The white mist

Oozing steam, No.70013 Oliver Cromwell, makes a fine sight as she approaches Woodthorpe bridge with a train for Leicester North, on the Great Central Railway.  However, it’s a different ‘oozing steam’, that which eminates from the cylinder cocks, or taps, as many railwaymen knew them, I want to say something about. I have noticed a growing tendency, and I’m not the only one, for drivers, on the heritage railways, to run about, often for considerable distances, with the taps open – this is not good practice.

I have read many comments on Facebook on this topic, some of which have been quite fiesty, so it is obviously a subject that gets folk going.  If you look at all that lovely footage from the last decade of steam, do you see engines heading out of Kings Cross and into Gasworks tunnel with the taps open, or Bulleid Pacifics shrouding Waterloo in a blanket of white mist, even when they began to slip, as they did? In the case of Waterloo, I might well have been on the footplate myself, so can vouch for the fact that we didn’t run half-way to Vauxhall with the taps open and nor did we run around all over the shed yard with them open either.

In a recent exchange with another footplateman from the last decade of steam, quite unsolicited, he made the following comment, “Although they all do a great job on heritage lines I do despair sometimes (and main line steam) at the ‘techniques’ employed like not moving off quickly after the RA (wouldn’t last long on those fast stoppers) and then leaving taps open for several hundred yards…… Are they really that fearful of going hydraulic or is it meant to impress? wish I knew!! “

I couldn’t put it better myself.

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:

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