Tag Archives: 35018 British India Line

“Sooty”

The thing about being a fireman on a big engine, like the Bulleids or any of the other Pacifics, is that once the lights are green and the guard drops his flag, there’s no hiding place.  On your shoulders rests the difference between ‘rockets flying’ and ‘stopped for a blow-up’. Yes it’s team work and if things are not going well a decent mate will coast where he can and use no more steam than he has to where he can’t.

The number of variables is greater than you imagine, a cross-head wind, for instance, makes an appreciable difference to the amount of power needed to overcome that resistance – even straight or curving track alters the equation. Less esoteric but, equally important are; how long the engine had been in service since the last boiler washout and were the ash pans and smokebox cleaned out properly when the engine was last disposed. And of course the usual suspects, the type and quality of coal in the tender and how clinkered the firebed was. A bad day at the office inevitably involved a combination of these factors – if you had them all, you really should have ‘stayed in bed’!

On top of the factors already mentioned different classes of engines respond in different ways to  the level of the fire and the style of firing as well as to different styles of driving. The class 5 Standards, for example, didn’t always steam that well if pulled up to less than 25% cut-off – they needed that blast, that pull on the fire to make them steam. The Stanier Jubilees were very similar and they didn’t like a lot of fire down the front under the brick arch either. Firing isn’t simply a matter of chucking coal through a hole.

I haven’t even mentioned route knowledge or type of service being worked and already there’s quite a bit to be thinking about. There’s firing to a pattern or to the bright spots and keeping it all light and bright – on some engines this might be the only way, it is the ‘copy book’ way. On the other hand you might just ‘cob ’em up’ and sit back while it burns through!

By now you’re probably wondering about “Sooty” – well Sooty was my regular mate in 3link at 70A, driver Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders. A top bloke to work with, who not only taught me a great deal about how to fire the Bulleids but, gave me the chance to drive them too – at speed out on the main line. By the end of a shift the pair of us were usually covered in grime, however, this isn’t where the nickname came from. He was “Sooty” because when he wasn’t driving steam engines,  his part-time job involved travelling around Feltham on his motor bike and sidecar – cleaning folks chimneys!

No.35018 British India Line, an engine ‘Sooty’ and I worked on regularly during the 60s, is seen her at Helwith Bridge, on the Settle to Carlisle Line, with the Dalesman Rail Tour.

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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Surprise!

I arrived here, at Helwith Bridge, expecting to see Jubilee, No.45699 Galatea, only to discover that MN Class No.35018 British India Line was working the turn, the  York – Carlisle – York “Dalesman”, which is diesel hauled from York to Hellifield.

For reasons unknown the train was delayed leaving Hellifield and I was hoping to see the rockets flying, in an attempt to regain the lost minutes. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t crawling along but, I did get the impression she could have been worked harder – and, as many of you know, I do have some experience in these matters. The little feather at the safety valves would seem to indicated there was no shortage of puff to draw on, if required. I’m nit picking really, she was making a lovely noise, and 50 years on from the end of steam and 54 since I was a fireman on No.35018 British India Line, it is a privilege, and a minor miracle, that such sights and sounds can still be savoured.

And the real surprise wasn’t No.35018 British India Line turning up; no, the real surprise was that the delay provided just enough time for the sun to poke through the cloud – an on time passing would have been in a grey gloom.  You lose some – and you win some – today was win, win!!

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 trial survivor

Seen here pulling out of Loughborough shed, on the GCR, in 2016, No 6990 Witherslack Hall was, 70 years ago, on 24th June 1948, pulling out of Marylebone Station, heading for Manchester, over the former Great Central Railway route, as part of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials. Hauling the NER dynamometer coach to record her performance, she returned from Manchester the following day with the 08.25 Manchester London Rd. – Marylebone service; and again with the NER dynamometer coach in tow.

No.6990 Witherslack Hall, was built at Swindon works and entered  service, just a couple of weeks before the trials began, on 8th April 1948. Her competitors, over the same route between London and Manchester, and with the same services, were the Black 5 No.45253 and the Bulleid ‘light’ Pacific No.34006 Bude. The latter was the only one of the three to keep time, though it has to be said that No.34006 Bude was a bigger and more powerful engine and that p-way slacks and signal checks didn’t help time-keeping.

Of the mere two dozen locomotives involved in the trails several have, miraculously, survived the great steam cull and they are; No.6990 Witherslack Hall and ‘heavy freight’ engine, 2-8-0 No.3803, from the GWR contingent, No.35018 British India Line was one of the three Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class entrants and E22, or No.60022 Mallard, was one of the chosen representatives for the LNER. However, on her first run, on the 8th June, with the 11:00 departure from Waterloo, the Atlantic Coast Express, she failed at Exeter and her place, for the continuation of the trials was taken by No.60033 Seagull, which did not survive.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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 special day

70 years ago today the Locomotive Exchange Trials began and this locomotive, No.35018 British India Line, was one of the trialists. On June 3rd 1948 No.35018 made her first run in the trails, with the GWR dynamometer coach added to the train, she left Waterloo with the 11.00 departure, the ‘ Atlantic Coast Express, returning with the ‘up’ working of the same train the following day, June 4th.

On the 28th February 1965 I made the very same journey myself, as the fireman on No.35022 Holland Amerika Line, working the East Devon Rail Tour. We ran non-stop to Yeovil and, unlike the crew on 35018, we worked back the same day, with the same engine. – so I know exactly what was involved in those 1948 trials.

The Bulleid Paifics were never going to come out top in the lbs of coal per mile stakes and some of the crews involved opted to ‘ put on a show’ instead. The performances of the WC No.34006 Bude  on the tricky Marylebone – Manchester service and that of No.34004 Yeovil on the Highland main line were particularly note worthy. And as one observant Steam Age Daydreams regular noted Bert Hooker, who was himself a fireman in the trials, on the 13th June 1963, took MN No.35012 United States Lines over the S&C and ran the Appleby – Aisgill climb in 17 minutes and 30 seconds, pass to pass.

A longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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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And 54 years later …….

The last time I saw No.35018 British India Line in action I was her fireman, and we were heading to Waterloo from Bournemouth, after working down with the 08.35 Ex – Waterloo. Today, 54 years later, along with a horde of others, I was standing beside the Settle -Carlisle line, with Pen – y Ghent in the background, enjoying her passing with the York – Carlisle leg of the GB XI rail tour. Watching a piece of your own history steaming past you, like this, certainly stirs the memory cells. And those three years at Nine Elms in the 1960s really did seem like yesterday – tho’ I doubt, very much, that I’d be able to fire an MN from York to Carlisle today but, I’d have no trouble sitting in the driver’s seat and rendering a couple of fire boys!!

I don’t know how many times I worked on this engine, firing out on the main line or cleaning her fire on shed but, what I do know is that like all the Merchant Navy class she was a joy to work on, as a fireman. Coincidently, it is also almost 70 years ago, June 1948, that No.35018 British India Line set out from Waterloo, with the Atlantic Coast Express, as part of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials. No.35018 British India Line was one of three MNs in the trials, the others were No.35017 Belgian Marine and No.35019 French Line CGT. No.35020 Bibby Line was the reserve engine. And, in my time at 70A, I met and fired for Driver Bert Hooker who was himself a fireman during the Exchange Trials – it’s a small world.

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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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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