END OF STEAM - HAPPY DAYS?
We received this interesting question from Roland Elworthy:
Anyway, I have a question for the men who worked at 70A if I may please…. How was the general mood towards the end of steam? I don't mean from the point of view of job losses, that obviously would have been depressing, but seeing engines and shed in such a run-down condition. Was it a case of being sad to see steam go, or more a case of thinking "great, no more dirty, back breaking work and a warm EMU cab to look forward to"?
Jim Lester has written:
THE END OF STEAM
The impending closure of Nine Elms depot that had existed in the area of Nine Elms Lane since 1838 was not lost on many of those that were employed there! Indeed both the fitting and shed staff were not easily going to be accommodated with the end of steam.
However there was a need to preserve employment for those in the line of promotion (footplate grade) many of who would be transferred to a new mixed traction depot at Waterloo. Some would use their priority redundant status to move on to other depots of their choice not affected by the end of steam.
No, none of them looked forward to warm clean cabs as you suggest, those men didn't exist, they would have moved on years before. For those men left at the very end there was a mixture of 'emotions', a way of life and employment that was changing forever throughout the country.
In October 1965 I passed my steam driving examination, realising a boyhood dream. However time was running out for the locomotives that I loved and I actually left Nine Elms before the end of steam in 1967. The locomotives were fast deteriorating in 1966 and the high standards of maintenance were compromised by their impending fate. It was an extremely difficult time for the Southern's dedicated Enginemen and the Fitting Staff alike, perhaps all too much for me. After discussing the future with my driver, friend and mentor Alf, I took his advice and reluctantly moved on. The best days had gone alas and as young Motorman, now working at Windsor & Eton Riverside depot, I watched the demise of the steam era that I had cherished since my Ian Allan ABC spotter days in the early fifties.
Jim Lester – 70A
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