Tag Archives: Heartbeat

Ironic School Days

North Yorkshire Moors Railway resident, School Class 4-4-0 No.926 Repton, slogs up the last few hundred yards of the climb into Goathland station, on Maunday Thursday. In my mind there’s  a touch of irony in the relationship between ‘public’ school and Public School, where the latter is, of course, a fee paying ‘private’ school  and the former the school for the general public. Another connection is more personal and, possibly, more synchronous than ironic; it relates back to my time at ‘Junior’ school and those working on the railway.

Whenever possible we would go to Burley Park and watch the trains go by, the most common engines on the passenger trains,  along the Leeds – Harrogate line, that skirted the park, were the LNER version of the School Class, the 3Cyl 4-4-0 D49 Class, or ‘Hunts’ as we knew them. Often they were referred to by name rather than number; The Bilsdale, The Badsworth, The Quorn, The Fernie and, (No.62765) The Goathland, were just a few of the ‘regulars’ in 1955/6.

It was at Easter, in 1962, that I began work on British Railways North Eastern Region, (NER) transferring, at Easter 1963, to British Railways Southern Region, (SR). Though I began with the North Eastern Region and transferred to the Southern I didn’t fire on a Hunt, or a School, less unsurprisingly, I never attended Public School, nor rode with any Hunt. However, I did photograph a Public School on a Private Railway, once a part of the LNER, where the D49s worked, approaching Goathland where they hunted with hounds and had an engine named after them.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. In a few days I will be posting a feature length blog about engine swapping 1948 style, all about the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges.

PS – couldn’t leave school soon enough, ‘best days of your life’ – pah!

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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Making a getaway

In 1954 No.76038 was one of a number the of BR Class 4 2-6-0s allocated, from new, to Neasden, just tweleve years later she was withdrawn, as we were winning the World Cup, from Machynlleth. Somewhat closer to where this photograph was taken, Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors, the sheds at West Auckland and Kirkby Stephen had an allocation of these 2-6-0s which were used on the ‘Stainmore route’, on both passenger and coal traffic. However, during the summer it was not unknown for them to take holiday makers from Tyneside to the Lancashire resorts.

I mentioned the World Cup because there’s a connection – West Auckland is the home of the First World Cup the Sir Thomas Lipton  Trophy; which was won ‘outright’ by the amatuer side West Auckland Town FC in 1911. Founded in 1893, the players were mainly local miners – they were up against teams put out by the Swiss, Italian, and German FAs, the English FA had declined to nominate a side – and the rest, as they say, is history. West Auckland Town FC are, unlike the mines and No. 76038, still going and playing in the Northern League.

The Stainmore route, which closed for pasenger traffic in 1962 and to goods in 1974, now has  a heritage line based at the former Kirkby Stephen East station. They recently won awards for their restoration of the NER water tower and crane at Kirkby Stephen but, more importantly they have secured Lottery funding to restore LNER J21 0-6-0 No.65033 to working order, for use on the line.

There is another connection between the Stainmore route and preservation which I will cover in a later posting.

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 brief review of my 2017 in words and pictures.

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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1948 and all that

No. 76079 is now in her 60th year, built at Horwich, she entered service, in February 1957, at Sutton Oak, she was withdrawn, from Springs Branch, a little over 10 years later.  Nearly all of the locomotives, built under the auspices of British Railways, had equally short working lives and many see this as a criminal waste of men, money, and materials.

One school of thought was that building new types of steam locomotives was wasteful, they added to the number of spares depots had to carry, and would, inevitably, have teething troubles. In this view instead of adding new types, more engines of already succesful classes should have been built. British Railways did, to some extent, do this and Black 5s, B1s , even ancient designs, such as the J72s, continued to be built after the formation of BR, as did quite a few other classes such as the Bulleid and Peppercorn Pacifics and Brighton Works built Fairburn tanks.

This leaves us with a couple of questions, why were the Standard classes built and why did they have such short working lives? There are no short answers to either question and issues ranging from keeping employment high to worries over the security of oil supplies played their parts in the decision to keep building more steam locomotives, though not necessesarily new designs.

The decision to build new classes of locomotives, rather than more of the existing ones, does seem to be influenced by Riddles’ desire to be the ‘last steam giant’, in the mould of Stanier or Bulleid. Given the history of competition between the pre-Grouping companies, and, in turn,  the Big Four, trying to bring them together under one banner must have been akin to dealing with a sack of ferrets, and then there was the GWR – for whom the only way was Swindon’s. They painted some of their ‘Standards’ green! One came to Nine Elms, No.73029, and I worked on her quite a few times on stoppers to Basingstoke and on boat trains to Southampton docks.

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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Steam Age Daydreams 2018 Calendar

This years calendar, featuring  engines great and small, including; No.6990 Witherslack Hall – 60 years after she was one of the engines in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials, the fresh from overhaul, Schools Class 4-4-0 No.926 Repton, the tiny ‘Sir Tom’ at Threlkeld Quarry and ‘Ugly’ at Tanfield, to name but a few, is now available via eBay. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/302485587635?ul_noapp=true

One satisfied customer had this to say,  “2018 Calendar arrived this morning  – superb and worth every penny. Thanks for the fast response”

Now less than a dozen left, so don’t miss out – order yours now.

 

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The life and times ……….

The footplate was no place for faint hearts, nor fair ladies. The footplate and, in the main, the shed was a world of men, there were no footplatewomen or Shed Mistresses, though I do know some footplatemen who had mistresses. The banter could be ribald and there was no political correctness, it hadn’t been invented. Facilities in the shed were, generally, primitive, on the footplate they consisted of the firing shovel and a tin bucket.

In  summer, in the enclosed cab of engines, like the Merchant Navies, for example, the temperature could well be in the 90s, even before you opened the fire door and began shovelling.  Half an hour of this and you were sweating like a pig in a lard factory, with an odour to match. At the other extreme, you could be running half the day tender first, into gale force winds and teeming rain, firing in your Pea jacket, (The Pea jacket was a sort of 3/4 length ‘Great Coat’), just to try and keep warm.

Every minute, of every hour, day or night, a footplate crew were either just booking on, or off. Once the buses stopped running you made your way to work by bike or walked, in he 50s and early 60s, few had the luxury of a car, one or two more had motor bikes. It was the same at the end of your shift, you might have just done a couple of hundred miles, with 400 tons hanging on the drawbar, shovelled 5 or more tons of coal for your day’s work, and then you had to get on your bike and pedal  home.

On the footplate, everything was hard or hot, often both, bruises and minor burns were ten a penny, grit in your eyes an occupational hazard. The public ignored you, comedians made fun of the railway you worked on, much of which was falling apart before your very eyes. There was little room for sentiment or romance, you worked your rest days because you needed the money and the one thing they advertised, in all the copies of the Locomotive Journal, was surgical trusses.

Hauling the teak set which, only weeks earlier, had been seriously vandalised, No.80136 looks quite at  home rolling across the North Yorkshire Moors, between Grosmont & Pickering, a duty often performed by these engines, in the last years the line was part of the National network.

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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Much Steaming in the Dale

With sheep and cattle grazing the hill sides, and the first shades of autumn in the tree tops, Black5 No.45212, is pictured here, between Commondale and Kildale,  with a Whitby to Battersby Junction service, during the North Yorkshire Moors Autumn Gala. Following the closure of the coastal route, in the 1960s, this is now the only route to Whitby by rail, a journey which involves a reversal at Battersby Junction.

The line from Battersby to Northallerton closed, before the coast route, in the 1950s, and the branch to Rosedale Goods, which had been opened in 1861, closed in 1929. The Rosedale branch, which replaced an earlier narrow gauge line, was built to carry Ironstone for the Ingleby Ironstone & Freestone Co. and for the Rosedale Ironstone Co. At Battersby itself, the North Eastern Railway had a 3 road engine shed, with turntable, and built a number of houses which still stand today.

In Kildale, St. Cuthbert’s church, which is reached via a bridge over the line, has a stained glass window depicting a steam train passing through the Esk valley. And, despite the rural location, Commondale had, until 1947, a brick works, with it’s own sidings. In the abutments of the now disused bridge, carrying the line to the works, are all manner of ‘Masonic’ marks, left by the stonemasons who built it.

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 blackout

“Railway in Wartime”, was the name of the event and No.44806 was decorated for the occasion. In Grosmont there was a miltary marching band, a Spitfire in the car park and folk, in 40s / 50s dress, dancing on the platform, to the sound of ‘big band’ music.  I know these events put bums on seats and generate valuable revenue but, the clash with the reality of the railway in wartime could scarcely be more glaring.

During ‘the war’ the mainline railway was just as much under enemy attack as the frontline and a regular target for the Luftwaffe during air raids as this quote from the Locomotive Journal illustrates:  “Within three minutes of attaching, a bomb fell close to their engine killing the driver and severely wounding the fireman. The driver and fireman at the stop block end of the train immediately rushed to the spot, and using a platform trolley lifted the bombed men from the footplate …proceeding along the platform road a few yards a second bomb crashed in the vicinity…. within a few seconds a third bomb fell a few yards away. Blinded by dust and smoke, … they struggled through… handed over their charge to a First Aid squadron.” (Locomotive Journal; 1941, 214)

No dancing on the platform there, or marching bands for that matter. On the footplate, especially at night, during ‘blackouts’ with the cab all sheeted up, must have been a hellish place to be during enemy attacks.  And if being blown up and injured wasn’t bad enough, the railway companies didn’t treat those injured in the line of duty with the respect they deserved, as this piece from a footplateman at one of the Birmingham depots illustrates:  “One of our drivers was on duty during a rather bad blitz when a land mine fell and exploded within 20 yards of his locomotive, inflicting great damage to the engine and serious injury to our brother, which caused him to lose one eye. Now this driver is a shed messenger. For his devotion to duty and harkening to the now-famous slogans “Carry On” and “Go To It,” he has been reduced to shed labourer, deprived of all claim to the footplate; and also, as a generous gesture, deprived of the mean rate. …. Do you think this is justice to a man who has served for 40 years handling trains during an air raid(s)? No, brothers, I say certainly not! Why should we be degraded and cast asunder like dirt?” (C.E.Taylor Locomotive Journal; 1942, 115)

Any serious examination of the railways and the men who ran them, during WWII, paints a very different picture to the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and a nation pulling together during very difficult days. The real railway in wartime, left men stranded miles from their home depots, when the railway was bombed behind them. They were paid overtime for this, the gutter press, however, accused them of profiteering. No, when you take a look at what really went on, marching bands and dancing seem to be in short supply and death, injury, wrecked lives, and destruction are all part of daily existence .

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 Great West North Eastern Railway

Hauling the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s handsome teak set, visiting GWR pair, 0-6-0PT No.7714, and 2-6-2T No.5199, round the curve at Darnholme and emerge into the autumn light. It was nice to see No.7714 working again, the last time I had seen her was at Arley, during the night running, at one of the SVR galas 8 or 9 years ago.

In 1965, in the company of a couple of railway chums, I travelled all over South Wales, mostly by public transport, and being hauled by engines like those photographed here. We made our pilgrimage to Woodhams and stayed in a B&B, in Barry, which had  feather beds and a wash stand in the room; the landlady brought hot water in a jug.  Our first port of call was Severn Tunnel Jct. a mainly freight shed with a substantial allocation, including a handful of the 51xxs and 3 of the 61xxs; No.5199 was not amongst them. We went, on one evening, to the cinema in Port Talbot; Port Talbot looked like Hades, when we came out of the movies but, I couldn’t tell you what we watched. After bashing round Cardiff, we  eventually made it all the way out to Carmarthen, before I headed back to London and  my next turns of duty at 70A.

The visit to Woodhams was very strange for me, as there were engines there which, only months before, I had been firing out on the main line. No.35018 British India Line, which has just returned to active service, was one of them and No.34010 Sidmouth was another; though in her case the return to steam is ‘on going’. Nos.34016 Bodmin, 34028 Eddystone, and 34039 Boscastle were all there and, again, all engines I had recently worked  on – survivors all. Two years later the whole Southern fleet was withdrawn and steam on the SR was all over, until it wasn’t.

I made quite a few trips working the 08:35 Ex-Waterloo with the West Countries and with No. 35018 British India Line, on the return working, of the same duty, as well as on the 17:30 Ex-Waterloo. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine, that after one of those trips, they were withdrawn, making me, possibly, the last fireman to have worked on them – we’ll never know.

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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Banking duties

With the first shades of autumn beginning to appear, Black 5 No.44806, is banked up to Goathland by Ex-BR 2-6-4MTTNo.80136 and they are seen here passing Esk Valley, at the start of the long drag, some at 1:49, up to the moors. The train is a nice mix of box vans, cattle wagons, mineral wagons, and a tanker. A few more wagons and a bit more imagination and it could be Shap, well, in my dreams!!

My only ‘banking duties’ were when banking trains away from the blocks at Waterloo, which, at no more than the length of the platform, barely counts as ‘banking assistance’. I have worked on double-headers though, during my spell at 55C. However, as the fireman it makes very little difference to your job, it’s the drivers who have to ‘communicate’. The general rule is the pilot engine does the braking and the driver of the train engine watches and listens for how to set the regulator openings and what ‘effort put in’ and when to shut off. I do recall there were whislte codes used in banking, both to call for the assistance and between crews but, 50 years down the line, I no longer remember what the whistles were.

I have, several times, been on the footplate with pilotmen and, on  occasions, with inspectors too. Inspector Arthur Jupp rode with us on the East Devon Rail Tour of 28/2/65 and Technical Inspector Brian Smith made several journies with us on the 17:30 and 21:20 services from Waterloo to Bournemouth. It was always a bit daunting with an inspector on the footplate as you felt you had to be on ‘your best behaviour’ and do everything ‘by the book’. However, in the cases above, Inspector Jupp helped take water at Yeovil and generally made you feel comfortable. Inspector Smith would help  even more, by working the fire doors as I shovelled, so what might have been a tricky turn was, in the end, made easier. And who doesn’t like the easy life?

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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