Tag Archives: Night Mail

Farewell Postman Pat

The shadows are lengthening as, No.46115 Scots Guardsman, sails through Kirkby Stephen with the ‘up’ Thames Clyde Express. (actually the return leg of the Fellsman.) This is the final working before she has her a ten year overhaul, let’s hope she gets a fast track. I had hoped she’d be ‘shoveling white steam over her shoulder’ – just a bit too warm for that, sadly.

Affectionately known as ‘Postman Pat’, because, in her original form she hauled ‘The Night Mail’,  a classic  of British documentary film making, accompanyed by Auden’s wonderful poem, about the operation of the Travelling Post Office and the journey of the ‘Night Mail’ from Euston to Glasgow.

I’ve worked a few mail trains, one of them was the 22:35 Ex-Waterloo, a turned I enjoyed quite a few times whilst a fireman at Nine Elms. One of the more memorable journeys on this turn was a run with No.34006 Bude and driver Gordon Porter. Driver Porter was a lovely bloke to work with and he enjoyed a fast run. We left Basingstoke with the rockets flying and reached 95mph as we headed down the bank to Winchester.  Only the need to stop prevented us hitting the ton.

No.34006 Bude was in still in her original ‘air smoothed’ form and was a bit of a pet – having been one of the participants in the ‘mixed traffic’ class, during the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trails. No 34006 Bude worked over the GWR main line between Plymouth and Brristol and the Great Central Railway route between London (Marylebone) and Manchester.

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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When Hall’s said and done

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The Travelling Post Office, the Victorian equivalent of ‘social media’, the Twitter of the 19th Century. The coming of the railway, and the creation of the  ‘Penny Post’, took communication to a whole new level, much as the World Wide Web has done in the past 20 years.  Yes, in just 20 years, our ability to communicate, around the globe, in real time, has taken a quantum leap. In 1989 I published the first edition of ‘Wilson’s Preserved Steam Railway Timetable’ – a preserved railway version of a kind of cheap edition of Bradshaws, today there’s ten times the amount of information on each of the entries in it, at the push of a button – Google knows all. Enter the post code, of your chosen railway, into your SatNav and a mechanical voice will guide you to – ‘you have reached your destination’.

The TPO has long gone, and the Post Office / Royal Mail / Parcel Force, which was the GPO, is now, all in private hands. Alas, there’s  no more shovelling white steam over her shoulder….. no more bringing the cheque and the postal order, the Night Mail is now just a ghostly memory, a scratchy old black and white movie with a clipped English accent speaking to the rhythm of a moving  train.

On the plus side, we are no longer  dependent on the ‘gutter press’ or ‘Big Time Television’ for our news and information, we can all share real time videos,  news, and information, uncensored and unfiltered, around the planet. I often sit here, at home in Scotland, watching video footage, from steam events in Australia, America, Germany, even in the foot hills of the Himalayas, as well as those happening just down the road on the West Coast Main Line, many are posted, ‘on line’, within minutes of the event taking place. And to think that, only a few hundred years ago, I might well have had to read a book, which was chained to a wall, by candle light, and I’d have had to make a trek just to get to where that one and only copy was chained to the wall. My  – how times have changed, picture of a cute animal anyone?

 If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

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You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing' the sales of which help to keep this blog running.

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2
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a host of golden daffys and a light engine

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The poetry of William Wordsworth was the bane of my life as a teenage schoolboy – and then I discovered he was anti-railway – that did it for me. Give me John Cooper Clarke any day – ‘lacquered in a beehive her barnet wouldn’t budge, wet look lips she smiled as sweet as fudge’ – JCC’s description of Salome Maloney El Supremo of the Ritz! Cooper Clarke, did write a poem, with railway connections – it’s called Chicken Town. A wonderful, expletive laced, rant about late trains and the vicissitudes modern urban life.

Fragments of lines, sometimes stick in the mind, ‘shoveling white steam over her shoulder’ from Auden’s Night Mail, and I can practically see the grainy black and white film of sorters at work in the TPO, and hear the synchronous rhythms of the poem, exhaust beat, and the rattle of the rails, as the train speeds through the night, on the West Coast main line. The opium eating Thomas D’ Quincy wrote a truly wonderful description of the difference between traveling by stage coach and railway coach and John Betjamen, whose statue now stands in the St. Pancras Station he helped to save, was member No.1 of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, so not all poets disliked railways.

Anyway, that’s enough poetry for one day, unless we’re talking ‘steam poetry’ where one man’s grimy shed scene is as poetic as another man’s daffodils matching distants, on a glorious Spring morning, in Bewdley. Rusty rails and fire irons, neatly stowed across the bunker back, the fireman keeps a look out. Exhaust steam and steam from the cylinder cocks neatly framing Bewdley South Box as No.6435 makes her way light engine from Bewdley MPD to Kidderminster.

If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with friends, rail fans, or railway groups.

http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/

You might also enjoy my ebook 'Gricing'

http://www.amazon.com/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

or for British readers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-real-story-Railway-Children-ebook/dp/B00ML0QYK2

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This isn’t the night mail

4953tpo

This isn’t, ‘the night mail crossing the border bringing the cheque and the postal order’, (whatever happened to postal orders?), this is the legendary  ‘mail drop’ working on the Great Central Railway. This train recreates the old, line side, drop-off and pick-up of mail bags which was, ‘once upon a time’, such a feature of the railways in Britain. The traveling post office, (TPO),  began almost as soon as the railways went somewhere, and the line side drops and pick-ups began in 1866, on the GWR. The Great Western and the Southern Railway, to all intents and purposes, raced against each other bringing the trans-Atlantic mail from Plymouth to London

In our ‘modern age’ the railway no longer run specialised mail trains and the linside drops and collections have long gone too. The Royal Mail is now a private business and the ‘daily post’ is pejoratively referred to as ‘snail mail’. This, we are told, is in the name of efficiency and progress, I’m not convinced.

The loco in the photograph, Ex-GWR  49xx Hall Class, No. 4953 Pitchford Hall is a member of a class first introduced in 1928 which went on to become the ‘maids of all work’ on the GWR. No.4953 Pitchford Hall was built in 1929 and ended her working days in May 1963. Restored to full main line working order in 2004, she is now retired from service and awaiting her  turn for a 10 year overhaul at the Epping & Ongar Railway.

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

These are some totally unsolicited comments from people who have already read  Gricing: Amazon Customer on 6 Jan. 2016 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase:  “Brilliant and interesting book”

By Amazon Customer on 17 Mar. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Not a murder mystery, but one that I found hard to put down. One of the best additions to my collection of books about railways.

‘treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’

‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot’

‘I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. 

‘I was given what I believe to be your book called “Gricing” the other night.  Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!

 

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