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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“Sooty”

The thing about being a fireman on a big engine, like the Bulleids or any of the other Pacifics, is that once the lights are green and the guard drops his flag, there’s no hiding place.  On your shoulders rests the difference between ‘rockets flying’ and ‘stopped for a blow-up’. Yes it’s team work and if things are not going well a decent mate will coast where he can and use no more steam than he has to where he can’t.

The number of variables is greater than you imagine, a cross-head wind, for instance, makes an appreciable difference to the amount of power needed to overcome that resistance – even straight or curving track alters the equation. Less esoteric but, equally important are; how long the engine had been in service since the last boiler washout and were the ash pans and smokebox cleaned out properly when the engine was last disposed. And of course the usual suspects, the type and quality of coal in the tender and how clinkered the firebed was. A bad day at the office inevitably involved a combination of these factors – if you had them all, you really should have ‘stayed in bed’!

On top of the factors already mentioned different classes of engines respond in different ways to  the level of the fire and the style of firing as well as to different styles of driving. The class 5 Standards, for example, didn’t always steam that well if pulled up to less than 25% cut-off – they needed that blast, that pull on the fire to make them steam. The Stanier Jubilees were very similar and they didn’t like a lot of fire down the front under the brick arch either. Firing isn’t simply a matter of chucking coal through a hole.

I haven’t even mentioned route knowledge or type of service being worked and already there’s quite a bit to be thinking about. There’s firing to a pattern or to the bright spots and keeping it all light and bright – on some engines this might be the only way, it is the ‘copy book’ way. On the other hand you might just ‘cob ’em up’ and sit back while it burns through!

By now you’re probably wondering about “Sooty” – well Sooty was my regular mate in 3link at 70A, driver Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders. A top bloke to work with, who not only taught me a great deal about how to fire the Bulleids but, gave me the chance to drive them too – at speed out on the main line. By the end of a shift the pair of us were usually covered in grime, however, this isn’t where the nickname came from. He was “Sooty” because when he wasn’t driving steam engines,  his part-time job involved travelling around Feltham on his motor bike and sidecar – cleaning folks chimneys!

No.35018 British India Line, an engine ‘Sooty’ and I worked on regularly during the 60s, is seen her at Helwith Bridge, on the Settle to Carlisle Line, with the Dalesman Rail Tour.

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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Surprise!

I arrived here, at Helwith Bridge, expecting to see Jubilee, No.45699 Galatea, only to discover that MN Class No.35018 British India Line was working the turn, the  York – Carlisle – York “Dalesman”, which is diesel hauled from York to Hellifield.

For reasons unknown the train was delayed leaving Hellifield and I was hoping to see the rockets flying, in an attempt to regain the lost minutes. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t crawling along but, I did get the impression she could have been worked harder – and, as many of you know, I do have some experience in these matters. The little feather at the safety valves would seem to indicated there was no shortage of puff to draw on, if required. I’m nit picking really, she was making a lovely noise, and 50 years on from the end of steam and 54 since I was a fireman on No.35018 British India Line, it is a privilege, and a minor miracle, that such sights and sounds can still be savoured.

And the real surprise wasn’t No.35018 British India Line turning up; no, the real surprise was that the delay provided just enough time for the sun to poke through the cloud – an on time passing would have been in a grey gloom.  You lose some – and you win some – today was win, win!!

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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Watch the birdy

Over the weekend the North Yorkshire Moors Railway held a behind the scenes event – having been ‘behind the scenes’ in my, one time,  day job I don’t normally go in for these events. However, the weather was fine and a drive over the moors from Kildale to Levisham via Rosedale Abbey and Pickering is lovely on such a day; and we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the way.

One of the options available was to view the signal box at Levisham; and as I hadn’t visited Levisham for over 20 years – well, hey ho, here we are at Levisham. I took some photos of the signal box, the station, and the lamp room. I also took this photo,  the reflection in the window of the general waiting room on the down platform.

When I began to look at the photo on the computer screen I noticed something I hadn’t seen when looking through the viewfinder. So, instead of the usual photo of ‘steam’ action I thought I’d post this one and see if you can spot the oddity. The only thing which has been done is a crop, no fancy photoshopping, it’s wizzywig.

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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