NEAR MISSES & OTHER INCIDENTS by Robin Bell16th September 1961. Sign on at 6.40am, Spl 2/Spl 36 with Driver Bill Turner.
As the 1961 Summer timetable had been extended by one week everything was worked by special diagrams. We were booked down to Salisbury and back, strangely on this day all trains had engine changes at Salisbury, so we worked down then came off and went light to shed. After PNB we went and found our other engine for the return working, Special 36, that turned out to be Class MN, No. 35004 'Cunard White Star'. We prepared the engine for the Up journey and left the shed at the appropriate time and proceeded through the station into the Up engine neck to await the arrival of the Up Exeter service.
We waited and waited, and waited some more and eventually the Exeter arrived headed by an un-rebuilt 'West Country', 20 minutes late, the cause as you might have guessed (hydraulic reverser not holding up) the engine came off and we backed down onto the train I didn't hang about, coupled on a bit sharp-ish, as you do, with brake test completed and signal cleared we were off, being a special timetable the timing was slack being 93 minutes for the 83 miles to Waterloo. We set off with 180 lbs pressure showing on the gauge holding steady despite my best efforts, never the less we were going like a good'un, on the approach to Worting Jct. Bill shut the regulator to coast round the corner to the junction and immediately the safety valves lifted, with the pressure gauge still showing 180 lbs pressure! Odd I thought, then on closer inspection I found that the pressure gauge had been turned off at the manifold so I turned it on and we immediately had 250 psi.
We were still going well with a clear road all way we arrived at Waterloo just 1 minute late! What we had achieved in fact was that we had covered the 83 miles from Salisbury in 74 minutes actual time, which was a bit quick, the only casualty was the left hand small end was a bit hot (you couldn't put your hand on it). Talking of small ends coming up one morning with Dan Law between Fleet and Farnborough he came over to me and says that small end is getting hot, 'Can't you hear it'! he said, 'No' I replied, certainly not with all the other noises going on. Eventually I did filter out the other noises and could just about hear it squeaking. I was quite impressed that Danny Law could hear it from his side in the first place!
We prepared Class WC No. 34033 'Chard' and then ran light to Waterloo for the 11.10 am Bournemouth. As an end of summer Saturday working we were booked to follow the 11.00 am 'Atlantic Coast Express' and the 11.05 am relief thereto. Everything was going well until we were approaching Brookwood when Bill suddenly dropped the handle (made a full brake application) I went over to his side of the footplate just in time to see us going past a Red colour-light signal at some speed. I immediately went back to my side to see around the curve, observing that Brookwood's 'Home' signal was also at 'Danger'. Just in front of that the 11.05 am 'relief' to the A.C.E. was just restarting from the 'Starter' signal. By this time our train was under control and as we neared the 'Home' signal it cleared as did the 'Starter' as we approached it, we both looked anxiously at the signal-box and the signalman waved and we acknowledged him. Bill had got away with that one, just!
But wasn't quite so lucky when going down with the 5.30 pm one Monday evening in October between Wimbledon and Raynes Park. He was doing 60 mph over a 20 mph PW slack (relaying) and was reported by the signal-man. He was subsequently seen by Inspector Pemberton and reminded of his responsibilities.
My mate in the 'Pilot Gang', (No.2 link) Bill Anderson had the day off so I was with a junior driver for the day. We prepared Standard Class '5' No. 73021 a Western Region engine (painted in Brunswick Green incidentally) and surprisingly still retaining it's chime-whistle. We went light engine to Clapham Jct. (Windsor side) to await the arrival of our train off the South Eastern section, which subsequently arrived behind a Class '33' (Crompton). The train consisted of 2, 4-car CEP's, 1, 2-car HAP (returning to Eastleigh works to be fitted with AWS), 2 Camping coaches (bound for scrap) and a 20 ton brake-van, weighing in at something like 425 tons unfitted.
We eventually couple-on and set sail, via Point Pleasant Junction and the East Putney, but we didn't get too far, as we stalled (overloaded) half way up the bank, straddling the catch points on the incline, so no chance of setting back to have another go at it. Assistance was called for and was provided by another Standard Class '5' No. 73118, a good start to the day's proceedings! After this inauspicious start all was going well until we were approaching Winchester Junction where the 'Distant' was ON and with the steam brake hard on (engine and tender brake only remember) we were slowing but definitely not stopping, an eerie experience at any time! As we watched the road ahead in what seemed like slow-motion, a 3-car DMU approached from Winchester City going to Alton and crossed over from Up to the Down and then onto the Mid Hants - Watercress line stopping foul of the Main line to pick up the single line token from the Signalman. Although we were slowing appreciably we were still not going to stop! After what seemed like an age the Alton proceeded on it's way and just as we drew level with the Down 'Home' signal it cleared! Phew that was a bit close!!!
Copyright 2008 Robin Bell
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