No smoke without fire

Taken just last week, admidst lush green trees and verdant pastures, scatterd with cow parsley – this is ‘the green and pleasant land’. However, here we are again, a few days of baking hot sun and the main line steam ban rolls out. And just for good measure the ‘big railway’ has been cancelling services left, right, and centre. This isn’t new, it happens almost every time there’s a prolonged spell of hot dry weather – and it’s as predictable as hosepipe bans and water rationing – it’s become such a commonplace that the Tabloids no longer print ‘Phew – what a scorcher’ headlines when the temperature gets to 70F.

My reaction to all this is one of wonderment, I wonder how we managed not to burn the entire country to the ground during the 150 years of steam powered railways. I wonder how countries much hotter than ours manage to cope with the extremes of heat and cold – especially those where it’s baking during the day and freezing by night. Closer to home, I wonder what effect it has on passenger numbers on the preserved railways. I can’t imagine sitting in a baking hot railway carriage is high on the agenda in these conditions. Bad enough if you have to commute – but to do it out of choice?

On my agenda is a shady spot, a tall glass of Creme de Menthe frappe, and my recent acquisition, H F F Livesey’s ‘The Locomotives of the London North Western Railway’.

The photo shows ‘School’ Class 4-4-0 No.926 Repton, at Darnholme, on the North Yorkshire Moors 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: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Hot Scot

Today’s visit to the K&WVR 50th Celebrations, provided a little addition to the usual drama of steam locomotives hard at work, there was a trackside fire at Oxenhope. Not a huge affair but, large enough to warrant the attention of the local fire brigade – with a substantial delay to services until it was all dampend down. Not quite what you want with crowds of people, in gala mood, in baking hot conditions stuck, on the train.

With nothing happening at Oxenhope we took the opportunity to move down to Ingrow, which is where we see No.46100 Royal Scot.  Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that she is hurtling through the station on her non-stop run to Oxenhope but, you’d be wrong. No.46100 Royal Scot is moving, and the lamps would indicate an express, however, in this photo she’s the tail of the top and tail working and, so far as I recall, the lamp(s) should be a single one, bottom middle, and red during the hours of darkness, in fog, or falling snow.

Moving on – the Thames Clyde Express was a regular duty, for many years, for the Royal Scots and would have been a regular sight for railway enthusiasts in and around Keighley during the 50s and early 60s, before the A3s stole some of their thunder. However, for 3 days No.46100 Royal Scot is the star attraction – and no more line side fires – please.

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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Arr nah braan car

A lovely summer’s afternoon in God’s green acres, the cows are in the meadow – I didn’t see no sheeps. When I rolled up at Nine Elms, fresh outta Yorksha, you can imagine some of the stick I got over my accent. To me a bass was a fish not something your boarded to go to work, I put butter and not batter on my bread, and so it went on. When I went back up home for a weekend – they extracted the ‘Miccy’ and called me ‘geezer’ – I couldn’t win!

London, in Spring 1963, was at the very beginnings of ‘the swinging 60s’ but the only swinging I was doing was with shovels full of coal. My pied a terre wasn’t in Chelsea or Pimlico it was a room, first floor front, on Lavendar Hill, Clapham. Not the easiest spot to sleep after a night shift, with a constant stream of traffic and no double glazing. I wasn’t long before I found something quieter.

There were a couple of the Maunsell 4-4-0 Class V, aka ‘Schools’,  at 70A when I arrived, but they were already ‘in store’ and never returned. It was the same with the Drummond M7s, which had been the main stay of the ECS from Clapham to Waterloo – until their duties were  taken by the BR 82xxx Class 2-6-2Ts. And it was on one of these ECS duties that I met one of the footplatemen from the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges – though at the time I had no idea that he had been and he was far too modest to advertise the fact.

