On special workings, like boat trains, you weren’t always working with your regular mate and one of my more memorable boat train duties was with MN 4-6-2, No.35001 Channel Packet, and driver Gordon Porter. I worked with Gordon a few times, but his regular mate, in those days, was Tom Moult who, like Gordon, is sadly no longer with us. We were booked to get our own engine ready – having a Packet was a bonus; it could easily have been a Class 5 BR Standard.
Before we rolled down to the turntable there was just time to go to the mess room and make a brew. I’d already filled the tank and all that remained was a last top up under the hopper and then light to Waterloo to collect our train. These boat trains were timed around the same as the Bournemouth Expresses and ran non-stop through to the docks at Southampton; the load was usually 12 and 2 luggage vans.
Gordon loved his job and loved to ‘crack on’ and though there might have been a few extra shovels full needed I was more than happy put the effort in. I knew he liked to work like this and had prepared my fire accordingly. After clearing the slack through Clapham Jct. I began firing and Gordon made the chimney chatter, Earlsfield sped by. No.35001 Channel Packet might have been the doyen but, she was a bit of a rough rider, at that time, in early 1964, and I felt every rail joint in Raynes Park Jct.
Hurtling through Surbiton, speed in the 70s, and what made my day and thee day so memorable, was Gordon complimenting me on the fire I’d built and joking that it was having to fire like that all the time, for my regular mate ‘Sooty’ Saunders, that kept me thin!
Despite being one of the early withdrawals No.35001 Channel Packet wasn’t saved. The photograph shows B-o-B No34053 Sir Keith Park, with a recreation of a Statesman Lines boat train, at the Great Central Railway.
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: