The Princess Anne.

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1 The Princess Anne. Selected stories and photographs from The Golden Age of Steam, are dedicated to The Men of Steel, enginemen of The Rossendale Valley by L.M.Scott. Volume one is the story of one of the fastest and most efficient steam locomotives in the world, on test trials from its beginning in 1936 as the Turbomotive; to a conversion with second hand parts and named Princess Anne in the early 1950's, and ending in the horrific rail accident at Harrow and Wealdstone Station in One glorious day in 1947, Len Yarwood of Bacup Engine Shed was the Driver of this unique engine, and I was the extremely fortunate, seventeen year old Fireman, the true story is here. 1

2 Introduction. Part One. Is concerned with the closing down of the newly Nationalised Bacup Branch Lines by British Rail, and the impact it made upon the lives of the men of the former L.M.S. Company and their families. The title Premium Men was the name given by the men of Bacup Locomotive Shed to the Usurpers. They were an invading force of inexperienced, redundant officers returning from the armed forces and young men straight from college, with very little knowledge of the positions they were about to take up on all of our nationalised industries. This collection of short stories concerns the path of the author from fourteen years of age, working in the filthy Card-room of India Mill Bacup to the most wonderful job in the world at that time, fireman on a real, live Steam Locomotive. Part Two. Is composed of true, short stories about life in the post war British Transport Police and the thieving of property. Traffic and materials were stolen from an easy target, the broken down neglected rail network. The stories flow from the contentment of life in the valley to the big City, in a bid to evade redundancy, in the form of the latest and the worst of all the intruders Dr Richard Beeching. The British Transport Police Force, despite being staffed by many of the same redundant Army Officers or even perhaps because it was, provided even greater opportunities to the author. The rail knowledge gleaned from those men of the Branch Lines would be invaluable, to the new career as a police officer in that force. So too would the art of lip reading, as practised in the card room of India Mill. Expert tuition and guidance from Constable Peter Cain, Sergeant Harry Bailey and Chief Inspector Terry Shelton, would lead to the highest and most responsible position in the land, Guardian of Her Majesty The Queen. H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. H.R.H.Prince Charles. H.R.H.Prince Andrew. H.R.H.Prince Edward, and H.R.H.Princess Anne. Teaming up with the legendary Police Dog Storm, would lead to the arrest of two murderers and over one thousand thieves. 2

3 The Golden Age of Steam. The Life And Times Of L.M.S Men. Nationalisation of the railways, followed by a take over by the incomers named by the enginemen as the Premium Men, came to The Rossendale Valley in the late 1940 s. In 1947 the Rochdale Branch Line was closed, and soon Bacup Locomotive Shed was also closed, to become a derelict hell. The staff of the locomotive shed and the Branch Line were quickly made redundant and scattered throughout the country, even as far Australia in effort to find work. Many failed in this direction and as a result became unemployed, or they took up inferior work to survive. The exceedingly skilled enginemen, who had worked day and night to transport passengers and freight essential to the war effort, were thrown onto the scrap heap together with their magnificent locomotives. The German bombs raining down from the skies failed to prevent them from getting their trains to their destinations, usually dead on time, and they most certainly never managed to take their courage away from them as they crept in and out of the burning City at night. A template for corruption and waste was formed from the weird experiment on our Branch Line, and it was later used to completely destroy a unique Transport system that had take a hundred years of engineering and investment to construct. Despite constant propaganda suggesting that the railways were run down and under funded, it is obvious that in fact they did have millions of pounds worth of assets, and they were financially sound. From the time of Nationalisation to the Millennium, even more billions of pounds of subsidies have been donated to improve our rail network, and very little of it has been used for that purpose. It is well said with conviction that you cannot beat the system the tracks are too well covered, but it is certainly good fun trying. The engine men did take notice of the events as they were happening, and the tactics of the Premium Men have been recorded for over half a century. The title of this book is significant, and so is the second part of "Rail Revelations" Don Quixote did not have much effect on his immoveable objects, I would like to believe that I did have a little more success than he did. Harold Philbin. 3

4 Dedicated to Men of Steel. Engine-Men of The Rossendale Valley. 4

5 The London Midland & Scottish Railway. 26E Bacup Motive Power Department. Shed Master Fred Wilson. Clerk Joe Lord. Foremen. Jimmy Gaskell. Wilf Crossley. Ernest Yarwood. Charlie Taylor. Boiler- Smith. George William Stanley. Fitters. Alf Cant. Eric Heath. John Ogden. Dick Papworth. Dan Smith. Fitter s Mates George Bailey. Richard Potts. Shed Staff. Madge Wilson. John Albert Turner. Tommy Firth. Joe Firth. Joe Westwell. Billy Bell. Arthur Taylor. Arthur Horsfall. Joe Emerson. Joe Rawstron. George Lashwood. John Waterworth. Kealop Yeadon. Laurence Tulip. Wilson Hargreaves. Frank Conlan. Harry Bowery. George White. Drivers & Passed Firemen. Albert Jones. Jimmy Yarwood. Ernest Yarwood. Leonard Yarwood. Ernie Wood. Hartley Jones. George Lord, Harry Smith. Tom Smith. Billy Russell. Sammy Hurst. Harold Crossley. Percy Sherwin. Arthur Greaves. Harold Howarth. Jack Navin. George Heckingbottom. Harry Taylor one. Arthur Jackson. Charlie Taylor. Richard Hanson. Charlie Howard. Harry Taylor two. Walter Potts. George Tomlinson. Charlie Kay. Roland Hill. Jimmy Connell. Jimmy Ingham. Walter Caxton. Sam Howie. Fred Pilling. Harry Lofthouse. Cecil Blythe. Harry Crowther. Watson Crowther. Billy Pilling. Bill Griffiths. Dave Cook. Harry Finch. Jimmy Mannion. Jim Hall. George Tomlinson. Herbert Symes. Ben Stott. Bradley Butterworth. Fred Robinson. Charlie Parker. Sid Freeman. Harry Cordey. Arthur Tennant. Jack Simpson. Geoffrey Collinge. 5

6 The London Midland & Scottish Railway. 26 E. Bacup Motive Power Department. Firemen and Passed Cleaners. Jack Parkinson. Ernest Whittaker. Jackie Allen. Jack Lord. J. T. Greenwood. Jimmy Lord. Clifford Stansfield. Jackie Jones. Kenneth Chew. Raymond Altham. Sammy Camps. Jimmy Stansfield. Jackie Jones. Edwin Ashford. Jack Foster. Jimmy Deerden. Eric Dobson. Jackie Cartwright. Vincent Turner. Tommy Burke. Colin Gledhill. Rennie Gledhill. Brian Philbin. Harold Philbin. Kenneth Tucker. Derek Dunn. Jimmy Gillespie. John Burns. John Brazendale. Jimmy Brown. Billy Stevenson. Vivian Griffiths. Brian Moss. Tommy Westwell. Brian Seddon. Harry Stewart. Harold Stevenson. Michael Ruane. Terry Spencer. Harold Duerden. David Lee. David Young. Tommy Sparks. Charlie Haysman. 6

7 The London Midland & Scottish Railway. Bacup Station Staff. Late 1940 s. Station Master. Mr Martin. Foremen. Granville Kershaw. Bob. Hughes. Fred Howarth. Porter. Harold Spedding. Passenger Guards. Teddy O Shea. John D Arcy. Jimmy D Arcy. Goods Guards. George Wealdon. Ernie Jackson. Jimmy Everitt. (Buttons.) Alf.Trippier. Jimmy Kelly. Leslie Rivett. Billy Riley. Jimmy Baron. Harold Philbin. C& W. Examiner. Sammy Lane. ( Wheel Tapper.) Unofficial Hair Dresser, painter, wall paperer & piano player. For a bet Sammy fully papered a room in the Swan in less than hour, by putting the paper on the ceiling with a long sweeping brush. Not official, always welcome, Billy Aymes (Amos.) His pencil portrait adorned the fireplace of the porter s room for many years. 7

8 Bacup Station. A Bacup Engine Crew, with the Guard and Station Staff. Driver Harry Taylor and Jack Foster with L&Y Tank engine

9 Shed Lads of the past with ambitions to be enginemen, and many of them did just that; now all that remains are the bare rocks of the hillside, and fantastic memories. Mr and Mrs Jack Foster, and Mr and Mrs Charlie Kay. 9

10 Boiler Smith George William Stanley. Dave Cook. Driver Harry Taylor. Freddy Pilling.. Jack Foster. Billy Russell. Harry Taylor & Jimmy Connell. 10

11 Driver Foreman Ernest Yarwood at the controls of an Aspinall 3F Locomotive. Guard Leslie Rivett. Driver George Heckingbottom. The Author.Peter Leonard the Waterfoot Shunter and a trainee working in Waterfoot Goods Yard. 11

12 A Bobby's Job. Bacup to Moston Sidings Manchester, now that was a goods train with a bit of class. It started with a humble beginning in Bacup Goods Yard and off it would go daily, Saturdays and Sundays excepted. A footplate crew from Newton Heath worked an early morning train from Brewery Sidings Manchester, calling at all stops, Bury, Ramsbottom, Ewood Bridge, Rawtenstall, Cloughfold, Waterfoot and Bacup. They would bring a very large train of coal, cotton, empty goods vans and all of the materials required to keep the factories and works of the Rossendale Valley fully employed for just one more day. The engine was a monster, one of the most powerful of all goods engines. It was a class seven-freight engine commonly known as an Austin Seven. This engine would be left at Bacup Shed, and the Newton Heath men would go home in comfort on the cushions, a slang term for travelling back home on a passenger train. A Bacup engine crew signed on duty about two p.m. to get the Austin ready, and then they worked a goods train of empty wagons and newly manufactured goods from all of the goods yards down the branch line to Bury. Then after having picked up all the traffic there was, the train would run as an express freight train to Moston Sidings. The engine was left at Newton Heath Shed for use the following morning, and the crew travelled home on the cushions. The little bit of class, showed itself most at Waterfoot, where we picked up vans containing newly manufactured goods for all over the country. While we were waiting for the departure time, tradesmen who had been loading their goods into the vans all day long, continued to do so right up to the booked time to leave. A lot of the goods were actually manufactured the same day; slippers etc were sometimes packed and brought to us still warm from the vulcanizing process. At six p.m. the doors were closed by the waiting staff, then sealed or locked by a uniformed policeman who travelled on the footplate to Bury Knowsley St Goods Yard where he left us. The London bound express goods trains were still leaving Moston Sidings fully loaded every week-day at that time and the only reason for British Rail to lose the extremely profitable traffic was because Marples and Beeching had closed the Branch Lines, thus cutting off the essential feed of traffic to the main line railways. Serenade. A pleasant afternoon, the sun was shining and all was certainly very well as far as I was concerned. Perhaps all was not quite well with the fireman who had knocked sick, and I was on his job. We had left the shed in charge of engine number 199, one of our class 3P tank engines, I had already coupled our little engine onto a passenger train of four coaches in the platform and we were ready to leave Bacup Station en route for the big City. Despite our being ready and in my case raring to go, Teddy O Shea our Guard was not, he was walking up the side of our train, smart as a King s Guardsman in his normal unruffled manner. We have to pick up a horse at Rawtenstall, and the horsebox is in the cattle dock, said Teddy in his mild Irish accent. I hooked the engine off the train, Bill Griffiths my driver backed it into the cattle dock and I hooked it onto the most luxurious horsebox that you could imagine. It was upholstered in the finest Red velvet for the horse, and it was padded everywhere, there was no way that he could injure himself on this journey. 12

13 This horsebox even had a sleeping compartment for the groom to travel with his charge. Visions of a most valuable racehorse at the very least passed through our minds, as we finally left the station with our by now, very impatient passengers. In those days the railways were far more efficient, they could and they did, move anything to anywhere. The size of the consignment and the distance of the journey was no problem at all. In this instance I am sorry to say the usually immaculate timing of the Fat Controller was a bit off, and we were late. The suspense approaching Rawtenstall was unbearable, we stopped in the platform, passengers got off the train and passengers got on, but of the magnificent creature about to join us there was no sign at all. Just a minute, hold the train, called out Bill the station porter with his usual authority, he just loved to let everyone know that he was in charge of this station. Bill disappeared into his booking office and then he reappeared, leading a tiny Grey donkey, what a comedown to our Great Expectations. The door of the horsebox was opened, the loading ramp was lowered down onto the platform and Bill led his charge towards this most Royal compartment as we all looked on in wonder. The donkey most ungraciously refused to enter, Bill pulled and he pushed, he fumed and he fussed, with no result at all. Then Teddy the Guard joined in and they both pulled and pushed, and still the donkey would not go into the horsebox. Time went by and the watching passengers joined in, some with abuse and some with a little advice as well. Put a coat over his head called out one passenger who also promptly assisted in the fiasco by taking off his jacket and joining the party to prove his point. To no avail, the stupid creature possessed a form of sixth sense that told him when he was exactly in the centre of the doorway and there he stopped. Go and help them, or we shall be here all day, instructed Bill my driver. He made no attempt to join in himself; he just sat on his seat sucking his pipe. I don t know what he expects me to do, I muttered as I walked the full length of the train to arrive at the scene of a full-scale comic opera. Our coaches were sticking out over the end of the level crossing, and the main road into Rawtenstall was blocked completely. The signalman could not close his gates to the railway, and this attracted the attentions of a passing police car just arriving on the scene. Inspiration as I counted the number of assistants at hand, one, two, three, four with myself, the very same quick mental arithmetic also disclosed that there was exactly the same number of legs on the donkey. We grabbed one of them each, four paces forward and he was inside the box and very quickly fastened up. The ramp was put back into position, the doors were closed and I was very speedily back on the footplate. Teddy waved his little Green flag; I gave a little toot on the engine whistle, and amid cheers from the watching crowd we were off on our journey, leaving Bill in charge to the very last. He could explain to the policeman exactly why he had managed to hold up the traffic for almost half an hour and Teddy would have the same problem of explaining to the Fat Controller. We had all enjoyed one more experience of a declining era, not yet aware of how swiftly it was all going to disappear. 13

14 Guard Teddy O'Shea. The First Princess. It is still a memory of a day to be treasured, and seems to be almost unbelievable in today s age of plastic railways. Looking way back in time, I may even wonder myself. Did this really happen to me so long ago, and did this fantastic machine really exist. The official records show that 6202 a Princess class Locomotive, never went into general service in its original form. So on that morning in the summer of nineteen forty seven, Len Yarwood and I, must have been very fortunate indeed to have had the pleasure of working with this wonderful, man made steel monster. A great pity though, was the fact that this beautiful Princess would never even reach middle age. This story is meant to preserve a little bit of English Railway History that should be remembered for all time. I am not certain that I can really do her the justice she deserves, because I only saw her for a few wonderful hours. The magnificent locomotive was built with the inspiration of some of our great railway engineers of the 1930 s, when many of our finest locomotives were either designed, or improved by W.A. Stanier, enthusiast of the efficient tapered boiler. This particular morning, Len and I were on Control Orders, and we were instructed to go on a passenger train to Hebden Bridge to relieve a goods train going to Moston Sidings, and then take it to Newton Heath Shed. Len was of top quality railway stock, and he knew his way deep into Yorkshire, and as far afield as Liverpool. Aintree. St Helens. Blackpool, Morcambe and Southport. 14

15 Teamed up with Len, you could guarantee not only a good day, but a bit of overtime as well, even better than that he would usually allow an experienced fireman to do a bit of the driving. Control had given us the engine number so that we would recognize our train as it was coming towards us, and Len would know that we were getting a rather posh engine. But even he did not realise just how posh it was going to be, as far as I was concerned, 6202 was just another engine number. Still having a lot to learn, I did not notice the obvious difference of this engine to others of a similar type as it came towards us almost silently like a ghost, pulling its full load of wagons with no effort at all. I did not notice the absence of the usual cylinders, valves, pistons and slide bars either, it had no big ends, or little ends, and all of its working parts were covered over with steel plating. Once we had climbed on board, the driver that we were relieving was full of enthusiasm for his engine, and he said. It s an experimental engine and it goes like a dream, she is a cracker, and you will not even know that you have a load on, this is the Turbomotive, and it is the only one on the job. The footplate sparkled like new, and this in itself was getting to be very unusual, as despondency was already taking over from the old efficient ways of getting the job done, Len opened the regulator in his normal cautious manner, and we were away. Just like the driver had said it was no effort to this unique giant as it pulled the forty-five or so loaded wagons out of Hebden Bridge and up the steep incline towards Todmorden. Our new toy did not go off with a roar, and a beat of exhaust steam and smoke like a normal steam engine. The puffing, chuffing sound was not there at all; instead it had a quiet, low, fast beat. To quote Len, It ticks just like a Swiss watch. Here we were on this magnificent Rolls Royce of a steam engine, making steam and history at the same time. The fireman that I had relieved certainly knew his job, the fire was perfect, and if I placed the coal as efficiently as he had done she would steam for fun. The fire went Whiter and Whiter as Len opened her up, I gave her a light firing and we were away. Never had I seen an engine put out so much power for so little coal, and the miles went by before I had to put any more on. Len a master of his craft was most eager to try out his skills and so was I if I was given but half a chance. On we went with our load through Todmorden, Littleborough, Rochdale, Middleton Junction, and finally into Moston Sidings, never before had a journey been so enjoyable, especially through the notorious Summit Tunnel. This was at its worst if you were following an engine with a dirty fire that was giving off sulphurous fumes or if you had a dirty fire yourself and you were getting short of steam. A trip through the tunnel under such conditions was a nightmare. The only way to breathe was to place a wet cloth over your mouth, and crouch with your face over the side of the engine; but always remembering the patient lesson of Driver Harry Smith; to avoid denting the adjacent, but now invisible tunnel wall with your head. On arrival at Moston Sidings the shunter hooked off our engine, and he gave us the usual permission, Right away, Newton Heath. At the exit at the bottom of the sidings, Len got on the telephone to the signalman at Newton Heath and he asked for a road onto Newton Heath Shed. When he got back to the footplate he just said, Can you manage this? Could I? I have never moved faster in all my life, there I was driving the finest engine in the world. On the shed I backed it up to the coal stage and Len filled the tender with coal, then he called the foreman on the telephone. How did you like the Turbo? said the foreman. Superb, replied Len, and I most definitely agreed with that very compact statement. 15

16 Having read just a little bit more about this engine, written by persons far more knowledgeable than I. The impression was reached that not all of her trials were as successful as ours, but perhaps she needed the touch of a master like Len to give of her best. The Turbomotive went into service about 1935 as an experimental engine, others had been built before, mostly abroad, and there was one many years later in the Liverpool Road Museum. She had no reversing gear at all, only a large turbine for going forwards, and a smaller one for going backwards. The engine was easy to handle, and even though we had never even seen one before, we just got aboard and drove away with a fully loaded train. She was experimental from new to being scrapped as a result of an horrific accident when two expresses travelling in opposite directions; smashed into a stationary local train at Harrow and Wealdstone Station and each other at top speed. This beautiful Princess did not have my Guardian Angel to protect her and it was not her first taste of disaster either; because soon after our little trip out from Hebden Bridge 6202 was involved in an accident that damaged one of her turbines. British Rail, instead of doing a proper repair for the sake of its history and a conclusion to its tests, made a botch up by fitting old, normal cylinders and valves from a scrapped engine, and then naming her, Princess Anne. There was a sequel to this tale, a coincidence perhaps, because twice later, I would meet the real Princess Anne. In 1969 I would guard her all night, prior to The Investiture of The Prince of Wales at Caernarfon, and later I would do the same again in Rochdale at a Concert, it s a small world isn t it? The true story of the Princess Royal Class 8P locomotives is deep and revealing; it clearly demonstrates the motives of British Rail and other involved persons, in hurriedly disposing of the finest locomotives in the world at knockdown prices. There were thirteen of these wonderful machines built, the first one 6201 in 1933 became Princess Elizabeth; and 6202, later Princess Anne commenced her very short life in 1935, she was only about twelve years old when Len and I had the great pleasure of working with her in Another Princess Royal Class engine sister to 6202, was the Princess Arthur of Connaught numbered 6207, she also had a wayward approach to life, and she dived off the rails at Weedon in 1951, and landed at the bottom of the steep embankment on her side. It took three days, and a great deal of skill, men and machinery to put her back on the right track. It is obvious to anyone that these top quality British Locomotives would have brought premium prices throughout the world, and they could have been used for many years. The subsidy acquiring policies of British Rail as demonstrated throughout Rail Revelations, made sure that it just did not happen. Copied:Connecting B.R. Material. "Rail Disaster at Harrow & Wealdstone At 8.19am. on October 8th Coronation Pacific '46242 City Of Glasgow' at the head of the up Perth / Euston sleeper, at 100 kpm/hr ran into the rear of the 7.31am Tring / Euston local, which had stopped in Harrow & Wealdstone station. The driver of missed seeing the Harrow distant signal which was at caution because of fog. 16

17 The wreckage was then hit by the down 8am. Liverpool/Manchester express; which was also travelling at 100km/hr. This train was double headed by '45637 Windward Islands' and the rebuilt '46202 Princess Anne'. As a result 111 people died and 349 were injured, and travelled up onto, along and over the platform and landed on the running lines of the next platform. The tender of can be seen minus its wheels which had been torn off and the clock tower clock below reads

18 6242 City Of Glasgow was rebuilt;" Photographs The National Railway Museum, K. Willows Collection and D.T. Greenwood. 18

19 6202 Princess Anne, had only been in traffic for two months having been rebuilt from the LMS experimental Turbomotive, now she was about to be scrapped. Also scrapped was Windward Islands. The Card. Harry Smith was a gentleman, every ones favourite driver, full of fun, and great to work with. He was about sixty years of age, slightly plump with rosy cheeks on his most pleasantly rounded face. Despite his mature years Harry would teach his young firemen the art of driving a steam engine. Harry would shovel coal all day long to allow his mate to drive, and teamed up with Harry and 12218, life on the footplate was just like being on top of the world. About five a.m. one morning, Harry and I were getting engine12218 ready to leave the shed, and he had run out of oil for his engine. He went to the foreman Wilf Crossley for some more oil, and he said, Please Sir, can I have some more oil, and while I am here you had better have a look at my engine. It is fresh out of the shops and they have painted wrong numbers on it, it has on one side and on the other side? The foreman had been caught dozing off; Harry knew that he had the advantage and he was not the man to let an opportunity slip him by. 19

