Tag Archives: Nine Elms



The location is Castle Hill, on the West Somerset Railway near Williton, an aptly named backdrop for an engine, belonging to a class of locomotives, given the names of Knights of the Round Table by the Southern Railway’s Publicity Dept. Designated, originally, as class N15, but more generally known as ‘Arthurs’ No. 30777 Sir Lamiel is a part of the National Collection. Designed by Robert Urie, for the London & South Western Railway, during WWI, building didn’t commence until after hostilities ceased and the first engines entered traffic in 1919. Following the Grouping, REL Maunsell, modified the design and built more locomotives bringing the final total to 74.

A batch of the N15s were built by the North British Locomotive Company, in typical railway style, they were known as Scots, (Scotch) Arthurs, to distinguish them from the ‘Eastleigh’ Arthurs. These engines proved a little troublesome when they entered service; the North British Locomotive Co. had cut corners, after under-bidding to gain the contract, and many had to be rebuilt at Eastleigh. Some of the defects included; faulty riveting on the boilers, 6 had to be replaced, faulty tubes, and mis-aligned main frames – just a few of the problems encountered. In general, the Arthurs were well liked by the crew and during her spells out on the main line No.30777 Sir Lamiel has put in some sterling performances, on home territory between London and Weymouth or Exeter, as well as over the West Coast Main Line and the Settle Carlisle route.

The Arthurs were the first British locomotives to be fitted with smoke deflectors, in a series of trials, which commenced in 1926. Bulleid tinkered with a couple of them during WWII but the modifications were later reversed. Sadly, despite my time at Nine Elms in the 1960s, I never did get to fire the N15s, though I did fire on their cousins, the Class S15 4-6-0s, more than once, on the Salisbury – Feltham Yard leg of the Meldon Quarry – Feltham stone trains.

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Postman Pat?


Two of the depots I worked at had mail train duties on the roster, Farnley Junction men worked the Leeds – Stockport section of the York – Swansea Mails and at Nine Elms they worked the 21.20 Weymouth Mails, between Waterloo and Southampton. I never fired on the York – Swansea Mails but, I did, from time to time, clean the engines which worked the train. The 21.20 Weymouth Mails is a very different story and one which will be told, in full, later this year.

Some mail trains, also known, by the traveling public, as milk trains, were late night departures that crawled through the darkened countryside from one, dimly-lit, one eyed station to the next. Each stop being accompanied by the loading and unloading of barrows filled with mail bags and or milk churns, often both, before doors slammed, whistles blew, and the whole circus chugged off to the next performance 15 or 20 miles further down the line.

One such train took me on my first ever trip to London, without adult supervision. The train left Leeds City Station at 22.15, if I remember, though it might have been a little later than that, and arrived in London St.Pancras around 6 ish the next morning. There was a special excursion ticket available on this train which, at the time, made it the cheapest way to do a round trip Leeds to London. It gave you a whole day to bash round the London sheds before setting off home and falling asleep as you chugged along, at a leisurely  pace, ‘back up t’ north’

I’m sure that today, if 3 or 4 fourteen year old boys were to take an overnight train from Leeds to London and spend the following day trespassing on railway property, the parents of said boys would be charged with child abuse and the kids put in care – hey ho!

Scanned from one of my slides, the photograph shows the TPO pulling out of Loughborough Central Station, on the Great Central Railway, sometime prior to the completion of the twin track project. The locomotive, Ex-SR  West Country Class 4-6-2 No.34039 Boscastle, is an engine I worked on many times, and, in all probability, on a mail train.

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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