Tag Archives: NYMR

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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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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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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Different worlds

On a scorchingly hot Sunday afternoon I was asked, ‘what was it like, on days like this, working on the footplate’. Well, hot of course but, what they meant was how did we cope and how grim was it.   Bottled water, there wasn’t any of that in 1960s Britain and shorts, trainers, and a t-shirt, well let’s just say I never met a fireman dressed that way. I did however, come across quite few drivers who, even on roasters, turned up for duty in a shirt and tie – proper old school.

In engines with a very enclosed cab, it was often ridiculously hot, especially if the engine was in the shed and you were preparing the fire to go off-shed. It was equally bad on the ash pit cleaning the fire too. The term, ‘sweating like a pig in a lard factory’, was a relatively accurate, if colourful, description of the conditions. In the summers of 63,64, and 65 I was a fireman at Nine Elms on the Bulleid Pacifics and Q1s which did get very warm but, the BR Standards,  especially the ones with the big tenders, were fairly enclosed, and they were pretty warm too, when compared with the likes of an S15 or a U-boat. Once you got out on the road you could at least hang out the window for a breath of fresh air, between bouts of firing.

The really big difference between then and now is the attitude to alcohol.  Drinking on duty was a punishable offence, then as now, however, a very blind eye was often turned; and after a trip down to Bournemouth, on a hot day, a pint of Brown & Mild in th BRSA club, wasn’t drinking it was re-hydration! And right outside the gate at Nine Elms was the ‘Brook’ – The Brookland Arms, the ‘lock-ins’ were the stuff of legend.

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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Watch the birdy

Over the weekend the North Yorkshire Moors Railway held a behind the scenes event – having been ‘behind the scenes’ in my, one time,  day job I don’t normally go in for these events. However, the weather was fine and a drive over the moors from Kildale to Levisham via Rosedale Abbey and Pickering is lovely on such a day; and we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the way.

One of the options available was to view the signal box at Levisham; and as I hadn’t visited Levisham for over 20 years – well, hey ho, here we are at Levisham. I took some photos of the signal box, the station, and the lamp room. I also took this photo,  the reflection in the window of the general waiting room on the down platform.

When I began to look at the photo on the computer screen I noticed something I hadn’t seen when looking through the viewfinder. So, instead of the usual photo of ‘steam’ action I thought I’d post this one and see if you can spot the oddity. The only thing which has been done is a crop, no fancy photoshopping, it’s wizzywig.

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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Boys and the black stuff

Just short of 30 years ago I was writing a fortnightly column in the now defunct Steam Railway News, a fortnightly broadsheet newspaper covering preservation and heritage railways. The by-line for the column was Clag and Rockets and I had pretty much free rein to write what I liked, as I do now. The most controversial piece I penned was about the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and the proposal to bury huge amounts of nuclear waste very close by.

Weird, I know, but I have this thing about synchronicity and today I had one of those kinds of things. When I wrote the ‘Laal Ratty’ piece Steam Railway News was being published by East Lancashire Publications and I had to be fairly persuasive to get it into print. Today, I discovered that one of the people I was involved with, in the production of SRN, had previously lived  in Bentham. During a very brief spell as a fireman at Holbeck, I worked on just one passenger duty, a late afternoon Leeds to Morecambe service, first stop Keighley and then pretty much every station on the ‘little North Western” including Bentham. The engine was a Black 5, a locomotive for which the term Utilitarian, might have been written – Jeremy Bentham was the ‘Godfather’ of Utilitarianism. Basically – “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong” J. Bentham

However, this knowledge should be tempered by this comment he made about his conceptual prison, ‘The Panopticon’  ‘he described the Panopticon prison as, “a mill for grinding rogues honest”.  And it is here that weirdness kicks in; the chap from SRN is about to take up a post as a prison chaplin. When I began writing Clag & Rockets for SRN I had just finished my degree in Philosophy, in which Bentham and his ideas were a feature. And moments before I read about the Bentham connection I was wondering how to persuade my good lady that a trip to Laal Ratty, to see Synolda & Count Louis double-heading, is a wonderful journey through Lakeland – even if we do have to be up at 6a.m. for a 3 hour car trip. I’d even been on Google maps checking out the route! Must be something in the ether.

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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Old school brew

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is an all action shot of Schools Class 4-4-0, No.926 Repton, going hammer and tongs through Goathland when, in reality, she is absolutely stationary and ‘waiting time’ – the rest is courtesy of the fireman and the blower.

The School Class weren’t native to Yorkshire and as for ‘Repton’ well that would be more Midland / GCR territory than Southern Railway. Having said that, in a few weeks time it will be the 70th anniversary of the Locomotive Exchange trials, when the newly formed British Railways played mix and match with the nation’s locomotive fleet.  Think of it as ‘One man and his dog’ but, with steam engines and no sheep!

The Schools Class themselves played no part in the trials but, each of the ‘Big Four’ entered locomotives in the Express Locomotive, Mixed Traffic and Freight, categories, with the exception of the Southern, who did not enter any freight engines. The Freight classification also included both a 2-10-0 and 2-8-0 WD ‘Austerity’.  Being little more than a year old when the trials were taking place I have no recollection of them. However, I do know now that one of the routes chosen for the trials was  London Kings Cross – Leeds and that the Southern Railway locomotives No.35017 Belgian Marine was one of the trialists on that route.

Fifteen years later I made the trip from Leeds to London to become a fireman, and worked on No.35017 Belgian Marine, on services from Waterloo to Bournemouth or Salisbury. Even more remarkably, perhaps, I fired for one of the crew involved in the 1948 trials, fireman Bert Hooker, who was by then a driver at Nine Elms.

I am just putting the finishing touches to a ‘feature’ length blog, covering the trials, which I will be posting later this week. The article will provide some of the day to day details from the exchanges, by way of commemorating the events which began on the 22nd April 1948 and continued until 10th September.

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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Tanks and teaks

Winter still seems to be hanging on here, at Goathland, more dead leaves than fresh shoots. Unusually, No.80136 is engine facing Grosmont and not quite what I was expecting but, hey ho.  These engines worked the line in the months before closure and probably hauling the odd Gresley coach or two.  My own memories of them is working the ‘Kenny Belle’ between Clapham Junction and Kennsington Olympia.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ‘Kenny Belle’, it was a special, untimetabled, service for postal workers, at the giant mail sorting centre at Kennsington. It ran every morning and evening during the week and was reserved for postal workers only. During my brief spell at Stewarts Lane I worked beyond Kennsington and up to North Pole Junction, over the GWR /LNWR West London Joint line, with inter-regional freights which we worked to or from Norwood. Sadly almost all these workings were with the 53xx Cromptons, not quite my cup of tea. I made less than a handful of trips with steam, N or U class moguls. The only other turn I worked over this route, was after moving to 70A, it was known on the roster as the Vauxhall Milk. A real snip of a job we  worked the train forward from Kennsington, with one of the BR 82xxx class 3 2-6-2Ts, to Vauxhall station. Once there we spent the next few hours, ‘kipping’, whilst the tanks were emptied – a fine night’s work!!

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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