Tag Archives: 1948 Locomotive Exchanges

Farewell Postman Pat

The shadows are lengthening as, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, sails through Kirkby Stephen with the ‘up’ Thames Clyde Express. (actually the return leg of the Fellsman.) This is the final working before she has her a ten year overhaul, let’s hope she gets a fast track. I had hoped she’d be ‘shoveling white steam over her shoulder’ – just a bit too warm for that, sadly.

Affectionately known as ‘Postman Pat’, because, in her original form she hauled ‘The Night Mail’,  a classic  of British documentary film making, accompanyed by Auden’s wonderful poem, about the operation of the Travelling Post Office and the journey of the ‘Night Mail’ from Euston to Glasgow.

I’ve worked a few mail trains, one of them was the 22:35 Ex-Waterloo, a turned I enjoyed quite a few times whilst a fireman at Nine Elms. One of the more memorable journeys on this turn was a run with No.34006 Bude and driver Gordon Porter. Driver Porter was a lovely bloke to work with and he enjoyed a fast run. We left Basingstoke with the rockets flying and reached 95mph as we headed down the bank to Winchester.  Only the need to stop prevented us hitting the ton.

No.34006 Bude was in still in her original ‘air smoothed’ form and was a bit of a pet – having been one of the participants in the ‘mixed traffic’ class, during the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trails. No 34006 Bude worked over the GWR main line between Plymouth and Brristol and the Great Central Railway route between London (Marylebone) and Manchester.

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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The last train to Skaville

1948 was a year of firsts and lasts, it was the year British Railways came into being and the ‘Big Four’ the GWR/ Southern / LMS /LNER all went out of existence. The names and coats of arms lingered on fading paint work, the company motto’s were all pensioned off, though the shareholders still got a divi. There would be new liveries, new locomotive designs and a series of trials to see which were the best bits of whose engines to be incorporated into those designs. And one of the engines selected for those trials is the one pictured above, No.6990 Witherslack Hall.

Another of the engines which participated in those trials has just been returned to steam, for the first time since she was withdrawn, in August 1964. No.35018 British India Line was one of the three Southern Railway, Merchant Navy Class, representatives in the trials, though she stayed on the Southern, working the Atlantic Coast Express, for her part in the trials. During my own railway service I was a fireman, on No.35018 BIL, on numerous occasions and had several turns of duty with driver Bert Hooker, who was a fireman  in the 1948 exchanges and my first turn with an MN was 35014 Nederland Line on the Sunday ACE – at that time a Nine Elms, link 4 duty, Sundays only and first stop Basingstoke.

During the time I was at Nine Elms, in mid-sixties London, I became aware of the music brought over to Britain by the workers from the Caribbean, who had begun to arrive, in 1948, aboard the Empire Windrush. The music of the Skatalites was a particular favourite and whilst I was at Wakefield, the Ethiopians released Train to Skaville – a classic of the genre. My own ‘last train to Skaville’ came when Wakefield closed and I joined the dole queue.

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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Limited clearance

Ex-LNER Class B1 4-6-0, No.61264, is seen here passing Grosmont MPD, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  Two of No.61264’s classmates, No.61251 Oliver Bury, and No.61292, were used in the  Locomotive Exchange Trials,  2018 is the 70th anniversary. No.61251 Oliver Bury worked over the South Devon main line and the Midland route from St.Pancras  to Manchester. No.61292 did her stint on the Highland main line from Perth to Inverness, where she was up against the Southern’s entry in the trials WC class 4-6-2 No.34004 Yeovil.

Having worked on a B1, Leeds to Grimsby and back, and on No.34004 Yeovil, on more than a few turns over the former LSWR routes out of Waterloo, in her rebuilt form, of course, I know which I would have chosen; even if she did burn more coal! I also have a little bit of personal history with one of the firemen in the Trials, Bert Hooker, who was, by that time, a driver at Nine Elms when I moved there in the 1960s.

I’m sure preparations are already underway to celebrate the Trials, especially as one of the actual participants, Ex-GWR Hall class 4-6-0, No.6990 Witherslack Hall, has just recently returned to active duty.  My own ‘daydream’ celebration would be seeing a B1 and West Country /B-o-B giving it some 2nd valve over the Highland main line – Oh!  and some snow cover on the hills would be nice too!

