Tag Archives: freight

From main line to minerals

After a star-studded career on the main line Britannia Class 4-6-2, No.70013 Oliver Cromwell, is seen here hauling 9S10 the 10:20 Loughborough – Swithland ‘windcutter’ / ‘runner’ re-enactment, during the Great Central Railway’s Goods Galore Gala, on Saturday last.

When steam was on its way out engines which were once the pride of the fleet could be seen, often in filthy condition, performing all manner of lesser turns and duties – as above. The question was raised, about my previous post, did we really need the ‘Standards’, of all classes. They began to appear in 1951 and all of them were withdrawn by 1968, some of them went to scrap at less than 10 years old. It matters little which side of the political divide you’re on – this is a criminal waste, by any standard.

The twenty years between 1948 when BR was born and 1968 when steam was finally withdrawn, were twenty years of missed opportunities, poor decision making, botched planning and, for much of that time, a government antipathetic to the very idea of Nationalisation.  This is hardly a recipe for success and successes were thin on the ground. Did the railway need new classes and designs, probably not. If more locomotives were needed, until the network could be ‘electrified’, it would have made more sense to build additional locos of pre-existing classes – Black 5 or Std 5?

In my own railway career I witnessed the debacle unfolding, at the blunt end. The dereliction, decay, and loss of morale, the queues of trucks blocking the roads, no motorways then, not to mention the failures of the new fangled diesels but, the badly run down and poorly mainted steam fleet too.

On that note the S&C beckons, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

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“What’s your favourite”

‘What’s your favourite’ is usually followed by engine or livery but, in this instance it’s, what’s your favourite train? There are all the usual suspects, Caledonian, Red Dragon, Talisman, Atlantic Coast Express, or the Devon Belle but, in my case, it’s none of the above.  My favourite is not only not a named service, it’s not even an express, it’s the ‘paper train’. A couple of coaches for the intrepid travellers and a dozen or more vans with tomorrow’s head lines and the day after’s chip wrappers.

I not only loved to travel on the paper trains, I equally enjoyed working on them. During the 60s as a fireman at 70A,  I worked regularly, on the Bulleid Pacifics, hauling paper trains out of Waterloo.  Just like the TPO, the newspapers were sorted and bundled on the train as we sped through the dark heading for Bournemouth. The frantic last minute activity with newspaper vans, from Fleet Street, still arriving just minutes before the off – the final, final editions. There’s something about the footplate of a Bulleid at night, the glow of the fire, the humming of the Stones generator powering the gauge glass and cab lights, the smell of wet wood and steam after you swilled round with the slacker pipe.

There were other little pleasures too, watching the sun coming up as we went through the New Forest and seeing the deer darting through the mist, swirling about the forest floor, startled by our approach. My favourite journey on one was out of Kings Cross in the mid-70s. Having boarded the train I opened the door to a compartement which had the blinds down and was greeted by the single occupant –  ‘come in take yer boots off and fart a bit, we don’t want anyone else joining us.’  My fellow traveller turned out to be something of a raconteur and his choice of greeting had been the result of his reading Lenny Bruce’s ‘How to talk dirty and influence people’. It seemed like no time and we were in Doncaster and my change of 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 trial survivor

Seen here pulling out of Loughborough shed, on the GCR, in 2016, No 6990 Witherslack Hall was, 70 years ago, on 24th June 1948, pulling out of Marylebone Station, heading for Manchester, over the former Great Central Railway route, as part of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials. Hauling the NER dynamometer coach to record her performance, she returned from Manchester the following day with the 08.25 Manchester London Rd. – Marylebone service; and again with the NER dynamometer coach in tow.

No.6990 Witherslack Hall, was built at Swindon works and entered  service, just a couple of weeks before the trials began, on 8th April 1948. Her competitors, over the same route between London and Manchester, and with the same services, were the Black 5 No.45253 and the Bulleid ‘light’ Pacific No.34006 Bude. The latter was the only one of the three to keep time, though it has to be said that No.34006 Bude was a bigger and more powerful engine and that p-way slacks and signal checks didn’t help time-keeping.

Of the mere two dozen locomotives involved in the trails several have, miraculously, survived the great steam cull and they are; No.6990 Witherslack Hall and ‘heavy freight’ engine, 2-8-0 No.3803, from the GWR contingent, No.35018 British India Line was one of the three Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class entrants and E22, or No.60022 Mallard, was one of the chosen representatives for the LNER. However, on her first run, on the 8th June, with the 11:00 departure from Waterloo, the Atlantic Coast Express, she failed at Exeter and her place, for the continuation of the trials was taken by No.60033 Seagull, which did not survive.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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 grate and the goods

In the ‘Mixed Traffic’ section of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange trials the Southern Railway entered 3 locomotives, the West Country Class Pacifics Nos. 34004 Yeovil, 34005 Barnstaple and 34006 Bude; all engines I worked on in the 60s. According to C.J.Allen, these three engines put on some of the finest ‘performances’ of the trials and he singles out a run by 34006 Bude from Leicester to St. Pancras. I have a log from a run I did with Driver Gordon Porter, on No.34006Bude, in 1965, working the 22.35 Ex- Waterloo. The log covers the Basingstoke to Winchester section and we passed Micheldever at 82mph, Wallers Ash at 91mph, and reached 95 at Winchester Jct., before throwing the anchor out to stop at Winchester.

Allen also gives ‘honourable mention’ to the work put in by No.34004 Yeovil on the Highland Main Line. Including this little gem; “the diverting part of this run was that after the banker – Pickersgill 4-4-0 No.14501 – had come on the rear of the 380 ton train to assist up to Dalnaspidal, Swain started with such vigour as to ‘wind’  his supposed helper, and the stop at Struan had to be prolonged while the latter recovered its breath.” (CJ Allen,  British Pacific Locomotives)

It has to be said that the ‘mixed traffic’ status of the WC Class was opportunistic rather than actual; opportunistic, because that designation was used to get them built, at a time of ‘austerity’, rather than any real intention to have them hauling goods wagons. That is not to say they didn’t haul goods trains, they did. I have worked van trains, like that pictured above, from Southampton Docks to Nine Elms goods with WC class engines, though it was much more common to find a Standard Class 5 or an S15 on these turns.

In as built status these engines had what was termed a ‘dropgrate’, that is the middle section of the firegrate could be opened when cleaning the fire and the ash and clinker then raked through the opening – it made fire cleaning a lot quicker and easier than shoveling it out through the firehole, the same way it went in. The rebuilds were all fitted with conventional rocking grates. The operating mechanism, for both types, was a bar which fitted over or into levers set into the footplate – commonly known as a ‘rocker bar’.

The rocker bar, dropgrate, and I have ‘history’ but that’s a story for another day.

The photo shows fresh from overhaul No.34081 92 Squadron, with a train of newly painted box vans, approaching Kinchley Lane, on the Great Central Railway, during a recent gala visit.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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 spot a fettlin’

Sitting in the back of the former Pontop & Jarrow Railway engine shed, at Marley Hill, on the Tanfield Railway, Sir Cecil A. Cochrane, the engine in this photo, is moving towards the final stages of a retube and ‘light’ overhaul. (She’s back at work now). No, your eyes are not decieving you, the boiler cladding is made of wood. First a wooden frame is made by cutting, soaking, and bending, pieces of timber to the shape of the barrel   the wooden lagging strips are then attached to these frames, which is what you see here. The ‘finer’ details of the process of re-cladding were explained to me by Ian Cowan, the chap you see about to climb onto the footplate, with a small strip of wood which was being fitted to the cladding inside the cab – joinery and boiler making skills required!

I had no idea, until I saw this work being undertaken, that this was a method of boiler cladding for these enines – you do, as they say, ‘learn summat new every day’. When Marley Hill shed was part of a working colliery railway system this kind of work, retubing, and light general repairs, would have been a commonplace. Behind the white wall to the left of the picture, is a fully operational forge which would have allowed more substantial repairs to be carried out. And, from time to time during the year, volunteers operate the forge, to give visitors a taste of what was involved.

