Tag Archives: 34053 Sir Keith Park

“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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Down stopper – back fast

One Saturday, early in January 1965, I was booked on a regular three link duty, the 08.35 Waterloo – Weymouth stopper. It was a turn where you might get a Merchant Navy, West Country, or even a BR class 5 Standard. On the day our engine was No.34022 Exmoor and we left Waterloo with 11 on for 395 tons gross. Our first stop was Surbiton and we arrived 50 seconds late, we pulled into Woking, our next stop, 25 seconds to the good.

The 08.35 down wasn’t a flyer but, we did have a bit of fun accelerating all the way, from our start out of Working, to the summit at MP31 which we passed at 54mph – we kept up a pretty even mid seventies all the way from Farnborough to Hook where we were stopped by signals.  However, despite being brought to a dead stand we still rolled into Basingstoke only 38 seconds adrift.

Twenty four minutes was the time allowed from Basingstoke to Winchester – we passed Wallers Ash box at over 80mph arriving in   Winchester a shade over two minutes early. After leaving Winchester things carried on in much the same style and we went through Eastleigh nudging 70 and nearly a minute up. It wasn’t to last, signal checks between St Denys and Northam Jct. saw us roll into Southampton almost 3 minutes late.

The journey onwards from Southampton wasn’t logged but we called at Brockenhurst and then  all stations to Bournemouth, where we were relieved. After being relieved, the usual routine was to walk back down the platform, to the London end, where there was a BRSA club. A couple of pints of brown and mild, a Cornish pastie and agame of bar billiards before crossing over to the up road for the back working. The back working, an ‘up fast’ from Weymouth, was almost always a Merchant Navy, and a very different run altogether, of which, more later.

Sadly, No.34022 Exmoor, wasn’t one of the survivors and the photo shows No.34053 Sir Keith Park getting into her stride after departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the Great Central Railway. I did work on No.34053 Sir Keith Park but I don’t have access to the details of any of my runs with her.

My thanks to Terry Jackson whose log of the run I made with 34022 Exmoor on 02 / 01 / 1965, between Waterloo and Southampton, was used to provide the details of the trip recounted above.

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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Down stopper – back fast

One Saturday, early in January 1965, I was booked on a regular three link duty, the 08.35 Waterloo – Weymouth stopper. It was a turn where you might get a Merchant Navy, West Country, or even a BR class 5 Standard. On the day our engine was No.34022 Exmoor and we left Waterloo with 11 on for 395 tons gross. Our first stop was Surbiton and we arrived 50 seconds late, we pulled into Woking, our next stop, 25 seconds to the good.

The 08.35 down wasn’t a flyer but, we did have a bit of fun accelerating all the way, from our start out of Working, to the summit at MP31 which we passed at 54mph – we kept up a pretty even mid seventies all the way from Farnborough to Hook where we were stopped by signals.  However, despite being brought to a dead stand we still rolled into Basingstoke only 38 seconds adrift.

Twenty four minutes was the time allowed from Basingstoke to Winchester – we passed Wallers Ash box at over 80mph arriving in   Winchester a shade over two minutes early. After leaving Winchester things carried on in much the same style and we went through Eastleigh nudging 70 and nearly a minute up. It wasn’t to last, signal checks between St Denys and Northam Jct. saw us roll into Southampton almost 3 minutes late.

The journey onwards from Southampton wasn’t logged but we called at Brockenhurst and then  all stations to Bournemouth, where we were relieved. After being relieved, the usual routine was to walk back down the platform, to the London end, where there was a BRSA club. A couple of pints of brown and mild, a Cornish pastie and agame of bar billiards before crossing over to the up road for the back working. The back working, an ‘up fast’ from Weymouth, was almost always a Merchant Navy, and a very different run altogether, of which, more later.

Sadly, No.34022 Exmoor, wasn’t one of the survivors and the photo shows No.34053 Sir Keith Park getting into her stride after departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the Great Central Railway. I did work on No.34053 Sir Keith Park but I don’t have access to the details of any of my runs with her.

My thanks to Terry Jackson whose log of the run I made with 34022 Exmoor on 02 / 01 / 1965, between Waterloo and Southampton, was used to provide the details of the trip recounted above.

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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A brief review of my 2017 in words and pictures.

A year of firsts and farewells, though for me 2017 was the year of the ‘End of Southern Steam’; an event celebrated, if that’s the right word, at quite a few heritage lines; and I very much enjoyed seeing Nos. 34081 92 Squadron and 34053 Sir Keith Park, at the Great Central Railway’s offering.  There was even a brief glimpse of No.73156 running as No.73084 Tintagel, like Nos. 34081 and 34053, another engine I’d worked on back in the 60s.

No.73156 / 73084 was one of the firsts too, as she was making her debut appearance after being rescued from Dai Woodhams yard in Barry and restored to operational condition at Loughborough. Sadly, teething problems with the brakes curtailed her official workings, to just one passenger turn on the first day of the gala.

Earlier, in February, there was a bold experiment on the Settle & Carlisle line with No.60163 Tornado hauling regular service trains, for a 3 day spell, between Skipton and Appleby. There were two runs each day and I managed to photograph the first return working, at Selside, on Valentine’s Day. No.60163 also set a first, being given a trial run at 100mph on the ECML, a thrill for all concerned, I’m sure. The data being gathered was intended to support the case for raising the speed limit for steam, on the main line, from 75mph to 90mph.

