From home to the shed was a fifteen minute bike ride, less than five minutes in and a small boy rode his tricycle off the pavement, right in front of me, and I came a cropper. Not the ideal start to the first firing turn. It was a Saturday evening, in March, and the turn was station pilot, you booked on and got your engine ready, ours was one of the Ivatt 2-6-2Ts, just like that in the photo.
After signing on, the next job was scanning the board to see which engine we were booked and what road she was on. I was, as you can imagine, well early and my driver hadn’t arrived so I set off for the engine, all clean blues and shiny grease top. Once on board, check the fire and the gauge glass whilst trying to remember all the little jobs to do, check the smoke box door is sealed tight, check and fill the sand boxes but, before I did that it was time to get the dart out and spread the fire, which the steam riser had kept going under the door, and put a few choice shovels full on.
After getting the fire cracking it was off to the stores for the bucket, spanners, detonators, and engine lamps, the gauge lamp was already on the engine. When I returned my mate had arrived – he had me go to the stores for a bottle of engine oil and one of steam oil. Back on the footplate I trimmed and lit the lamps, put more coal on the fire before putting the brush and slacker pipe to use damping the coal and cleaning the cab.
You were given an hour to get your engine ready and it seemed to be gone in no time. However, before going off shed there were a couple of last little jobs, put the lamps on for ‘light engine’, take coal and water, and most important of all go to the mess room and make a brew.
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: