After the excitement of a ride out over the Pennines with the Red Bank vans it was back to the day job cleaning engines, for the princely sum of £3 -12s – 0d a week – £3.60 in new money. It wasn’t all cleaning engines though, some days, if you were in the Charge-Hand cleaner’s good books you might be helping the boilersmith build a brick arch – though more likely was a day on the pit shovelling ash out of the pit and then up into a 16ton mineral wagon. Handy practice for the shovelling to come.
Farnley Jct. crew worked across the Pennines to places like Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham, Manchester, Liverpool and points in between – hence the photo of an L&Y engine and train. However, 55C wasn’t an L&Y shed it was originally a LNWR outpost; it opened in 1882 and closed in 1966, though I moved to 70A Nine Elms well before then but, that’s a story for another day.
The mess room at Farnley Jct. would, today, have been condemned as a health hazard, in 1962 it was simply a den of iniquity. Men on ‘spare’ turns, shed men and cleaners playing card games and dominoes, wooden benches to sit on, an ‘Oldham’ hot water geyser that looked like it was put in when the shed was built, a big cast iron stove kept us warm in winter. In addition to learning, by heart, Rule 55 it was in the mess room I learned to play ‘Chase the Lady’ ‘Rummy’ and ‘5s&3s’ – essential elements in footplate life!
After months as a cleaner, the day arrived when I was booked to see the Shedmaster, Mr. Warren, and yes his nickname was ‘Rabbit’. I learned my rules and the ‘passage of steam’ until I could have recited them in my sleep but, it was a nerve wracking half hour nonetheless. I passed, of course, now I was to be let loose on the main line as a ‘real’ fireman. And so, on the Saturday evening I set off, on my trusty push bike, for my first ‘official’ firing turn.
To be continued……..
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: