Tag Archives: TPO

‘Goodnight Ollie, over and out’

A selection of some of my favourite photos of No.70013 Oliver Cromwell, to mark her imminent retirement for a 10-year overhaul. This photo of her steaming away from Quorn & Woodhouse, which could have been taken in the 1960s, and can be viewed as a fresh start or heading off into the sunset, seemed an ideal opener.

From the flat lands of the East Midlands, this next shot of ‘Ollie’ was taken in the Highlands of Scotland, the southbound summit of Druimauchdar to be precise.

In this photo, No.70013 Oliver Cromwell was putting in the lion’s share of the effort, even though No.61993 Great Marquess seems to be making the lion’s share of the clag. Earlier in the same tour I was at Blackford, in Perthshire, to witness Ollie heading north with the climbs of Druimauchdar and Slochd still to come.

Behind the train is Blackford Crossing Box, a mile or two further up the line is the famous Gleneagles hotel and golf course. The station at Gleneagles, and departures from it, featured regularly in magazine photographs of Scottish railways.

For about a year in late 1963 through into 1964 I was a resident in the notorious ‘huts’ at Old Oak Common enginemen’s hostel, sadly, the only things I saw carrying the Red Dragon head board were Warship class diesels. If you put a few more coaches, and express lamps and the headboard on this picture …….

Still on the GCR we see Ollie with the TPO heading for Quorn & Woodhouse and the mail drop.  I dare say, that back in the day, the Brits would have worked their share of mail trains and with several, at one time, sheded at Holyhead, they would have worked the titled train ‘The Irish Mail’ Euston – Holyhead service..

This final image is Ollie crossing the Tay. In the background is Dundee and at the top left of the picture you can see a white tower it’s a war memorial and it sits atop Dundee Law, an extinct volcano. The Law provides a panoramic viewing platform for the whole of the Tay estuary, and around the perimeter has  a series of etched plaques detailing what features are in the landscape that you are looking at.

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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Rough trip

The 08.35 Ex-Waterloo  – Weymouth was a regular 3link turn and the usual motive power was a Bulleid WC /B-o-B but, not today. Waiting at the end of the platform was one of Riddles’ Class 5 4-6-0s, the 08.35 wasn’t an express service but, the load was usally 10 or 11, equal  to 360 to 400 tons, a fair load for a class 5. Climbing onto the footplate and the day at the office got a whole lot worse, the engine we should have had was a last minute failure and this one was the spare.

There had been little time to build a proper fire, the fire doors were shut and the blower on, steam pressure was at 180, the boiler, a little more than half full, not a great place to be 5 minutes from the off. This was the good news, the bad bit was that the tender was full of ‘bricquettes’ less politely known as ‘donkey’s bollocks’, which might have burned hotter! One of the less pleasant side effects of the bricquettes is the dust from them really made your eyes sting – black faced, and with red rimmed eyes, at the end of the shift you looked like an extra from Zombie Apocalypse.

However, I was just at the start of the shift and relief, at Bournemouth Central, was over a hundred miles away. Boiler pressure had risen to 200lbs by the time we got the right away. When ‘sooty’ shut off for the slack through Clapham Jct. it was back down to 180, it was going to be a rough trip.

The photo shows one of the Caprotti fitted versions of the Standard Class 5, No.73129, at the head of the mails during one of the Great Central Railway’s Gala events, sadly not a ‘Standard Arthur’ at the head of 11 BRMKIs in SR green livery…….

TBC

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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Rough trip

The 08.35 Ex-Waterloo  – Weymouth was a regular 3link turn and the usual motive power was a Bulleid WC /B-o-B but, not today. Waiting at the end of the platform was one of Riddles’ Class 5 4-6-0s, the 08.35 wasn’t an express service but, the load was usally 10 or 11, equal  to 360 to 400 tons, a fair load for a class 5. Climbing onto the footplate and the day at the office got a whole lot worse, the engine we should have had was a last minute failure and this one was the spare.

There had been little time to build a proper fire, the fire doors were shut and the blower on, steam pressure was at 180, the boiler, a little more than half full, not a great place to be 5 minutes from the off. This was the good news, the bad bit was that the tender was full of ‘bricquettes’ less politely known as ‘donkey’s bollocks’, which might have burned hotter! One of the less pleasant side effects of the bricquettes is the dust from them really made your eyes sting – black faced, and with red rimmed eyes, at the end of the shift you looked like an extra from Zombie Apocalypse.

However, I was just at the start of the shift and relief, at Bournemouth Central, was over a hundred miles away. Boiler pressure had risen to 200lbs by the time we got the right away. When ‘sooty’ shut off for the slack through Clapham Jct. it was back down to 180, it was going to be a rough trip.

The photo shows one of the Caprotti fitted versions of the Standard Class 5, No.73129, at the head of the mails during one of the Great Central Railway’s Gala events, sadly not a ‘Standard Arthur’ at the head of 11 BRMKIs in SR green livery…….

TBC

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 mail drop

31806snatch

There’s rather a nice selection ‘railway’ fixtures and fittings in this photo; the exit dolly from Quorn ‘up’ sidings, the hand points lever, Quorn & Woodhouse signal cabin, and its gantry ‘starter’ signal, an S&T relay box,  a line of telegraph poles, a 1/4 mile post,  and, stored in the ‘down’ sidings, an engineers train.

However, the important item of railway furniture in this photograph is the Mail catcher at  which, if you look closely, the mail bags are just been snatched,  as the TPO, headed by U Class 2-6-0 No.31806, dashes by, at some speed. The Quorn mail drop is one of the unique features of the Galas on the GCR  – tho’ this is the first time I’ve managed to capture the exact moment the bags were being snatched.

I never worked a TPO, though I did work ‘mail trains’, like, for instance, the 21.20 Waterloo / Weymouth mails. Now I know mail trains have a reputation for being ‘slow’, but on the night of 15/05/65 I working the 21.20, we reached 105mph down the bank to Winchester and ran to Southampton in a nett time of 65 mins – 5 minutes faster than today’s schedules – and that’s progress!!

If you’ve enjoyed my photographs and blog, why not try my book “Gricing: The Real story of the Railway Children”. This is the link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

Here are some  totally unsolicited comments from people who have read  Gricing:  ‘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’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ 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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When Hall’s said and done

4953tpo

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?

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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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On the banks of the Silvery Tay

46115rtyc

This survivor of the mass culling of steam locomotives in the middle decades of the 1960s has a rather special place in railway history and culture. When the GPO decided to make a documentary about the traveling post office, (TPO), back in 1936, the then parallel boilered Royal Scot class 4-6-0 (4) 6115 Scots Guardsman was the locomotive used in the film. This is the film for which the poet WH Auden penned ‘The Night Mail’ – you know the one, ‘this is the night mail crossing the border bringing the cheque and the postal order’ etc.

In this photograph No. 46115 Scots Guardsman has just left Dundee and is alongside the river Tay at West Ferry heading towards Aberdeen, with one leg of one of the ‘Great Britain’ series of rail tours. The large white building behind the engine is the Royal Tay Yatch Club.

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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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