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