Tag Archives: art

Headgear

Footplatemen were issued with a uniform, bib and brace overalls, a smock jacket and greased topped cap. The attrition rate of the caps was high, taken away at high speed as you hung your head out of the cab to spot a distant signal. However, uniforms they might have been but, they were frequently worn with some small degree of ‘nonconformity’. One or two of the more senior drivers always wore their smock jacket with the top button fastened, some of us young firemen narrowed the legs of our overalls, in keeping with the fashions of the day.

The real non-uniform aspect though was hats; grease tops were worn pinned down at the sides, sat up like a pie, or all pulled down either on one side or the other or to the back, and I remember spending money, to buy an old ‘Southern Engineman’ cap badge, to replace my BR hotdog. Like so many others it ended up in a field or on embankment, somewhere along the line. Not everyone wore a grease top and my regular 3 link mate, Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders, always wore a cloth cap, often with motor bike goggles – he rode a motor bike and side car to work.  Another fashion was for ‘cheese cutters’ a cloth cap made from  corduroy,  black with stripes of yellow, blue, or red. For quite a while the style amongst the firemen was for a brightly coloured, knotted hanky, pulled over your hair – or used to wipe the sweat, as needs be.

I dare say that different regions and even sheds had their own styles and traditions – the NYMR footplateman in the photo has chosen a beret.

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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Standard Stopper

At the beginning of 1963, when I first arrived at Nine Elms, I spent a short time in Link 4 with driver Fred Walker and these BR class 4s were amongst the first engines I worked on, No.75078 was one of them. A regular duty for the 75xxxs was the Waterloo – Basingstoke stoppers, calling Woking then all stations to Basingstoke. The key to keeping time on these services was starting quickly and braking late – and the 75xxxs were very nippy, ideally suited to this task.

When stopping at the intermediate stations, once the train had been brought to a stand, Fred would blow the brakes off and hold the train on the engine’s steam brake while waiting for the tip. Starting in full forward gear he would ease away from the platform steadily opening the regulator before reeling in the cut-off, first to around 50% before giving her  full regulator and then notching up to around 25 – 30%, by which time speed would be nudging 50. A mile or two at 60 ish and then time to shut-off for the next stop and a repeat of the process.

On my side of the footplate it was keep a good fire under the door, thinning to the front and top it up each time we stopped. Between Woking and Farnborough there was a bit more to do because of the climb up to MP31 but, once over the hump that was it; apart, that is, from the top ups at the stops.

The train engine No.34092 City of Wells was one of the dozen or so Bulleid ‘light’ Pacifics I never worked on during my days at Nine Elms but, on the plus side, the preserved 34007 Wadebridge was the very first of the original Bulleids I fired. The photograph shows the pair departing Keighley with the 11:55 for Oxenhope on 26 June, during the 50th anniversary celebrations.

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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On this day

‘Time flies by when you’re the driver of a train’ – it sure does when you’re driving your train at 126mph. On July 3rd 1938 driver Joe Duddington and fireman Tommy Bray booked on, at Doncaster shed, for what turned out to be one of the high points of locomotive performance on the LNER.  Driver Duddington had been selected for the job because he had a reputation for ‘fearless running’ – he was going to need it.

Disguised as ‘braking tests’ the LNER were setting out to create a new record speed for steam haulage, the LMS and reached 114mph and the Germans, big rivals at the time, had claimed 124.5mph – the LNER were to top that. When they stepped onto the footplate Duudington and Bray knew what was expected of them – they were attempting to beat the LMS, primarily, and the German record too, if it were possible  – and never mind the brakes.

I’ve worked on the footplate of a Pacific at over 100mph, in May 65, 105mph, on 35005 Canadian Pacific, so I have some idea of what it was like, back then, on July 3rd 1938. However, I have no idea what it must have been like on Mallard’s footplate when Duddington could smell the garlic but, kept the regulator open until he’d set the record – ‘fearless’ indeed. In a recording from the time, Duddington talks of ‘givin’ her her head’, as though he was speaking of a race horse,  and recounting passing the 100, then ‘108, 109 110,’ – it was all so matter of fact, just another day at the office.

The performance of the crew is an important factor in delivering a locomotive’s maximum output and knowledge of the road, the engine and the way it needs to be driven to gain the best from it, are essential ingredients in that performance. By all means remember Mallard but, remember too that it was all made possible by Driver Joe Duddington and  Fireman Tommy Bray – it’s their record too.

