone, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway has its fair share of bridges, more than its share, some may say. Keeping the railway infrastructure in good repair is no different from keeping the motive power that way too – it’s essential.  Unlike the failure of an individual locomotive, if a bridge becomes unsafe, or an embankment collapses, the entire railway may be closed or truncated – both the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Steam Railway and the Severn Valley Railway have, in recent memory, had serious problems in this area. The NYMR have already done a substantial bridge replacement, in 2010, when bridge 30 was replaced There are more replacements to come, around Goathland, and money from the National Lottery is helping to pay the bils.

Down in Loughborough the Great Central Railway have raised millions to re-instate the bridge across the Midland Main Line and join the two halves of the GCR together, linking South Nottingham to North Leicester – almost an Inter-city railway.  Up in the Highlands, the Strathspey Railway have worked tirelessly to replace the bridge at Dulnain, to allow extension from Broomhill to Grantown-on-Spey. And in Wales, there were numerous bridge works, both over and under, along the entire route, in the re-opening of the narrow gauge, Welsh Highland Railway, from Caernarfon to Porthmadog.

In the photograph, Ex-BR Class 4MT 2-6-0 No.76079, is about to cross bridge 28 at Darnholme. The road over bridge drops down to a few houses, at the bottom of a steep bank, and a ford across the beck, which flows under bridge 28.

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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Esk Valley

Nestled in the valley bottom, a few farm houses and the single terraced row make up the tiny hamlet of Esk Valley. The road, in the picture, which leads down to the terraced row, is a dead end;  access to Esk Valley, from the East, is via a ford, on the outskirts of Grosmont. If the ford is impassable, travellers face a detour of several miles via Egton / Egton Bridge. However, ford or not, Esk  Valley would appear to be home to a disproportionate number of railway fans, judging by the selection of railway artefacts in evidence along the row.  Not to mention the fact you could, literally, lie in bed and watch the trains go by.

That tiny wisp of steam in the distance, dwarfed by the landscape, is the BR Standard Class 4MTT, No.80136, and her seven coaches plodding their way towards Goathland. Despite the length of the train and the size and power of the locomotive they somehow look insignificant when viewed at this distance; crawling across the landscape like some kind of stripey, mechanical, caterpillar. On a lovely late summer’s afternoon this is the bucolic Britain of the travel brochure, ‘God’s green acres’  – looking green.  Much less attractive, of course, under a leaden grey sky, on a freezing cold day, at the fag end of winter, when not even the trains are running.

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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Close to the border

Love it, loathe it, or somewhere inbetween, wherever she goes No.60103 Flying Scotsman seems to raise opinions. Like it or not, few engines have had the kind of working life Flying Scotsman has had. There’s the confusion, amongst the general public, and elements of the press, between No.60103 Flying Scotsman the locomotive and the 10:00 departure from Kings Cross to Edinburgh – The Flying Scotsman. And the press and the publicity Dept. of the LNER have helped to create ‘the legend’ of both the train and the locomotive. It sold newspapers, magazines, and helped to put bums on seats, why wouldn’t they.

Crossing the border between the Flying Scotsman in the national pschye and her status in the world of preservation brings us to a very different view of No.60103 Flying Scotsman’s place in the ‘grand scheme’ of things. In this realm she is the wrong colour, with the wrong chimney, shouldn’t have ‘German’ smoke deflectors or the opposite, possibly a combination.  Better engines could have been kept from the same class, she cost too much to fix, she took too long to get fixed, some all or none of which may be true, ‘you pays your money and makes your choice’.

Do I have a preference? I quite liked them in BR green with a double-chimney, no blinkers but, I also like the Apple Green, single chimney, especially when combined with a set of teak coaches.

In this photo, she is passing over Lunds Viaduct just about to cross the border between Yorkshire and Cumbria with Sunday’s ‘Waverley’

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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Public School

The Schools did most of their work on the Eastern Section of the Southern Railway; and the head code being displayed by, No.926 Repton, could be for a train from London Victoria to Ramsgate. In reality she is hauling Friday’s 11:30 departure from Grosmont to Pickering, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Repton itself is far more than the School the engine was named after, it is also the burial place for several of the Kings of Mercia. Probably, the most famous of the Mercian Kings was Offa, who built the eponymous dyke, though Offa isn’t one of the Kings buried here. The Diocese of Mercia was founded in 656, with the first bishop, Diuma, based at Repton, and for the next decade, or so, Repton was the centre of Christainity in formerly pagan Mercia.

St Wystan’s in Repton has an 8th-century crypt beneath the church, which  is the burial place of Saint Wigstan, as well as his grandfather, King Wiglaf of Mercia.  King Æthelbald of Mercia, under whose reign the building was first constructed, is buried here and upon the burial of St Wigstan, the crypt became a shrine and place of pilgrimage. And speaking of pilgrimage, many a railway enthusiast made their own pilgimage to the shrines at Crewe, Eastleigh, Swindon and Doncaster, and, possibly, most famous of all the sites of pilgimage Dai Woodham’s yard at Barry, where the mortal remains of several other English Kings where entombed.

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

 

 

 

which bears his name, though he himself isn’t one of those buried here.

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Farewell Postman Pat

The shadows are lengthening as, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, sails through Kirkby Stephen with the ‘up’ Thames Clyde Express. (actually the return leg of the Fellsman.) This is the final working before she has her a ten year overhaul, let’s hope she gets a fast track. I had hoped she’d be ‘shoveling white steam over her shoulder’ – just a bit too warm for that, sadly.

Affectionately known as ‘Postman Pat’, because, in her original form she hauled ‘The Night Mail’,  a classic  of British documentary film making, accompanyed by Auden’s wonderful poem, about the operation of the Travelling Post Office and the journey of the ‘Night Mail’ from Euston to Glasgow.

I’ve worked a few mail trains, one of them was the 22:35 Ex-Waterloo, a turned I enjoyed quite a few times whilst a fireman at Nine Elms. One of the more memorable journeys on this turn was a run with No.34006 Bude and driver Gordon Porter. Driver Porter was a lovely bloke to work with and he enjoyed a fast run. We left Basingstoke with the rockets flying and reached 95mph as we headed down the bank to Winchester.  Only the need to stop prevented us hitting the ton.

No.34006 Bude was in still in her original ‘air smoothed’ form and was a bit of a pet – having been one of the participants in the ‘mixed traffic’ class, during the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trails. No 34006 Bude worked over the GWR main line between Plymouth and Brristol and the Great Central Railway route between London (Marylebone) and Manchester.

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 last train to Skaville

1948 was a year of firsts and lasts, it was the year British Railways came into being and the ‘Big Four’ the GWR/ Southern / LMS /LNER all went out of existence. The names and coats of arms lingered on fading paint work, the company motto’s were all pensioned off, though the shareholders still got a divi. There would be new liveries, new locomotive designs and a series of trials to see which were the best bits of whose engines to be incorporated into those designs. And one of the engines selected for those trials is the one pictured above, No.6990 Witherslack Hall.

Another of the engines which participated in those trials has just been returned to steam, for the first time since she was withdrawn, in August 1964. No.35018 British India Line was one of the three Southern Railway, Merchant Navy Class, representatives in the trials, though she stayed on the Southern, working the Atlantic Coast Express, for her part in the trials. During my own railway service I was a fireman, on No.35018 BIL, on numerous occasions and had several turns of duty with driver Bert Hooker, who was a fireman  in the 1948 exchanges and my first turn with an MN was 35014 Nederland Line on the Sunday ACE – at that time a Nine Elms, link 4 duty, Sundays only and first stop Basingstoke.

During the time I was at Nine Elms, in mid-sixties London, I became aware of the music brought over to Britain by the workers from the Caribbean, who had begun to arrive, in 1948, aboard the Empire Windrush. The music of the Skatalites was a particular favourite and whilst I was at Wakefield, the Ethiopians released Train to Skaville – a classic of the genre. My own ‘last train to Skaville’ came when Wakefield closed and I joined the dole queue.

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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