‘What’s your favourite’ is usually followed by engine or livery but, in this instance it’s, what’s your favourite train? There are all the usual suspects, Caledonian, Red Dragon, Talisman, Atlantic Coast Express, or the Devon Belle but, in my case, it’s none of the above. My favourite is not only not a named service, it’s not even an express, it’s the ‘paper train’. A couple of coaches for the intrepid travellers and a dozen or more vans with tomorrow’s head lines and the day after’s chip wrappers.
I not only loved to travel on the paper trains, I equally enjoyed working on them. During the 60s as a fireman at 70A, I worked regularly, on the Bulleid Pacifics, hauling paper trains out of Waterloo. Just like the TPO, the newspapers were sorted and bundled on the train as we sped through the dark heading for Bournemouth. The frantic last minute activity with newspaper vans, from Fleet Street, still arriving just minutes before the off – the final, final editions. There’s something about the footplate of a Bulleid at night, the glow of the fire, the humming of the Stones generator powering the gauge glass and cab lights, the smell of wet wood and steam after you swilled round with the slacker pipe.
There were other little pleasures too, watching the sun coming up as we went through the New Forest and seeing the deer darting through the mist, swirling about the forest floor, startled by our approach. My favourite journey on one was out of Kings Cross in the mid-70s. Having boarded the train I opened the door to a compartement which had the blinds down and was greeted by the single occupant – ‘come in take yer boots off and fart a bit, we don’t want anyone else joining us.’ My fellow traveller turned out to be something of a raconteur and his choice of greeting had been the result of his reading Lenny Bruce’s ‘How to talk dirty and influence people’. It seemed like no time and we were in Doncaster and my change of train.
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