The photo, scanned from one of my slides shows No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, the post-war record holder at 112mph, approaching Helmshore Rd. bridge on the East Lancashire Railway, some years ago.

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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Summer Special

July only – enjoy Gricing for less. From July 1st to 31st the Ebook version of Gricing is on special offer at just £3.99

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B011D1WBWY/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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No smoke without fire

Taken just last week, admidst lush green trees and verdant pastures, scatterd with cow parsley – this is ‘the green and pleasant land’. However, here we are again, a few days of baking hot sun and the main line steam ban rolls out. And just for good measure the ‘big railway’ has been cancelling services left, right, and centre. This isn’t new, it happens almost every time there’s a prolonged spell of hot dry weather – and it’s as predictable as hosepipe bans and water rationing – it’s become such a commonplace that the Tabloids no longer print ‘Phew – what a scorcher’ headlines when the temperature gets to 70F.

My reaction to all this is one of wonderment, I wonder how we managed not to burn the entire country to the ground during the 150 years of steam powered railways. I wonder how countries much hotter than ours manage to cope with the extremes of heat and cold – especially those where it’s baking during the day and freezing by night. Closer to home, I wonder what effect it has on passenger numbers on the preserved railways. I can’t imagine sitting in a baking hot railway carriage is high on the agenda in these conditions. Bad enough if you have to commute – but to do it out of choice?

On my agenda is a shady spot, a tall glass of Creme de Menthe frappe, and my recent acquisition, H F F Livesey’s ‘The Locomotives of the London North Western Railway’.

The photo shows ‘School’ Class 4-4-0 No.926 Repton, at Darnholme, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

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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Hot Scot

Today’s visit to the K&WVR 50th Celebrations, provided a little addition to the usual drama of steam locomotives hard at work, there was a trackside fire at Oxenhope. Not a huge affair but, large enough to warrant the attention of the local fire brigade – with a substantial delay to services until it was all dampend down. Not quite what you want with crowds of people, in gala mood, in baking hot conditions stuck, on the train.

With nothing happening at Oxenhope we took the opportunity to move down to Ingrow, which is where we see No.46100 Royal Scot.  Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that she is hurtling through the station on her non-stop run to Oxenhope but, you’d be wrong. No.46100 Royal Scot is moving, and the lamps would indicate an express, however, in this photo she’s the tail of the top and tail working and, so far as I recall, the lamp(s) should be a single one, bottom middle, and red during the hours of darkness, in fog, or falling snow.

Moving on – the Thames Clyde Express was a regular duty, for many years, for the Royal Scots and would have been a regular sight for railway enthusiasts in and around Keighley during the 50s and early 60s, before the A3s stole some of their thunder. However, for 3 days No.46100 Royal Scot is the star attraction – and no more line side fires – please.

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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Arr nah braan car

A lovely summer’s afternoon in God’s green acres, the cows are in the meadow – I didn’t see no sheeps. When I rolled up at Nine Elms, fresh outta Yorksha, you can imagine some of the stick I got over my accent. To me a bass was a fish not something your boarded to go to work, I put butter and not batter on my bread, and so it went on. When I went back up home for a weekend – they extracted the ‘Miccy’ and called me ‘geezer’ – I couldn’t win!

London, in Spring 1963, was at the very beginnings of ‘the swinging 60s’ but the only swinging I was doing was with shovels full of coal. My pied a terre wasn’t in Chelsea or Pimlico it was a room, first floor front, on Lavendar Hill, Clapham. Not the easiest spot to sleep after a night shift, with a constant stream of traffic and no double glazing. I wasn’t long before I found something quieter.

There were a couple of the Maunsell 4-4-0 Class V, aka ‘Schools’,  at 70A when I arrived, but they were already ‘in store’ and never returned. It was the same with the Drummond M7s, which had been the main stay of the ECS from Clapham to Waterloo – until their duties were  taken by the BR 82xxx Class 2-6-2Ts. And it was on one of these ECS duties that I met one of the footplatemen from the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges – though at the time I had no idea that he had been and he was far too modest to advertise the fact.

Thing is, when I think back, it was this continuity, working with men who had years of experience, and who themselves had been taught by men who were railwaymen in Victoria’s reign – this was where the real strength of the railways lay, generations of hard won knowledge of how the rail travel machine worked and what is required to make it do so.

