Tag Archives: LNER

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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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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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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The Black 5’s turn

Today, June 16th, it is 70 years since Black 5 No.45253 worked from Manchester to Marylebone with the return working of her ‘Locomotive Exchange Trial’ test run, having worked North on the 15th. Later in the year Canon Roger Lloyd penned a piece for the Spectator magazine, on BR’s first year, in which he covers the trials.  Lloyd refers to B1s, as ‘Antelopes’ and Bulleid Pacifics as ‘Southern Streamliners’, quaint terms to modern ears. The good reverend suggests that the B1s were highly thought of, but doesn’t mention the Black 5s at all, though he is rather fond of the Royal Scots, which he considers to be the most handsome design.

Lloyd also questions why the Castles, V2s, Nelsons, and Jubilees were not included in the testing programme. More importantly from a travellers point of view, perhaps, he writes about how services are being restored after the ravages of WWII, blaming the lack of steel allocated for railway use for the shortages of sleeping and restaurant coaches before remarking that most of the ‘named’ trains had been restored and the cross country services were also – ‘vastly improved’. The article, which is titled “BR’s First Year”, paints a generally favourable picture of the progress made by BR during its first year of operations.

However, there is a hint of things to come with talk of country station closures, or reducing the number of stops to speed up services. For me though, the little gem in the piece concerned men I knew. Lloyd talks about the Southern crew, (Driver George Swain and Fireman Bert Hooker), working over the Highland route to Inverness with WC Class 4-6-2 No.34006 Bude. His comment was that they needed an interpreter as much as they needed a pilotman – having fired on the Southern and lived in Scotland for many years – I know exactly what he means.

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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Jubes

When I think back to Leeds City Station, in the late 1950s, more than anything I associate it with the ‘Jubilees’.  They have woven in and out of my life ever since. The Jubes came and went from Leeds to all corners of the sprawling LMS. On the Scottish services one would arrive from St.Pancras, in the south, and another would back down  to work the train north to Carlisle and Glasgow. The ones which came in from Birmingham and Bristol would be replaced by a V2 or an A3, if the train was one going forwards to York and Newcastle; a Fairburn or Fowler 2-6-4 tank was the usual motive power, if it was a service which terminated at Bradford Forster Square.

The Newcastle – Liverpools or Hull – Liverpools would run in behind A3s, V2s, B1s, and B16s from the North or East, and depart for Manchester and Liverpool behind a Jube, sometimes double-headed. For a period of several months in 1962 the Jubes working these services, or the famous ‘Red Bank vans’, the returning Manchester – Newcastle paper train, would, if they were Farnley Jct. engines, have been cleaned by yours truly.

In 1962 55C Farnley Jct. had 4 Jubilees on the allocation, 55A Holbeck, however, had no less than 18 and some of that stud remained active to the very end. No.45675  Hardy, No.45694 Bellerophon and  the very last to go, No.45562 Alberta, were all Holbeck engines at the end of the 1950s. No.45562 had been allocated to Holbeck in 1948 and for all but a brief interregnum at – yes, 55C Farnley Jct.  in 1964 / 65, it was where she remained until withdrawn in November 1967: she was cut up at Cashmores in May 1968. No. 45694 Bellerophon, along with another of the Holbeck entourage, No.45739 Ulster were, for a short spell in 1966/7, shedded at 56A Wakefield.  And during this period I worked on No.45694 Bellerophon, taking a ‘Miner’s Welfare’ trip to Blackpool and back, as I mentioned in a previous blog.

The photo shows No.45699 Galatea, a long time Bristol (Barrow Rd.) engine, at the north end of the short Shotlock Tunnel, approaching the summit of Aisgill. She is working the ‘Hadrian’ – Norwich – Carlisle and return.

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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Bit of a mis-match

On the 1st of June 1948 Black 5 No.45253 left St. Pancras, bound for Manchester, on the first of her runs in the Mixed Traffic section of the 1948 Locomotibe Exchange Trials. The other locomotives in her pool were the B1 No.61251 Oliver Bury and the Bulleid West Country Class No.34005 Barnstaple, which was crewed by Nine Elms pair, George James driving, and George Reynolds firing.

During my own footplate service I worked on all three types; and in the case of No.34005 Barnstaple I worked on the actual engine. All I can say is that putting the Black 5 and B1 in the same category as a Bulleid ‘light’ Pacific was a bit of a mis-match, to put it mildly. And it wasn’t the only mis-match. The Southern engines were coupled to LMS tenders during their running on the Midland and the LMS  engines were coupled to ‘Austerity’ tenders, when doing their turn on Southern metals. This was all brought about by of the lack of troughs on the Southern which meant that the tenders on the Southern engines didn’t have scoops.

However, despite these minor issues, the performance of the selected crews was highly professional, under what must have been challenging conditions, on a railway still recovering from the ravages of 5 years of warfare. And not just the hardware of the railway landscape and the p-way, but the railwaymen themselves who had been working on the footplate, in the stations, goods yards, and signal boxes, or on the p-way throughout the hostilities. To even be in a position, after less than 3 years since the war’s end, and only 4 months after the formation of British Railways, to organise and run the Locomotive Exchanges was, perhaps, miraculous.

