Waggling signals

Nearing the summit at Aisgill, with the Fellsman, is Ex-LMS Jubilee Class 4-6-0 No.45699 Galatea; she looked and sounded on fine form as she swept round the curves between Lunds viaduct and Shotlock Tunnel. The photo is taken from the top of the tunnel and you can just make out the footbridge, over the line at Lunds, on the left edge.

I was joined on my lofty perch by a chap from Barrow and we passed a pleasant half hour chatting about railways and railwaymen; a conversation which produced a wonderful little anecdote about a spot of ‘on duty’ lubrication for the crew of the Tebay banker.

When he was younger, in the steam era,  he was friendly with some of the crews who worked at Tebay, who told him a tale of ‘after hours’ in, I think he said, the Junction Hotel.  They would cross over the foot bridge, by the shed, and make their way up to the pub and into the back room, which had a large bay window, from which could be seen the very tall signals, at the end of the platform at Tebay Station.

The standing arrangement was that, if an approaching train was in need of a banker, for the climb to Shap summit, the Bobby would waggle the signal arms up and down a couple of times and the crew would down their beer and head for the shed. In the tale, the hapless crew get back on the footplate only to find the fire half dead and not a lot of steam. It goes almost without saying that any banking assistance that was provided was minimal to say the least!

Today any railwayman having a few pints, in such a fashion, and whilst on duty would be sacked – when folk say, ‘it was different back then’, really aren’t kidding.

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 driver, the guard, and the mail bag catcher.

The humble 0-6-0 tank engine, guards van in tow, could be seen anywhere from bucolic country branch lines to a colliery siding in Barnsley. And the first recorded 0-6-0, ‘Royal George’, built by Timothy Hackworth, for the Stockton & Darlington Railway, in 1827, is credited, by some commentators, with ensuring the success of steam haulage on the S&D, which, at the time, was said to be ‘in the balance’.

These ‘Fowler’ LMS Class 3F, 0-6-0Ts are, essentially, updates of an earlier Midland Railway design of Samuel Waite Johnson, the 2441 Class, introduced in 1899. The ‘Jinties’, as they are commonly and collectively known, were introduced in 1924 and many of them were built by private contactors. The Hunselt Engine Co. built 90, the North British Locomotive Co. made 75, and Vulcan Foundry constructed 120, including No.47406, in 1926.

WG Bagnall was another one of the private companies given an order to build the 3Fs,  seven of which, in 1929,  went to the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway – S&DJR Nos. 19 – 25, in 1930 they were absorbed into LMS stock. And, in one of those you learn something new everyday moments, I discovered that 90 Jinties were built by William Beardmore & Co. a Glasgow ship building corporation.

Nine Jinties made it into preservation 4 from Vulcan Foundries, 3 of the North British ones and 2 of the Hunslets but, the Bagnalls and all the Beardmore’s bit the dust; as did the last 15 of the Class, built at Horwich works, in 1931. Quite a number of the preserved examples have run in the past but, currently No.47406 is the only operational Jinty. No.47298 and 47324 are ‘under overhaul’ at Rileys and the ELR with No. 47324 being expected back later this year or early in 2019 as is No.47298 – watch this space, as they say.

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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Heading for Yorkshire

There isn’t another locomotive in preservation which raises the controversy that No.60103 Flying Scotsman does. Everything from the shade of green to the ‘German’ style smoke deflectors has its share of supporters and detractors and we haven’t mentioned money or how much of what is before your eyes is ‘the real Flying Scotsman’ or the ‘Flying Money Pit’ as some refer to it.

In all the heated debate we some how seem to have lost sight of the simple pleasures which brought us to our hobby – watching, listening to and enjoying the smell of passing steam engines, taking their numbers, or their pictures as we did so. It must have been quite a treat for spotters along the S&C during the early 1960s when, in addition to their daily diet of LMS locos, the A3s were appearing regularly on the ‘Waverley’ and other Edinburgh – London St. Pancras services, south of Carlisle.

In the summer of 1960 Holbeck was already home to several A3s including Nos.60038 Firdaussi, No.60077 The White Knight,  and No. 60080 Dick Turpin which was one of the few not named after race horses, ‘Flying Scotsman’ was, of course, another, though she wasn’t  a Holbeck engine. Several more A3s, mostly from Gateshead, ended up in Leeds when they were cascaded down from the East Coast Main Line, as the Deltics and Type 4s took over. Some of the last A3s to be withdrawn were those shedded at Carlisle Canal, which spent their final days working freight services over the Waverley line to Edinburgh. One of them, No.60100 Spearmint, when she was at Haymarket, in her heyday, was the regular engine of the footplate author, driver Norman McKillop, aka Toram Beg, who wrote for Trains illustrated.

McKillop wrote the excellent, ‘Lighted Flame a History of ASLEF’, as well as a column in the Locomotive Journal, though he is probably better known for his writings about footplate work and life for a more general audience in books like, ‘Enginemen Elite’ and ‘Ace Enginemen’.

The photo shows No.60103 Flying Scotsman at Birkett Common, if I’m permitted an opinion I’d loose the German blinkers and the rest is just fine. However, I do think they looked very handsome in Apple Green with a single chimney.

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 ‘starred’ 8F

Tuesday’s Dalesman was again in the hands of the ‘starred’ 8F No.48151, and she is seen here northbound, at Langcliffe, just a couple of miles beyond Settle Junction.  Built at Crewe in 1942 No.48151 spent her first seven years at Grangemouth before becoming a Canklow engine in 1949, where, apart from a brief spell at Wellingborough, she remained until 1962 – I very much doubt that she saw much by way of passenger duties at either location. Somewhat more surprising is that ‘in preservation’ she has worked freight trains, a stone hopper train from  Ribblehead quarry over the S&C to Carlisle and at Tunstead quarry during a short spell on loan there.

Canklow, 19C later 41D, (Rotherham), opened in 1875 and closed to steam in 1965 and the nearest I could find to a passenger engine, on the books, was a ‘Flying Pig’ No.43037 which spent quite some time there in the 1950s and 60s. At Grangemouth No.48151 would have been rubbing shoulders with WD 2-10-0s and ancient Ex-Caledonian Railway Drummond, Pickersgill, and McIntosh 0-6-0s, like the 1899 vintage, McIntosh 3F, No.828, (BR No.57566), which is still running on the Strathspey Railway.

Grangemouth was one of the Scottish sheds I visited during a round Scotland track and shed bash in 1964, not the most accessible spot to reach using public transport, like Thornton Jct., which was another one on the list we visited. I had my one and only footplate trip on an A4 during this tour, riding on No.60026 Miles Beevor from Aberdeen up to Stonehaven – a very different experience from the Bulleid Pacifics I was working on, out of Waterloo. Quite what the Aberdeen men made of me I don’t know, the fireman was old enough to be my dad and the driver my grandad!

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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Southbound

The scene is Birkett Common, a mile or so south of Kirkby Stephen, and for much of the next 7 miles the gradient is at 1 in 100, there’s even a short stretch at 1 in 80. You can see the change in gradient, with the last coach or two still on the short respite at 1 in 237, much of the 11 miles before that were also at 1 in 100, give or take. After the Appleby water stop, apart from a brief dip down to towards Ormside, it’s a solid slog all the way up to the  summit at Aisgill.

There have been some fine charges from the Applby water stop to Aisgil summit during a spell when there was a competition for the ‘Blue Ribbon’ and earlier this month No.35018 British India Line went over the summit at 53mph, though I don’t have a time for the run it has to be up there with those Blue Ribbon efforts.

