Down boat

On special workings, like boat trains, you weren’t always working with your regular mate and one of my more memorable boat train duties was with MN 4-6-2, No.35001 Channel Packet, and driver Gordon Porter. I worked with Gordon a few times, but his regular mate, in those days, was Tom Moult who, like Gordon, is sadly no longer with us. We were booked to get our own engine ready – having a Packet was a bonus; it could easily have been a Class 5 BR Standard.

Before we rolled down to the turntable there was just time to go to the mess room and make a brew. I’d already filled the tank and all that remained was a last top up under the hopper and then light to Waterloo to collect our train. These boat trains were timed around the same as the Bournemouth Expresses and ran non-stop through to the docks at Southampton; the load was usually 12 and 2 luggage vans.

Gordon loved his job and loved to ‘crack on’ and though there might have been a few extra shovels full needed I was more than happy put the effort in. I knew he liked to work like this and had prepared my fire accordingly. After clearing the slack through Clapham Jct. I began firing and Gordon made the chimney chatter, Earlsfield sped by. No.35001 Channel Packet might have been the doyen but, she was a bit of a rough rider, at that time, in early 1964, and I felt every rail joint in Raynes Park Jct.

Hurtling through Surbiton, speed in the 70s, and what made my day and thee day so memorable, was Gordon complimenting me on the fire I’d built and joking that it was having to fire like that all the time, for my regular mate ‘Sooty’ Saunders, that kept me thin!

Despite being one of the early withdrawals No.35001 Channel Packet wasn’t saved. The photograph shows B-o-B No34053 Sir Keith Park, with a recreation of a  Statesman Lines boat train, at the Great Central 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:

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‘whatsa name’

Someone, on social media, asked the question ‘what famous name / hero would you like to see on an engine?’. There were all the ‘usual suspects’ and the odd surprise, as you might imagine. There is, however, a much more interesting question – why do we name locomotives?  When each engine was a one off, like Wylam Dilly, Salamanca, or Sans Pareil, hand built right down to making the nuts and bolts, a work of art(isan), it isn’t difficult to see a name being given. It becomes much less obvious when it’s a mass produced object, one of a hundred or more, identical, and interchangeable.

Within preservation naming engines, which were previously un-named, is something of a hot topic. Naming locomotives or units on the privatised railways is more a matter of money, and possibly decorum. Though having said that, one of the NBR,  ‘Scott Class’ 4-4-0s was called Wandering Willie. Personally I quite like the idea of a Notorious Class; with names like Rasputin, Jack the Ripper, Bloefeld,  Dr. Moriarty, Cruella De Ville, Davros, or even Caligula. None of which would be as odd as some of the names which have been bestowed; a GWR Bulldog was ‘One and All’, an LNWR 6′ Precursor was named ‘Glowworm’ others oddities include, ‘Autocrat’, ‘The Auditor’  and ‘Problem’.

The photograph shows Black 5 No.45231, now named ‘Sherwood Forester’, approaching Dalgety Bay station with one of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society ‘ Fife Circle’ rail tours.

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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Another sunny day in paradise

Decaying trackside furniture, its reason for existence long since departed, bares silent witness to the passing  of the ‘Nation’s engine, No.60103 Flying Scotsman.  The roaring safety valves tell the tale; the engine was being worked hard, needle on the red line, driver shuts off and thar she blows – been there done that got the sweaty t-shirt.

The location is the eastern approach to Ribblehead viaduct; the big hill behind the train is one of the three famous peaks, in this part of the Yorkshire Dales, Pen-y-ghent , the others being Whernside, and Ingleborough.  It all looks lovely on a summer’s day but, spare a thought for the men who built this ‘scenic’ railway – it took them 7 years. “Two chain o’ knee deep water, four times a day, were faced by the fellows atween their meat and their work” (Seven Years Hard; Mitchell WR, Mussett NJ.)

Half a mile up the road was one of the encampments where the navvies constructing Ribblehead viaduct lived. Some of the camps had Biblical names, some those of battles in the Crimean war but, this one rejocied in the name of Batty Wife Hole; according to one story, a man named Batty drowned his wife, following a drunken row, in the stream which emered from the landscape. Today it is more politely known as Batty Green.

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Back fast

After having our bait and the game of bar billiards in the BRSA club we crossed to the up platform and relieved the crew who worked the train in from Weymouth. My first tasks when stepping aboard were to check the water in the boiler and the fire; the  fireman I relieved would help by looking after taking water. However, I have to say that, in general, I don’t remember any incidents, there was usually a decent fire and at least a half a glass of water. What always struck me, and it was the same at Salisbury, the firemen were often older than my mate ‘Sooty’ Saunders – what they must have thought of us doesn’t bare thinking about.

There were two engines I particularly associated with the back working off the 08:35 down, Merchant Navys No.35024 East Asiatic Company and No.35029 Ellerman Lines. Both were fine machines, No.35029 Ellerman Line is now a sectioned exhibit in the National Railway museum, No.35024 East Asiatic Company was cut up. And that really is a shame, as she was a very fine engine.

Thanks to Richard (Joe) Jolliffee, I have a log of one of my runs with No.35024 on the 17:30 Ex-Waterloo, in December 1964, which shows just what a flyer she was. The load was 11 for 373 tons, and we went through West Byfleet, 21 miles out, in even time, which included a signal check, down to 20mph, between Vauxhall and Queens Rd. and the permanent 40mph speed restriction through Clapham Jct. Our top speed was 86mph through Esher but, from just beyond  New Malden to West Byfleet speed never dropped below 80mph. We went through Woking in under 24 minutes, better than mile a minute,  but, from there on the run was wrecked by repeated signal checks.

Unfortunately I don’t have any logs of the return off the 08:35 down, most of the loggers would have been at work. However, whenever ‘Sooty’ and I were together I would usually get to do a spot of driving and on the turn, it was ‘my turn’ once we left Southampton. Sooty would take the tip and ease her out of the station and then I would take the regulator to Worting Jct. All the firing was pretty much done by that point, a splash round at Farnborough and that would be it. After passing Surbiton it was time to put some water in the bucket and have a quick tidy up before running into Waterloo and handing over to the relief crew, who took the engine back to the shed. A lovely day out – and paid for it too.

The photo shows fresh from overhaul B-o-B No.34081 92 Squardon deoartng from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the Great Central Railway.

My thanks to Richard (Joe) Jolliffee for the details of the running with MN No.35024 East Asiatic Company in December 1964.

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Down stopper – back fast

One Saturday, early in January 1965, I was booked on a regular three link duty, the 08.35 Waterloo – Weymouth stopper. It was a turn where you might get a Merchant Navy, West Country, or even a BR class 5 Standard. On the day our engine was No.34022 Exmoor and we left Waterloo with 11 on for 395 tons gross. Our first stop was Surbiton and we arrived 50 seconds late, we pulled into Woking, our next stop, 25 seconds to the good.

The 08.35 down wasn’t a flyer but, we did have a bit of fun accelerating all the way, from our start out of Working, to the summit at MP31 which we passed at 54mph – we kept up a pretty even mid seventies all the way from Farnborough to Hook where we were stopped by signals.  However, despite being brought to a dead stand we still rolled into Basingstoke only 38 seconds adrift.

Twenty four minutes was the time allowed from Basingstoke to Winchester – we passed Wallers Ash box at over 80mph arriving in   Winchester a shade over two minutes early. After leaving Winchester things carried on in much the same style and we went through Eastleigh nudging 70 and nearly a minute up. It wasn’t to last, signal checks between St Denys and Northam Jct. saw us roll into Southampton almost 3 minutes late.

The journey onwards from Southampton wasn’t logged but we called at Brockenhurst and then  all stations to Bournemouth, where we were relieved. After being relieved, the usual routine was to walk back down the platform, to the London end, where there was a BRSA club. A couple of pints of brown and mild, a Cornish pastie and agame of bar billiards before crossing over to the up road for the back working. The back working, an ‘up fast’ from Weymouth, was almost always a Merchant Navy, and a very different run altogether, of which, more later.

Sadly, No.34022 Exmoor, wasn’t one of the survivors and the photo shows No.34053 Sir Keith Park getting into her stride after departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the Great Central Railway. I did work on No.34053 Sir Keith Park but I don’t have access to the details of any of my runs with her.

My thanks to Terry Jackson whose log of the run I made with 34022 Exmoor on 02 / 01 / 1965, between Waterloo and Southampton, was used to provide the details of the trip recounted above.

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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Down stopper – back fast

One Saturday, early in January 1965, I was booked on a regular three link duty, the 08.35 Waterloo – Weymouth stopper. It was a turn where you might get a Merchant Navy, West Country, or even a BR class 5 Standard. On the day our engine was No.34022 Exmoor and we left Waterloo with 11 on for 395 tons gross. Our first stop was Surbiton and we arrived 50 seconds late, we pulled into Woking, our next stop, 25 seconds to the good.

The 08.35 down wasn’t a flyer but, we did have a bit of fun accelerating all the way, from our start out of Working, to the summit at MP31 which we passed at 54mph – we kept up a pretty even mid seventies all the way from Farnborough to Hook where we were stopped by signals.  However, despite being brought to a dead stand we still rolled into Basingstoke only 38 seconds adrift.

Twenty four minutes was the time allowed from Basingstoke to Winchester – we passed Wallers Ash box at over 80mph arriving in   Winchester a shade over two minutes early. After leaving Winchester things carried on in much the same style and we went through Eastleigh nudging 70 and nearly a minute up. It wasn’t to last, signal checks between St Denys and Northam Jct. saw us roll into Southampton almost 3 minutes late.

The journey onwards from Southampton wasn’t logged but we called at Brockenhurst and then  all stations to Bournemouth, where we were relieved. After being relieved, the usual routine was to walk back down the platform, to the London end, where there was a BRSA club. A couple of pints of brown and mild, a Cornish pastie and agame of bar billiards before crossing over to the up road for the back working. The back working, an ‘up fast’ from Weymouth, was almost always a Merchant Navy, and a very different run altogether, of which, more later.

Sadly, No.34022 Exmoor, wasn’t one of the survivors and the photo shows No.34053 Sir Keith Park getting into her stride after departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the Great Central Railway. I did work on No.34053 Sir Keith Park but I don’t have access to the details of any of my runs with her.

My thanks to Terry Jackson whose log of the run I made with 34022 Exmoor on 02 / 01 / 1965, between Waterloo and Southampton, was used to provide the details of the trip recounted above.

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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End of the Line?

The photograph of, No.35025 Brocklebank Line, was taken by my pal, the late Walter Hobson, during a pilgrimage we made to Woodhams yard, Barry, in 1965. Walter, who hailed from Bradford, had started at Manningham and moved to Old Oak Common to be made a fireman but, by 64 there wasn’t a lot of steam work left at Old Oak Common. Walter, as a consequence of this would, if his shifts or rest days dropped right, come to work with me on the 02.45 papers from Waterloo to Bourenmouth. Like many a young fireman, me included, Walter was doing his best to get as much steam experience as he could, before they all went.

This is Walter, posing for the camera, on the front of No.35019 French Line CGT, on just such an outing. The location is Bournemouth West and this is the back working, the 07.07, a fast Waterloo service calling at Bournemouth Central, where the Weymouth portion was added,  Brockenhurst, Southampton and Winchester, arriving in Waterloo at 09.34.

It was all great fun; after we left Southampton I would get to have a go on the regulator and Walter would do a spot of shovelling whilst ‘Sooty’ worked the firedors. It was on another of these outings that Walter took the photograph, that many of you have seen before, of me putting a few rounds on. On the back of the photo Walter has written, ‘35025 Brocklebank Line’ , the only slight reservation I have about that is that No.35025 Brocklebank Line was an Exmouth Jct engine in 1964 and she was withdrawn towards the end of the year.

