Tag Archives: Culture

One to savour

In the current drought and steam bans up and down the land I thought I’d share this image from a few years ago. A pair of main line favourites battling Druimauchdar, the last remanants of the snow clinging to the hill sides – a real, never to be repeated, highland drama. With No.70013 Oliver Cromwell supplying the grunt for an ‘off colour’ K4, No.61994 The Great Marquess, they are seen here less than a mile from the summit.

Later this year No.70013 Oliver Cromwell will come to the end of her ten year boiler certificate  and is set to undergo a fast-track overhaul. No.61994 Great Marquess, however, is a very different kettle of fish. No.61994 is already on her way to a purpose built museum, in Fife, where, in due course, she will be joined by No.60009 Union of South Africa, once her ticket expires. A state of affairs which leaves a great many people unhappy especially as the K4 is the only one of the class to survive. Losing two Ex-LNER engines further depletes the already scant number of  representatives of the LNER and its constituents. Not only that but, the very line No.61994 The Great Marquess was built to work over, the ‘West Highland Extension’, from Fort Willian to Mallaig is still enjoying timetabled steam specials for 2/3rds of every year.

Mr. Cameron is, of course, entitled to do as he wishes with his locomotives, but equally I think we are entitled to have our say nontheless. And I say its a shame to reduce these fine machines to static exhibits.

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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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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Joe who? & Tommy who?

A couple of days ago, on the 3rd of July, it was the 80th anniversary of Mallard’s epic thrash down Stoke bank. There were the usual plaudits, a half hour talk on the radio and even a whinge about the duckless statue. One word out of any of you and the duck is pate!! Joking aside, what is frequently missing in these celebrations is any understanding of how vital a part the crew played in setting the record.

Despite the magnificence of the machine itself, all the drawbar horse power readings, and flickering needles, pored over by technicians in the dynamometer coach, it was Duddington and Bray who made the record, their skills, knowledge, and efforts, not to mention bravery was what coaxed 126mph out of No.4468 Mallard. The steam locomotive is, by its very nature, dependent on the crew for its power output. No amount of engineering design will overcome the limitations of the crew – optimum performance is only achived if the crew are likewise performing to their best.

During the mid/late 1990s I was a regular visitor to the reading room at the NRM and, at lunchtime, I would sit and eat my sandwiches beside the exhibit of No.35029 Ellerman lines, the sectioned Bulleid, Merchant Navy Class, Pacific, just yards away from Mallard. No.35029 sits on rollers which slowly move the wheels so you can see the valve and piston motions. Alongside the engine display boards told the viewer what the bits were but, nowhere did it explain the role of the crew in making it all happen – a glaring omission and not the only one.

The most glaring omission was that there was not one word about Joe Duddington and Tommy Bray on, in, or around the Mallard display, at the time, circa 1995 – 7, which was more than 20 years after the NRM opened. When I raised the issue I was told the reason was ‘insufficient funds’ – what an insult. Over a period of 20 or more years,  they expected me to believe, they didn’t have the money for a few boards and a pot of paint to celebrate the two most important men in the creation of the 126mph record – not only an insult to Duddington and Bray but to anyone with an ounce of nous.

To see how things changed follow this link. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2002/may/01/arts.artsnews

The photo shows visiting A4, No.60019 Bittern, at New Bridge crossing, approaching Pickering, on the NYMR.

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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Party poopers

I remember visting Keighley in 1965, whilst I was still a BR fireman at Nine Elms, and seeing No.69523, a little later she became No.4744, later still No.1744, as she is now, sat in the yard at Haworth along with No.51218. One of my chums lived in Ingrow, so I got all the local gossip too. I don’t think any of us, at the time, ever imagined the line would become the attraction it has – I doubt any of us imagined being fifty, let alone seeing the railway it all became – 50 years on.

Not a picture from 50 years ago but, another of the very earliest arrivals and a personal favourite, sadly not in action at the party.

No.78022 when she was fitted wih the Giesl ejector, a short lived experiment. No.78022 is soon to be returned to traffic, minus the Giesl.

No. 957 aka No.52044 and ‘The Green Dragon’ of Railway Children fame, another very early arrival – 1965.

Scanned from a slide, the train engine is old stalwart, the 8F No.48431, which arrived in 1972 and first ran in 1975.

And here’s the real 5775 piloting No.48431, a scan from an old black and white print.

Sir Berkeley was another of the 1965 arrivals – I do have pics of her at Haworth but not scanned. This shot shows her at East Tanfield some years ago.

The Ex-Haydock Foundry loco – ‘Bellerophon’ was an early arrival, in 1966, though she didn’t return to steam until late in 1985.

Last, but by no means least is another old favourite which didn’t make it to the party, Jinty No.47279 – a class of engine I made my first ever footplate ride on; age 14, and a trip along the leeds Fireclay branch from Farnley Junction.

This is not an exhaustive list of the engines which have over the years been a part of the K&WVR line, rather a little snapshot of some of the old favourites which didn’t make the 50th Birthday Bash.

All that remains is to say top marks to all the volunteeers and everyone else who, over the last 50 years have, through thick and thin, made the K&WVR what it is today. And, for the splendid 50th Birthday Celebrations of the last 8 days.

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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