Should you wish you can see a photo of  the volunteers using the the forge,  one can be found in the steamagedaydreams archive for September 2015 – ‘A little forgery’.

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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Fast Fitted

In Heritage Railway Magazine, some years ago now, I wrote an article entitled, ‘Things that went clank in the night’, it was, as you might guess, about the humble world of the over-night freights. Some goods workings achieved almost legendary status, such as the Aberdeen fish trains, which, in the later years of steam, would see anything from a V2 to a ‘Duchess’ turning up. The legendary driver William (Bill) Sparshatt, was reputed to have ‘run down’ i.e caught up, The Talisman with a fitted freight, quite what the guard thought about his wild ride was probably unprintable.

Leaving aside the legends, fishy and otherwise, the fitted freight was bread and butter work and much of it went on during the hours of darkness. The doyen of the V2s No.4771 Green Arrow was named in conjunction with the LNER’s fast fitted freight service ‘Green Arrow’ which had its initial outing as early as 1928, though 4771 Green Arrow wasn’t built until 1936. The LNER wasn’t the only ‘Green Arrow’ service on offer, the GWR advertised one too. Unofficially they also named a London – Worcester ‘fitted’ ‘The Sauce’, and the railway companies did not discourage these ad hoc names.

Surprisingly, in my own railway service, the only fast fitted I worked were the ‘Banana’ trains from Southampton docks to Nine Elms goods; none of which were ‘regular’ services. I did work a regular turn of fully fitted stone hoppers, which originated from Meldon Quarry. We worked down with a passenger service and relieved the crew at Salisbury working back to Feltham engineers yard. The usual motive power was an S15 and it was out for some hours before we stepped aboard – a very rough turn for the fireman, coal back in the tender and plenty of clinker in the fire.

The photo shows No 92214, a BR Class 9F, the last of the ‘Express’ freight engines, with a fitted freight recreation, on the Great Central Railway, near Loughborough.

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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War Effort

One of a batch 90 engines, built by LIMA in 1945, USATC No.5820 was shipped directly to liberated France and eventually became Polish Railways Tr. 203.474. It was said at the time, 1942 – 45, that the American GIs were ‘over sexed, over paid, and over here’. I don’t know about that but, what I do know is that 398 of these American engines were allocated to the ‘Big Four’ with 50 of them going  to the LMS.

Whether the S160s ever worked through Keighley or up the Worth valley I cannot say. The engines which were sent to Britain were shipped to South Wales and taken, intially, to Ebbw Jct. for dispersal to the other members of the Big Four, and some to storage in preparation for the D-day landings. Some of the early arrivals went to Doncaster for completion and running in on the ECML. The LNER eventually had 168 on the books, the GWR 178, and the Southern just 6.

Built to be ‘expendable’ the S160s did have their problems. From a footplateman’s perspective having only one gauge glass, and that of a an unfamiliar type, which was less than 100% reliable, wasn’t a good thing. During the first year of their deployment there were 3 boiler explosions due to low levels of water in the boiler creating a sudden crown sheet collapse; and a GWR fireman was killed in one of them.

To the right of ‘Big Jim’ is Ex-S&DJR  Class 7F 2-8-0 No.53808 an engine which would, almost certainly, have played a role in WWII, on the S&D. During the war a hospital train was stationed at Templecombe, it was kept in a state of readiness to evacuate injured and wounded from the South coast ports to military hospitals. And, when Templecombe itself was bombed, it was used to treat the casualties; five railwaymen and eight passengers died in the attack.

The photo, taken at this year’s K&WVR Winter Gala, shows ‘Big Jim’, banked by Ex-Taff Vale Railway 0-6-2T No.85, pulling away from Keighley with the ‘demo’ goods 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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Let the trials begin

On the 22nd of April 1948 Stanier Pacific, No.46236 City of Bradford, left Euston, hauling the Royal Scot to Carlisle. This was the first run in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials; her return journey the following day was the second. Four days later, on the 27th of April, Bulleid Pacific No.35019 French Line CGT made her test appearance, heading for Plymouth with the GWR dynamometer car in the train. Like No. 46236 City of Bradford, she too made the return trip the following day.

On the 29th & 30th of April it was the turn of the ECML to act as host; and  Rebuilt Scot, No.46162 Queen’s Westminster Rifleman did her turn on a Kings Cross – Leeds working,  hauling the NER dynamometer car in both directions.

The earliest run on the former Southern Railway didn’t take place until the beginning of June, when No.35018 British India Line left Waterloo, heading for Exeter, hauling the Atlantic Coast Express, and with the GWR dynamometer car coupled behind the tender. Repeating the pattern set earlier, she worked the ‘up’ train the following day. The first GWR engine to enter the trial was King Class No.6018 King Henry VI, on 20th May, with a Kings Cross Leeds run, and again, making the return working the day after.

The first A4 to take part in the trials was No.60034 Lord Faringdon, hauling the Royal Scot and the LMS dynamometer car from Euston to Carlisle on May 27th. Two weeks earlier Bulleid Pacific No.35017 Belgian Marine did her turn on the Royal Scot, working north on the 13th, returning south the following day. The trials continued throughout May and on into June, in the ‘Express Locomotive’ category, with the final run being made, appropriately, after having opened the contest, by No.46236 City of Bradford, taking the ACE out of Exeter and heading to Waterloo.

Trials of the mixed traffic engines,  B1 4-6-0s,  Black 5 4-6-0s,  GWR Modified Halls and  SR West Country 4-6-2s, began on June 1st with Black 5 No.45253, on home territory, working a St. Pancras – Manchester service, returning to St. Pancras 3 days later.

Next up was WC Pacific No.34006 Bude working from London Marylebone to Manchester and back, over the GCR main line, on the 8th & 9th. CJ Allen notes that only this engine, of those  in this trial, on the test train over the GCR  route, kept to time, The fireman on No.34006 Bude was Bert Hooker, and I met and fired for him during my time at Nine Elms in the 60s, when he was a driver there.

One of the Modified Halls was the preserved, No.6990 Witherslack Hall, pictured below departing from Loughborough, and she had her turn on the Marylebone – Manchester run on on the 24th and 25th of June with the NER dynamometer car for company. The first B1 to enter the action was No.61251 Oliver Bury working over the Midland from St. Pancras to Manchester and back on 15th and 18th of June. The third member of the Southern trio was in this group, WC No.34005 Barnstaple, and she made her runs on the 22nd and 23rd of June, over the St.Pancras – Manchester route.

On the 7th of July B1 No.61251 made an ‘up’ run on the South Devon Main Line between Plymouth and Bristol a run duplicated by 45253 on the 14th and 34006 Bude on the 21st. From South Devon banks, we move next to the Highland Main Line between Perth and Inverness starting with WC No.34004 Yeovil working north on 13th July and back on the 14th. Also on the 14th Black 5, No.44799, was ‘trialled’ on the 11.55 Ex-Perth, in the ‘down’ direction only. B1 No.61292 made her runs from Perth to Inverness and back on the 20th / 21st. The runs on the 21st July brought to a close the mixed traffic locomotive trials, next up were the freight engines.

The freight types on trial were WD 2-10-0 and 2-8-0, Stanier 8F, LNER Classes 01 and 07 and GWR 2884 class. The four chosen routes were Bristol – Eastleigh, Southern, Ferme Park – New England, LNER, Brent – Toton, LMS, and Acton – Severn Tunnel Junction, GWR. Amazingly, one of the engines actually used in the freight trials, 2884 Class No. 3803, survived and is pictured below on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.

The other engines in the freight trial O1 No. 63773, 8F No.48189, LNER O7 No.63169, WD 2-10-0 No.73774 (90750) and 2-8-0 No.77000 (90101) did not survive. The first runs were made by the 8F No.48189 on a familiar route, Brent – Toton. The last trials, on the 8th and 10th of September, were undertaken by the LNER O7 and again on the Brent – Toton run.

The trials were conducted without sufficient rigour to be really described as ‘scientific’, they were, perhaps, more of PR stunt and a means to help mend the bruised egos, created by  Nationalisation and the resultant reshaping of railway management and engineering workshops. A means, maybe, of smoothing relations between rivals, regions, and egos, the tests were also meant to help create new ‘standard’ designs using best practice.

With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that creating yet more designs, with the consquent need for depots to stock yet more spares etc. was probably not the right thing to do. Building more  locos, to existing designs, would have prevented some of the inevitable waste. Having a more ordered, carefully thought out and planned transition from steam, to diesel and electric traction, would also have paid dividends.

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

The photographs, in sequence, are No.46229 Duchess of Hamilton on the East Lancs Railway, No.35005 Canadian Pacific on the GCR, No.46115 Scots Guardsman at Ais Gill, on the S&C route, No.6023 King Edward II on the GCR, No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley on the East Lancs Railway, Nos.45231 & 45407 at Usan near Montrose, No.34092 City of Wells on the East Lancs Railway, No.6990 Witherslack Hall on the GCR, No.61264 on the NYMR, No.3803 on the GWSR, No.90711, (90733) on the K&WVR, No.48151 at Ais Gill on the S&C, and Nos. 73129 & 71000 Duke of Gloucester on the East Lancs Railway.

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Old school brew

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is an all action shot of Schools Class 4-4-0, No.926 Repton, going hammer and tongs through Goathland when, in reality, she is absolutely stationary and ‘waiting time’ – the rest is courtesy of the fireman and the blower.

The School Class weren’t native to Yorkshire and as for ‘Repton’ well that would be more Midland / GCR territory than Southern Railway. Having said that, in a few weeks time it will be the 70th anniversary of the Locomotive Exchange trials, when the newly formed British Railways played mix and match with the nation’s locomotive fleet.  Think of it as ‘One man and his dog’ but, with steam engines and no sheep!

The Schools Class themselves played no part in the trials but, each of the ‘Big Four’ entered locomotives in the Express Locomotive, Mixed Traffic and Freight, categories, with the exception of the Southern, who did not enter any freight engines. The Freight classification also included both a 2-10-0 and 2-8-0 WD ‘Austerity’.  Being little more than a year old when the trials were taking place I have no recollection of them. However, I do know now that one of the routes chosen for the trials was  London Kings Cross – Leeds and that the Southern Railway locomotives No.35017 Belgian Marine was one of the trialists on that route.

Fifteen years later I made the trip from Leeds to London to become a fireman, and worked on No.35017 Belgian Marine, on services from Waterloo to Bournemouth or Salisbury. Even more remarkably, perhaps, I fired for one of the crew involved in the 1948 trials, fireman Bert Hooker, who was by then a driver at Nine Elms.

I am just putting the finishing touches to a ‘feature’ length blog, covering the trials, which I will be posting later this week. The article will provide some of the day to day details from the exchanges, by way of commemorating the events which began on the 22nd April 1948 and continued until 10th September.

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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Tanks and teaks

Winter still seems to be hanging on here, at Goathland, more dead leaves than fresh shoots. Unusually, No.80136 is engine facing Grosmont and not quite what I was expecting but, hey ho.  These engines worked the line in the months before closure and probably hauling the odd Gresley coach or two.  My own memories of them is working the ‘Kenny Belle’ between Clapham Junction and Kennsington Olympia.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ‘Kenny Belle’, it was a special, untimetabled, service for postal workers, at the giant mail sorting centre at Kennsington. It ran every morning and evening during the week and was reserved for postal workers only. During my brief spell at Stewarts Lane I worked beyond Kennsington and up to North Pole Junction, over the GWR /LNWR West London Joint line, with inter-regional freights which we worked to or from Norwood. Sadly almost all these workings were with the 53xx Cromptons, not quite my cup of tea. I made less than a handful of trips with steam, N or U class moguls. The only other turn I worked over this route, was after moving to 70A, it was known on the roster as the Vauxhall Milk. A real snip of a job we  worked the train forward from Kennsington, with one of the BR 82xxx class 3 2-6-2Ts, to Vauxhall station. Once there we spent the next few hours, ‘kipping’, whilst the tanks were emptied – a fine night’s work!!

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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