Working on the railway during the transition from steam to diesel, in the 1960s, presented its only little idiocyncracies. You turned up for work expecting, and dressed for, a day on a diesel, only to find it had failed earlier and been replaced by a steam engine. In my case this was a bonus – I had little time for ‘modern traction’, give me a steamer any day.
In the late summer of 65 I moved into No.2 link at Nine Elms, traditionally the Salisbury link. The Western region had sent over its decrepit Warship class diesels for us to use on the West of England services. Not only did they fail with ‘unfailing’ regularity, they were also hard pushed to keep time. My new regular mate, one of the railway’s more obnoxious characters, only added to the disenchantment of being in a link where the steam turns were being dieselised. Stareing out of a window for eight hours, in the company of someone you loathe and detest, isn’t a good day at the office.
Being young and impulsive I decided to return to my home county and start again. At the beginning of January 1966 I walked through the gate at Holbeck to sign on. One of the first people I bumped into was an ex-Farnley Jct. driver, Walter Thurlow, who was now a loco inspector. He took me to see the shed master and I was passed for firing, on the spot. No oily rags and paraffin, back on the road with a shovel. Almost immediately I was sent on a week long loan to Stourton, 55B, where I did a few very interesting little trips around the goods yards and sidings of Leeds and had a run out as far as Skipton with a goods working from Stourton yard, for Carlisle. The return working was parcels train, with a diesel on the front, one of the BR Sulzer Type 2 Bo-Bo, if memory serves me.
There was no longer any escape, the advancing dieselisation was the future. I moved from Holbeck to Wakefield but, even here the diesels were making inroads, in less than 18 months it would be over.
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