Straight bananas

Fifty five years ago I was at work, cleaning engines, at Farnley Jct., one of five sheds in the city. It wasn’t ‘Top shed’ but, that didn’t detract, one iota, from the quality of the enginemanship possesed by the crews who worked there. Some of the old hand drivers had been there since before the Grouping, and worked through the Great Depression and WWII, these men, and those who were their firemen, were the ones who taught me.

Men with a pride in their work, respect for their engines and decades of experience. They didn’t teach in classrooms or lecture theatres, they taught by example, on the footplate, in the mess room, and in, and by, the institutions they created, the MIC, the Enginemen’s Mutual Assurance Fund, and their Trade Unions.  They knew which rules must be obeyed and those which could be bent a little, in short they were ‘professional’.

Fifty four years ago I was sharing the footplate with a driver who had been a fireman in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials and another who had been at the depot since WWI, and honing my own firing skills and railway knowledge, benefitting from their vast experience of working on one of the busiest parts of the railway network, out of Waterloo to Bournemouth and Salisbury, under every imaginable kind of difficulty, and weather condition.

Fifty two years ago, I had progressed to the point where my own skills as a fireman were being tested and records were being set on the runs on which I was working – records which still stand.

Twenty six years ago, after 3 years as a mature student, at the University of Leeds, I began four years of reseach, much of it in the reading room of the NRM, for my books on the Railway Races of 1895 and the changes in the lives of the footplatement between 1962 and 1996. Research which, eventually, ended up becoming a campaign to have Driver Duddington and Fireman Bray properly recognised, within the musem, and on the Locomotive, which they eventually were but, not before an article in a major national newspaper. You can read it for yourself by following this link: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2002/may/01/arts.artsnews

During this same period I persuaded the owner of 35005 Canadian Pacific, the Great Central Railway, and Steam Railway News, to hold a Red Nose event with 35005, on the GCR. The event took a whole train load of disabled children and their carers for a ride on the railway. Some of the more able bodied kids even ‘cabbed’ the engine. The railway featured on the telly, got some great publicity, the kids had a wonderful day out, and the Red Nose fund was Two-grand better off. Everyone was a winner.

No.35005 Canadian Pacific and some of the kids and their carers before setting off for their Red Nose Day train ride.  Picture Copyright John East.

Forty eight hours ago, for so much as daring to comment about the excessive use of cylinders cocks, I was, pretty much, branded a liar by one commentator and, in a stunning example debating eloquence,  a ‘Bell End’ by another, who, I might add, wasn’t even born when steam ran the national network.

Given the general levels of rudeness, ignorance, and abuse, so much in evidence, I rather think the term Unsocial media would be more appropriate way to describe Facebook, Twitter et.al.

PS ‘We have no straight bananas’ – and the box vans are being hauled past Kinchley Lane by Ivatt 2-6-0 No.46521.

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