Outside the gate of Nine Elms MPD was the Brooklands Arms – the ‘Brook’, was a den of iniquity if ever there was one, lock-ins, and card schools were a speciality. Inside the gate was another world altogether and one which, early in 1963, I was about to become immersed. I hadn’t planned to end up at 70A, that was just the way things turned out. My chances of becoming a ‘main line’ fireman at my first depot, 55C, were slim and the only chance seemed to be a move South were jobs were plentiful and railway shift work was rapidly becoming unpopular.
I had barely seen a Southern Railway locomotive let alone fired one, and to my eye, accustomed as it was, to the engines of Stanier, Gresley, Thompson and Fairburn, the Bulleid Pacifics did look a little alien. However, once I got to grips with soft coal, wide fireboxes, and the particular likes and dislikes of were to put the coal and in what quantities, I grew very fond of them, [Bulleid’s Pacifics], indeed. The hum, at night, of the Stones generator, and the electric lighting which resulted, the rocking grates which made disposal so much easier and above all their phenomenal steaming qualities, made it hard not to like them. And it was such fun, on trains like the ‘up Royal Wessex’, to hurtle through Basingstoke Station, it’s platforms packed with commuters, hanging on the whistle.
For anyone interested, I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, on many levels, this is a link to it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751
These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read Gricing: ‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’
‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’
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‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night. Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’