PS I was going to call this piece ’till the cows come home’ but, you’d still be waiting for it!! Did someone mention ‘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

 

 

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A little 8F – ing

Double-entende and railway slang have much in common and there’s no shortage of words and phrases from the railway lexicon to be found in common parlance – from a desire to ‘polish those buffers’ to ‘hitting’ them, and ‘building up a head of steam’, well you get the intention. I kept hearing an LMS whistle, blowing on the breeze but, until the 8F burst from Shotlock Tunnel I had know idea which of the possible locomotives it was, though I did know it wasn’t British India Line, or something LNER.

My previous visit to the Settle – Carlisle line was two weeks ago, when No.45690 Leander was ‘running out of puff’ and, as a result, behind schedule. Today, however, No.48151 was a few minutes ahead of time and ‘going like a train’. Speaking of which, that master of innuendo George Formby used to do a little number called the ‘Wigan Boat Express’ – an entirely fictional train service. A couple of lines will serve to give you the gist: “A chap one day with a girl got gay, I saw them both caress. She got what for in the corridor on the Wigan Boat Express.” (Formby, G.) Moving swiftly on, this song could not have been written about a train liason today, what with the open saloon and a distinct lack of corridors. Perhaps, this is the moment to draw a veil over the steamy proceedings.

The photo shws No.48151 emerging from Shotlock Tunnel, close to Aisgill summit, with the ‘Dalesman’ Chester – Carlisle excursion.

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 Black 5’s turn

Today, June 16th, it is 70 years since Black 5 No.45253 worked from Manchester to Marylebone with the return working of her ‘Locomotive Exchange Trial’ test run, having worked North on the 15th. Later in the year Canon Roger Lloyd penned a piece for the Spectator magazine, on BR’s first year, in which he covers the trials.  Lloyd refers to B1s, as ‘Antelopes’ and Bulleid Pacifics as ‘Southern Streamliners’, quaint terms to modern ears. The good reverend suggests that the B1s were highly thought of, but doesn’t mention the Black 5s at all, though he is rather fond of the Royal Scots, which he considers to be the most handsome design.

Lloyd also questions why the Castles, V2s, Nelsons, and Jubilees were not included in the testing programme. More importantly from a travellers point of view, perhaps, he writes about how services are being restored after the ravages of WWII, blaming the lack of steel allocated for railway use for the shortages of sleeping and restaurant coaches before remarking that most of the ‘named’ trains had been restored and the cross country services were also – ‘vastly improved’. The article, which is titled “BR’s First Year”, paints a generally favourable picture of the progress made by BR during its first year of operations.

However, there is a hint of things to come with talk of country station closures, or reducing the number of stops to speed up services. For me though, the little gem in the piece concerned men I knew. Lloyd talks about the Southern crew, (Driver George Swain and Fireman Bert Hooker), working over the Highland route to Inverness with WC Class 4-6-2 No.34006 Bude. His comment was that they needed an interpreter as much as they needed a pilotman – having fired on the Southern and lived in Scotland for many years – I know exactly what he means.

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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It’s all gone a bit mono

It’s a very cold and frosty morning at Andrews House Station on the Tanfield Railway and, after taking on coal and water, 0-4-0ST Sir Cecil A Cochrane, is backing down onto her train. It was all so much simpler back then when everything was in black and white;  there was no crime, politicians were honest, schoolboys wore short trousers, National Service made men of us and people stood for the National Anthem. There are a thousand variations on these rose tinted pictures of the past. In many ways this hankering for the ‘good olde days’ is what brings visitors to the railways and puts the coal in the firebox, so to speak.

On the coldest days and bleakest winter mornings people drag themselves from warm comfortable beds, travel for miles, sometimes many miles, wrestle with fire irons,  and / or injectors, shovel coal, take water, (freezing cold water), and face the icy blasts when running bunker first, and all to recreate what you see here – in minute loving detail.

Tanfield with its little industrial engines and tiny wooden bodied coaches may be a far cry from topping Shap, on the footplate of the Duchess, with 12 on but, it is the same spirit of preservation which motivates the volunteers. Several times over the past few days I have been party to discussions about volunteers, how vital they are, how many are ‘gentlemen of a certain age’ and the need to draw in younger volunteers if the presnt levels of activity are to be maintained. And, as part of this discourse, the question of how the transmission of the skills and knowledge, of  more than 150 years  of railway operating practices, had long been the cinderella of preservation.

The generation, of which I am a part, are the last of the BR steam footplatemen – we were firemen to drivers who had been footplatemen during the Great Depression and WWII and they had learned their skills and knowledge from men who worked on the footplate in Victoria’s reign. Unless more effort is put into gathering, recording, and putting to use, these vast reserves of knowledge and skills, they are in danger of being lost – for good, or should that be for bad?

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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