Faster miles an hour


Shunting, that’s where we were yesterday, it’s where most footplatemen began the process of becoming ‘footplatemen’. It’s a long way from shunting, to the holy grail of the crack express, many never made it. I’m sure you know those trains, they’re the ones – the schoolboy story ones, with the famous names; the ACE, the Talisman, the Caledonian, the Bristolian and the Cheltenham Flyer, the Bournemouth Belle and the Yorkshire Pullman – the, ‘honour and glory jobs’, as some crews called them.

However, for some, the journey from shunting to the mainline express was ‘express’, myself included. When I moved, as a ‘passed cleaner’, from Farnley Junction, where promotion through the links was via dead men’s boots, to be made ‘fireman’ at Stewarts Lane 73A, which was the depot supplying the motive power for the ‘Golden Arrow’,  I went into No.1 link, I’d been on the railway for a whole year!!

In swinging 60s London, jobs were plenty and there were few who wanted to be going to work, at any hour on the clock, getting filthy dirty, sweating like a pig in a Lard factory, on a railway which seemed to be going nowhere but oblivion. This was the era of Christine Keeler, ‘we’d never had it so good’ and pigeon trains – the Beatles played Hammersmith, Mods and Rockers fought in Clacton. The A4s, like No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, were still working over the routes from Edinburgh and Glagow to Aberdeen – seeing service on the ‘Saint Mungo’ from Glasgow as well as being spotted on the Aberdeen – Ferry Hill fish. Fish trains, like those for pigeons, are little more than a whiff on the breeze today.

In the photograph, No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, is fast approaching the station at Dalgety Bay, a couple of miles north of the Forth Bridge, with the morning run, of one of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society’s ‘Fife Circle’ rail tours.  These popular tours, which run Spring and Autumn, have seen several locomotive types on duty, as well as the A4s, there have been, amongst others, Black 5s 44871,45407, 45231, the K4 61994 The Great Marquess, and last year, No.46233 Duchess of Sutherland.

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