Thing is, when I think back, it was this continuity, working with men who had years of experience, and who themselves had been taught by men who were railwaymen in Victoria’s reign – this was where the real strength of the railways lay, generations of hard won knowledge of how the rail travel machine worked and what is required to make it do so.

PS I was going to call this piece ’till the cows come home’ but, you’d still be waiting for it!! Did someone mention ‘train’?

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 first convert

One of the locomotives from the 1948 Exchange Trials, and the first of the class to be rebuilt, No.35018 British India Line, is seen here, passing Rillington, at the head of the Scarborough Spa Express. I have to say it’s very nice to be able to see her in action on the main line, in my neck of the woods but, it’s a far cry from being on her footplate, speed in the 80s, on a Waterloo – Bournemouth express, as I have been in the past.

I’m sure there are good reasons but, I do find it a little odd that the chosen motive power allocation  sees class 8P No.35018 British India Line working the virtually flat York – Scarborough run with 10 on whilst a class 6 Jubilee, or the 8F, are allocated turns over the S&C with 11 or 12 on. Given the leisurely schedule on the SSE it is surely more suited to the 8F’s 50mph speed limit. An example of just how easy the SSE timings are can be seen from today’s run; No.35018 British India Line was 12 minutes late away from York, she passed Malton only 6 down, by the time she passed Seamer she was 4 to the good and arrived 7 early into Scarborough – and all without breaking sweat.

To put that into context, in 1964, working from Waterloo to Basingstoke a distance of 47.78 miles, on a Merchant Navy, with load 12 or 13  the booked time was 55 minutes. For those of you unfamiliar with the route it is almost all against the collar  with a bit of a dig, after the slack through Clapham Jct., up to Wimbledon and another from around West Byfleet up to MP 31. York to Scarborough is a little over 41 miles, relatively flat, and the SSE is given a pedestrian 73 minutes.

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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A little 8F – ing

Double-entende and railway slang have much in common and there’s no shortage of words and phrases from the railway lexicon to be found in common parlance – from a desire to ‘polish those buffers’ to ‘hitting’ them, and ‘building up a head of steam’, well you get the intention. I kept hearing an LMS whistle, blowing on the breeze but, until the 8F burst from Shotlock Tunnel I had know idea which of the possible locomotives it was, though I did know it wasn’t British India Line, or something LNER.

My previous visit to the Settle – Carlisle line was two weeks ago, when No.45690 Leander was ‘running out of puff’ and, as a result, behind schedule. Today, however, No.48151 was a few minutes ahead of time and ‘going like a train’. Speaking of which, that master of innuendo George Formby used to do a little number called the ‘Wigan Boat Express’ – an entirely fictional train service. A couple of lines will serve to give you the gist: “A chap one day with a girl got gay, I saw them both caress. She got what for in the corridor on the Wigan Boat Express.” (Formby, G.) Moving swiftly on, this song could not have been written about a train liason today, what with the open saloon and a distinct lack of corridors. Perhaps, this is the moment to draw a veil over the steamy proceedings.

The photo shws No.48151 emerging from Shotlock Tunnel, close to Aisgill summit, with the ‘Dalesman’ Chester – Carlisle 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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The Leg Ends of Industry

This weekend was the Tanfield Railway’s Legends of Industry Gala and, on Sunday morning, the two visiting engines, Ex-CEGB, Dunston Power Station RSH 0-4-0ST No.15 and former NCB No.2 Durham Area, (Lambton Railway),  Hunslet ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST No.60, are side by side at Andrews House Station.

No.15 was built in Newcastle and spent her entire working life there, in Dunston Power Station. No.60 was built in Leeds, in 1948, and was the first new locomotive supplied to the recently created NCB Durham Area No.2. In 1962 she was fitted with a mechanical stoker, removed in 1967,  at the Lambton workshops before she went to Dawdon Colliery; where she remained, until being withdrawn in 1974 and moved, eventually, to the Strathspey Railway at Aviemore.