20 Wilf came rushing out of his office to see what was wrong, he should have known better because Harry was notorious for practical jokes, but always in the best possible taste. The foreman did not climb up onto the engine after Harry, but he did walk around all the other engines on that shed road. When he had established that the number on one side was actually 12218, he walked all the way round the shed to get to the other side of the engine, and by now Wilf was beginning to wake up. He looked at the number on the other side of the engine, and he was quite annoyed as he said, There is nothing wrong with your engine. I can see that now Sir, said Harry, I must have got off my engine on that side, turned round and looked at the number on the engine next to mine, I thought that it was very strange. The foreman saw that he had been had, and he started to laugh until tears ran down his cheeks. I saw that Harry was also well and truly amused, and he kept smiling to himself all day long and chuckling away in the corner of his cab. Harry just loved to get a new fireman or a guard who did not know about the quaint humour lurking beneath that Father Christmas type appearance. He would pursue his unwary target relentlessly, until he caught him with a bit of harmless fun. The Glen Tunnels at Waterfoot had two tunnels side by side, and the holes in the hillside appeared to be much too small for the speeding locomotive to pass through. Harry was highly delighted when he was paired up with a new lad who had never seen that the sides of the tunnel were so near to the engine. A fireman would be killed instantly if he put his head over the side of the engine when they were entering the Glen Tunnels. Speeding down from the Bacup side of the tunnel on a noisy, swaying engine, Harry would appear to panic just before entering the tunnel. Keep your head in, I told them that the hole is too small, and it s getting worse. He would then grab the reversing wheel and pretend to steer the engine with it. The lad would then forget that the engine was on rails and not steerable as the tiny hole loomed ever nearer. Whoosh! and he was in the tunnel for the very first time. Just made it again, chuckled Harry as they shot out of the tunnel and into the light once more. There was a very good reason for Harry to put on this elaborate charade for the new lad, because to put water in the boiler of a locomotive the fireman has to look over the side of the engine to see if the injectors are working properly. If he did not know, and remember that he must not do so entering the tunnel, he would not live very long. Harry trained his lads so well that they would never forget the danger of tunnel walls, and they would always remember the way in which they had been taught that so very important lesson. There were many pitfalls for the unwary, but never would anyone else point out those dangers as convincingly as the great Harry Smith. He never carried a watch, but he had a round silver tobacco tin and at a casual glance it looked like a silver pocket watch similar to the ones carried by many drivers, but it had no fingers on it. He would pull it out of his pocket and let the unwary one see that it had no fingers on it. Ten fifteen he would say to everyone on board. Then you would see him look sideways at the fireman, guard, shunter, or who ever his target happened to be. Sure enough, every time; the target would pull out his own watch and check, Harry was always right, dead on time, every time. 20

21 This could go on for days, weeks with some of them who never tumbled to it. The crafty old devil was catching the time from signal box clocks. Harry would snatch the time as we passed a signal box, and then count off a few minutes before enlightening everyone on board as to the correct time. One experience that I had while firing for Harry could have had very serious consequences but as it happened all ended very well. We were travelling tender first, quite fast down a steep bank towards Facit on the Bacup to Rochdale Branch Line with an A. Class 3F, light engine from Bacup Shed. With no time at all to stop, we saw two GPO linesmen on the track, one was up a telephone pole and the other one with his back to us was supposed to be his lookout. All the wires were hanging loose in our path, and they could have taken our heads off as we had no protection at all, being tender first. Duck, shouted Harry as he slammed on the brakes, and the wires passed just over our heads. They caught on the engine whistle and bent the control rod right back. If they had ripped the engine whistle off completely we would have been in a right mess, with one hundred and eighty pounds of steam pressure blowing out of the hole where the whistle should have been. The wires were ripped off the pole and we saw the linesman coming down the falling pole, like a squirrel down a tree. With the brakes full on we had not quite stopped as we looked back and saw the two linesmen, they were all right and they were both standing in the middle of the track looking towards us. Harry calmly took the brake off when we were almost stopped, and then he let the engine pick speed up again. No good going all that way back again, I will just play it by ear and wait to see if anything is said about it when we get back. Nothing was, and we never heard a thing about it. Harry used to sit on the fireman s seat to eat his packed lunch, and drink his bottle of tea after it had been warmed up on the hot plate over the fire. During this time if any shunting was required, Harry would allow his fireman to do the driving, he would put a little coal on the fire as necessary and continue with his meal, Harry would always eat his cake first. You never know the minute, always eat thi cake first then if tha drops dead, at least tha s had it. His shiny metal sandwich box was very small with a close fitting lid and as soon as he had finished eating, Harry would spend at least half an hour each day packing it with choice pieces of the very best coal that he could find. He would shape them, fit them and change them until they fitted perfectly into his little box. The result was like just one piece of coal about ten inches long by about four inches wide and deep. I am never greedy, he would say. Just enough to light the fire in the morning. One of the older firemen, Cecil Blythe a passed driver, was different, and he helped himself to a very large lump of the very best Yorkshire coal. He concealed it beneath his railway issued overcoat prior to catching the bus on New Line to go home. Good morning Cecil, said a voice from the front of the bus. He spun round very quickly to see who it was, and the lump of best Yorkshire shattered the bus window. You can send me the bill if you want, he said as he very quickly got off the bus at the next stop. I believe that the coal disappeared as well, a little while later. Harry Smith just loved a game of cards, and with no such thing as television; Saturday night was card s night at Harry s house, with invited guests. When a new player joined the game, Harry excelled himself; he would sit at the back of the table facing the huge coal fire finely balanced on the back two legs of a tall wooden dining room chair, chewing tobacco. 21

22 All at once he would spit, straight as an arrow, right over the head of the player opposite to him. Obviously this had to be the newest member of the party, who would be absolutely amazed at this little party piece, as the fire sizzled behind him. Harry s wife would say, Yes I am waiting for him to miss, but after more than forty years I don t think that he is going to do. I bet he never did! Working a shunting job, Rawtenstall goods pilot one morning we went into the shunter s cabin for breakfast and even Harry was outclassed. One the platelayers walked into the cabin carrying a pan of water. He placed the pan on the stove until the water was boiling furiously, and then he placed his hand very slowly into the boiling water and carefully put an egg on the bottom of the pan. Having timed the egg to perfection, he then placed his hand into the boiling water, took the egg out of the pan and walked out of the cabin with it in his hand. He never said a single word to anyone all the time that he was in the cabin, and neither did anyone else. It may have been a regular performance, but I never saw a repeat and I never found out how it was done either. Instant Danger. One such morning Len Yarwood and I arrived at Rochdale and Len rang control, they instructed us to relieve an empty wagon train at Rochdale as it returned to the coalfields of Yorkshire to be reloaded. Having left Rochdale, we did not get very far because we were stopped at Smithy Bridge, and put inside on a loop line to make way for a passenger train to pass by. Just before it arrived, another empty wagon train drew level with us on the adjoining loop line; he also had been put inside out of the way of the passenger train. The conditions were very bad that morning, a blanket of dense fog was everywhere, visibility was only a few feet, and a platelayer had placed a warning detonator near to the end of the loop line by the outlet signals. The driver of the other empty wagon train was looking over the side of his engine as he drew level with us, as it cracked one of the detonators with its front wheels. There was not a sound from the driver who was only a few inches away from me as the detonator exploded, and I saw his face fly open, just as if a surgeon had wielded a scalpel, and the cut was from the corner of his mouth to the top of his cheek. Despite the terrible accident, the man managed to quietly bring his train to a stand and apply the handbrake before going to the signal box for help. An ambulance was called, and he was taken to Rochdale Hospital despite his protests that he could not possibly leave his engine until another driver had properly relieved him. What had happened was that the detonator had broken loose from the clip holding it to the rail? As it exploded, it had changed shape until it was roughly the same shape as a boomerang, then it created a flight path out in front of the engine back along the boiler and straight as an arrow into his face. The flying razor sharp missile had flown right between us, I was looking out on my side and he was looking out on his. The same thing happened to a platelayer on the Manchester to Bury line, even though he was operating the automatic detonator machine from the expected safety of a little wooden hut by the line side. The detonator still made a gigantic curve and hit him in the thigh, severing an artery, and he died before he could obtain assistance. 22

23 Brown Boots And Gloves. This story is much more pleasant, a story of a man, almost a gentleman, and he was most certainly one of the finest engine drivers of all time. "Gentleman Bill". That was the name given to Billy Pilling by the lads of the shed. The reason being that he spoke quietly, and slowly, with his own affected version of BBC type English, until it slipped of course which was quite often, especially early in the mornings. This was the time when he was most likely to revert back to his common or garden English as spoken railway fashion. I had yet to be given the privilege of firing for Billy, but I already knew that he was the master. It was common knowledge that he could drive a steam engine with a feather light touch, unknown to the common man normally in charge of the steel, brass and copper monsters. Off he would go, conveying his passengers with an efficiency and safety that lesser mortals could only dream of. Time and time again he would return to the shed and back his engine up to the coal stage, and when the staff saw Billy they knew that this engine would only need half as much coal as the others. The pride of unique workmanship and respect for his employers (The Company) still remained firmly implanted in this man, despite Nationalisation and all of its problems. As a result it was heaven help the fireman who wasted materials, or coal and water in his presence. Even the locomotives themselves seemed to understand that they were in the control of the ultimate, the perfect driver who was able to get the best out of them at all times. Like most perfectionists, Billy was also a Prima Donna in every way, yet despite this failing every youth wanted to fire for him, but there was one snag, seldom would he take an unproven youth on a passenger train, especially an express. Billy had none of the endearing, patient qualities of Harry Smith and a few of the other drivers. If his fireman was ill or late for early morning shift, Bill s English would deteriorate as he discarded firemen one after another. The passed cleaners would prove difficult to find under these circumstances, and the toilets would be unusually engaged by the few who did not know about the secret compartment under the bunker of the l90 s. To be perfectly fair, everyone really wanted to go with him, but no one wanted to suffer the indignity of a refusal from the Master himself. One early morning it happened, about five am the foreman Ernest Yarwood came to me and he said, A nice little job for you this morning and a bit of overtime in it, passenger train to Rochdale and then work an express passenger train to Southport and return. There was no mention of the driver at all, and the grape vine was not yet buzzing. I should have been a little more suspicious, but having risen from my bed about two am for a three am start I was not quite at my best. My only information at this time was engine number199, and the number of the shed road where she had been stabled overnight. So after gathering my essential working materials, one bottle of cold tea to warm on the hot plate above the fire, a fibre food box containing sandwiches, and a handy looking firing shovel provided by the foreman I set off to find my engine. There was no doubt at all, Ernie was desperately trying to make me look professional as only the more experienced men actually had their very own firing shovel. The reason being that they varied considerably in length as I painfully discovered later; when I trapped my thumb between the shovel handle and the pinned back coal bunker doors of a Stanier Tank Engine. 23

24 I was on winged feet and cloud nine, until climbing up onto the footplate I saw him! Billy was just sitting there on the driver s seat waiting to leave on time, and impatiently tapping his feet on the wooden floor. The engine footplate was as clean as a new pin and so too was the driver; he was wearing very highly polished Brown boots and Brown kid gloves. Never before had I seen such finery on a driver. His first words of greeting gave me very little confidence, Have you ever fired a passenger train before? A few times, was my not very confident reply. Ever fired an express. No I! Well you aren t going to do today neither, as his English slipped a bit. He was off the footplate even quicker than I was at getting on, and away he went to see the foreman. The usual language flowed from Billy, and finally I heard Ernest say to him, He is the best we can find at this time of the morning, take him or the job is cancelled. Now this hit Billy where it really hurt; and he came back to the footplate where I had remained firmly attached to the fireman s seat. No disrespect to you but an express needs experience, I am the driver, I drive; I do not, repeat do not shovel coal or make the steam, I just use it, and if there is any lack of steam pressure at all I shall demand that you are replaced en- route. Not a very good start to our working day or our working relationship either, but we had one of our beloved 190 s and she was in lovely condition. Down to Bacup Station, quickly hooking onto the four coaches in the platform and we were away. It was a lovely summer s morning and the heavy dew was still on the ground, as we made the first part of the journey, stopping at all stations to Rochdale, via Bury, Heywood and Castleton. Going downhill to Bury was easy and scarcely any coal was used at all. There was plenty of time to just sit on my seat looking out for the signals on my side, and really enjoying the scenery as the dawn awakened the night sky. One could not fail to notice and appreciate the smell of the countryside. A smell to linger forever, first the sweet new mown hay from a line-side farm, accompanied by a crow and a few toots on the whistle as an early morning greeting for everyone almost awake; and after that dash through the Glen Tunnel, the smell of newly baked bread, Seville s Bakery of course. Then the not so pleasant but just as important to a driver in the Blackout, the terrible smell of gun cotton as we shot by the factory, followed by the gas works at Cloughfold. Even further on, was the horrible smell of formaldehyde just before Bury Bolton St. Station. All were very important landmarks for a driver picking his way through the night or a fog, especially during the war. So even if our path was not quite strewn with roses, some of it was equally pleasant in many respects as I would quickly find out later in the morning. Billy had carefully taken notice; and assessed my ability to maintain a good head of steam as we travelled up Broadfield Bank and onto Rochdale. Only many years later would I realize that had the steam pressure dropped even slightly, Billy would have part exchanged the borrowed shovel, and me for the more experienced fireman working Rochdale Passenger Pilot. I was certainly most impressed with the way he handled the engine, and I had never seen anything like it. There was scarcely a whisper from the chimney top as we ran perfectly on time. All I had to do was fire her ever so lightly, little and often and that was the only advice given by Mr. Pilling. 24

25 We were now about forty minutes into our long journey and we were talking. He asked a few questions, about work mostly, and he now seemed to be almost human. I had placed the express passenger headlamps on the front buffers at Rochdale, and now we were really off. This to a sixteen-year-old, absolute novice was pure magic, to be teamed up with the perfect little engine and the perfect driver as well, perhaps only a dream. We were booked all stations to Wigan and then there would be the express part of the journey, Southport next stop, with a fantastic run through the beautiful countryside, spoiled only by a few peculiar smells at Wigan. There was Croid the glue works, with a long line of railway wagons containing old bones waiting to be unloaded into the factory. A sight to behold and never forgotten were the Amazons, giant women wielding enormous shovels that dwarfed my little firing shovel. They were filling enormous wheelbarrows with smelly bones and wriggling maggots, then wheeling them up steep ramps into the factory to make glue. I had seen and smelled these wagons of bones before in various goods yards and sidings at much too close range, but until now I had not seen them being emptied, never would I have believed that women could possibly be doing that job. Just a little further on was the linoleum works, also making some very peculiar strong odours as well, but also on the wind was the most enjoyable smell of freshly baked cakes, and from the exceedingly busy sweet factory, Uncle Joe s Mint Balls. As we shot through one little station just before Southport, Billy gave a crow followed by series of short blasts on the engine whistle. I looked out very carefully but could see nothing untoward at all. At full express speed we hurtled through the little station and away, nothing to be seen as the station disappeared rapidly into the distance behind us. Having cleaned the fire and topped up with coal and water at Southport we were very soon on our way back home, a stopping train to Manchester and then another one back to Bacup. First though I would learn the mystery, the reason for those short sharp blasts on the engine whistle as we passed at full speed through that little station. This was organization at its very best and an education for all of us. Billy stopped his engine in the platform of the same little station, exactly level with a little old lady, and she had a basket of beautiful cut flowers. You did say twelve bunches didn t you Bill. she said. That s right, here is the twelve bob, said Billy. The lady had counted the exact number of times that Billy had whistled as we shot by the station, and she knew the exact time of his return. Yes, I know some one must be wondering what the heck has a crow got to do this story. A crow is the reproduction of a cockerel crow on the engine whistle. It was used to draw the attention of a signalman to the fact that he was about to receive a message via the engine whistle. It was all coded so that he would know the way we wanted to go, all carefully calculated and easy to understand, the old lady also knew the system and she used it to everyone s advantage. The remainder of the trip was uneventful but very pleasant, by now I would be more than a little tired and I would certainly sleep that afternoon. Even with a driver of Billy s calibre I would have shovelled more than four tons of coal, as well as doing all the other jobs of a fireman, such as hooking on and off the various trains that we had worked and filling the ever-demanding boiler with water. Yes quite a full but most certainly enjoyable day s work for a sixteen-year-old youth. 25

26 By far the most important thing to me was that I had passed his judgment with flying colours, for on arriving back at the shed, just before alighting from the footplate with his enormous bunch of flowers he stopped, turned to me and he said. Sorry to have doubted your ability this morning, I will take you any time now. Walking back into the mess-room with, Bill! I could see that all of the late turn passed cleaners were waiting to find out the result, and there I was accompanied by the Master himself, still chatting just as he would have done with his proper mate. The First Runaway Train. The gradient from Miles Platting down to Manchester Victoria Station is very steep, and there are signs that read, All goods trains must stop here to pin down brakes. This means that on stopping, the fireman will pin down the brake handles on the side of the wagons at the front of the train, and the guard will do the same at the back. The engine and the guard s van each carried a stout brake stick for this purpose, although some guards preferred to use their own shunt pole. This was one with the hook on it, for coupling the huge steel links between the wagons. In this instance something went terribly wrong and the train ran away, probably without the crew having the opportunity to pin down any brakes at all. The train was loaded with twenty tanker wagons of high-octane petrol, and for some obscure reason the signalman at Victoria Station actually turned the runaway train into number four road, a dead end platform inside the station. The driver of the train would be whistling for a through road as a runaway train, and desperately expecting some assistance from the signalmen. He would be looking for the through road that goes between Victoria and Exchange Stations, and if this had been a possible option it may have given him the time needed to recover control of his train. Later in life, I too would be in the same situation, but I would receive the assistance required not once but twice. This time the through road must have been already occupied or blocked, because the driver was never given the chance to regain control of his train. The first thing that he saw in the dim light of wartime Victoria Station was the very solid buffers at the end of the platform. One of the crew, the driver I believe, jumped off the engine just before it hit the buffers, and he landed on the platform escaping serious injury. His fireman must have jumped off the other side of the engine into the darkness, he was less fortunate because the steel pillar of the water column was on his side of the engine and he was killed instantly. The train demolished the buffers, and ploughed through the wooden platform where luckily there were no passengers or members of the public. I saw that the train had stopped with its engine still upright by the booking office window, and it was only about twenty-five feet from the City Street. By some miracle the petrol did not explode, but had it done so the explosive force would have done far more damage to the population and to the station, than the Germans had managed to do in a whole war. The engine was a Wessey, or a Western Region one, and it would be driven from the right hand side of the footplate, this was the opposite side to ours. Also it was rumoured, that the engine had been fitted with inferior wooden brake blocks made of oak, instead of the cast iron ones fitted to ours. If that were so it would have been a very important factor, a reason for the driver not being able to stop to pin down the wagon brakes. 26

27 Also fate would decide which of the crew was to die and which one would be spared. The crucial factor in this terrible choice was the engine design as to which side of the engine housed the driver s controls, and which side of the engine the fireman occupied at the moment of disaster. The lottery of choice was decided the moment that the crew took charge of that lethal, and to a Midland man unfamiliar machine. About this time another terrible accident was to make a great impact on my young mind, the signalman got the blame and the driver lost his life. This driver, Alt. Hardman of Bury Locomotive Shed, left Woodlands Road Station driving an early morning rush hour electric train, with Victoria Station next stop. All of his signals were at Green as he passed them and he was rapidly gaining speed to coast down into Victoria, when for some unknown reason the signalman changed his mind and his priorities by putting all of the signals back to danger. Then he put the signals to Green, for a steam train that was waiting to cross over the Irk Valley viaduct. Mr Hardman had already passed all of his signals at Green, and the steam train driven by Fred Heap also of Bury had started to move into the path of the electric train. The result was that the electric went over the viaduct, and it plunged with all of its human cargo towards the River Irk far below. Part of the train was left suspended in mid air by its exceedingly sturdy couplings, but the remainder of it plunged into the river. Wakey Wakey. One of the jobs on night shift for engine cleaners was to stand in for the knocker up if he was ill, or perhaps on leave. Now here was a job to educate the unwary, and to terrify the ones of nervous disposition. To qualify for this job of national importance, a new man had to learn the ropes as it were. In the daytime, an experienced person who knew exactly where every driver, fireman and member of the shed staff lived, took us round the town in order to pass on his knowledge, this was so that any member of the staff could be contacted as soon as possible at all times. It is never easy to find a specific address during the hours of darkness, and there were no lights at all because of the war. It was not advisable to knock up the wrong person at three a.m., even in an emergency, and you needed to know where a certain driver lived and it was also essential to know exactly how each driver required to be wakened. Very firm instructions would have been issued regarding the method to be used, and which window of each house to knock on. Most of the other members of the household would strongly object to someone knocking on their bedroom window in the middle of the night. Very detailed messages would have been given by the master of the household, such as climb up onto a shed roof at the back of the house without making a noise, and then to tap very gently on his bedroom window. This sounds perfectly reasonable until you have tried to do it, and then when you did finally manage it, you would discover that it didn t really matter how much noise you made anyway. There was so much snoring coming from the direction of the master s bedroom that the house was vibrating like a road drill. It would take more than a tap on a window to awaken any one in that house at all. Another favourite and firm instruction was to go into the backyard and find the clothes prop and to tap on the window with that. Needless to say, it always took more than a few taps on a Saturday morning if the driver had been out for a few pints the night before. 27

28 The regular knocker up was most competently showing a few of us the addresses of the men one morning about eleven a.m., and one of our top link passenger drivers Charlie Howard, had not been in bed very long after finishing duty during the night. I think that this is where Charlie lives, but the houses look so much different in the daylight. We had better knock on the door and make sure that this is the right address, said George Lashwood our guide and tutor. He tapped ever so gently on the door in order not waken the sleeping Charlie, but the door flew open almost at once. Does Charlie live here, whispered George to the formidable lady who stood dwarfing the opening in the doorway. No reply was the answer, Charlie s wife just turned away from us and shouted up the staircase, Char--lie you re wanted at the shed. Well, that had most certainly answered our question, but without waiting for confirmation we just turned and ran. Mission accomplished, discretion exceeded valour, in this instance no contest. Having mentioned valour, George the regular knocker up was in the wrong job, here he was working regular nights in the Black out, and he was terrified of the dark. The Bacup Police knew this very well and they used to have their bit of fun with him during the night, and so did we. Someone was always waiting for him to return out of the darkness, and they would frighten him out of his skin with loud noises. The Bacup Borough Police had caught on to this, and they were even worse than us, they would roll an empty dust bin down Lion Street or Venture Brow, and our gallant knocker up would be off like a shot back to base. He would arrive back at the shed and ask the foreman to send someone with him to finish the job. One of us would go with him and insist that he reported the matter to the nearest policeman; this was usually the same one who had frightened him in the first place, poor George, everyone was in on the act except him. As usual something always goes wrong and rebounds on the culprits, and then no one believes the truth when it happens. George had only been gone a few minutes in the direction of New Line, and then he was very quickly back again. White as a sheet and he had seen, A ghost! Loomed up out of the fog it did, enormous, dark Grey, making squelching noises and dragging chains, he said. There were peals of laughter; the policeman has excelled himself tonight. We gave George a cup of tea, sat him down at the long mess room table, and got him to give us the benefit of his experiences once more, in greater detail. It was most certainly good; too good, there were no volunteers to act as escort this time. You can all go, said Wilf Crossley the foreman. So away we all went into the foggy night that had suddenly gone very cold indeed. Six terrified teenagers and George, who had still managed to be the very last one out of the mess room. We were all only interested in finding the nearest policeman, and hoping that they were indeed the culprits. Gaining a little in courage, we decided to spit up into two groups and have a look around the area, there was still no sign of a policeman and away we went. My little group heard and saw nothing at all, the night was still very foggy, and an eerie silence reigned. The other little party had not gone very far, when they met a little old man. He was dark skinned, wearing a turban, and carrying a stick with a large hook on it. Please Sir s, have you seen my elephants? he said. There were roars of very relieved laughter, it was the middle of the night in a built up area, and the disturbed residents were putting their bedroom lights on as we all melted away into the darkness. Then everyone was off at full speed, on an elephant hunt in England at two a.m. 28

29 Only about a mile away further down New Line we found them, two full sized Circus elephants only too pleased at having been found by their keeper. They had not been securely chained, and in the finest tradition they had just wandered away from the Circus. Henry s Swan Song. There was no driver called Henry at Bacup Shed, the story is like all the others perfectly true, but I am not telling who Henry was. About eleven a.m. one Friday morning, Henry had received his weekly pay at the booking office window of Bacup Station. And as per his common practice every payday, he decided not to go home to Mrs. Henry, but he would go on the beer. Just outside the station was the Swan Hotel, Henry duly arrived there about two minutes past eleven and he parked himself up in his usual corner of the taproom. Closing time came round, followed by opening time, and followed by closing time once again. Henry still occupied his corner and in due course the landlord went to bed, followed later by his good lady. About five a.m. the landlady left her nice warm bed, awakened our hero from his deep slumbers, slipped a packet of sandwiches into his pocket, a bottle of cold tea into his hand, and then propelled him through the front door. This particular morning Henry s fireman was also guilty of a misdemeanour, and he never arrived for duty. I was to have the honour of firing for Henry and never having met him before, I was in for quite an experience. You are on a crack job this morning, said Ernie Yarwood the foreman. Passenger train to Manchester and then double head the Ten Eight York express Fantastic, God bless he who has overslept this morning, those were my enthusiastic thoughts on the matter. All went well, except the fact that Henry had not spoken a single word from leaving the shed, to arriving at Victoria Station. Then, Put a good fire on, tha l need it. Now as this was the only thing that he had said in over two hours, I digested every single word that he had spoken, and I complied with his instruction even though we were still in the main platform of Victoria Station, and knowing quite well that the making of black smoke inside a station was frowned upon by L.M.S management; and strictly illegal as well. Then he backed our tiny Stanier, 190-class 3P, tank engine, onto the front of the enormous Black Five already coupled to the coaches of the Ten Eight York Express, standing in eleven, middle platform. This was the very long platform between Victoria and Exchange stations. I coupled the two engines together, and the other fireman took the two headlamps off the front of the Black Five. Then I went round to the front of our engine, climbed onto the buffers, and very proudly put my two headlamps in their proper places, outside positions below the smoke box, informing everybody that this was an express passenger train. Good fire on, plenty of steam, right away from the guard with both whistle and little Green flag, then there was a gigantic, almost frightening roar from the steel monster behind us and we were off. We were only there really, to assist him up the steep bank to Miles Platting a couple of miles away, and then we would not have much to do at all. This very powerful engine was quite capable of pulling the train, and pushing us as well once we were clear of Miles Platting Station. The roar of the Black Five was deafening as it pushed us through Middleton Junction and on towards Castleton. Looking for the signals I saw that the wrong ones had been pulled off and the mainline points would have taken us left towards Heywood, Bury and Bolton. 29

30 We needed the right hand ones to take us to Rochdale where I would hook off the Black Five, and then he would continue alone to York. The driver behind us would be able to see very little because of our smoke and he was relying on us to look out for any signals that he could not see, as we hurtled nearer and nearer to the point of no return. The Black Five was still roaring along on a wide-open regulator, and as I took my eyes off the signals still set at danger and looked across the footplate at Henry I could see that he was fast asleep with his mouth wide open, and so was the regulator. We were well on the way to disaster, two locomotives with crews, and ten coaches packed with passengers. The next set of facing points would send us off the rails and into the fields below if the signalman should realize his mistake, and try to rectify it. As most of our passengers had paid to go to York, I doubt very much if they would have been very pleased to finish up at Bury, or even in the beautiful green fields far below. I called out in the time-honoured fashion Block on Henry. There was no reply from Henry, and even worse no rapid closing of the regulator, or an emergency application of the brake. Not even a shrill, long blast on the engine whistle to inform some incompetent signalman at Castleton that he was stopping the Ten Eight York Express, which was almost a crime by itself. Block on. I yelled, absolutely panic stricken, but this time closing the throttle, and slamming on the brake, as well as blowing a screaming long blast on the whistle. The driver on the engine behind us did the same, and our passengers must have had a right shaking up as all of the brakes went on at once. The signalman must have had a shock as well when we passed all of his signals at danger, because he was actually pulling his points over almost beneath our wheels as we did so. As we passed below his signal box windows with all wheels locked and skidding, the cheeky devil hung out a Green flag, which meant, You can pass my signal at danger, section clear, station or junction blocked. The signal we had already passed and almost everything else as well, and at this point, Henry contributed his share to the drama by actually waking up. On arrival at Rochdale I very quickly uncoupled our engine from the Black Five, and we moved our engine into the Oldham bay adjacent to the main line platform to allow the express to depart. The other driver made some quite mild comment about the signalman, but he never knew how much Henry had contributed to our very near disaster. I did not fire for Henry or even speak to him again, which meant that during the whole eight hour shift, the only words spoken were the grunted, "Put a good fire on, tha'l need it." the actual near tragedy was never mentioned anywhere, at any time, until now of course! Keep Taking The Tablets. No, you do not swallow them; the tablets in question would be just about as palatable as the originals. They were specially constructed to ensure that never would two trains or engines be on the same track at the same time. An accident involving two trains should be impossible on a single line railway such as ours. It was the Wardleworth to Healey Station part of the Rochdale to Bacup Branch Line. The tablet was steel, about five inches in diameter, round with pieces cut out of it to form a virtual key of great strength.without the tablet it was impossible to unlock the points to allow another train onto the single-track railway, or to put the signal to Green. One engine would carry the tablet to the other end of the line and then pass it over to the signalman or shunter in charge, and he would unlock the system with the tablet. 30

31 Only then could the points and the signals be released to allow another engine or train onto the vacated track. A stout leather case was used to carry the tablet from Healey Station down to Wardleworth. The signalman on a gantry high above the track lowered a long steel rod to an exact position where the fireman would be as the engine passed underneath at great speed. On the end of the rod there was a large hook, and the fireman with great skill placed the case and the tablet onto the hook. On the journey from Rochdale to Bacup the procedure was much different, and even faster with a passenger train. This time the signalman lowered a rod with a clip on the end of it instead of a hook and we were picking the tablet up. To catch a tablet, the fireman had to slip his arm through the loop in the tablet case and the clip would open, releasing the tablet onto the fireman s arm. The train would not even slacken speed slightly, because the steep incline had to be approached as fast as possible in order to get the train up the gradient without slipping. If we missed the tablet the train had to stop, and then assistance was needed to give us a push up the incline and get us on our way. Having through a great deal of practice become very efficient at picking up the tablet, I was very confident that I would never fail to catch it at full speed. My driver Harry Taylor had the same feelings, as one lovely summer morning Harry had to get a very heavy goods train up the steep incline with traffic bound for various goods yards and stations on the branch line. This was not the time for the delicate touch of Billy Pilling, a more crude style of driving would be required and (Ab) Harry Taylor was well into it today. No way was he going to miss getting this train up to Healey Station and he had the regulator well open long before we were even in sight of Wardleworth Station and our authority to proceed. Harry was most definitely not going suffer the indignity of sticking (the professional word for making a mess of it) on the gradient. Because if he did, he would have to ask for (a Banker) a push from that fussy little saddle tank engine in Wardleworth Sidings. We could not see very well for our smoke as we approached the signal gantry where the tablet would be waiting for us, sparks were flying up the chimney and falling like Red-hot rain. We really were having a ball and enjoying life to the full, but at such times disaster may be lurking just around the next corner. In this instance it was right in front of us and we could not see it just yet. Happy as a sand boy because Harry had such faith in my ability and reflex actions that he was going as fast as he could, I most certainly had no intention of letting him down by missing the tablet. Leaning well out of the engine cab, I had almost slipped my arm into the steel loop of the tablet case, when to my horror and amazement I saw that the signalman had put the hook down instead of the clip. Quick as a flash I drew back my arm and let the tablet go by. Had I been just a little bit less experienced or a little bit slower, my arm would have been torn out of its socket by the impact. Harry saw that I had missed the tablet, and he was winding up ready to give me a right blasting until I told him why I had deliberately missed catching it. By now we were stopped, well and truly stuck and unable to set off again. Harry ran back to the signalman and gave him the full extent of the railway style of talking to that was required. What hurt most, was the fact that now we did have to sit and wait for that fussy little banker engine to arrive, and push us up to Healey Station. I did have quite a few other little incidents with Harry involved, but so did many of the other firemen young and old who had been teamed up with him. He had not yet been labelled as a Jonah, that time was not very far away, and a funny event did happen in the very same place, Wardleworth Station. 31

32 It was breakfast time, I had decided to have a fry up on the firing shovel and Harry had gone to have his sandwiches in the shunter s cabin. He was always very quick in everything that he did, and unfortunately he returned to the engine before I had finished cooking my egg and bacon. I had placed my breakfast on the shovel in one of my mother s best enamel dishes before starting to cook it over the fire, and it was cooking very nicely. Then disaster; because Harry arrived back on the footplate, up to this point all had been going very well, and being very hungry I was more than a little ready for my breakfast. Harry was just sitting in his corner of the engine by the controls, and the shunter had not yet returned to direct shunting operations. All of a sudden Harry opened the regulator without warning and up the chimney went my breakfast, complete with my mother s enamel dish. It was a long way off finishing time and Harry never even said, Sorry mate. (My eldest son has just informed me that I should explain why my breakfast went up the chimney when Harry opened the regulator.) Even though we were not ready to start shunting and we had the handbrake on with the reversing gear in the central position, in other words a safe condition, Harry just could not leave well alone. When he opened the regulator, a blast of air was drawn up through the ash pan and out through the blast pipe with just one powerful chuff, taking my breakfast with it never to be seen again, the dish was unable to go through the boiler tubes and it would have melted in the fire. In nineteen forty-seven this branch line closed for passenger traffic, and it was the end of an era of historic service to the local community, and to the whole of the country during the war that had just ended. As Driver Walter Potts and Fireman Jimmy Stansfield worked the very last passenger train from Rochdale to Bacup, the staff on duty performed a little ceremony. When the train slowly passed the shed that night for the last time at funereal pace hundreds of detonators that we had placed on the rails exploded; one after the other all the way down the incline towards Bacup Station. The live engines in the shed, joined in the bedlam of explosive charges, with a caterwauling of sound from the engine whistles, nothing had ever been heard like it before. In almost a hundred years of the steam age, the order of the day or night, had always been SSHH, don t disturb the neighbours. Now no one cared at all, any more. The Blitz. Just before the end of the war I had the absolute privilege of firing for Billy Pilling once more. We were going to work the last passenger train from Manchester to Bacup about midnight. Going back into Victoria after a trip up to Stalybridge, Billy seemed to be a little quiet, and preoccupied. He kept looking up into the darkened skies over the City. Billy never said anything at the time, but I would soon find out the reason why. While we were waiting to leave Victoria he spoke very quietly, Put a little bit more coal on than usual and only open the firebox doors when I tell you to. Now this was most unusual for Billy to interfere with the fireman s job, as he had said previously, I drive; I do not make the steam. Then it happened, the Germans paid their usual nightly visit and bombs started to rain down on the City. Some landed on the other side of Victoria Station, and now I knew just why Billy was so apprehensive as we were coming into the station. He could see that I was scared stiff at the sound of exploding bombs so near to us. Yet he was as cool as could be. 32

33 I have done this trip all week with no problems at all, and I will get you home tonight. Just remember do not open the firebox until I say so, the fire will be too easy for them to see. We left the station dead on time, and Billy took the train full of passengers, mostly forces personnel and workers from the local aircraft factory up the steep gradient to Irk Valley with hardly a sound from the engine, and certainly no sparks. We scarcely used any coal at all, and when we got into Collyhurst Tunnel he said, Right give her another good round of coal now, and we shall soon be safely on our way home. Just before going into the tunnel we both looked back in the direction that we had just left. The City was burning furiously, and there were fires everywhere. Coming out of the tunnel with plenty of coal on the fire, Billy opened up the regulator and we were away, no creeping about now, full steam ahead for Bacup and home. Soon came the first signs of the hated usurpers, and the very first one to arrive took the job of Deputy Foreman from Charlie Taylor. He was put back to driving and the other foremen were discarded one by one, then the biggest blow of all was inflicted, because Fred Wilson was hurriedly made redundant and moved away. This crafty move was to become common practice, chop off the head to remove the brains and the body will die. In this case it did so very quickly, redundancies at any price, was the mad policy. The new foremen never did put in a full day s work, or actually do anything at all for their very inflated pay and expenses. The shed was left to run itself by remote control from London, via Newton Heath. These men actually signed on duty at Newton Heath, travelled all the way to Bacup a journey of about twenty-five miles. Then they just sat in the office for a few hours before making their way back to Newton Heath early in the afternoon. Now that it was common knowledge regarding what was happening, they were treated accordingly, and mostly ignored by the rest of the staff at the shed. The dedicated rail staff could see no future at all, either for themselves or for the system. Also in the very near future their beloved steam engines, old and new, would receive the same lack of consideration, care, and respect as the men who worked with them. They all went on the scrap heap together, men, and machines. The engines, some only four or five years old would lie rusting, rotting hulks in sidings all over the country, to be visited only by thieves in the dead of night, as they stole the valuable brass and copper fittings to be sold for a pittance as scrap. The approaching hours were to be even darker for the engine crews as the new management of asset strippers moved in. They would make those metal thefts look like petty crime. Even so, there were still a few gaps in the Grey clouds of nationalised mismanagement and working for the Fat Controller did provide not only a little fun and pleasure, but quite a bit of overtime as well. Not As We Know It Jim. One driver in particular, having been a driver for many years was now relegated to working Control Orders, just like us. Jimmy Connell was quite a character, and he was quite prepared to make the most of a bad job. He did manage to retain his brilliant sense of humour, and one memorable morning I was lucky enough to be teamed up with him. After going on the bus to Rochdale and then walking up to the station, Jimmy received instructions from the Controller to go down to Todmorden on the next passenger train, relieve a goods train bound for Moston Sidings, and then to take the engine to Newton Heath Shed. 33

34 Not long to wait, into Rochdale Station came the passenger train and we boarded it. We got off it at Todmorden, and we had only just crossed over from the down to the up platform when our train came into sight. We very quickly jumped on board, and Jimmy who was an exceedingly good driver with a feather like touch took over the controls. Can you manage this? said the driver to Jimmy as they were getting off the footplate, Sure can, said Jimmy, muttering, What does he think we are yokels? Away we went the regulator opening very slowly at first, then wider and wider as she picked up speed. Even though it was quite a climb up through Walsden going towards the Summit tunnel Jimmy had the regulator full open, and he was engrossed in winding the valve gear towards the middle position. There was a nice, but rather unusual, light Brown haze at the chimney top and I thought, a nice clean fire at least. The water was a little way down in the gauge glass, and I put some water into the boiler and that knocked the pressure down quite a bit. As we were now approaching the notoriously filthy Summit Tunnel I decided to put only a small amount of coal on the fire. The meaning of the driver s strange words became instantly clear to both Jim and I at exactly the same time. Bending down to pick up the firing shovel I saw that it was not where it should have been. I also saw a very puzzled look on Jimmy s face as I said, We do not appear to have a shovel Jimmy. No, and we do not have any coal either, it s one of them new bloody oil burners. I could see that he was more than a little worried at the thought of taking this unknown quantity through the tunnel, but we were committed to it with no choice at all. Have you any ideas, from Jimmy. Not a clue Jim, was my contribution to the very short debate I hope that you have a match then in case the fire goes out while we are in here he joked, as all went Black. Then we were in the tunnel, and the very last thing that I had seen was the pressure gauge slowly dropping. On emerging into the day -light ages later, all was well and looking through a very tiny hole in the firebox front I could see a fire of sorts, but obviously the door could not be opened, it appeared to be actually bolted shut. Jimmy pointed to a little brass wheel at the side of the firebox door, That looks important, just twiddle it a bit and see if you can make some smoke at the chimney top and then close it down a bit. Success, up went the steam pressure again, and so did the finger on the clock. We were in business, cooking with gas, almost, no further problems and on and on we went. This was easy, no coal to keep shovelling on to a greedy fire, I could do with a lot more of this. We sailed through Rochdale, Castleton, Middleton, and then into Moston Sidings where we were very quickly hooked off from our train by a shunter with the usual hooked pole. Very quickly we were away to Newton Heath Shed to stable our engine, and on arrival at the ash pits I got on the adjacent telephone and spoke to the foreman. I gave him the engine number and very politely asked him if he had anyone to dispose of it for us. His answer was, Coal it and put the fire out. I don t know how to do that. How long have you been on the job? A few years, but it s. I ll tell you what, he butted in without giving me a chance to explain. Ask your driver to help you to clean the fire and I will send a driver to coal your engine, and put it on a shed road. But he does not know either. In the background I heard him say, What kind of clowns have they sent us now, they don t even know how to clean the fire and coal it up. 34

35 It s an oil burner, I said quite loudly, and there was a stunning silence before he said. Oh, all right, just hang on there for a while we should have an instructor about somewhere, he will sort it out for you, those engines are a bit tricky. It was obvious that he knew no more about the engine than we did, and we knew nothing at all. No problem though, because very soon a young driver climbed swiftly onto the footplate, and he relieved Jim of our responsibility just as it started to blow off great clouds of steam from the safety valves, and a mass of horrible Brown smoke emerged from the chimney. The young driver turned out to be one of us, yes from our own shed at Bacup. Harry Lofthouse had been specially discharged from the Royal Engineers, and he was now the Inspector in charge of oil burning locomotives, at Newton Heath Shed. Then we learned that everyone else who worked the oil burning locomotives had been on a week's course with a fully trained Inspector, and we were the only two untrained enginemen who had ever worked one on the main line, what a mess we had been in and for the first ten minutes did not even know it. Jonah s Pipe. Harry Taylor 2 was middle aged, but more than a bit quick and this usually meant trouble for the person firing for him. It is said that a person begins to look like his dog, and Harry was a fox terrier man. He was a genuine type of person, straight as a die and very good company despite the risks from his accident-prone abilities. His wife Lizzie had broken her arm when Harry was mending a rocking chair, or doing something with it and I am not going any further into that little gem of a story! He had also got his coat fast in the handle of the turntable at Newton Heath, and his own powerful twelve stone body was no match at all for the turntable once he had got it moving with a hundred and twenty ton locomotive on it. The result was several broken ribs, as the handle whirled him round like a broken rag doll. My very first little episode with Harry almost cost me my right arm when the signalman put the tablet -hook down instead of the clip at Wardleworth. Then the second one cost me my breakfast and my mother s enamel dish, because Harry opened the regulator without warning and the dish with my bacon and egg was drawn into the fire. One morning Harry was paired up with Herbert Symes, and here was another great character. Herbert was as slow and ponderous as Harry was fast, and this particular morning they were on Control Orders at Rochdale Station. They were chatting with another set of men on the same mission, and the other driver and fireman received orders from the Fat Controller to travel on the next passenger train to Sowerby Bridge and relieve a goods train bound for Liverpool. The passenger train drew into Rochdale Station and the driver and his fireman got into the front portion of it. Herbert still chatting away followed them into the compartment and placed his ample bulk down on the cushions, he had seen Harry jump into the back of the train but as he was busily chatting away he had decided that the front of the train was far more interesting. Herbert never stopped talking and they arrived at Sowerby Bridge before he realised that Harry was not on the train. The driver telephoned the controller to inform him that he had arrived and he really got told off in no uncertain terms. How many firemen do you need? What do you mean? said the driver. I mean how many have you got? Well there is another one here said the harassed driver. Put him on the phone. said the controller. 35

36 Confidently, Herbert Symes here, my mate seems to be a bit lost. He is not lost, it is you who's lost, you had better catch the next train back to Rochdale because that is where he is, said the controller. What had happened was that Harry had been told by the controller to wait at Rochdale and relieve an empty wagon train going into Yorkshire? Herbert had been too busy in his conversation to notice that Harry had jumped into the train at the back end, and then he had jumped out of the other side to buy a paper at the bookstall. When the train departed, so did Bert and he did not move at all until he gone all the way to Sowerby Bridge. On a later occasion I would be teamed up with Harry and we would stay together for most of the day, but not all of it by any means. We did manage to relieve our designated train at Hebden Bridge, and all was going very well indeed. A good engine, a clean fire and plenty of best quality Yorkshire coal in the tender. There was also quite a lot of the same behind us in the form of fifty wagons, each containing ten tons of the very best coal heading for Liverpool and the export market. All went exceedingly well until we got to Heywood, and approached the steep bank or down gradient at Broadfield. There we would stop at the top of the gradient, and I would pin down the side brakes of about seven of the wagons at the front of the train, and our guard would do the same at the back, or would he? It was a lovely day, and Harry was leaning over the side of the engine, all at once there was a shout, Blast. Harry had dropped his pipe, and then he just slammed on the brakes and jumped off the engine. Looking back I could see him disappearing in the distance, as the engine started skidding with the brakes fully locked on. There was nothing that I could do to recover the situation, and even Harry could not catch this train. The five hundred-ton train of coal, plus the one hundred and twenty--ton locomotive was completely out of control in the hands of a novice, sixteen-year-old youth. No way could the guard or I get a single side brake pinned down as the top of the steep gradient at Broadfield loomed ever nearer. Winding on the tender handbrake made no difference at all, then I tried easing the engine vacuum brake off and reapplying it to regain control, but that time was long past. Through Broadfield Station we went, even faster as we reached the top of the incline. It was by now most certainly a run-away, and I did not even have time to look back towards the guard in his little brake-van as it dangled at the rear of this rocking, speeding ever faster, load of impending disaster. I was blowing the whistle signal for runaway train, blowing for a clear road through Bury Knowsley Street Station at the bottom of the Bank, and praying that there was nothing in the station platform. Once again the Guardian Angel was there dead on time, and the signalman responded as well. His station signal was off, and the distant as well, it had gone Green almost as we shot into the platform at the near end and careered through the station towards Bolton, at the full uncontrollable speed only obtained by a massive load running away down a very steep hill. We rocketed through Bury Hollow, a notorious place for breaking loose with a goods train due to its dip in the middle; this usually caused the wagon links to break if the slack was taken up too quickly. My train was going much too fast to break loose, there was no slack to be taken up in the hollow this time as the train shot out of it in one solid lump. 36

37 There was only a little change in pace as we careered on towards Bolton, but soon I could feel control returning to the engine, and I saw that the signals were set to put us inside the loop line at Bradley Fold. I had obviously run out of mainline and this was my very last chance to stop the train before it hit the buffers at the end of the loop, this also meant that there was most probably another train in front of us, and not far away. I did manage to stop the train almost at the end of the loop, most fortunately before it smashed into the buffers and the signal box. The signalman had done all he could to assist and he could do no more, he had no option but to close his points and prevent our train from running back onto the main line. On coming to a stand, I was joined by a very pale- faced guard, and also by the signalman who had called to enquire about the state of our health? We were both very shaken up, and we realised that we were both very lucky to be still alive. A passenger train must have been immediately behind us, because quite soon it arrived, and as it passed slowly by, there was Harry leaning out of the open window, thumbs up and looking more than a little sheepish. Soon he arrived on the scene, full of apologies and he did look quite shocked himself. The journey continued with no more incidents, and for once I was very pleased to be relieved by another train crew at Bolton. This would usually have been a bit of a comedown, and a loss of overtime, but today I was just glad to get off the footplate and go home. I do not know to this day how he managed to explain, if he did, his actions in abandoning his train and his crew, just to retrieve his filthy old pipe. In fact I never heard a thing about it from anyone, not even Harry, that did seem to be the normal way in such matters as I had noticed previously, unlike Henry on the ten eight York express I did have good conversations with Harry Taylor 2 but never anything about runaway trains or Broadfield Bank, and I most certainly never mentioned it at home. Although all these wonderful things happened more than half a century ago and there are no accurate official records available regarding the enginemen of the branch lines, or the destruction of our wonderful transport system by Dr Richard Beeching. The men employed on the London Midland and Scottish Railway Branch Lines of the Rossendale Valley are not forgotten, and I have recorded all of them to the best of my ability, and memory. A Little Bit Special. George Tomlinson was a little bit different from any of the other spare drivers, quite a bit different than any body else really, and herewith just a little of his story, the remainder would require another book to do him justice. The first time that I saw George I was not impressed, yet I soon began to realise that there was a lot more to this man than could be seen on a first appearance. Unlike Billy Russell who was as clean on Friday as he was on Monday, happy go lucky George was the exact opposite. He was just as Black on Monday after about an hour s work, as he was on Friday. Billy could climb all over the insides of an engine to oil its working parts, the motion to the more knowledgeable and he would not have a speck of oil or dirt on his overalls. Billy was immaculate, George s overalls if you squeezed them hard enough, you could probably have oiled another engine with the surplus. George would wear his long railway issued overcoat even on the hottest summer s day, What will keep the cold out will keep the heat out, said George in the middle of a heat wave. 37

38 He was very clever at fixing mechanical things and he could make almost any of the parts that he needed to do so, for instance he came to work on an ancient motorcycle of about 1927 vintage. Most people would have had to abandon it years ago and probably some one had already done just that, but not George, he kept it going just as sweet as the day that it was made. George would gently push down the kick -start and the bike started up, usually first time. Then he would say to anyone watching, Start it and you can have it. They could kick at it all day long, but it would only start for George. You would see him riding sedately along, pumping away at a little pump on the petrol tank until a little puff of Blue smoke appeared at the tail pipe, denoting that the engine had received sufficient oil for a few more miles and he could relax. The very first time that I saw George, I was having a meal and a bit of a natter in the mess room, together with a few of the other passed cleaners who were also having their meal break. We were all seated at the long, well scrubbed pine table that would easily seat twentyfour persons. Luckily for me, and one or two of the other lads who had arrived at work prepared to go out on a firing job we had the usual bottle of cold tea for warming on the engine hot plate over the fire. The more unfortunate ones today had developed the modern practice of brewing up in an enamel can before leaving the shed on a firing job. The main difference between the bottled tea without milk, and the tea being drunk out of the cans, was that my mother had brewed my tea at home, and it was made with (Corporation Pop) water from our tap. The lads drinking from the brand new enamel cans had just brewed up from the large cast iron kettle with its highly polished brass tap. This kettle was always kept boiling away on the enormous mess-room fire, and for months the lads had been complaining that the brass tap seemed to be making the tea a bit greasy. They had spent quite a lot of time cleaning it with the usual sand and hot water, to no avail. Quite a few of the lads were actually drinking their tea when into the mess-room came George; he was on shed duties as shed fireman. This meant that he and his driver would stable all the engines as they returned to the shed. The engines would all be topped up with coal at the new electric hopper on the coal stage, and the shed-men would drive them on to the designated shed roads to be filled with water ready for the next tour of duty, and then carefully place them into position inside the shed. The passed cleaners absolutely loved to be on this job, because if they were capable, their driver usually allowed them to drive all night long. This was from seven p.m. until three am, no wonder that they never wanted to go home at the finish of duty. No one took the slightest notice of George as he went straight to the kettle, placed his brand new, enamel brew can under the gleaming brass tap and made his tea. Then he sat down at the long, pine, well scrubbed, mess-room table, and joined in with the chit chat going on there. He slowly drank his tea, and then he went back to the large, cast iron kettle with the gleaming brass tap. There was absolute silence; shock even as George lifted the lid of the kettle and unhooked a piece of string from the knob on top of the kettle lid. Slowly he raised the string from deep inside the kettle, and he took out a string of black puddings. He carried them back to the table and proceeded to demolish them with great gusto, to the accompaniment of absolute silence. The mystery was finally solved, and everyone stopped drinking tea immediately, except for those who had brought bottles. The day after, a small domestic type of kettle appeared, and George was left in sole charge of the old one. 38

39 George, although he was approaching middle age, spent most of his working days firing, and at this time he had not had a lot of driving practice. When he was occasionally on a driving job firing for him was likely to be a bit like hard work. He could use up an awful lot of steam, coal, and energy. The energy of course was ours not his, but what he lacked in finesse he more than made up for in friendly entertainment value. George never wore socks, just a pair of clogs preserved to a maximum of softness with engine oil; they were most certainly waterproof, just like his overalls. He had a magnificent set of teeth, not white, but ivory coloured and strong as steel. George would put a pair of kippers on the firing shovel and cook them for a couple of seconds on the fire. Then he would place each of the kippers between two slices of bread, without butter, and the flashing teeth would rip them to pieces and down would go the lot, head, tail, bones and all. After the fish came the desert, salad usually, with two pieces of bread in his hand off he would go into the nearest hedgerow, to return very quickly with a bunch of herbs, tender dandelion leaves or anything else he could find already on his bread. Full of iron and minerals he would say, as the sandwich very quickly followed the kippers down his throat. Sometimes we would have the good fortune to work one of the special trains to Blackpool, mostly during Bacup Holiday week, or occasionally Saturday evenings during the autumn and early winter, four ten p.m. from Bacup and about midnight return from Blackpool. With only a few coaches, we occasionally had to use one of our own ancient Class 3F Aspinall freight engines, like old faithful or This really was hard work, and with no proper cab for protection we would return to Bacup as black as the coal itself. To be able to work long distance passenger trains with them, really showed just how good these old engines still were. More often we would use one of our Class 4 Stanier passenger tank engines like 2619 or 2620 and with these engines it was much easier, even though we were sometimes fully loaded. With larger trains of up to twenty coaches, we would have the use of a borrowed engine from Newton Heath, usually the very powerful Black Five. One Bacup Holidays, I did have the pleasure of working a Blackpool special with George, he arrived for duty in his usual attire, it was a blazing hot day in July and he was complete in his long black overcoat. He had no socks, just highly polished clogs, clean overalls and he was wearing the usual highly polished, railway issued peak cap, and he too was polished up, mint clean. We had been allocated one of the best of our Stanier, class four passenger tank engines, 2620, and she was in good order. Away we went, she steamed and ran just like brand new and George excelled himself. We duly arrived at Blackpool in good time, and our passengers; all locals from Bacup and the Rossendale Valley left us at Blackpool North Station. After we had stabled our coaches in the sidings and our engine on the locomotive shed, we were free for the evening until it was time for us to collect the engine from the shed and the coaches from the sidings, then we would back our train into the platform for the return journey at midnight. George said that he was going to have a walk down the promenade, and I decided to join another young fireman, and we went to have a look at the pleasure beach and the shops. Inevitably, we did in time stroll along the sea front and we did go for a look at the sea. There he was stretched out on the sands, a newspaper was covering the top of his head, his mouth was wide open showing those magnificent teeth and he was fast asleep. Passers by were not to know that he was spotlessly clean just a few hours previously, and that the Black was only coal dust, accumulated from driving them to the seaside for their own well-earned break. 39

40 There he was large as life itself, the only man in all of the country to be wearing his railway issued overcoat in a heat wave. We didn t disturb him, because there was still plenty of time to wait before departure, so we went on past him, and waited for him to return to Blackpool North Engine Shed. He joined me in good time on the footplate of our engine, and soon we had got it ready for the journey home. Waiting for our passengers to board the train in the platform, it was obvious to us that they were pleased to see us, and the cushions were very inviting to them. Many of them quickly took off their shoes and settled down, some of them; especially the children were fast asleep even before we left the station. The passengers had enjoyed a good day, I had enjoyed a good day, and George too in his own inimitable way had also had a very good day. Now back on the footplate he was no longer out of place, even in his overcoat, because he was the engine driver, the King of his own little castle. Why are there no longer men of this individual quality to be seen in modern industry today? George could do almost anything in a practical, unique manner, and he did it his way! All of his charges were perfectly safe in his hands, happy holiday- makers every one, mothers, fathers and their children as they thundered through the night, back to their homes in the Rossendale Valley. From George could be learned contentment in life, and the value of foods, vitamins, minerals, calcium from the bones of fish, iron etc from plants and natural foods like bran and sour milk, long before yogurt became so popular. One of the more palatable foods enjoyed on the footplate was demonstrated by Charlie Taylor, another driver and a great character in his own right. The delicacy was a hot grapefruit; Charlie would place the grapefruit behind the steam, elbow pipe on the footplate as soon as he boarded the locomotive, and by lunchtime it would be piping hot and bursting with juice, absolutely delicious. He also used to bring some fantastic, home made cake to work, huge slices, and he was never greedy with it. Charlie was not married, and he referred to the baker of this delicious cake as, Her at our house. He was always good fun, and he used to love to be the centre of attraction, performing a few conjuring tricks with cards etc, and he was quite good at it. He also used to pull out of his waistcoat pocket a huge turnip watch, or sometimes a smaller one that played several tunes and chimed the hours, quite a rarity in those times of luxury shortages. He was always very good humoured and he played all sorts of tricks on the shed lads for a laugh, until one night he called at the local pub the Holt Arms after finishing his tour of duty. Charlie had a special engine driver s lunch box; black with highly polished brass handles and hinges. It had a compartment for wrong line orders and essential papers. This was also the very same box that, Her who lives at our house filled with delicious, home -made cake each day. Charlie provided plenty of entertainment until well after closing time, and then he wended his way home to Her who lives at our house. She must have been a little more than that, because one of the lads had filled his special, engine driver s black, metal lunch box with its highly polished brass handles and hinges, with empty pale ale bottles. The good lady must have had quite a lot to say about his visit to the Holt Arms, because he was absolutely furious about the beer bottles in his box, and he did not speak to any of the lads who were in the pub for weeks. The shed lads got the blame unfairly, because they did not do it. Finally, after more than half a century I shall keep the secret no longer, my long time friend Colin was the son of Mrs. Cant the licensee of the Holt Arms. 40

41 He put the pale ale bottles in Charlie s highly polished, engineman s metal box with the brass handles, and the compartment for wrong line orders and paperwork A Slight Misunderstanding. Early one morning, four of us went by passenger train to Newton Heath; there was Edwin, Tommy Burke and myself, the other one was probably Jimmy Brown. We were all about eighteen years of age, except for Tommy who was about twenty six, and he looked much more mature than the rest of us although Edwin was actually the most senior of the little group. On arrival at Newton Heath Shed, we all reported at the same time to the shed foreman and I was told, Go into the mess-room and team up with Joe Kinardly, and work the Oldham Road shunting pilot. On going into the crowded mess-room filled with both pipe and cigarette smoke, there was a deadly silence as I said very politely, Which of you is Mr Kinardly please. There were a few sly grins, and a thin, sour looking driver of about fifty years of age gave a grunt that may have been of recognition and then he walked straight passed me, and I followed on behind. What a day I am going to have were my foremost thoughts, well endorsed when I saw the engine? It was one of those fussy little saddle tanks with no room at all to work in. Most of the available footplate space was taken up with the coal, because there was no bunker, or indeed anywhere else to store it. After about an hour of boring shunting, and moving wagons about all over the sidings with no conversation at all from Joe, the penny finally dropped. At every request from the shunter s regarding the work, there came the reply, I can hardly do this, or I can hardly do that. What on earth his name really was, I never did find out. The other lads had been allocated very similar jobs, and they were also shunting away in nearby sidings on the other side of the main line at the top of Miles Platting Bank, but of Tommy there was no sign at all. Then one after another we saw him on the main line, and he was actually driving a Black Five. He drove past us in fine style, with his hand on the regulator of the giant locomotive that was far bigger and more powerful than anything based at our own shed, although we had worked them quite often on Control Orders in and out of Yorkshire. He acknowledged us mere mortals with a cheeky blast on the engine whistle. And with a roar from the chimney top, and the clatter of wheels from the empty wagon train behind him he was gone. We had to wait until the following morning for his story and here it is. Like us he had reported to the Shed Foreman, and Tommy had said, I am one of the spare men sent here on loan, have you a job for me yet? The foreman said, Yes there is an empty wagon train going into Yorkshire, can you do it? Tommy replied with his usual confidence, Certainly can. The foreman then said, Team up with one of our men, he is getting the engine ready, so you should get on your way pretty quickly. Tommy was directed to his engine, and he greeted his new mate, a young man of about his own age, possibly a little bit older. It was a common practice for compatible engine crews to share the duties, and to work together. Some times the driver would do the fireman s work and allow an experienced fireman to drive. These two got on like a house on fire, and soon everything was done, the steel monster was oiled, the coal was stacked and made safe so that none would fall off, fire irons and tools checked, and the tender filled to the top with water. 41

42 The sanders were filled with sand, checked and working, ash pan clean, smoke box checked and empty, and finally, the footplate cleaned, oiled over and polished, these two most certainly knew their job. The fire was bright and clean, there was a good head of steam, the boiler was three quarters full of water and now they were ready to go. OK mate, take her away when you are ready, said the Newton Heath man. What a great bloke, thought Tommy as he grew another inch, and he gave the usual warning whistle before opening the regulator and moving off. Away they went down to the sidings, and by now his regulation cap was full to overflowing, with his head. Down in the sidings the guard was ready; he had been waiting for some considerable time for an engine. As soon as the engine arrived with these two very enthusiastic young enginemen in charge it was very speedily coupled to a very long train of empty wagons, and they were away. Off they went, passed us in seventh heaven, no one ever did it better, through Miles Platting, Middleton, Moston, Castleton and Rochdale. All familiar home ground to Tommy, he knew every siding and every signal like the back of his own hand having been firing goods trains in and out of Yorkshire almost every day for about two years. Sowerby Bridge was about the limit of Tommy s road knowledge, and on leaving Rochdale he was beginning to be a little bit apprehensive, so he said, I don t know my road much further, you had better take over soon. I don t know it either, said the Newton Heath man. Despite the heat of the glorious day, Tommy felt a sudden chill in the air, You are the driver, said Tommy. No I am not, said the Newton Heath man. Bloody Hell! I thought you were, said a shocked and very worried Tommy. He was very wise for his years, and he knew that they were in a very serious situation. He was soon on the ball, with the problem solved in a manner worthy of his very agile brain. I am going to whistle to be put inside at the next loop-line, and when we stop put the handbrake hard on, and I will get on the phone and tell control that I do not know the road any further. You tell the guard the same thing, and if they send a driver to conduct us further, just keep your mouth shut. If they send a set of men to relieve us just get off quick, in fact just try and keep up with me. A driver and a fireman did in fact arrive in due course, and they relieved a very relieved Tommy and his mate, so to speak. I later established from another close colleague that this situation was not unique and it had actually happened to others with good results as they were swiftly passed out as steam engine drivers. Unfortunately the good results did not apply to the very deserving Tommy, because Bacup Locomotive Shed was about to be follow the same line of direction as the Rochdale to Bacup Branch Line; it was closed, and the staff made redundant. Dedicated, loyal extremely specialised employees were discarded to the four winds, and their locomotives some almost new, were scrapped irrespective of their cash value on the world markets, British Rail had no use for them and no effort at all was made to recover their real value. The consequences of the railways failure actually caused many industries to follow suit, miners, cotton operatives rapidly became unemployed and whole villages swiftly deteriorated, as the work forces migrated to more attractive areas. The unfortunate situation was made even worse due to the mass immigration of foreign workers at exactly the same time as the National loss of railway jobs, and the beginning of the subsidy exploitation that was to last into, and well beyond the next Millennium. 42

43 The Princess restored once again to her former glory in 2009, the powerful turbines intact and working perfectly, but only by the magic of the computer, and of course a little imagination that includes the ghostly presence of The Men Of Steel, their ancient habitat revisited. 26E Bacup Engine Shed; still in working order Shed Foreman Fred Wilson s Office is on the left. 43

44 Vandalised, and the end of boyhood dreams for all time soon after closure. Not much to see now in the new Millennium, but the smoke blackened stones are the only identifiable remains of Fred Wilson s office and 26E, the loco shed itself. And below is the footpath down which the Enginemen travelled to duty for more than a hundred years, servicing an efficient transport system for two world wars even in the blackout. 44

45 This is a Black Five, similar to the one driven on the main ManchesterYorkshire Main Line by passed cleaner Tommy Burke, in an earlier story. King Henry, the original idea of Henry in Thomas the tank engine books. The rhyme and reason of writing, The Golden Age of Steam. 45

46 I began writing many years ago for a purpose; not to make money but to record the lives of The Men of Steel, enginemen of the valley who had done so much for their country and it s war effort; only to be rejected and made redundant by a greedy government who only cared for the tremendous railway assets of valuable property and the cash subsidies available. The total being completely uncountable, but the annual subsidy has never been less than fifty million pounds per year, even as high as one hundred and fifty million pounds in more recent times. Starting more than forty years ago I began recording the fascinating details of the everyday life of our local footplate men, using a police report style of abbreviated writing chosen for one obvious reason, it was the only manner in which I was competent or knew anything about. Over the years I progressed from the inherited police method of Pencil and paper to a type writer. Then an electric one, and onto an electronic typewriter with a bit of memory, followed by a more modern word processor, and eventually a basic Windows 98 computer, which in fact still works perfectly well, while three more modern ones have long departed. As the years rolled by, the work had to be retyped, and retyped, the photos had to be improved until finally the words The End really meant just that. At this stage I had to decide what to do with the final product, and how many of the reams and reams of abandoned printed paper should follow the redundant office equipment to The Stacksteads tip. Having got this far with a never-never ending project it was decided to place a copy of the first work The Golden Age of Steam in a safe place, in memory of the Enginemen mentioned in the book, and for the benefit of their surviving family members, who I eventually discovered to be very few in numbers. The safest place was most probably a Library; and the Library at Buckingham Palace appeared to be perfect for the purpose, so having already had encouragement from Her Majesty The Queen to write the book, and as she had already given permission to include a few short stories and a very rare photo concerning the Royal Family, I asked her to accept a copy for her library, and she did that immediately, so that is where the names and exploits of the enginemen of 26E Bacup Locomotive Shed and the staff of Bacup Station are now recorded and preserved, and this is how it was very carefully achieved; and I bet you thought I was kidding? As Fred said did you like that? 46

47 Louis Armstrong and the author, Manchester The End. 47

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