No.60103 Flying Scotsman and her crew had set off from Edinburgh at just after 07:30 and, more or less from the off, they were into  the climb to Cobbinshaw, around 16 miles at between 1 in 100 and 1 in 140 for a fair chunk of it. When  she passed us it was 15:30  and it would be turned 18:00 when she reached Preston – that’s a lot of hours in service, even allowing for a couple of hours break in Carlisle. By the time the engine gets back to Bury it will be turned 23:00 – that’s one heck of a shift. And some serious dedication from the support crew volunteers, take a bow guys you’ve earned it.

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 fireman’s lot

On this day 70 years ago Ex-GWR King Class 4-6-0, No.6018 Henry VI pulled out of Central Station, in Leeds, with the 13:10 departure  for London Kings Cross. Coupled to the North Eastern Railway Dynamometer coach, she was on the return working of her assessment in the Locomotive Exchange trials. In their trial, on the the London – Leeds runs, burning Yorkshire hard coal, the Kings didn’t fare well against their opposition. One part of the problem was their lack of ‘superheating’ and following the trials the whole class were fitted with larger super-heaters and later double-chimneys, both of which made improvements.

When you see it written down, like that, it all sounds quite mechanical and matter of fact. However, you can bet your life that on the footplate things were very different; and the fireman, who would have been doing all the work, is the last person to get a mention. Reading between the lines the supply of steam seems to have been a part of the equation – struggling to keep pressure up isn’t a great way to spend your day at work.  Being able to shovel coal through a hole doesn’t make you a fireman, it’s the ablity to coax a few extra flames out of a half-dead fire and get another pound or two of pressure in the boiler when things are rough, that’s where you earn the name and the corn!

No.6024 King Edward I, photographed here on the West Somerset Railway, at Leigh Lane, shows the King in its final form with the double-chimney; and just how I remember seeing one for the first time, at Birmingham Snow Hill, in 1959.

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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Express connections

If railways are about connections there are a lot of them, for me, in this picture. My first long distance journey, on my own, was on the South Yorkshireman. I was taken, by my folks, to Bradford Exchange, where they put me on the train and asked the guard to keep an eye on me; my Aunt met me off the train at Rugby Central station – I was 10. And for the following two weeks I would spend most of my time sat by the girder bridge, where the Great Central crossed the WCML, just south of Rugby Midland station, sadly not with a camera.

Six years later I was at work on the railway in London whilst one of my former classmates was working as a steward on the Pullmans; working between Leeds and Kings Cross. This particular connection gave me the opportunity to sample the joy of Pullman travel from Kings Cross up to Leeds and a very enjoyable dinner for the princely sum of zero. When one of the engines I worked on, during my 3 year spell in London, was returned to steam, it was at the Great Central. No.35005 Canadian Pacific was returned to active duty by the engineering team at Loughborough; and at the ‘ceremony’ to mark her return I was an invited guest and enjoyed a ‘Pullman’ lunch with the CEO of CP Europe as No.35005 hauled us up and down the line.

My first outing, as fireman, on the former London South Western main line out of Waterloo, was with the 19:54 service to Basingstoke, calling at Woking and all stations thereafter. The engine was one of the ‘Standard Arthurs’, identical to the one in the photo except it had a name. And, in a final twist, when I took this photo I was standing chatting to a couple of chaps from Epsom who had stood, train spotting, on the platform at Surbiton during the very time I had been working trains through there on a daily basis with Bulleid Pacifics and BR Class 5 Standards.

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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Different worlds

On a scorchingly hot Sunday afternoon I was asked, ‘what was it like, on days like this, working on the footplate’. Well, hot of course but, what they meant was how did we cope and how grim was it.   Bottled water, there wasn’t any of that in 1960s Britain and shorts, trainers, and a t-shirt, well let’s just say I never met a fireman dressed that way. I did however, come across quite few drivers who, even on roasters, turned up for duty in a shirt and tie – proper old school.

In engines with a very enclosed cab, it was often ridiculously hot, especially if the engine was in the shed and you were preparing the fire to go off-shed. It was equally bad on the ash pit cleaning the fire too. The term, ‘sweating like a pig in a lard factory’, was a relatively accurate, if colourful, description of the conditions. In the summers of 63,64, and 65 I was a fireman at Nine Elms on the Bulleid Pacifics and Q1s which did get very warm but, the BR Standards,  especially the ones with the big tenders, were fairly enclosed, and they were pretty warm too, when compared with the likes of an S15 or a U-boat. Once you got out on the road you could at least hang out the window for a breath of fresh air, between bouts of firing.

The really big difference between then and now is the attitude to alcohol.  Drinking on duty was a punishable offence, then as now, however, a very blind eye was often turned; and after a trip down to Bournemouth, on a hot day, a pint of Brown & Mild in th BRSA club, wasn’t drinking it was re-hydration! And right outside the gate at Nine Elms was the ‘Brook’ – The Brookland Arms, the ‘lock-ins’ were the stuff of legend.

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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From main line to minerals

After a star-studded career on the main line Britannia Class 4-6-2, No.70013 Oliver Cromwell, is seen here hauling 9S10 the 10:20 Loughborough – Swithland ‘windcutter’ / ‘runner’ re-enactment, during the Great Central Railway’s Goods Galore Gala, on Saturday last.

When steam was on its way out engines which were once the pride of the fleet could be seen, often in filthy condition, performing all manner of lesser turns and duties – as above. The question was raised, about my previous post, did we really need the ‘Standards’, of all classes. They began to appear in 1951 and all of them were withdrawn by 1968, some of them went to scrap at less than 10 years old. It matters little which side of the political divide you’re on – this is a criminal waste, by any standard.

The twenty years between 1948 when BR was born and 1968 when steam was finally withdrawn, were twenty years of missed opportunities, poor decision making, botched planning and, for much of that time, a government antipathetic to the very idea of Nationalisation.  This is hardly a recipe for success and successes were thin on the ground. Did the railway need new classes and designs, probably not. If more locomotives were needed, until the network could be ‘electrified’, it would have made more sense to build additional locos of pre-existing classes – Black 5 or Std 5?

In my own railway career I witnessed the debacle unfolding, at the blunt end. The dereliction, decay, and loss of morale, the queues of trucks blocking the roads, no motorways then, not to mention the failures of the new fangled diesels but, the badly run down and poorly mainted steam fleet too.

On that note the S&C beckons, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

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Double standards

70 years since the formation of British Railways and 24 years since it was privatised; and in the photo two engines of British Railway’s Standard Classes in action on a Heritage railway. The Standard Classes began with number 70000, which they named Britannia, the last one built at Swindon, No. 92220, they named Evening Star.  Between No.70000 and No. 92220 were these classes of engines No.78018 of BR Standard Class 2MT introduced in 1953 and designed at Derby and No.73156 of BR Standard Class 5 introduced in 1951 and designed at Doncaster, No.73156 being amongst the last of the class to be delivered, at the end of 1956.

No.73156 was built in Doncaster  and initially allocated to Neasden, which made her something of a regular on Ex-GCR metals during that period. No.73156 saw a number of allocations on the Midland region and it was an allocation to Leicester which led to her eventual arrival at the GCR, after a less than succesful spell languishing at Bury. No.78018 was built at North Road Works in Darlington in 1953 allocated to West Auckland she began service over the Stainmore route in March 1954, she was withdrawn from Shrewsbury depot in November 1966 after less than 13 years of service.  No.73156 saw even less service, 11 years, and was withdrawn from service at her last allocation Bolton.

Both engines ended up in Woodham’s scrap yard in South Wales where No.78018 spent the next eleven years – No.73156 spent 18 years in the yard – 7 years more than she was in service. No.78018 became the property of the Darlington Railway Preservation Society and was returned to steam at the GCR where she will remain for the 10 years of her boiler certificate. No.73156 is also in a similar arrangement and both engines are in the custody of the Loughborough Standard Locomotive Group.

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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