Tag Archives: austerity

2017 A personal review

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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All the best for 2018

70 years ago British Railways came into being and 50 years ago they called a halt to regular steam hauled services. On the 8th & 9th of June 1948, Bulleid Light Pacific No.34006 Bude, as part of the hastily arranged ‘Locomtive Exchange Trails’  worked over the Great Central Railway route between Marylebone and Manchester London Road, working north on the 8th and returning south on the 9th. Cecil J. Allen decribed her perfomance as, ‘amazing’.

2017 saw the usual crop of farewells and returns to steam, and I’m sure we all have our favourites in both categories. I enjoyed seeing, and hearing, the last few runs of No.46115 Scots Guardsman over the S&C route, she certainly bowed out in style. In the fresh from scrapyard condition, I was very much looking forward to the return of No.35018 British India Line, an engine I worked on in the 1960s – I’ve seen the videos but, yet to see her, in the flesh. A treat for 2018 I hope.  Winner of the fresh from overhaul prize is the engine in the photograph above, B-o-B Class 4-6-2 No.34081 92 Squadron, pictured shortly after departing from Loughborough.

One of No.46115 Scots Guardsman’s last runs, at Aisgill, earlier in 2017.

Over the last 50 years I have visited lines all over Britain and in Europe but, a first for me in 2017 was a visit to the narrow gauge system at Threlkeld Quarry, and what a charming place it is, like Arnie ‘I’ll be back’.

All that remains now is to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year and leave you with the knowledge that our hobby, it would seem, is in good hands.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:

 

 

 

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And we wish you ……

Well here we are again, steaming into yo, ho, ho, and for some lucky folk, this week, sun, steam, and yo, ho, snow. We are also rapidly approaching the 70th anniversary of the birth of British Railways, on 01/01/1948. How different things were back then, very few had tv, computers were the size of a house and there were, probably, no more than a handful in the entire country; most people didn’t have a phone, and a mobile phone was pure science fiction.

The first objective for BR was to complete the repairs to the war ravaged network and catch up on the regular maintenance programme which had been almost abadonded during the war. Life expired and war damaged rolling stock and locomotives needed replacing; on top of these practical considerations was the need to bring together the management and operations of the four, nominally, competing companies into one publicly owned corporation.

When the newly Nationalised railway opened for business R A Riddles was sitting in what was, in effect, the CME’s chair, assisted by E S Cox and R Bond, this trio were responsible for the creation of British Railways ‘Standard’ classes. Riddles railway life began at Crewe, in the days of the LNWR, he rose to become principal assistant to Stanier at the  LMS, and in 1943, on secondement to the Ministry of Supply, he designed his 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 ‘Austerities’ – the forerunner to the 9Fs, one of which, No.92214, is pictured above departing from Loughborough.

Despite being ‘standard’ the 9Fs had their share of modifications, some were fitted with Franco-Crosti boilers, and then they weren’t, some were fitted with mechanical stokers, several more had air pumps fitted for working the Tyne Dock – Consett iron ore hoppers and No.92250, the last in the class, was fitted with a Giesel ejector. The 9Fs were built between 1954 and 1960, by  July 1964 Nos. 92169,70,71,75,76,77, which, in 1960 were all allocated to 36A Doncaster, had all been withdrawn.  In 1960 No.92214 was a Banbury engine and, in all probability, worked trains on this very line when she was – ironic really when you think she has spent more time in service on heritage railways than she did on British Railways.

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

Until New Year the eBook edition of Gricing is on offer at just £3:95, that’s a whole book for less than a monthly mag.

 

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Christmas Special

From Friday 1st of December, until New Years Day, the e-book version of Gricing is at the Special Offer Price of £3:95

“Gricing” – 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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A Jinty in dreamland

The sub-title to my blog is Trains of thought, and who would have dreamed, in 1960, that a bunch of kids, mostly, would go on to create a network of heritage railways from Aviemore to Bodmin and Gwili to Sheringham, re-create a working, twin-track, main line railway, and run regular steam hauled services on the national network.  And that  50 years on they would be a major part of the nation’s tourist infrastructure, as they undoubtedly are.

2018 is going to be a year of great ballyho for the 50th Anniversary of the ‘End of Steam’ and not a little personal reflection on the end of my own railway career too. The white heat of technology was going to bring us a bright new future and we should embrace it. We’ve swapped our Box Brownies for Digital SLR and Camcorders and exchanged the land line telephone for Google and the internet; and 50 years ago no one dreamed of those things either.

My very first footplate journey, whilst still a schoolboy, was on a Jinty, my last, as a steam fireman, was on a WD; in between was an eclectic mix of motive power, MPDs and routes worked. Being a fireman was a challenge, it was down to you to produce the steam. Opening the regulator of a steam locomotive is not the same as opening the controller on a diesel or electric locomotive where the available power is pre-determined; on a steam locomotive the skill of the fireman determines what level of power, up to the engines full capability, is available. The challenge is to keep as near as possible to maximum pressure without excessive blowing off and, with so many variables involved in doing so, it is a great deal more difficult than most people imagine, or should I say dream.

In the photograph No.47406 is drifting towards Loughborough, on the Great Central Railway, with a train of empty mineral wagons.

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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Favourites

60 years ago, in the summer of 1957, I spent two weeks of school summer holiday, sat alongside the WCML, in and around Rugby; at Midland Station, at the girder bridge, where the GCR crossed the WCML, and at Hillmorton, near to where my aunt and uncle lived, at night I would fall asleep to the sound of freights rolling by.

I remember seeing No.10000 and 10001, they caused quite a stir but, I doubt that many of us, sat beside the tracks, at the time, fully appreciated just what they represented and what we were about to loose. New steam locomotives were still being built and they lasted for decades, so we imagined. How wrong we were, some of these newly built engines had barely one decade of service before becoming washing machines, fridges, and Ford Escorts.

We travelled to Rugby by taking the bus to Bradford and catching the ‘South Yorkshireman’, it saved changing trains, and stations in some instances, if you went via the Midland from Leeds City Station. Once we arrived in Rugby there was a very busy railway scene  providing a huge number of different classes, LNER & GWR types on the Great Central, whilst on the Midland there was everything from the proto-type diesels to ancient Ex-LNWR, Bowen-Cooke 0-8-0s, hauling huge numbers of wagons.

Without doubt, however, the star attraction was the WCML and, in the summer of 57, this was a main line still almost exclusively steam. All the famous names, the Caledonian, the Mid-Day Scot, The Red Rose, The Royal Scot, The Irish Mail, The Emerald Isle, were all on the menu. And each day was a seemingly endless procession of Stanier Pacifics, Scots, Patriots, and Jubilees. The Scots, Pates and Jubes, all came to Leeds, but not the ‘Lizzies’ and the ‘Semis’ – seeing them hurtle by was definitely the highlight.

I made this trip to Rugby for each of the next four years, though not always on the South Yorkshireman. And if I have one favourite  memory of these trips it’s the sound of the single chimney Lizzies, working hard, on ‘up’ trains, as they climbed away from Rugby heading towards Kilsby Tunnel.

In the photograph, sounding wonderful, No.6201 Princess Elizabeth, is close to the summit of Aisgill with a Cumbrian Mountain Express working.

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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Let’s do the Locomotion

‘Ground control to Major Tom’ – please land your Rocket at Locomotion, Shildon, Co. Durham,  ‘roger, wilco, over and out’.  Not this Rocket and not Major Tom, but Major Tim Peake and his space capsule. This month, Locomotion will display the craft which returned our very own British ‘Rocket Man’ and space walker, Tim Peake, to Planet Earth, along with an exhibition of the very latest in Samsung, ‘space age’ VR techno.

Rocket’s crew might not have made it into orbit but, they were travelling at speeds previously unknown – when the railways really got going, engine drivers and firemen were the ‘fastest men on Earth’.  And, like space travel, it did give them a new view of the world, the one flashing by!  In 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik 1 and, in 1961, Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in orbit, seven years before steam locomotion finished as the driving force of British railways.

Strangely, the Russian connection to Shildon goes right back to the beginng of the railway age. Timothy Hackworth, who, as many of you will know, built the locomotive, Sans Pereil, which competed against Rocket at Rainhill; a replica of his Sans Pereil is housed at Locomotion. Born in Shildon, Hackworth had a locomotive building workshop there, where, in 1836, he built an engine for the Tsarskoye Selo Railway, in Russia. Hackworth’s son, John Wesley Hackworth, travelled to Russia to help assemble the locomotive and teach them how to operate it. According to legend, Hackworth junior taught the Tsar how to drive too!

However, the real speed is that it took human society millenia to reach the point, technologically, where we could travel faster than the speed of the horse, it then took a mere 132 years after the Rainhill trials to put a man in space – escape velocity is, crudely speaking,  25,000mph.

In the photograph, the Rocket replica is departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the GCR, which is not a million miles from the National Space Centre in Leicester – eeeH, 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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Bookends

These wheezing, clanking, beasts bookend my time on the footplate, my first run out, as a very young cleaner,  on a goods working from Leeds to Mirfield, was on one and my last duties as a fireman, before being made redundant, were at Wakefield (Belle Vue), where I worked on little else.  My last Combined Volume, the Summer 1964 edition, lists 461 still at work, none of them survived the big cull. The one in the photograph, No.90733, seen emerging from Mytholmes Tunnel on the K&WVR, was rescued from Swedish Railways, who had bought it from the Dutch Railway.

They were almost never cleaned, certainly during my cleaning days they never saw more than an oily rag on the cab side numbers, ‘work stained’ was synonymous with any description of them. However, they did work and they did ‘deliver the goods’, coal and iron ore mostly but, I’ve worked fish trains from Hull with them, on occasion. It has to be said, they are not the most comfortable riders when you get them jogging along but, they’d drag the ‘town hall behind them’. They were absolutely in their element hauling heavy coal trains and I  really enjoyed working with them on the Healy Mills  – Rose Grove or Padiham workings during my spell at Wakefield.

On these runs over the Pennines, beyond Hall Royd Junction, there are around five miles at 1: 60 to 1:70 up through Cornholme and Portsmouth to Copy Pit summit, gradients like this, with a heavy train, really made them bark, you could feel every power stroke as the whole engine swayed side to side with the effort. However, once you made it to Copy Pit, and pinned a few brakes down, you could sit back, have a fag, and roll all the way to Gannow Junction. It was never quite so hard going back over the Pennines with the empties, sometimes you got one of Rose Grove’s Stanier 8Fs on the return working, which made a pleasant change.

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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Autumn morning & the cold light of dawn

On a branch line, far, far, away GWR 2-8-0T  No.4270 is hard at work hauling the morning goods. I’ve done these jobs; you got up at daft o’clock, in the pitch black, pot of tea, slice of toast, and then a couple of mile bike ride, in sub zero temperatures, to freshen you up. Invariably you got your own engine ready, you were given an hour to do this. Wrestling with the frozen leather bag, of the water column, whilst standing on the tank top was an art form, on a frosty morning. Get things wrong and your were going off-shed soaking wet.

An hour for prep might seem a long time but there was plenty to do from filling sand boxes to filling and trimming lamps. The steam riser would’ve left a few shovels full of fire under the door,  60 to 80lbs of steam and, more often than not, a boiler so full it was a wonder it wasn’t coming out of the whistle! It doesn’t sound much but, when you’ve got to check the injectors work, and check the gauge glasses, it’s a bit of a nuisance.

You made trips to the stores to draw the lamps, detonators, bucket, and tools, and a couple to the sand store – when you filled the sand boxes, you checked the smokebox door was tight shut. There was, usually, a taper kicking about on the footplate, if not, you made one and lit the lamps, the driver would use it to check for leaks and blows, if needs be. In between doing all this you steadily built up the fire, so that when you rolled off-shed it covered the whole grate and was burning through nicely.

The last and most important task was a trip to the mess room to make a brew, before calling the bobby to get the road.

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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Straight bananas

Fifty five years ago I was at work, cleaning engines, at Farnley Jct., one of five sheds in the city. It wasn’t ‘Top shed’ but, that didn’t detract, one iota, from the quality of the enginemanship possesed by the crews who worked there. Some of the old hand drivers had been there since before the Grouping, and worked through the Great Depression and WWII, these men, and those who were their firemen, were the ones who taught me.

Men with a pride in their work, respect for their engines and decades of experience. They didn’t teach in classrooms or lecture theatres, they taught by example, on the footplate, in the mess room, and in, and by, the institutions they created, the MIC, the Enginemen’s Mutual Assurance Fund, and their Trade Unions.  They knew which rules must be obeyed and those which could be bent a little, in short they were ‘professional’.

Fifty four years ago I was sharing the footplate with a driver who had been a fireman in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials and another who had been at the depot since WWI, and honing my own firing skills and railway knowledge, benefitting from their vast experience of working on one of the busiest parts of the railway network, out of Waterloo to Bournemouth and Salisbury, under every imaginable kind of difficulty, and weather condition.

Fifty two years ago, I had progressed to the point where my own skills as a fireman were being tested and records were being set on the runs on which I was working – records which still stand.

Twenty six years ago, after 3 years as a mature student, at the University of Leeds, I began four years of reseach, much of it in the reading room of the NRM, for my books on the Railway Races of 1895 and the changes in the lives of the footplatement between 1962 and 1996. Research which, eventually, ended up becoming a campaign to have Driver Duddington and Fireman Bray properly recognised, within the musem, and on the Locomotive, which they eventually were but, not before an article in a major national newspaper. You can read it for yourself by following this link: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2002/may/01/arts.artsnews

During this same period I persuaded the owner of 35005 Canadian Pacific, the Great Central Railway, and Steam Railway News, to hold a Red Nose event with 35005, on the GCR. The event took a whole train load of disabled children and their carers for a ride on the railway. Some of the more able bodied kids even ‘cabbed’ the engine. The railway featured on the telly, got some great publicity, the kids had a wonderful day out, and the Red Nose fund was Two-grand better off. Everyone was a winner.

No.35005 Canadian Pacific and some of the kids and their carers before setting off for their Red Nose Day train ride.  Picture Copyright John East.

Forty eight hours ago, for so much as daring to comment about the excessive use of cylinders cocks, I was, pretty much, branded a liar by one commentator and, in a stunning example debating eloquence,  a ‘Bell End’ by another, who, I might add, wasn’t even born when steam ran the national network.

Given the general levels of rudeness, ignorance, and abuse, so much in evidence, I rather think the term Unsocial media would be more appropriate way to describe Facebook, Twitter et.al.

PS ‘We have no straight bananas’ – and the box vans are being hauled past Kinchley Lane by Ivatt 2-6-0 No.46521.

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