After the embarrassment, on my last trip, of waking up half of Huddersfield, sat in Hillhouse Yard with the safety valves roaring, my next turn had drama of a different kind. Again an early morning goods working but, this time to Ashton – under – Lyne, on the outskirts of Manchester. Whilst still a cleaner I had ridden out a couple of times on a Dub Dee, on a goods turn to Mirfield, this turn was my first on one as the fireman – and we were going a lot further than Mirfield.
It was on this trip that I learned the 7/8th Whitworth spanner was used not for unscrewing nuts but, holding up the damper handle. The preliminaries completed and the all important can of tea brewed we trundled off shed and down to the yard to pick up our train. Once I’d hooked on, the next job was to put the lamps on; top and middle for a through freight, remembering to take the red glass out of what had been our tail lamp. When I climbed back on to the footplate the guard had been up and given the driver the load – I watched for the tip that he was back in his van and my mate whistled up for the road.
Getting a loose coupled goods train away is a steady job, easing out the couplings on 30 or 40 wagons, the whiplash effect can cause links to snap, or the guard to be injured, if you try to do things too quickly. Again I’m looking back watching for a light from the guard, so we know he’s with us and not left behind in the yard. My mate is driver, Arthur Smith, and when I see the guard wave his lamp I give him the nod, and we’re under way……….
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: