Tag Archives: travel

Express connections

If railways are about connections there are a lot of them, for me, in this picture. My first long distance journey, on my own, was on the South Yorkshireman. I was taken, by my folks, to Bradford Exchange, where they put me on the train and asked the guard to keep an eye on me; my Aunt met me off the train at Rugby Central station – I was 10. And for the following two weeks I would spend most of my time sat by the girder bridge, where the Great Central crossed the WCML, just south of Rugby Midland station, sadly not with a camera.

Six years later I was at work on the railway in London whilst one of my former classmates was working as a steward on the Pullmans; working between Leeds and Kings Cross. This particular connection gave me the opportunity to sample the joy of Pullman travel from Kings Cross up to Leeds and a very enjoyable dinner for the princely sum of zero. When one of the engines I worked on, during my 3 year spell in London, was returned to steam, it was at the Great Central. No.35005 Canadian Pacific was returned to active duty by the engineering team at Loughborough; and at the ‘ceremony’ to mark her return I was an invited guest and enjoyed a ‘Pullman’ lunch with the CEO of CP Europe as No.35005 hauled us up and down the line.

My first outing, as fireman, on the former London South Western main line out of Waterloo, was with the 19:54 service to Basingstoke, calling at Woking and all stations thereafter. The engine was one of the ‘Standard Arthurs’, identical to the one in the photo except it had a name. And, in a final twist, when I took this photo I was standing chatting to a couple of chaps from Epsom who had stood, train spotting, on the platform at Surbiton during the very time I had been working trains through there on a daily basis with Bulleid Pacifics and BR Class 5 Standards.

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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From main line to minerals

After a star-studded career on the main line Britannia Class 4-6-2, No.70013 Oliver Cromwell, is seen here hauling 9S10 the 10:20 Loughborough – Swithland ‘windcutter’ / ‘runner’ re-enactment, during the Great Central Railway’s Goods Galore Gala, on Saturday last.

When steam was on its way out engines which were once the pride of the fleet could be seen, often in filthy condition, performing all manner of lesser turns and duties – as above. The question was raised, about my previous post, did we really need the ‘Standards’, of all classes. They began to appear in 1951 and all of them were withdrawn by 1968, some of them went to scrap at less than 10 years old. It matters little which side of the political divide you’re on – this is a criminal waste, by any standard.

The twenty years between 1948 when BR was born and 1968 when steam was finally withdrawn, were twenty years of missed opportunities, poor decision making, botched planning and, for much of that time, a government antipathetic to the very idea of Nationalisation.  This is hardly a recipe for success and successes were thin on the ground. Did the railway need new classes and designs, probably not. If more locomotives were needed, until the network could be ‘electrified’, it would have made more sense to build additional locos of pre-existing classes – Black 5 or Std 5?

In my own railway career I witnessed the debacle unfolding, at the blunt end. The dereliction, decay, and loss of morale, the queues of trucks blocking the roads, no motorways then, not to mention the failures of the new fangled diesels but, the badly run down and poorly mainted steam fleet too.

On that note the S&C beckons, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

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Double standards

70 years since the formation of British Railways and 24 years since it was privatised; and in the photo two engines of British Railway’s Standard Classes in action on a Heritage railway. The Standard Classes began with number 70000, which they named Britannia, the last one built at Swindon, No. 92220, they named Evening Star.  Between No.70000 and No. 92220 were these classes of engines No.78018 of BR Standard Class 2MT introduced in 1953 and designed at Derby and No.73156 of BR Standard Class 5 introduced in 1951 and designed at Doncaster, No.73156 being amongst the last of the class to be delivered, at the end of 1956.

No.73156 was built in Doncaster  and initially allocated to Neasden, which made her something of a regular on Ex-GCR metals during that period. No.73156 saw a number of allocations on the Midland region and it was an allocation to Leicester which led to her eventual arrival at the GCR, after a less than succesful spell languishing at Bury. No.78018 was built at North Road Works in Darlington in 1953 allocated to West Auckland she began service over the Stainmore route in March 1954, she was withdrawn from Shrewsbury depot in November 1966 after less than 13 years of service.  No.73156 saw even less service, 11 years, and was withdrawn from service at her last allocation Bolton.

Both engines ended up in Woodham’s scrap yard in South Wales where No.78018 spent the next eleven years – No.73156 spent 18 years in the yard – 7 years more than she was in service. No.78018 became the property of the Darlington Railway Preservation Society and was returned to steam at the GCR where she will remain for the 10 years of her boiler certificate. No.73156 is also in a similar arrangement and both engines are in the custody of the Loughborough Standard Locomotive Group.

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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“Sooty”

The thing about being a fireman on a big engine, like the Bulleids or any of the other Pacifics, is that once the lights are green and the guard drops his flag, there’s no hiding place.  On your shoulders rests the difference between ‘rockets flying’ and ‘stopped for a blow-up’. Yes it’s team work and if things are not going well a decent mate will coast where he can and use no more steam than he has to where he can’t.

The number of variables is greater than you imagine, a cross-head wind, for instance, makes an appreciable difference to the amount of power needed to overcome that resistance – even straight or curving track alters the equation. Less esoteric but, equally important are; how long the engine had been in service since the last boiler washout and were the ash pans and smokebox cleaned out properly when the engine was last disposed. And of course the usual suspects, the type and quality of coal in the tender and how clinkered the firebed was. A bad day at the office inevitably involved a combination of these factors – if you had them all, you really should have ‘stayed in bed’!

On top of the factors already mentioned different classes of engines respond in different ways to  the level of the fire and the style of firing as well as to different styles of driving. The class 5 Standards, for example, didn’t always steam that well if pulled up to less than 25% cut-off – they needed that blast, that pull on the fire to make them steam. The Stanier Jubilees were very similar and they didn’t like a lot of fire down the front under the brick arch either. Firing isn’t simply a matter of chucking coal through a hole.

I haven’t even mentioned route knowledge or type of service being worked and already there’s quite a bit to be thinking about. There’s firing to a pattern or to the bright spots and keeping it all light and bright – on some engines this might be the only way, it is the ‘copy book’ way. On the other hand you might just ‘cob ’em up’ and sit back while it burns through!

By now you’re probably wondering about “Sooty” – well Sooty was my regular mate in 3link at 70A, driver Eric ‘sooty’ Saunders. A top bloke to work with, who not only taught me a great deal about how to fire the Bulleids but, gave me the chance to drive them too – at speed out on the main line. By the end of a shift the pair of us were usually covered in grime, however, this isn’t where the nickname came from. He was “Sooty” because when he wasn’t driving steam engines,  his part-time job involved travelling around Feltham on his motor bike and sidecar – cleaning folks chimneys!

No.35018 British India Line, an engine ‘Sooty’ and I worked on regularly during the 60s, is seen her at Helwith Bridge, on the Settle to Carlisle Line, with the Dalesman Rail Tour.

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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Surprise!

I arrived here, at Helwith Bridge, expecting to see Jubilee, No.45699 Galatea, only to discover that MN Class No.35018 British India Line was working the turn, the  York – Carlisle – York “Dalesman”, which is diesel hauled from York to Hellifield.

For reasons unknown the train was delayed leaving Hellifield and I was hoping to see the rockets flying, in an attempt to regain the lost minutes. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t crawling along but, I did get the impression she could have been worked harder – and, as many of you know, I do have some experience in these matters. The little feather at the safety valves would seem to indicated there was no shortage of puff to draw on, if required. I’m nit picking really, she was making a lovely noise, and 50 years on from the end of steam and 54 since I was a fireman on No.35018 British India Line, it is a privilege, and a minor miracle, that such sights and sounds can still be savoured.

And the real surprise wasn’t No.35018 British India Line turning up; no, the real surprise was that the delay provided just enough time for the sun to poke through the cloud – an on time passing would have been in a grey gloom.  You lose some – and you win some – today was win, win!!

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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“What’s your favourite”

‘What’s your favourite’ is usually followed by engine or livery but, in this instance it’s, what’s your favourite train? There are all the usual suspects, Caledonian, Red Dragon, Talisman, Atlantic Coast Express, or the Devon Belle but, in my case, it’s none of the above.  My favourite is not only not a named service, it’s not even an express, it’s the ‘paper train’. A couple of coaches for the intrepid travellers and a dozen or more vans with tomorrow’s head lines and the day after’s chip wrappers.

I not only loved to travel on the paper trains, I equally enjoyed working on them. During the 60s as a fireman at 70A,  I worked regularly, on the Bulleid Pacifics, hauling paper trains out of Waterloo.  Just like the TPO, the newspapers were sorted and bundled on the train as we sped through the dark heading for Bournemouth. The frantic last minute activity with newspaper vans, from Fleet Street, still arriving just minutes before the off – the final, final editions. There’s something about the footplate of a Bulleid at night, the glow of the fire, the humming of the Stones generator powering the gauge glass and cab lights, the smell of wet wood and steam after you swilled round with the slacker pipe.

There were other little pleasures too, watching the sun coming up as we went through the New Forest and seeing the deer darting through the mist, swirling about the forest floor, startled by our approach. My favourite journey on one was out of Kings Cross in the mid-70s. Having boarded the train I opened the door to a compartement which had the blinds down and was greeted by the single occupant –  ‘come in take yer boots off and fart a bit, we don’t want anyone else joining us.’  My fellow traveller turned out to be something of a raconteur and his choice of greeting had been the result of his reading Lenny Bruce’s ‘How to talk dirty and influence people’. It seemed like no time and we were in Doncaster and my change of 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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Mrs Dale’s Diary

The everyday diary of simple Gricing folk. Tuesday 1st May, May Day, and the first of the season’s Dalesman is spotted alongside the river Ribble, at Helwith Bridge. The train had arrived early at Hellifield for the engine change but, was, for reasons unknown, 12 late leaving and still 12 late when she passed. Given the nice feather flying I’m guessing the delay wasn’t caused by a shortage of steam.

The Dalesman runs until September 4th and twice a week sometimes in the summer, throw in the Fellsmen and the Cumbrian Mountain Express and the Waverley on the weekends and it all adds up to a lot of trips, uphill and down dale to see some of the action. When you start totting it all up and that’s just the S&C, there are the Scarborough runs, runs up the ECML, round the Surrey Hills, the Dorset Coast, the Cathedrals Express, and the Jacobite, not to mention one offs and private charters. That’s a lot of volunteers to support all that activity. Equally important is it requires quite a lot of ‘traction trained’ drivers to cover all these tours.

All this activity requires tenderfulls of coal and water, and this latter has to be delivered by road tanker to prearranged stops along the route of the tour. What happens if the tanker gets stuck on the motorway or has a breakdown – it really would be ‘call the fire brigade’ – or put the fire out. Anyway, on that cheerful note, let’s hope all goes well; and enjoy No.48151 in God’s, almost, green acres.

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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