Tag Archives: Southern Railway

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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Standard Stopper

At the beginning of 1963, when I first arrived at Nine Elms, I spent a short time in Link 4 with driver Fred Walker and these BR class 4s were amongst the first engines I worked on, No.75078 was one of them. A regular duty for the 75xxxs was the Waterloo – Basingstoke stoppers, calling Woking then all stations to Basingstoke. The key to keeping time on these services was starting quickly and braking late – and the 75xxxs were very nippy, ideally suited to this task.

When stopping at the intermediate stations, once the train had been brought to a stand, Fred would blow the brakes off and hold the train on the engine’s steam brake while waiting for the tip. Starting in full forward gear he would ease away from the platform steadily opening the regulator before reeling in the cut-off, first to around 50% before giving her  full regulator and then notching up to around 25 – 30%, by which time speed would be nudging 50. A mile or two at 60 ish and then time to shut-off for the next stop and a repeat of the process.

On my side of the footplate it was keep a good fire under the door, thinning to the front and top it up each time we stopped. Between Woking and Farnborough there was a bit more to do because of the climb up to MP31 but, once over the hump that was it; apart, that is, from the top ups at the stops.

The train engine No.34092 City of Wells was one of the dozen or so Bulleid ‘light’ Pacifics I never worked on during my days at Nine Elms but, on the plus side, the preserved 34007 Wadebridge was the very first of the original Bulleids I fired. The photograph shows the pair departing Keighley with the 11:55 for Oxenhope on 26 June, during the 50th anniversary celebrations.

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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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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The first convert

One of the locomotives from the 1948 Exchange Trials, and the first of the class to be rebuilt, No.35018 British India Line, is seen here, passing Rillington, at the head of the Scarborough Spa Express. I have to say it’s very nice to be able to see her in action on the main line, in my neck of the woods but, it’s a far cry from being on her footplate, speed in the 80s, on a Waterloo – Bournemouth express, as I have been in the past.

I’m sure there are good reasons but, I do find it a little odd that the chosen motive power allocation  sees class 8P No.35018 British India Line working the virtually flat York – Scarborough run with 10 on whilst a class 6 Jubilee, or the 8F, are allocated turns over the S&C with 11 or 12 on. Given the leisurely schedule on the SSE it is surely more suited to the 8F’s 50mph speed limit. An example of just how easy the SSE timings are can be seen from today’s run; No.35018 British India Line was 12 minutes late away from York, she passed Malton only 6 down, by the time she passed Seamer she was 4 to the good and arrived 7 early into Scarborough – and all without breaking sweat.

To put that into context, in 1964, working from Waterloo to Basingstoke a distance of 47.78 miles, on a Merchant Navy, with load 12 or 13  the booked time was 55 minutes. For those of you unfamiliar with the route it is almost all against the collar  with a bit of a dig, after the slack through Clapham Jct., up to Wimbledon and another from around West Byfleet up to MP 31. York to Scarborough is a little over 41 miles, relatively flat, and the SSE is given a pedestrian 73 minutes.

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 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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The last batch

On the Western Section of British Railways Southern Region the discs, being carried by 75078, indicated a West of England service to Salisbury and Exeter. And these engines were a common sight on stopping trains out of Waterloo over this route, during my own time working on this line, in the mid-1960s. In fact, No.75078, was an engine I worked on quite a number of times on stopping passenger duties and on freight jobs, like the ‘banana trains’ from Southampton to Nine Elms Goods.

The last batch to be built, No.75065 – 75079 were allocated to the Southern, from new. They were  all eventually fitted with a double-chimney and all of them were coupled to the large BRIB tenders with a 4,725 gallon water capacity, because of the Southern’s lack  of troughs. Initially shared between Dover on the Eastern section and Exmouth Junction on the Western, many of them ended their days at Eastleigh. My 1961 Shed Book shows 2 on the books at Stewarts Lane, and 3 at Bath Green Park, which was, by then, under the Western Region of BR. On the right of the picture is Ex-S&DJR 2-8-0 7F No.53808, also of Bath Green Park, unfortunately the 75xxxs allocated to Bath, in 1961, were Nos. 75071 /2 /3, not No.75078 which was a Guildford engine and she is still carrying the 70D Guildford shed plate.

And you know that old chestnut – ‘there’s always one’ well No.75071 was withdrawn, in 1967, from Stoke. Nos.75072 & 3 were the only others from this batch not to end their days at Eastleigh; probably as a result of their posting, earlier, at Bath Green Park, both being withdrawn from Yeovil in December 1965. Amazingly 3 of this final batch survived into preservation, No.75069 is nearing the end of a major overhaul at the Severn Valley Railway, No.75079 is also under overhaul at the Mid-Hants Railway and as can be seen No.75078 is working well on the K&WVR.

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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