During fog or falling snow to the box you must go.

Rule 55 was a mantra learned by every cleaner, an essential feature in his becoming a ‘passed cleaner’ – the ‘passed’ meant, literally, that you had passed an examination, on the essential sections of the rule book, that allow you to act as a fireman on the national network.  Rule 55 was one you had to know, Rules 178 – 181, generally known as ‘protection’ also had to be committed to memory. Carrying out Rule 55 was a commonplace, you always hoped you didn’t have to carry out ‘protection’.

All of which reminds me of an incident with one of these BR standard class 4 MTs, possibly, even this very engine. I was with my regular driver Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders, working the 04:40 Ex-Waterloo to Salisbury, on a freezing cold February night in 1965. The turn was a regular 3 Link working, these Class 4s were the usual engines and we’d done the job dozens of times but, there’s always that one, that one where it doesn’t quite go to plan.

The 75xxxs were free steaming little engines and the 04:40 wasn’t too demanding, two or three coaches and half a dozen newspaper vans, so it wasn’t the toughest of jobs, you didn’t even have to prepare your own engine, just step on the footplate at Waterloo, and off you went. The only downside to that was that sometimes the guys who did the prep didn’t always do things right, like filling the gauge lamp. If the Standards did have a fault it was the failure to incorporate electric lighting.

The term ‘stopper’ summed up the 04:40 perfectly  and after leaving Basingstoke it was all stations to Andover. The first stop was at Oakley, where the station is on a rising gradient, the second Overton, is on a small gradient of about 1:500 down hill. As we set off from Oakley the gauge lamp went out, it hadn’t been properly filled and the reservior was empty.  It’s bad enough, at night, trying to see how much water is in the glass, with a gauge lamp, without one it’s mission impossible.

The long and the short is that this caused, as you can imagine, some distraction on the footplate. The next thing I know ‘sooty’ has dropped the handle and we are sliding gently through Overton station and out the other side – ooops. No damage, apart from ‘sooty’s pride and, after a word with the guard and the bobby, we set back into the station – ensuring that the good burgers of Overton had their morning papers. Very much doubt if you’d get away with that on today’s railway, things were different then.

The photograph shows Ex-BR Class 4MT No.75078 in Damems loop, on the K&WVR. The fireman is just getting back on the engine having handed the single line token to the bobby.

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:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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