No.35025 Brocklebank Line did escape the cutter’s torch and despite looking pretty much intact, sadly, 53 years on, she is still a long way from steaming again.

Photo: (C) the late, W Hobson, part of the Author’s collection.

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Turning back the clock

When the future’s uncertain, there’s always the past. Mourning for what has gone, disparaging its replacement. It was better then, it’s dreadful now. Nowt wrong wi canals, why would thi want to be rushin around at 30 miles an hour, I don’t know how they manage to breathe at that speed – it’s all a matter of perspective.

2017 saw numerous galas and events, at quite a few of the major heritage lines, commemorating the end of Southern steam, in 1967. 2017 was also 70 years since the Big Four, LNER / LMS / SR / GWR, were Nationalised but, I don’t recall any major gala commemorating their demise. And to date, I haven’t spotted any events to mark the creation of British Railways, in theory at least, a more important event than the end of Southern steam, in so far as it was an Act of Parliament, rather than simply an operational objective in the modernisation of the railway network.  What we remember and what is commemorated or celebrated, from the past, are two very different things.

There’s even a certain degree of irony here too because, despite the rhetoric, the re-privatisation of the railways, which was sold on ‘nostalgic images and iconography’ drawn from the days of the Big Four, has been a far cry from what was promised in the sell off prospectus. And there is now, in 2018, a high level of public support for the re-Nationalisation of the railway network and the slim, but growing, possibility it might happen.

Cycling Lion anyone?

The photo is of 8F No.48624, with a train of mineral empties, passing Quorn & Woodhouse signal box, on the Great Central 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:

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The L&Y

What sort of railway was the L&YR? This question has several different answers depending on whether you are a traveller or shareholder and at what point in the life of the L&Y you were talking about. In the early days, from the traveller’s point of view it was diabolical. O.S.Nock  in his, The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (A concise history), quoting  E.L.Ahrons, states “In the middle of the 1870s it was probably the most degenerate railway in the kingdom, to which even the South Eastern or the London, Chatham & Dover could have only run a bad second.”

Things were so bad that the L&Y was the butt of Pantomime jokes – quoting from Nock again, “He went to Bradford for to dine By the Lancashire & Yorkshire line; He waited three weeks at bleak Low Moor And when he complained the porter swore That he ought to have started the month before”… etc, etc. Nock says, “To sum up, the L&Y of 1876 was a railway of ugly inconvenient stations, of old broken-down engines and dirty carriages, and of a superlative unpunctuality, to which no pen could do justice.”

However, if you were a shareholder between 1866 and 1880 things were rather less bleak and ugly. Dividends were a healthy 6 to 8%, and only in the years 1878 and 1880 when 5 3/8% was paid and 1879 when only 4 5/8% paid did they fall below the 6% mark – in 1872 the L&Y paid 8 3/8%.

The photograph, taken on the K&WVR, shows Ex-L&YR 0-6-0 No.957, built in 1887 to a design by Barton Wright, whose locomotives  are credited with vastly improving the L&YR’s punctuality and speed of services. The coach behind the engine is the beautifully restored ‘Club Car’ No.47.

The ‘Club Car’ owes its existence to the sensitivities of  Fylde coast businessmen and their desire for a comfortable journey unencumbered by such unpleasantness as having to rub shoulders with the ‘great unwashed’. In 1896 a group of these businessmen, the Lytham St. Anne’s & Blackpool Travelling Club approached the L&Y with a view to securing their ‘own’ coach on the morning and evening expresses to and from Manchester.

Following the successful outcome of these negotiations the L&Y first provided some converted 6 wheel saloons and then in 1912 produced a unique carriage for the service which ran Monday to Saturday from Blackpool Central to Manchester Victoria. This coach continued in service until 1934 and then spent the next 17 years on secondary duties until 1951 when it was sold for use as a cricket pavilion in Spondon, near Derby.

