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Jerry O'Sullivan - Memories

A3 - St.Simon

I was Peter Stewart's fireman in no.3 link. This picture was taken on the 23 August 1963 - it's A3 pacific no. 60112 St.Simon, taken by one of our drivers from the m.u. shed at Wimbledon. (the loco was named after a famous racehorse).

As I remember the A3 was one of the easiest engines to fire, on getting on the footplate a trilby hatted inspector told me to fire as per regulation (6" all over the size of a man's fist). I was also informed that the A3 was a free steaming locomotive. This was very true, it was one of the easiest trips I ever had. It wasn't long before I was easing closed the dampers, door wide open the needle just stuck on the red line it was just like going on a Sunday picnic. I looked over at Peter - his face was like that of a school boy smiling ear to ear. The group that hired the special was 'The Southern Cross Preservation Society' I think. The train did a tour of the West Country going from Waterloo via Bournemouth then Exeter and finally back to Waterloo.

Well there you have it - a trip that all my life I always thought back on.

A Brick on the Footplate

I start my story, can anyone say where you would find a HOUSE-BRICK on the footplate of a tank engine? Jim Lester will be the first to say yes.

One afternoon I was on a tank duty with a driver whose name escapes me - the duty started with preparing the loco. I think it was of the 060 type, not the usual Drummond M7 and then going to Clapham to take up coaches to Waterloo. On leaving the turntable at Nine Elms the engine seemed sluggish and there was a sign of water coming out the chimney. Having checked I had not filled up the boiler too much, the driver called for Charley Gee, the fitter foreman, to check for priming. He did his checks and declared the engine fit for duty. Having climbed out to the loco exit siding over Stewarts Lane we got the signal to go under the 'Hole in the Wall' (the tunnel under the main line linking Nine Elms Goods to Loco Sheds) to Nine Elms Goods Yard when halfway down to the yard the quiet puffing turned to a roar and the loco surged rearwards (we were going bunker first).

My driver slammed the brakes on and tried to shut the regulator to no effect. I screwed the handbrake on, also to no effect. We are now going through the hole in the wall with the loco roaring and spewing water. Try as he might, my driver could not put her into reverse (as I remember it had a hydraulic reverser fitted). We flew past the ground frame signal box, my driver yelling "get down-get down". I ended up sitting on the floor with my back braced against the bunker. Then 'bang' - we hit the blocks, the fire irons came through the window and embedded themselves in the back of the engine (luckily over my right shoulder). We were feet from the Wandsworth Road. There was a nanosecond pause then the hydraulic reverser decided to work and off we went in the other direction. I ended up with a brick on my lap. We jumped a six inch gap left when we parted the first section of rail past the open mouthed signalman, back under the 'Hole in the Wall' and were heading back to the Loco. At best we would demolish the blocks that end, or at worst we would meet a Pacific coming out of Nine Elms. Luck was on our side as the roar faded and we were back in control, with water down on the bottom nut we crept back in to the Loco.

Later, Charley Gee said that an internal steam pipe had fractured (yea well thats why we were able to bring her back to the shed under control the steam pipe magically cured itself). Well Jim, I know you knew where the brick came from - it was holding up the firedoor flap so you could flip it up with the toe of your boot!

Jim O'Sullivan

Jim O'Sullivan has since added:
Since I wrote this article I read in Brian Aynsley's book that there were indeed some M7 tanks fitted with hydraulic reversers, this could have been the offending locomotive as the M7 was the most common engine working empty stock at Nine Elms at that time and we seemed to end up with all the throw outs from all areas to finish them off.

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