If you enjoy my photographs why not have a look at my 2017 Calendar, which, for the first time, is being published by calendar company Calvendo and sold on line or by order at your local bookshop using this ISBN number: Steam Age Daydreams (Wall Calendar 2017 DIN A4 Landscape) / 978-1-325-22545-3

Here are the online links to it.:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Steam-Age-Daydreams-2017-Dave-Wilson/9781325225453?ref=grid-view

and on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steam-Daydreams-2017-Wilson-Dave/dp/1325225452/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479291987&sr=8-1&keywords=steam+age+daydreams+calendar

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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1 Hall a hauling

6990bridge

In April 1948 the newly formed British Railways, under the direction of RA Riddles, its new CME, held a series of ‘Locomotive Exchange Trials’, ostensibly to determine best practice for a range of new ‘Standard’ locomotive types. These quasi scientific trials lasted from April until September and involved, freight, mixed traffic, and express locomotive designs.

In the mixed traffic class, representing the Southern Railway, were the Bulleid ‘light’ Pacifics, the LNER chose B1s, and the LMSR Black 5s,  flying the GWR flag were the Halls, one of which was none other than the one in this photograph – No.6990 Witherslack Hall, which was virtually brand new at the time. Completing the circle, as it were, is the fact that No.6990 Witherslack Hall was involved in trials held over the Great Central Railway, the very track she is on.

It is now just two years to the 70th anniversary of the trials and probably the perfect time to begin planning some events to celebrate them. We have working examples of most of the classes involved, tho’ sadly not the LNER 01 and 07s which were amongst the freight engine trialists. A main line tour over the routes involved and with classes used in the trials – a sort of Great Britain tour – ‘ The Trialist’, would be fun too.

Maybe some sort of social media campaign to promote the idea might be worth exploring.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

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Mytholmes, Pullmans, and the 1948 Exchange Trials

43924mythMytholmes, a word which reeks of  the Pennines and Yorkshire, you can almost hear the clogs and see the cloth caps and whippets. Tho’ there’ll be no cloth caps or whippets in yon Pullman cars, thank you very much. All stereotypes of course, but, and there’s always a but, stereotypes are not without some basis in reality. The reality is that, in this photograph, No.43924, the first engine to leave Woodhams scrapyard in Barry, is hauling the ‘Pullman Cream tea’ service, on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway during Good Friday, this year.

I’m partial to a cream tea myself, and, back in March 1988, I enjoyed having my birthday party, in the ‘Old Gentleman’s coach’,  as we chugged up and down the valley being served tea, sandwiches cut into triangles, cakes, and scones with jam and cream, all  very civilised and genteel, cloth on the table and doilies on the plates. Maybe for 2018 I’ll do it again, only this time in the Pullman coach. There’s another thing which would be fun to celebrate in 2018 – the Locomotive Exchange Trials of 1948. I would love to see No.34067 Tangmere, disguised as classmate 34004 Yeovil tackling Drumochter and Slochd.

The fireman, on No.34004 Yeovil, during the exchanges, was Bert Hooker, who, when I went to work there in 1963, was, a 70A Nine Elms driver. I did a few firing turns with him myself and, many years later, (1990 or 1991), I went to his birthday party on the Bluebell, where we had dinner served in their Pullmans.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

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Nutty Slack Hall

6990slack

I doubt whether folk today have the faintest idea what ‘nutty slack’ is, in case you’re wondering – it’s not some form of confection containing nuts – it’s poor grade coal, together with lumps of black stuff which aren’t coal at all. No.6990 Witherslack Hall on the other hand is a rather special engine – she was put on trial in 1948 along with a whole selection of other ‘mixed traffic’ engines, Stanier’s Black 5s and Thomson’s B1s, to name just two of them.

The trials, or ‘Locomotive Exchanges’ as they were known, seem to have been a mixture of PR stunt, an attempt to get all sections of the newly nationalised railways pulling together to form some kind of unity – and, undoubtedly, all the top turkeys fighting like ferrets in a sack for who got top jobs, most clout, and or fattest pay cheque. These trials were also taken, by the crews involved, as a chance to show what ‘their’ engines could do – they were also meant to be ‘scientific’ to find the best practices, to compare coal and water consumption, ease of maintenance, reliability, servicing times, etc. the consensus seems to be that there was little science involved.