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2017 A personal review

A year of firsts and farewells, though for me 2017 was the year of the ‘End of Southern Steam’; an event celebrated, if that’s the right word, at quite a few heritage lines; and I very much enjoyed seeing Nos. 34081 92 Squadron and 34053 Sir Keith Park, at the Great Central Railway’s offering.  There was even a brief glimpse of No.73156 running as No.73084 Tintagel, like Nos. 34081 and 34053, another engine I’d worked on back in the 60s.

No.73156 / 73084 was one of the firsts too, as she was making her debut appearance after being rescued from Dai Woodhams yard in Barry and restored to operational condition at Loughborough. Sadly, teething problems with the brakes curtailed her official workings, to just one passenger turn on the first day of the gala.

Earlier, in February, there was a bold experiment on the Settle & Carlisle line with No.60163 Tornado hauling regular service trains, for a 3 day spell, between Skipton and Appleby. There were two runs each day and I managed to photograph the first return working, at Selside, on Valentine’s Day. No.60163 also set a first, being given a trial run at 100mph on the ECML, a thrill for all concerned, I’m sure. The data being gathered was intended to support the case for raising the speed limit for steam, on the main line, from 75mph to 90mph.

Sticking with the main line theme, 2017 saw the S&C officially re-opened, after major repairs, with a run behind No.60103 Flying Scotsman, to Carlisle and the S&C also saw main line stalwart, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, bow out when her boiler ticket expired in August – she is pictured at the top of the article, at Kirkby Stephen station , on her last run over the S&C.

No.60103 Flying Scotsman, crossing Lunds viaduct, on the S&C.

Being a Leeds lad I’m rather fond of the Scots which, for many years, were the principal express engines on the former LMS / MR /LNWR routes in and out of the City. In line to replace her, out on the main line, is another engine steaming for the first time since being saved from the scrap yard, No.35018 British India Line, and again one of the engines I have fired on passenger services, out of Waterloo, in the 60s.

Continuing the Southern theme, I never worked on the Schools, though there were several in store at 70A when I started there. 2017 saw Schools Class, No.926 Repton, return to traffic on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, following her ten year overhaul. She is pictured above, slogging up the last half mile of the steep climb from Grosmont to Goathland during the NYMR gala.

On a personal note, I made my first ever visit to the narrow gauge system at Threlkeld Quarry, a little gem in the midst of some wonderful scenery. The locomotive in the photograph is, Sir Tom, a Bagnall 0-4-0ST of 1926 vintage. Sir Tom was employed at BICC in Kent until 1968 and moved to Threlkeld in 2001. Sir Tom was overhauled and rebuilt at Threlkeld and re-entered traffic in 2010.

As the year drew to a close it was farewell to Black 5 No.44806 at the NYMR and No.7812 Erlestoke Manor at the Severn Valley. No.61994 The Great Marquess, and shortly No.60009 Union of South Africa, are to become museum exhibits, no longer gracing the main lines and flying a flag for the LNER, which is sad, especially as the locomotives, of constituents of the LNER, are few in number when compared with the other members of the Big Four.

Not to end on sour note No.7812 Erlestoke Manor, pictured above approaching Bewdley tunnel with a Bridgnorth – Kidderminster service, is to have a fast track overhaul and is expected back by 2020. Good progress is being made with the new build No.82045, a project of which I’m a keen supporter. The 82xxxs were great fun to work on and the ideal engine for a heritage railway operation. I’m very much looking forward to seeing and photographing the finished item.

All of you, I’m sure, have your own highlights from 2017 and I could have added a few more of my own, seeing the Steam Elephant in operation at Beamish was a treat, as was having the Tanfield Railway just 15 minutes drive away, and I leave you with one of my favourite shots from Tanfield in 2017.

Keighley Gasworks No.2, with Bobgins cabin in the background, is heading for Andrews House with a train from East Tanfield.

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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