Sticking with the main line theme, 2017 saw the S&C officially re-opened, after major repairs, with a run behind No.60103 Flying Scotsman, to Carlisle and the S&C also saw main line stalwart, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, bow out when her boiler ticket expired in August – she is pictured at the top of the article, at Kirkby Stephen station , on her last run over the S&C.

No.60103 Flying Scotsman, crossing Lunds viaduct, on the S&C.

Being a Leeds lad I’m rather fond of the Scots which, for many years, were the principal express engines on the former LMS / MR /LNWR routes in and out of the City. In line to replace her, out on the main line, is another engine steaming for the first time since being saved from the scrap yard, No.35018 British India Line, and again one of the engines I have fired on passenger services, out of Waterloo, in the 60s.

Continuing the Southern theme, I never worked on the Schools, though there were several in store at 70A when I started there. 2017 saw Schools Class, No.926 Repton, return to traffic on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, following her ten year overhaul. She is pictured above, slogging up the last half mile of the steep climb from Grosmont to Goathland during the NYMR gala.

On a personal note, I made my first ever visit to the narrow gauge system at Threlkeld Quarry, a little gem in the midst of some wonderful scenery. The locomotive in the photograph is, Sir Tom, a Bagnall 0-4-0ST of 1926 vintage. Sir Tom was employed at BICC in Kent until 1968 and moved to Threlkeld in 2001. Sir Tom was overhauled and rebuilt at Threlkeld and re-entered traffic in 2010.

As the year drew to a close it was farewell to Black 5 No.44806 at the NYMR and No.7812 Erlestoke Manor at the Severn Valley. No.61994 The Great Marquess, and shortly No.60009 Union of South Africa, are to become museum exhibits, no longer gracing the main lines and flying a flag for the LNER, which is sad, especially as the locomotives, of constituents of the LNER, are few in number when compared with the other members of the Big Four.

Not to end on sour note No.7812 Erlestoke Manor, pictured above approaching Bewdley tunnel with a Bridgnorth – Kidderminster service, is to have a fast track overhaul and is expected back by 2020. Good progress is being made with the new build No.82045, a project of which I’m a keen supporter. The 82xxxs were great fun to work on and the ideal engine for a heritage railway operation. I’m very much looking forward to seeing and photographing the finished item.

All of you, I’m sure, have your own highlights from 2017 and I could have added a few more of my own, seeing the Steam Elephant in operation at Beamish was a treat, as was having the Tanfield Railway just 15 minutes drive away, and I leave you with one of my favourite shots from Tanfield in 2017.

Keighley Gasworks No.2, with Bobgins cabin in the background, is heading for Andrews House with a train from East Tanfield.

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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When the party’s over

This year it is fifty years since beasts like this one, Ex-SR B-o-B Class 4-6-2 No.34053 Sir Keith Park, hurtled along the main lines of the old London & South Western Railway routes from London to points west; I had some memorable moments with them on those routes.  Up round Woodfidley, in the New Forest, in the early hours of an Autumn morning, watching the deer ‘floating’ through the sea of ground mist,  being alongside big ships, with boat trains from Ocean Liner Terminal, special stop orders for Idmiston Halt – a boffin going to  Porton Down, a rail tour special to Exeter and back.

You remember too  the card games and the banter, the drivers and firemen you worked with, many of them, sadly, no longer with us; gone to that great engine shed in the sky,  where they’re all top link and every turn is a mileage job. The swapping turns, working rest days,  down the Brook for a pint before closing – always a lock-in, gone, like the coal tower, pit road, and tallow lamp, snuffed out by the future.

You can preserve the engines, run them up and down the tracks, but for the crews who worked them in everyday service, ‘running the railway’, fifty years ago, in July 1967, the party was over.

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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All change

34053exquornWhen I look at this photo I’m reminded of an early Spring day in 1963 and my first trip down to Bournemouth with the 8.35a.m. It also reminds me of the vast changes, to footplatemen’s lives, which have taken place since then. The ‘common’ practice, in 1963/4/5, when arriving at Bournemouth with the 08.35a.m, was to walk back down the platform, to where the British Railway Staff Association club was situated, for a couple of pints of ‘Brown & Mild’ a game or two of bar billiards and a Cornish pastie.

Right outside the gates of Nine Elms MPD was the ‘Brook’, the Brooklands Arms to give it its Sunday name, and it was, mostly, frequented by the crew from the Elms, during opening hours which, like the enginemen’s jobs, were not what they are today. Maybe someone should do a correlation between MPDs and pubs and which ones closed when the sheds did, because many of the depots I was at,  or travelled to, had a nearby boozer. Drinking on duty was, naturally, prohibited, but it was also turned a blind eye to.

Footplate work was hot, dusty and dirty, that first  Brown & Mild, in the BRSA club, never touched the sides of the glass, the second was enjoyed more slowly, along with the Cornish pastie. After which it was cross to the up platform, relieve the crew on our home working and shovel a few more tons of coal.

The very idea, today, that the driver would nip to the bar for a couple of pints of foaming ale is practically unthinkable – there’d be no blind eye turning, no tacit acceptance of the odd pint to swill the dust down – it would be the door marked exit.

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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