It was also a ‘boys and their toys event’ which the railway enthusiasts were able to enjoy at the time and for decades since. I think we should demand a retrial, to be held in 2018, using the S&C and every main line certified engine and their crews. In my dreams!!

For any of you wanting to know more, or enjoy reading my blogs and the photographs, in them why not buy yourselves a copy of my book. “Gricing” 30,000+  words and more than 100 photographs.

The following are totally unsolicited comments from people who have read  Gricing: ‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’ – ‘ I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ I was given what I believe to be your book called Gricing the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’

This is the link to my book “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Hall of fame

slackhall

This isn’t just any old Hall, this is Witherslack Hall, a Hall with some provenance. In 1948, in their infinite wisdom, the men in suits, in the upper echelons of railway management decided to conduct a rather less than scientific experiment, aka a publicity stunt, with their new toy ‘British Railways’. In a hark back to the days of jousting, or possibly witchcraft, they decided these would be known as the Locomotive Exchange Trials – a sort of ‘One man and his dog’ for steam engines – not sheep!

The promotion of image over substance was not new to the railways, they’ve being doing it since ‘Catch me who can’, was giving rides, at a shilling a go, back in 1809. What was new was that all those former ‘competitors’ were now all one large company, owned by the British public – the Locomotive Exchange Trials were seen by some as a public show of unity – behind the scenes there would have been the usual, fighting like ferrets in a sack’.

Anyway back to No.6990 Witherslack Hall, in one of those twists, which crop up with some regularity, it must be said, No.6990 Witherslack Hall actually took part in the Locomotive Exchange Trials and on the former Great Central Railway, though there was nothing new about GWR engines venturing onto the GCR. My first sighting of a GWR engine was on the girder bridge which carries the GCR over the WCML at Rugby, I was 10 at the time.

The photograph, from one of my pre-digital era slides, shows No.6990 Witherslack Hall pulling away from Loughborough Station, during the period leading up to the installation of the twin-track main line. The BR Black livery and Blood and Custard coaches, no heads poking from carriage windows, no hands holding video cameras,  it could by 1948!!

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Uphill struggle

45407drumsumpass

The last traces of winter snow cling to the side of Sgairneach Mhor as a pair of Black 5s, Nos. 45407 and 44871, crest Drumochter summit, with an Inverness –  Perth train; just as they might have done in 1960 something. The Highland line from Perth to Inverness has some of the most arduous climbs of any main line in Britain and those of Drumochter and Slochd have a degree of almost romantic notoriety amongst the railway fraternity due, in no small part, to their demands on the boiler to generate steam, and their remoteness.

Coming off shed at Inverness, with a fresh engine, to work an express to Perth would have been quite a daunting prospect for the fireman. The gradients on Slochd, south bound out of Inverness, are ferocious, more than 20 miles, almost all them, against the collar are at 1 in 60 and 1 in 70 for long sections, they commence almost as soon as the train leaves the station, a short  dip from the end of the platform and then straight onto the climb. Having the fire and water right, at departure time, would be vital when faced with these kinds of demands for steam.

Traveling northwards from Perth the climb to the top of Drumochter, is, pretty much, a continuous slog from Moulinearn Crossing, for the next 27 miles to the summit and, just to make life interesting, the final 12 or  13 miles are nearly all at 1 in 70 to 1 in 80. Into the teeth of a howling North Easter, in the middle of winter, this would have been a serious test of stamina for both engine and crew, as they pulled out of Blair Atholl and onto those 13 miles at 1 in 70 to 1 in 80 on that final climb to the top.

The Highland line, during the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges, played host to an engine I worked on myself, fifteen years later, the Bulleid West Country Class 4-6-2 No.34004 Yeovil. I also did a few turns with Driver Bert Hooker, who had been a fireman in the 1948 Trials. In retirement Bert Hooker did a spot of ‘after dinner speaking’ – one of his anecdotes was how he and I first met – but that’s a blog for another day.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog – why not check out my book – “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children”

The link is below:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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