When I first moved to the Southern I spent a couple of months at 73A Stewarts Lane, which was, at the time, pretty much done with steam. However, there was one turn which did still have steam traction, an early, Saturday morning, working from Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge. It was on this turn that I fired my very first Southern Railway locomotive – a Maunsell mogul, just like this one, with a train of around the same proportions, though the stock, appropriately, was painted in SR green.
When I moved across to 70A Nine Elms I did a few more turns on these engines, but never again on a passenger duty. I recall a night goods working to Basingstoke which was a fairly regular turn for them, or their big sisters the S15 4-6-0s. Not all my memories of these engines are rose tinted; far from it. One of the most difficult fire cleaning jobs I ever had was on one of their number. It was during that brief spell at 73A and the fire box was full, from front to back, and I swear the clinker was a foot thick – and believe me there was a lot of cussing and swearing going on. The whole lot had to be shoveled back out the firehole door, the same way it went in, before being jettisoned via the cab door, using a paddle, ( A “Paddle” is a metal handled shovel about ten feet long). You should try it some time – it’s good for the soul!
In the photograph, No.31806, on a very windy day, is departing from Quorn & Woodhouse with a train for Leicester North, during the GCR’s ‘Winter Gala’.
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
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