A patch of blue sky illuminates the slopes of Pen-y-Ghent as Stanier Pacific No.46233 Duchess of Sutherland, with Saturday’s Cumbrian Mountain Express, passes Selside. I learned my skills as a fireman on Stanier’s Black 5s and Jubilees and for many summers, during the 1950s, I spent two weeks by the West Coast Main Line watching these beauties hurtling by on the Mid-Day Scot, Royal Scot, and the Caledonian. Some were Green and some Red, the Red ones always seemed ‘special’, just because they were Red.
Later, during my railway career, I did work as a fireman on express trains hauled by Pacifics; Bulleid’s version on the Southern Region between Waterloo – Bournemouth and Salisbury, even to Exeter and back, on one memorable occasion. I was the fireman on the 1st East Devon Rail Tour which was booked to run Non-stop from Waterloo to Yeovil and repeat this on the return leg. The round trip, including the journey from the shed up to Waterloo was some 350 miles – not a bad day’s work. The tour ran on 28th February 1965 and our engine was No.35022 Holland America Line, chosen because it was paired with a 6000 gallon tender, which we’d need to run the 122 and a bit miles to and from Yeovil without stopping.
I worked on over twenty different classes of engine, though sadly never a Duchess – and, of all the classes I didn’t have a go on the one I would have loved to fire would have been a Duchess on the WCML – Crewe – Perth maybe!!
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: