Tag Archives: Waterloo

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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“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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“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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“Dropgrate”

In one of last week’s posts ‘The grate & the goods’ I commented that the rocker bar,  the dropgrate, and I, had some history. Now you might be forgiven for thinking that this would be a tale of some  mishap, or other, involving the aforemention rocker bars and dropgrates, you would however, be wrong.

Nine Elms, in the early 60s, was a very busy shed with a large number of crews and a lively mess room. There were always ‘spare men’, there to cover for all eventualities, from someone ‘knocking’, (not turning up for duty) to breakdowns and emergencies. In addition to the spare men there were the P&D men, two or more crews who spent their shift cleaning the fires and smokeboxes of engines coming on shed, or filling tenders, oiling round, and preparing fires on engines going off shed. The overall effect was that there was always half a dozen, or more, men sat around in the mess room, for quite lengthy spells. Now as well as the all usual banter that this kind of environment engendered, games of cards and dominoes were also very popular.

Enginemen’s mess rooms aren’t exactly the most well appointed social spaces and the one at Nine Elms was no exception; canteen type tables with wooden benches either side, arm chairs and occasional tables were notable by their absense. All of which brings us to the tale of the rocker bar and the dropgrate. I was a bit of a devil for the card games and when playing, I had a habit of sitting with one leg up on the bench. During one of these sessions someone remarked that my leg, stuck up, as it was, looked like a ‘rocker bar’. The already was a fireman known as ‘Rocker’, “Rocker Deadman” – he wore a leather jacket to work.  The ‘rocker bar’ was the name for the bar which operated the rocking grate on the rebuilt WC/B-o-Bs, MNs and the BR Standard Classes and to operate the ‘dropgrate’ on the original WC /B-o-B class. From that point on I was Dave ‘Dropgrate’ and many of my ex-Nine Elms colleagues remember me more as ‘Dropgrate’ than Dave Wilson. Funny how you get these nick names, but so many men seemed to have them, that they were considered a sign of acceptance and camaraderie.

So there it is my ‘history’ with the dropgrate and the rocker bar.

The photo shows former SVR resident, No.34053 Sir Kieth Park, climbing Eardington Bank in he SVR.

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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A trial survivor

Seen here pulling out of Loughborough shed, on the GCR, in 2016, No 6990 Witherslack Hall was, 70 years ago, on 24th June 1948, pulling out of Marylebone Station, heading for Manchester, over the former Great Central Railway route, as part of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials. Hauling the NER dynamometer coach to record her performance, she returned from Manchester the following day with the 08.25 Manchester London Rd. – Marylebone service; and again with the NER dynamometer coach in tow.

No.6990 Witherslack Hall, was built at Swindon works and entered  service, just a couple of weeks before the trials began, on 8th April 1948. Her competitors, over the same route between London and Manchester, and with the same services, were the Black 5 No.45253 and the Bulleid ‘light’ Pacific No.34006 Bude. The latter was the only one of the three to keep time, though it has to be said that No.34006 Bude was a bigger and more powerful engine and that p-way slacks and signal checks didn’t help time-keeping.

Of the mere two dozen locomotives involved in the trails several have, miraculously, survived the great steam cull and they are; No.6990 Witherslack Hall and ‘heavy freight’ engine, 2-8-0 No.3803, from the GWR contingent, No.35018 British India Line was one of the three Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class entrants and E22, or No.60022 Mallard, was one of the chosen representatives for the LNER. However, on her first run, on the 8th June, with the 11:00 departure from Waterloo, the Atlantic Coast Express, she failed at Exeter and her place, for the continuation of the trials was taken by No.60033 Seagull, which did not survive.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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 grate and the goods

In the ‘Mixed Traffic’ section of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange trials the Southern Railway entered 3 locomotives, the West Country Class Pacifics Nos. 34004 Yeovil, 34005 Barnstaple and 34006 Bude; all engines I worked on in the 60s. According to C.J.Allen, these three engines put on some of the finest ‘performances’ of the trials and he singles out a run by 34006 Bude from Leicester to St. Pancras. I have a log from a run I did with Driver Gordon Porter, on No.34006Bude, in 1965, working the 22.35 Ex- Waterloo. The log covers the Basingstoke to Winchester section and we passed Micheldever at 82mph, Wallers Ash at 91mph, and reached 95 at Winchester Jct., before throwing the anchor out to stop at Winchester.

Allen also gives ‘honourable mention’ to the work put in by No.34004 Yeovil on the Highland Main Line. Including this little gem; “the diverting part of this run was that after the banker – Pickersgill 4-4-0 No.14501 – had come on the rear of the 380 ton train to assist up to Dalnaspidal, Swain started with such vigour as to ‘wind’  his supposed helper, and the stop at Struan had to be prolonged while the latter recovered its breath.” (CJ Allen,  British Pacific Locomotives)

It has to be said that the ‘mixed traffic’ status of the WC Class was opportunistic rather than actual; opportunistic, because that designation was used to get them built, at a time of ‘austerity’, rather than any real intention to have them hauling goods wagons. That is not to say they didn’t haul goods trains, they did. I have worked van trains, like that pictured above, from Southampton Docks to Nine Elms goods with WC class engines, though it was much more common to find a Standard Class 5 or an S15 on these turns.

In as built status these engines had what was termed a ‘dropgrate’, that is the middle section of the firegrate could be opened when cleaning the fire and the ash and clinker then raked through the opening – it made fire cleaning a lot quicker and easier than shoveling it out through the firehole, the same way it went in. The rebuilds were all fitted with conventional rocking grates. The operating mechanism, for both types, was a bar which fitted over or into levers set into the footplate – commonly known as a ‘rocker bar’.

The rocker bar, dropgrate, and I have ‘history’ but that’s a story for another day.

The photo shows fresh from overhaul No.34081 92 Squadron, with a train of newly painted box vans, approaching Kinchley Lane, on the Great Central Railway, during a recent gala visit.

If you want to know more abot the 1948 Exchanges, a longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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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A special day

70 years ago today the Locomotive Exchange Trials began and this locomotive, No.35018 British India Line, was one of the trialists. On June 3rd 1948 No.35018 made her first run in the trails, with the GWR dynamometer coach added to the train, she left Waterloo with the 11.00 departure, the ‘ Atlantic Coast Express, returning with the ‘up’ working of the same train the following day, June 4th.

On the 28th February 1965 I made the very same journey myself, as the fireman on No.35022 Holland Amerika Line, working the East Devon Rail Tour. We ran non-stop to Yeovil and, unlike the crew on 35018, we worked back the same day, with the same engine. – so I know exactly what was involved in those 1948 trials.

The Bulleid Paifics were never going to come out top in the lbs of coal per mile stakes and some of the crews involved opted to ‘ put on a show’ instead. The performances of the WC No.34006 Bude  on the tricky Marylebone – Manchester service and that of No.34004 Yeovil on the Highland main line were particularly note worthy. And as one observant Steam Age Daydreams regular noted Bert Hooker, who was himself a fireman in the trials, on the 13th June 1963, took MN No.35012 United States Lines over the S&C and ran the Appleby – Aisgill climb in 17 minutes and 30 seconds, pass to pass.

A longer account of the trials and a dozen or so photos can be found by following this link: http://steamagedaydreams.co.uk/?p=4942

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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And 54 years later …….

The last time I saw No.35018 British India Line in action I was her fireman, and we were heading to Waterloo from Bournemouth, after working down with the 08.35 Ex – Waterloo. Today, 54 years later, along with a horde of others, I was standing beside the Settle -Carlisle line, with Pen – y Ghent in the background, enjoying her passing with the York – Carlisle leg of the GB XI rail tour. Watching a piece of your own history steaming past you, like this, certainly stirs the memory cells. And those three years at Nine Elms in the 1960s really did seem like yesterday – tho’ I doubt, very much, that I’d be able to fire an MN from York to Carlisle today but, I’d have no trouble sitting in the driver’s seat and rendering a couple of fire boys!!

I don’t know how many times I worked on this engine, firing out on the main line or cleaning her fire on shed but, what I do know is that like all the Merchant Navy class she was a joy to work on, as a fireman. Coincidently, it is also almost 70 years ago, June 1948, that No.35018 British India Line set out from Waterloo, with the Atlantic Coast Express, as part of the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials. No.35018 British India Line was one of three MNs in the trials, the others were No.35017 Belgian Marine and No.35019 French Line CGT. No.35020 Bibby Line was the reserve engine. And, in my time at 70A, I met and fired for Driver Bert Hooker who was himself a fireman during the Exchange Trials – it’s a small world.

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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Fast Fitted

In Heritage Railway Magazine, some years ago now, I wrote an article entitled, ‘Things that went clank in the night’, it was, as you might guess, about the humble world of the over-night freights. Some goods workings achieved almost legendary status, such as the Aberdeen fish trains, which, in the later years of steam, would see anything from a V2 to a ‘Duchess’ turning up. The legendary driver William (Bill) Sparshatt, was reputed to have ‘run down’ i.e caught up, The Talisman with a fitted freight, quite what the guard thought about his wild ride was probably unprintable.

Leaving aside the legends, fishy and otherwise, the fitted freight was bread and butter work and much of it went on during the hours of darkness. The doyen of the V2s No.4771 Green Arrow was named in conjunction with the LNER’s fast fitted freight service ‘Green Arrow’ which had its initial outing as early as 1928, though 4771 Green Arrow wasn’t built until 1936. The LNER wasn’t the only ‘Green Arrow’ service on offer, the GWR advertised one too. Unofficially they also named a London – Worcester ‘fitted’ ‘The Sauce’, and the railway companies did not discourage these ad hoc names.

Surprisingly, in my own railway service, the only fast fitted I worked were the ‘Banana’ trains from Southampton docks to Nine Elms goods; none of which were ‘regular’ services. I did work a regular turn of fully fitted stone hoppers, which originated from Meldon Quarry. We worked down with a passenger service and relieved the crew at Salisbury working back to Feltham engineers yard. The usual motive power was an S15 and it was out for some hours before we stepped aboard – a very rough turn for the fireman, coal back in the tender and plenty of clinker in the fire.

The photo shows No 92214, a BR Class 9F, the last of the ‘Express’ freight engines, with a fitted freight recreation, on the Great Central Railway, near Loughborough.

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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