Tag Archives: Heartbeat

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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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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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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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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