Tag Archives: 55C Farnley Jct

When the last fires dropped

50 years ago I stepped off one of these work horses for the last time, collected my final pay packet – redundancy beckoned. No more baked onion, cooked on the manifold, or cheese toasties done on the shovel. No more signing on at 04.00 for, a freezing cold, tender first run down the Dearne valley line either. The last six months of terminal decline did little for moral.

In my all to brief footplate career, I count myself lucky to have been able to experience a whole range of different workings from a humble branch line goods to the Royal Wessex. I fired for young drivers only a few years older than me and for others who had begun their railway service in World War I. At Wakefield, my final depot, even the link system was scrapped, because so many turns were now single-manned diesel jobs. All the firemen were put in one long link covering the remaining steam jobs and diesel turns requiring a second man. A situation which could see you working with a different driver every day you were on duty.

More and more duties were signing on and off at Healy Mills and I was spending quite a bit of time on English Electric Class 3s, not what I signed on for. Once I knew that I hadn’t got the vacancy I applied for at Blyth, it was all over. No fairy tale ending, no big send off, just mount the bike jump on the kick-start and go home. I didn’t even take a souvenir, though I do now have a 55C shed plate – the place where it all began. Amazingly railway preservation and operation has now been going for longer than British Railways was in existence and some of the preserved locomotives have spent more time at work, in private hands, than they did during their BR service.

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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Sunday tea on top of Aisgill

Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago I cleaned engines, just like this one, for £3 – 12 – 0, (£3.60p), for a 42.5 hour week. Starting in a new job has its own rituals, being sent on fools errands, or, as happened to one cleaner at Farnley Jct. being put in a wagon and sent off-shed down to Copley Hill Yard. My ‘initiation’ was being shut in the firebox, of an engine on washout, and smoking rags put in the ash pan below me – nice!

Cleaning engines is a mucky job but, there were perks, we got to play aroud on them, moving them about the shed; taking them off the ash pits and putting them in the shed, turning on the triangle, shunting out the washouts and so on – all under supervision of course. There was always stuff going on and, if there wasn’t we got up to no good – water fights with the washout bags was a favourite, baseball with a brake stick and coal eggs was another.

We’d be given a couple of engines to clean and then be told to ‘keep out of the way’ once you’ve done. These were the times you could go off shed, to Copley Hill Yard, with the shed pilot, to take the stores wagon and the ash wagons, returning with fresh supplies of coal and stores. In freezing weather we were kept busy stoking the braziers, to keep the water columns ice free, which was fun. Much like making a 100+ mile round trip, to take photographs of a ‘black’ Jube, at the top of Aisgill, on Sunday tea time.

In the photograph, No.45690 Leander is  seen working the  returning Dalesman from Carlisle to York.

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 END

And then there were none. When the last fire was dropped and all that was left was cold hard metal, few if any believed that new steam locomotives would be built, that steam would run again, regularly, or that 100mph by steam would be repeated. We know now that all that came to pass and much more besides.

Today, Sunday, 50 years ago, steam hauled services stopped across, what had been, the Southern Railway – now it was all electic. I had already left Nine Elms and was a fireman at Wakefield, (Belle Vue), no longer firing WC class pacifics – I’d moved from WCs to WDs and was dragging coal over the Pennines when the lights went out, for the last time, at 70A. I had started railway life at a mainly freight depot 55C Farnley Jct. and it was ending at another 56A.

The last couple of months at Wakefield were grim and I can’t imagine it was that much different at my old shed 70A.  Everything was just being left to fall apart, if an engine failed it was simply put on the scrap line, an air of despondency hung about the place. Single-manning meant fewer jobs for firemen and they were leaving in droves. We got recruitment blurb from South African Railways and I believe one or two took up the offer. We had these at NineElms too, during 1965, when I was still a fireman there; and again some lads took up the offer.

The last steam services I worked were colliery trip workings around Wakefield, Barnsley, and Pontefract, along with Healy Mills to Rose Grove, or Padiham,  with loaded coal, returning with the empties. My last passenger working was a little unusual, a run from Wakefield Westgate to Bradford Exchange with a Fairburn tank on the Bradford portion of a service from London to Leeds.

The photograph, a scan of one of my old mono prints, shows No.34101 Hartland approaching Goathland on the NYMR. I worked on No.34101 Hartland, when I was at Nine Elms and she was still in active service with BR.

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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