The photo shows No.44806, now out of service, passing Esk Valley, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, with a Grosmont – Pickering service.

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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Heading for Yorkshire

There isn’t another locomotive in preservation which raises the controversy that No.60103 Flying Scotsman does. Everything from the shade of green to the ‘German’ style smoke deflectors has its share of supporters and detractors and we haven’t mentioned money or how much of what is before your eyes is ‘the real Flying Scotsman’ or the ‘Flying Money Pit’ as some refer to it.

In all the heated debate we some how seem to have lost sight of the simple pleasures which brought us to our hobby – watching, listening to and enjoying the smell of passing steam engines, taking their numbers, or their pictures as we did so. It must have been quite a treat for spotters along the S&C during the early 1960s when, in addition to their daily diet of LMS locos, the A3s were appearing regularly on the ‘Waverley’ and other Edinburgh – London St. Pancras services, south of Carlisle.

In the summer of 1960 Holbeck was already home to several A3s including Nos.60038 Firdaussi, No.60077 The White Knight,  and No. 60080 Dick Turpin which was one of the few not named after race horses, ‘Flying Scotsman’ was, of course, another, though she wasn’t  a Holbeck engine. Several more A3s, mostly from Gateshead, ended up in Leeds when they were cascaded down from the East Coast Main Line, as the Deltics and Type 4s took over. Some of the last A3s to be withdrawn were those shedded at Carlisle Canal, which spent their final days working freight services over the Waverley line to Edinburgh. One of them, No.60100 Spearmint, when she was at Haymarket, in her heyday, was the regular engine of the footplate author, driver Norman McKillop, aka Toram Beg, who wrote for Trains illustrated.

McKillop wrote the excellent, ‘Lighted Flame a History of ASLEF’, as well as a column in the Locomotive Journal, though he is probably better known for his writings about footplate work and life for a more general audience in books like, ‘Enginemen Elite’ and ‘Ace Enginemen’.

The photo shows No.60103 Flying Scotsman at Birkett Common, if I’m permitted an opinion I’d loose the German blinkers and the rest is just fine. However, I do think they looked very handsome in Apple Green with a single chimney.

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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Southbound

The scene is Birkett Common, a mile or so south of Kirkby Stephen, and for much of the next 7 miles the gradient is at 1 in 100, there’s even a short stretch at 1 in 80. You can see the change in gradient, with the last coach or two still on the short respite at 1 in 237, much of the 11 miles before that were also at 1 in 100, give or take. After the Appleby water stop, apart from a brief dip down to towards Ormside, it’s a solid slog all the way up to the  summit at Aisgill.

There have been some fine charges from the Applby water stop to Aisgil summit during a spell when there was a competition for the ‘Blue Ribbon’ and earlier this month No.35018 British India Line went over the summit at 53mph, though I don’t have a time for the run it has to be up there with those Blue Ribbon efforts.

No.60103 Flying Scotsman and her crew had set off from Edinburgh at just after 07:30 and, more or less from the off, they were into  the climb to Cobbinshaw, around 16 miles at between 1 in 100 and 1 in 140 for a fair chunk of it. When  she passed us it was 15:30  and it would be turned 18:00 when she reached Preston – that’s a lot of hours in service, even allowing for a couple of hours break in Carlisle. By the time the engine gets back to Bury it will be turned 23:00 – that’s one heck of a shift. And some serious dedication from the support crew volunteers, take a bow guys you’ve earned 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 fireman’s lot

On this day 70 years ago Ex-GWR King Class 4-6-0, No.6018 Henry VI pulled out of Central Station, in Leeds, with the 13:10 departure  for London Kings Cross. Coupled to the North Eastern Railway Dynamometer coach, she was on the return working of her assessment in the Locomotive Exchange trials. In their trial, on the the London – Leeds runs, burning Yorkshire hard coal, the Kings didn’t fare well against their opposition. One part of the problem was their lack of ‘superheating’ and following the trials the whole class were fitted with larger super-heaters and later double-chimneys, both of which made improvements.

When you see it written down, like that, it all sounds quite mechanical and matter of fact. However, you can bet your life that on the footplate things were very different; and the fireman, who would have been doing all the work, is the last person to get a mention. Reading between the lines the supply of steam seems to have been a part of the equation – struggling to keep pressure up isn’t a great way to spend your day at work.  Being able to shovel coal through a hole doesn’t make you a fireman, it’s the ablity to coax a few extra flames out of a half-dead fire and get another pound or two of pressure in the boiler when things are rough, that’s where you earn the name and the corn!

No.6024 King Edward I, photographed here on the West Somerset Railway, at Leigh Lane, shows the King in its final form with the double-chimney; and just how I remember seeing one for the first time, at Birmingham Snow Hill, in 1959.

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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