Buttons Index

More memories of work on the footplate by Robin Bell

Handing over at Salisbury

As I remember it the hand over protocol at Salisbury was, the arriving Fireman put the pipe in and took water, whilst the relieving Fireman pushed the coal forward with the assistance of a Cleaner from Salisbury booked on specially for that purpose for both up and down arrivals.

As a London Fireman, arriving, if you didn't have sufficient fire in the box (or what the Exeter Fireman considered enough) you would always get the moan - "we've got Honiton bank to go up" - bearing in mind that Honiton was some 70 miles distant. Yet when you relieved on the up, they had run down from Semley 11 miles, and let the fire shake down into what can only be described as in s**t order, and we had a dead start to climb up to Amesbury 8 miles. But that didn't count, we weren't going up"Honiton". I think there may have been some animosity between some Fireman at Exmouth Jct. who were of 1942 seniority and the likes of me being born in 1942, doing the same Mainline work, but that was their problem, they could have moved depots had they wanted to. Talking of Exmouth Junctions top link they had (in my view) a strange rostering arrangement that is to say a different turn of duty every day starting with early turn on Monday and finishing with a late turn on Friday and so on through out the link.

The principal return that we did in the mornings was the 7.30am ex Exeter arrival 11.8 in Waterloo.

Thursday 5th October 1961

This morning was memorable inasmuch as we were to work the 7.30 ex Exeter from Salisbury (Exeter Loco duty No.525.). We were in the mess room at the London end of the island platform, when the crew of the 6.30 Exeter came into the room led by an eccentric Driver from Exmouth Junction one Billings by name known as"Basher" for some reason, wearing a railway issue raincoat with an oil feeder stuffed in one pocket in his hand he carried a decrepit paper carrier bag in which were his sandwiches"unwrapped" along with his publications etc. and strangely a flare lamp. As the conversation warmed up, it transpired that the previous day he had worked the down Atlantic Coast Express with a newly outshopped rebuilt Merchant Navy 35009 Shaw Savill an Exeter engine, and he commented upon the fact that the speedometer had stayed on 100 mph for mile after mile after mile, and that the time taken for the 76 miles from Salisbury to Sidmouth Jct., for a"detachment" was 67 minutes, so it can be constrewed that Honiton bank didn't come into play at all that morning. In short he wasn't half going some with a 13 coach train. His Fireman said that he was "the hardest working fireman" anywhere between Waterloo and Exeter.

When our train arrived lo and behold what was the engine! none other than 35009 and for a change there was an excellent fire in the box, so as per protocol I shovelled the coal forward with the assistance of the Salisbury Cleaner, whilst the Exeter man had the pipe in.

When the station work was complete we got the tip to go, we set sail, and as befits an engine ex works No.9 got stuck in and went like a good'un, so I built on the decent fire I had been left with the engine made no bones about getting up to Amesbury and then onto Andover, as this train was Andover, Waterloo only. On arrival at Andover I looked around the Firebox with some satisfaction and thought to myself that'll take us to London, and so it was, I put my feet and we ran the 66 miles to London without another shovelful of coal on the fire - this is a good engine I thought to myself.

Engine Requirements 1959/60

What a useful phrase used by engine diagrammers when there was insufficient time for the disposal and preparation of an engine. We had a turn in the dual link at Nine Elms, where my mate Driver Ron Medlin was assigned 617 Electric duty, and I was assigned 470,232 and 491 duties P&D, sign on at 1.10pm for five consecutive days. I forget what happened on 470 and 232 duties but I do remember clearly 491 duty. As it was always one of Salisbury's allocated low number unrebuilt Merchant Navy's, 35004 Cunard White Star, 35006 P&OSN Co.or 35007 Aberdeen Commonwealth,and there was just over an hour to turn this engine round and the last job.

The background to this is that engine on 491 duty worked a semi fast stopper from Saliabury to Exeter 88 miles at about middayish thence to Exmouth Jct. for engine requirements to be carried out, and as the original Merchant Navies had a fixed fire grate not a lot was done. The engine was then back off shed to work the 3.30pm Exeter Central to Waterloo arriving at 7.8pm 171 miles, then light to Nine Elms for guess what - engine requirements, a total of 260 miles.

The situation I was confronted with was clinker in excess of 1 foot thick all over the 48 sq.ft.of the grate area. There was no way that an engine could be sent off shed in that condition, so the clinker had to be thrown out. Bearing in mind that the time allowance for the complete disposal of an unrebuilt Merchant Navy was 2 hours i.e.clean fire smokebox and ashpan, and 1hour to prepare 3 hours in all.

I had about an hour and a quarter to turn this engine round, so choices had to be made! So the smokebox was not done, but the fire had to be cleaned, a job that was made more difficult by the fact that the cab doors on first ten Merchant Navies were hung on the rear of the cab so that they did not open to their fullest extent, so the first task was to remove one set of cab doors to make life easier, making sure that the pins were relocated in the holes, then proceed to bale out 48sq.ft. of firegrate with the clinker shovel in about an hour start to finish, then do the ashpan from the side because the arrival pit was always full of water (another complication) and then rebuild the fire sufficiently to go off shed to the goods yard to work a freight back to Salisbury with same crew who brought the engine in.

You might ask, what about moving the engine whilst all this was going on. Well the shed enginemen in the turning gang should have done, however it was usually left to the Fireman 17 years old to do the necessary.

As I look back over the years I often think about that smokebox on that engine, and what it was like on arrival back at Salisbury after 350 miles in traffic, and the poor b****r who had to empty it at midnight gone.

"What a Roughun" - 30th April 1965 Sign on 5.42 pm 248/261 duties

We signed on at Vauxhall, my regular mate in the top link was Dick Turpin. I think we were down with a Friday evening relief, probably the 6.22pm relief to the 6.30 pm we worked the train to Eastliegh and got relieved, and went pass to Southampton Central to relieve on 261 Duty. Which when it arrived was 34071 601 Squadron light from Bournemouth. We then went light to the Old Docks for 11.00 pm freight to Nine Elms yard. Now this engine had left Nine Elms in the early afternoon and gone light to Clapham yard to work E.C.S. to Waterloo and then work the relief to the Wessex at 4.22 pm then light from Bournemouth to Southampton for us. So nothing had been done to the fire, and as we were going to work the 11.00 pm freight up, I thought I won't do anything to the fire either, (even then it looked a bit mucky) and the coal didn't look very good either.

So we parked up round 50 Berth in the docks and put the pipe in (which was 4 inches in diameter) and it took forever to fill the 5500 Gallon tank. Some while later the Shunter turned up and informed us that the 11.00 pm would be worked via Bevois Park and that we were to work the 11.00 pm passenger instead! What a disaster! What with the fire getting worse by the minute dull red glow with about 2 inches of bright around the edges, and now no time to do anything about it.

We trundled round to 38 Berth and coupled on (and as sod's law decrees we had 13 on )I did my best to get things about right before we started,i.e.a full pot of water and steam, but it wasn't long before things went wrong and the further we went the worse it got. To cut a long story short, we came to a stand at the London end of the Wallers Ash loop. Dick went and had words with the Signalman, and I got to work on the fire without much joy. After about 10 minutes I managed to get about 180 lbs. and three quarters of a glass, with that Dick said I'll give her ago! What a struggle! But once she got the first beat out she was away not very quickly though but we managed it to the top of the "Bank"and then more or less coasted to Waterloo, we arrived with about 160 psi and half a glass of water.We stood in platform 11 over an hour and didn't make a note of steam and had difficulty in getting to the depot. I had never had a trip like it.

As an aside the Guard came up and asked Dick why he had stopped, Dick explained that we needed water. The Guard replied that he didn't know there was water column there...

Copyright 2009 Robin Bell

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