Between turns, No.60 stands alongside No.20 outside Marley Hill shed; this 1850s engine shed, still doing what it was built for, is having repairs to the gable end and new doors have been fitted, all the work being carried out by the volunteers. Down at East Tanfield a brand new carriage shed is taking shape; and all the new track work associated with it has also been done by the volunteers. And all this is going on whilst organising and running the gala – everything from stringing up the bunting to handing out Flyers, transporting engines across the country, ensuring a goodly supply of tea and buns for the visitors and directing traffic in the car park, (well done to Colin Fish for this little chore).

No.60 arriving at East Tanfield earlier in the week – the NCB lettering on the tanks was just another of those little jobs on the ‘to do list’ before the gala began. TV crews covered the arrival and the gala with a nice little piece being shown on the local news, in which yours truly was to be seen, though I had no idea I was!

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 Black 5’s turn

Today, June 16th, it is 70 years since Black 5 No.45253 worked from Manchester to Marylebone with the return working of her ‘Locomotive Exchange Trial’ test run, having worked North on the 15th. Later in the year Canon Roger Lloyd penned a piece for the Spectator magazine, on BR’s first year, in which he covers the trials.  Lloyd refers to B1s, as ‘Antelopes’ and Bulleid Pacifics as ‘Southern Streamliners’, quaint terms to modern ears. The good reverend suggests that the B1s were highly thought of, but doesn’t mention the Black 5s at all, though he is rather fond of the Royal Scots, which he considers to be the most handsome design.

Lloyd also questions why the Castles, V2s, Nelsons, and Jubilees were not included in the testing programme. More importantly from a travellers point of view, perhaps, he writes about how services are being restored after the ravages of WWII, blaming the lack of steel allocated for railway use for the shortages of sleeping and restaurant coaches before remarking that most of the ‘named’ trains had been restored and the cross country services were also – ‘vastly improved’. The article, which is titled “BR’s First Year”, paints a generally favourable picture of the progress made by BR during its first year of operations.

However, there is a hint of things to come with talk of country station closures, or reducing the number of stops to speed up services. For me though, the little gem in the piece concerned men I knew. Lloyd talks about the Southern crew, (Driver George Swain and Fireman Bert Hooker), working over the Highland route to Inverness with WC Class 4-6-2 No.34006 Bude. His comment was that they needed an interpreter as much as they needed a pilotman – having fired on the Southern and lived in Scotland for many years – I know exactly what he means.

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 batch

On the Western Section of British Railways Southern Region the discs, being carried by 75078, indicated a West of England service to Salisbury and Exeter. And these engines were a common sight on stopping trains out of Waterloo over this route, during my own time working on this line, in the mid-1960s. In fact, No.75078, was an engine I worked on quite a number of times on stopping passenger duties and on freight jobs, like the ‘banana trains’ from Southampton to Nine Elms Goods.

The last batch to be built, No.75065 – 75079 were allocated to the Southern, from new. They were  all eventually fitted with a double-chimney and all of them were coupled to the large BRIB tenders with a 4,725 gallon water capacity, because of the Southern’s lack  of troughs. Initially shared between Dover on the Eastern section and Exmouth Junction on the Western, many of them ended their days at Eastleigh. My 1961 Shed Book shows 2 on the books at Stewarts Lane, and 3 at Bath Green Park, which was, by then, under the Western Region of BR. On the right of the picture is Ex-S&DJR 2-8-0 7F No.53808, also of Bath Green Park, unfortunately the 75xxxs allocated to Bath, in 1961, were Nos. 75071 /2 /3, not No.75078 which was a Guildford engine and she is still carrying the 70D Guildford shed plate.

And you know that old chestnut – ‘there’s always one’ well No.75071 was withdrawn, in 1967, from Stoke. Nos.75072 & 3 were the only others from this batch not to end their days at Eastleigh; probably as a result of their posting, earlier, at Bath Green Park, both being withdrawn from Yeovil in December 1965. Amazingly 3 of this final batch survived into preservation, No.75069 is nearing the end of a major overhaul at the Severn Valley Railway, No.75079 is also under overhaul at the Mid-Hants Railway and as can be seen No.75078 is working well on the K&WVR.

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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It’s all gone a bit mono

It’s a very cold and frosty morning at Andrews House Station on the Tanfield Railway and, after taking on coal and water, 0-4-0ST Sir Cecil A Cochrane, is backing down onto her train. It was all so much simpler back then when everything was in black and white;  there was no crime, politicians were honest, schoolboys wore short trousers, National Service made men of us and people stood for the National Anthem. There are a thousand variations on these rose tinted pictures of the past. In many ways this hankering for the ‘good olde days’ is what brings visitors to the railways and puts the coal in the firebox, so to speak.

On the coldest days and bleakest winter mornings people drag themselves from warm comfortable beds, travel for miles, sometimes many miles, wrestle with fire irons,  and / or injectors, shovel coal, take water, (freezing cold water), and face the icy blasts when running bunker first, and all to recreate what you see here – in minute loving detail.

Tanfield with its little industrial engines and tiny wooden bodied coaches may be a far cry from topping Shap, on the footplate of the Duchess, with 12 on but, it is the same spirit of preservation which motivates the volunteers. Several times over the past few days I have been party to discussions about volunteers, how vital they are, how many are ‘gentlemen of a certain age’ and the need to draw in younger volunteers if the presnt levels of activity are to be maintained. And, as part of this discourse, the question of how the transmission of the skills and knowledge, of  more than 150 years  of railway operating practices, had long been the cinderella of preservation.

The generation, of which I am a part, are the last of the BR steam footplatemen – we were firemen to drivers who had been footplatemen during the Great Depression and WWII and they had learned their skills and knowledge from men who worked on the footplate in Victoria’s reign. Unless more effort is put into gathering, recording, and putting to use, these vast reserves of knowledge and skills, they are in danger of being lost – for good, or should that be for bad?

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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Jubilee close up

My previous post, about the proliferation of Jubilees in the Leeds area, drew a number of comments, one of which was, ‘how did they compare with the Black 5s’.  Today I had a flick through the latest Steam Railway, whilst standing in the supermarket, and in the Main Line running feature, Lo’ and behold, was an article  on No.45699 Galatea. I didn’t get chance to read the article, save that it mentioned that No.45699 Galatea had put in an epic performance and the engine she was being compared against wasn’t the Black 5 but a ‘Scot’.

My own work on the Jubilees is such that making a real comparison with the Black 5 is a little unfair. A dozen runs and half of them I was only riding out, while I was still just a cleaner, isn’t exactly ‘experience’. The longest trip I made on one was from Wakefield to Blackpool and back There were crews, at Farnley Jct, who often commented they’d as soon have a Black 5 as a Jubilee.  Having only been a fireman all I can say is that the Black 5 was a more forgiving engine. The Jubilees needed more careful firing, if you got too much fire down the front, under the brick arch, they would go sick on you. And trying to use fire irons, keeping them within the confines of the cab, when you’re on the move, is a risky and tricky business.

When first introduced the Jubilees did have a reputation as indifferent performers; and the level of superheating was considered the culprit.  Time and energy was put into improving their performance and, in 1937, No.(4)5684 Jutland was fitted with a Kylchap double-chimney and blast pipe Despite improvements in coal consumption, it was remved after a year. Several others were fitted with a standard  double-chimney only to have them later removed, a few did keep them though including the preserved No.45596 Bahamas.  However, it was changes to the chimney and blast pipe which were, eventually, credited with improving their steaming capabilities.

And you don’t create epic runs if you’re short of steam.

The photo shows Ex-LMS Jubilee No.(4)5690 Leander pulling away from Loughborough  Central  Station, on the GCR, with a TPO recreation.

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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