Buttons Index

John Wild - Memories

This is the first time that I have come across this site on the Internet and on looking have spotted a shot of myself in the cab of Battle of Britain 34064. I am now 66 and started on the railway at Nine Elms when I left school in 1959. I lived at home with my parents in Clapham just off the High Street. There were a lot of railwayman living roundabout, my mate who lived opposite, his dad was a firelighter/steamraiser at Stewarts Lane who came from Doncaster.

Another guy I knew his dad was a driver at the Elms. His name was Finch and when I passed for firing was with him a few times. One incident I can remember, was when I was cleaning. An engine came in and Jack Pardy the cleaners forman, an old boy sent two or three of us around to a MN or WC that had just arrived on the shed. He told us it had hit three cows at speed and it had smashed them to pieces.The sides of the engine were covered in blood and lumps of meat, but somehow I got the job of going underneath. I got hold of a canvas jacket used for oiling up the inside motions and went into the pit and climbed up inside and sat on top of the rods chucking down bits of cow. I can still smell the smell of cow dung. Can you imagine a lad of 15 doing that today?

I was cleaning for a year and passed for firing it was at first on the shed shunter an E4 or Drummond tank/preparing engines disposal etc. One class of engine I found quite hard cleaning fires was the Lord Nelsons with their long boxes, and handling those long fire irons - I only weighed about about 10 stone. I think they were gone by about 1962. I can remember the shunter who worked the table his name was Vic, and he also cooked the pies in Harringtons pie and mash shop over the road in Wandsworth Road. At the time I did hear a story regarding a young lad who was daydreaming and standing on the edge of the table when it was turning an engine and was knocked into the pit and crushed to death by one of the table wheels but I can't say this was true only what I was told by old Bill Thain who was the shed shunter driver. He was nicknamed 'two left feet' because he bought some shoes off someone and they were both left feet.

I can recall most of the names I see on the website and worked with Reg Knight he was a young driver then and he lived in a railway house at Raynes Park near the level crossing and he drove a three wheeler car in which we nearly turned over near Vauxhall and we could not stop laughing. I can remember working with Bill Turner, Bert Hooker, Ernie Harvey. I was with Ernie one day and can recall running into Woking on the down side and coming to a stand and this guy came running up the stairs. I was standing in the door next to Ernie and he looked up and said "where's this one going John?" Ernie, in his loud voice, said "how you know my name's John?" The guy said "I guessed". Ernie said "then guess where this f*** train's going" and slammed the window shut laughing. We did laugh when we set off. When we got going I spotted this guy in the compartment next to the tender and told Ernie. He said "turn on that bloody tender spray and give him a damn good soaking" which I did. It gave us a laugh all day.

Another mate was Bob Jackson, he lived in Magdeline Road at Earlsfield and I think he came to Nine Elms from Stewarts Lane. There was a turn out of Nine Elms goods yard it was known as the 12.45 goods - thats a.m. - every night during the week to, I think, Basingstoke. This particular night we had a Standard and we left the yard and chugged away we were the other side of Woking when a giant piece of coal got jammed and I tried for ages to break it up with a pick but it was to big. Bob said "let's open the tender door and try to get it out." On knocking up the clips the doors flew open and the cab was filled with those brickets which`they had started to use. I filled the box and he dropped the lever over to burn the stuff up and by the time we reached Basing we had cleared the footplate.

I can remember coming up from somewhere with Bob - Salisbury or Bournmouth - and hitting the crossovers at Woking with the clock stuck at 100 mph, I was sat on the seat but really had to hang on and I could feel my lungs shaking. I have always remenbered that.

Another driver I was with was Reuben Hendicott. I think he came to Nine Elms from Bournmouth to get his job as a driver. He must have been in his forties. He would always let you have a go driving and he never got flustered. One night we were going down with the 12.45 goods and between around Fleet and Winchfield I was standing on the fireman's side on one of those big black goods engines which were open to the elements looking out the side and when I turned around, he was gone. I can't begin to say how I felt alone with this bloody long goods train with the guard at the other end. I crossed over to the driver's side and looked out up and down the train. On turning around I heard a knocking and it was Reuben tapping the glass on the fireman's side. He had climbed out on the driver's side and held on and walked all round the engine to the fireman's side. I guess we were doing about 35-40 mph.

Another night we came up with a boat train from Southampton Docks and Reuben said to me we were booked to stop at Basing and then fast to Waterloo, but as we approached Winchester at a fair speed I suddenly noticed the water level in the gauge glasses coming down and then felt the brakes coming on. The people on the platform had started to move forward with cases etc but then realised we were not going to stop and we sped through the platform at a fast speed before coming to a stand. The guard had dropped the handle when he realised we were not stopping. I had to climb down and begin the long walk back to meet the guard. The engine was blowing off loudly with a boxfull of fire, the guard said to me "what about bloody Winchester?" I said "the next stop was Basing". He said "he needs to read his bloody notices". The company had to lay on a train, I was told, to take passengers back to Winchester who wanted to get off there. I think he got a warning notice to read the workings.

I can't remember the last driver I was with before I left the railways but that we were in number 2 link and his name was Jim - a nice old guy not far off retirement. I spent a day over at Old Oak Common learning how to operate the Stones steam heating boiler on the "Warships" that had come over from the Western. After that Jim and I were down at Salisbury one day and had our grub and walked to the up side platform to await our train expecting a MN but what should appear at the country end of the platform but a Warship. Even worse the next thing to appear out of the mist was, Mr Bollan the footplate inspector explaining that the MN had failed wherever and they had laid on the Warship. We duly left Salisbury and headed back to London with Mr Bollon/Bollam in the cab. Coming up I sat there and thought is this not for me. I left the railways a few weeks later, but I still have memories of a good laugh but could be very hard work on a proper railway.

John Wild

Peter Roberts has emailed:
In response to the email sent by John Wild, I can confirm that the accident involving a young cleaner at the turntable to be true. At the time he was the senior cleaner. He was known as nipper, his real name is lost somewhere in my memory. He was a friendly, enthusiastic and very sensible young lad, he was the only cleaner who still had money and cigarettes on a Thursday, that was considered to be remarkable. As senior cleaner he would, on occasions, be required to do other jobs around the shed. One of those jobs was to assist on the turntable, normally to operate the "catch", a large lever operated bolt that secured the table. On the tragic day of his death he was given the task of sweeping out the turntable pit. There was a small stairway leading to the pit and he was standing halfway down waiting for a Lord Nelson class to complete its turn. Unfortunately he was looking the wrong way and the table came up behind him and, either the table or the overhang of the loco, knocked him onto the table rail and he was killed. It was a tremendous shock for all of us, like me he was fifteen years old. All the cleaners attended the funeral, the cortege consisted several Hurst's and an old British Railways lorry stuffed full of cleaners. The steps leading to the turntable pit were boarded up and every time I went to the turntable and saw those boarded steps I thought of Nipper and wondered how he managed to have fags and money Thursday. God bless you Nipper, you're not forgotten.

Return to Memories index
Site sponsored/maintained by SVSFilm © 2011 ... Go to SVS Film Index
Go to Nine Elms Main Index - "Light to Loco"