“Dropgrate”

In one of last week’s posts ‘The grate & the goods’ I commented that the rocker bar,  the dropgrate, and I, had some history. Now you might be forgiven for thinking that this would be a tale of some  mishap, or other, involving the aforemention rocker bars and dropgrates, you would however, be wrong.

Nine Elms, in the early 60s, was a very busy shed with a large number of crews and a lively mess room. There were always ‘spare men’, there to cover for all eventualities, from someone ‘knocking’, (not turning up for duty) to breakdowns and emergencies. In addition to the spare men there were the P&D men, two or more crews who spent their shift cleaning the fires and smokeboxes of engines coming on shed, or filling tenders, oiling round, and preparing fires on engines going off shed. The overall effect was that there was always half a dozen, or more, men sat around in the mess room, for quite lengthy spells. Now as well as the all usual banter that this kind of environment engendered, games of cards and dominoes were also very popular.

Enginemen’s mess rooms aren’t exactly the most well appointed social spaces and the one at Nine Elms was no exception; canteen type tables with wooden benches either side, arm chairs and occasional tables were notable by their absense. All of which brings us to the tale of the rocker bar and the dropgrate. I was a bit of a devil for the card games and when playing, I had a habit of sitting with one leg up on the bench. During one of these sessions someone remarked that my leg, stuck up, as it was, looked like a ‘rocker bar’. The already was a fireman known as ‘Rocker’, “Rocker Deadman” – he wore a leather jacket to work.  The ‘rocker bar’ was the name for the bar which operated the rocking grate on the rebuilt WC/B-o-Bs, MNs and the BR Standard Classes and to operate the ‘dropgrate’ on the original WC /B-o-B class. From that point on I was Dave ‘Dropgrate’ and many of my ex-Nine Elms colleagues remember me more as ‘Dropgrate’ than Dave Wilson. Funny how you get these nick names, but so many men seemed to have them, that they were considered a sign of acceptance and camaraderie.

So there it is my ‘history’ with the dropgrate and the rocker bar.

The photo shows former SVR resident, No.34053 Sir Kieth Park, climbing Eardington Bank in he SVR.

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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