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Just another day on the Valley

Discussion in 'Bullhead Memories' started by olly5764, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. olly5764

    olly5764 Well-Known Member

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    Ten thirty on an autumn morning, there is a chill in the air, and a bacon sandwich in my hand. The first train from Kidderminster is headed by A1 class, Tornado, and its packed. Meanwhile, I am wondering round getting the second train ready. I had six coaches, turning the scales at 207 tons, and a day with 4566 in the capable hands of Dave and Kev.
    If I'm honest, I was quite content with my lot, I would rather let someone else have the glory turns and spend my time in the background.
    The set was made up of five Carmine and cream BR standards and a Chocolate and Cream one. I like the Mk1s, they may lack the charisma and style of some of the pre-1948 stock but they are comfortable, the heating works, and the guard's compartment is comfortable, but they are not the enthusiasts favourite.
    Our train was also full, but despite the number of people we had getting on, we left Kidderminster exactly on time, at 11.45.
    Our on-time running wasn't going to last. As we got to Bewdley, and discovered that Tornado with 8 coaches had been causing fun at Hampton Load.
    Hampton is a very tight little station where two 8 coach trains with a tender engine can pass...... just, and therein lies the problem, you see the bigger the loco, the smaller the margin for error, and there isn't much of it to start with, and this had been causing fun, meaning that the up train, headed by 7812 delayed us by 8 minutes.
    Mild cases of late running like this can be what makes the job fun, the challenge of getting the train to the terminus on time without rushing or flustering the passengers.
    Typically when you are late is that someone wants to use the halts, so needless to say we had to pick up passengers at Northwood.
    By the time we left Arley we were only 4 minutes down, and with a wave of the flag, 4566 and her crew set about getting us back on time.
    This stretch is in my opinion one of the most attractive lengths of railway anywhere, and while the passengers can take in the view through the large windows of the coaches, but the drop light of the guards van door can have a spectacular effect for framing the scenery like a moving portrait, and with our valley turning golden brown, it was a very pretty portrait too.
    We were just a minute down leaving Highley and the little Tanky was working hard as we pounded up Highley Bank, we rounded the reverse curves at the top, and dropped down to Alveley, only to see that once more, someone wanted to stop us, this time at country park Halt.
    Arriving at Hampton Load, to my disappointment, there was no sign of the up train, so we were to have to wait once again, and therefore we would be late into Bridgnorth, oh well, no harm done.
    We left Hampton 7 minutes late, but lost two more minutes owing to a lengths slack at the top of Eardington bank, in place owing to the state of the rail and the formation, which will be repaired in the winter.
    This was pretty well the story of the next two trips but the fun was to start on the last trip home.
    My two TTI's were Ian Powick and Nyall Rudge, and it was Nyall that spotted the first problem.
    "Yo'm gunna 'ave some fun wi' that lot," he commented in his Cradley accent, "Less jus' say they've 'ad a drink or two."
    True enough, we had a stag party on the train, who installed themselves (Thankfully with hindsight) in two of the four compartments of the brake. I say thankfully as this made it easier to isolate them when I eventually had to.
    They weren't nasty, they were merry, but noisy drunks, the sort that are no threat to the other passengers but invariably, annoy the living daylights out of them. Were it not for the seemingly inevitable delay at Hampton Loade, I probably wouldn't have been in the position to make the move I made next.
    Ian, Nyall and myself were discussing our rather load party who had just sung God Save the Queen and were now into Swing low Sweet chariot.
    "I am so tempted to sing Mae hen wlad fy nhadau," I muttered, and noted the lady in the compartment next to the party Roll her eyes skyward for the umpteenth time.
    "We'm gunna have problems with them" said Nyall.
    After a moments thought, I suggested to him offering the occupants of the rest of the coach a free upgrade to first class. The ladies accepted, but the young lads in the other compartment were less concerned, they had a compartment to their selves, a bag of sweets on the go and were very comfortable but thankyou for the offer.
    We were 9 minutes late away from Hampton, so right time would be a challenge, but do able.
    As we trundled through Alveley woods, Ian revealed that the party had had somewhat of a spillage, and one compartment had got a lake of beer and crisps in it.
    "Great, the cleaners will be thrilled," I replied.
    As we climbed Highley bank, dear old 4566's sharp exhaust ripped into the air as she surefootedly wheeled the train round the reverse curves at the top and we rolled down the other side into Highley.
    We were stationary for less than a minute in Highley and left just six minutes adrift. I was doing the mental calculations or where I could nick half a minute here and there so all my passengers could be back in time for their connections, East enders or the rugby, when Ian appeared with a cheeky grin on his face and a pack of paper towels in his hand.
    "Reckon I should tell them to clean the mess up?" he said.
    I think he was slightly taken aback when I took his suggestion a bit more seriously than I think it was intended.
    "You know," I said, after a moment's thought, "If you go in and say something like, you appear to have had a spillage, would you like something to mop it up with, then you might get away with it."
    A couple of minutes later, as we were crossing Borle Viaduct, he re-appeared.
    "You'll never belive it," said Ian, "they went for it."
    "I'm not surprised," I replied, "They probably think it was their idea."
    We ran into Arley, one or two folks got on, including a colleague of mine from work and another TTI, but we were once more stationary for less than 60 seconds. A flick of the flag and we were away again. Sweeping down towards Victoria bridge, it was obvious that the loco crew were keen to get away on time too, as the train was up to line speed in very prompt fashion, and soon we were sweeping round the curve at Folly point, and pounding up thee gentle gradient towards Northwood. This was the one thing that could screw up our intentions to be home on time, but miracle of miracles there was no one there, and we set off up the climb to Orchard crossing.
    The distant and at the other end of the wall the banner repeater showed green, and things were looking good, and we rolled round the corner to see the home at Green. A glance at my watch confirmed that we might just do it if things fell into place, but as we rolled round the curve, there was another twist waiting for us, as while the inner home was off, the distant for Bewdley south remained resolutely at yellow. The south box man had let the light engine from the previous train come back from Kidder before us.
    I cursed under my breath, but as we rolled into Bewdley station, a "Peep, Peep, Peep," rang out from the Rock siding to inform south box that the loco was on the shed and clear of all running lines, a quick look round and the signal for Kidderminster came off, the final door on the train closed and I gave two blasts on my whistle and a wave of the flag, and once more we were away. I gave a glance at my watch, and we were on time! From nine down at Hampton Loade to right time now, we were doing well. We blasted up the steady climb through the tunnel and dropped down to Falling sands viaduct, the signal showed a green for the main line, and we climbed the short climb from Worcester Road to Hoo road, round the carridge shed under the bridge and into Platform 1.
    Waiting on the platform was Lawrence Mortimer, who was to take the train off me, and after a brief discussion about weather it was dark enough to need the tail lamp on or not for the move back to the shed.
    "Well," I said, "I'll give you permission to take my tail lamp off, stay down the back of the train and I'll nip the handbrake off for you."
    Lawrence trotted off, and when my TTI's had finished, I closed the guard's van door, gave an "Alright" signal, and headed off for a pint.
     
    Paul Kibbey, nick813, aldfort and 5 others like this.
  2. aldfort

    aldfort Well-Known Member

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    Great to read about a day from the perspective of other on train crew members. Sometimes working on the footplate you can be quite isolated from the trials and tribulations of on train staff. We only have one request stop on the WSR at Doniford. however you can bet that if there are no passengers getting off there will be some waiting to get on!
     
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  3. olly5764

    olly5764 Well-Known Member

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    I'm a fireman myself, on the footplate there is just you and your mate, so the interactions with another person are rare, on a train you could have 300 people, so 300 times the potential for a story!
     
  4. jtx

    jtx Well-Known Member Friend

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    Ian,

    Another excellent story, which I thoroughly enjoyed. By sheer coincidence, I had written one with a very similar title, around the same time, (October). So, when I saw this, it gave me quite a jolt.

    If I succeed in attaching it, I think you'll find the theme is very similar, although written from the front of the train!

    Regards,

    John


    JUST A REGULAR DAY

    John Hancock



    Proving the old adage that it's an ill wind that does nobody good, an unfortunate, non - serious injury to the rostered driver, found me covering a couple of days on the October half – term week.


    Popping over on the Wednesday afternoon, I find 43106, my engine for the morrow, simmering on the Rock siding at Bewdley. Knowing I am second engine off in the morning, I wait for the arrival of the 1648 to Kiddy, and then confer with Bob Drew, the fireman on "Taw Valley," but also the driver of 4566 the following day, before phoning the signalman at Bewdley South. Following the departure of the train, I shunt 43106 out, and then back into the Back Road, to stand behind the Platform 3 Starter signal.


    This leaves the Rock siding, and the pit, free for 4566, next on shed, and TV, both of which need the pit in the morning, and leaves us all in the right order for the following day. 43106, which had been prepared at Bridgnorth, does not need the pit and has only travelled 12 ½ miles that afternoon, thus only needing an examination and the odd drop of oil in the morning.


    As is my wont, I am on site at 0700 the following morning, to cast a glance over the Flying Pig and have the craic with Steve, "Jongo," Jones, my fireman. I have known Jongo for over 20 years, both of us being retired coppers and we have worked together before: I think I gave him one or two of his first drives when he had just passed out as a fireman. Despite what I would normally admit in public, he is a pleasure to work with and we have a great day, tempered a little because he is actually a Driver now and it will be the last time we work together.


    "Taw Valley" is on a charter and 4566 is on the second, (AS2) service, as we are AS1. The day goes well enough, although, to our frustration, we are unable to pick up any delays which accumulate, having a Class 4, pulling 9 coaches. We also perform an "Ashes Job," on the second trip, for a deceased Severn Valley volunteer; me placing the urn on a tump of coal at Victoria Bridge and Jongo blasting the remains up over Eyemore Cutting, to the accompaniment of a long, mournful whistle for the benefit of the family on the train. We shake hands over a pint of Batham's in the "Waggon & Horses" later.


    The following day, I am covering a turn for our Infrastructure Manager, Chris Bond. James Rodgers, my fireman had phoned a couple of days earlier to ask, a) would I mind if his girlfriend came with us, and, b) did I want him to do anything in the morning. I had said, no to a), if he got a footplate pass, and yes to b), that I wouldn't be at all upset if he oiled up the Stephenson Link motion.


    Heavy rain at Redditch peters out, to a sullen overcast and occasional bursts of spite at Bewdley by the time I arrive. The Flying Pig is first on the pit, as it is on a driving school, with Bob Heath and Ollie Huxley officiating. I had a brilliant day with Ollie a couple of weeks previously on a Russ Hillier photo charter, on "Tornado." How's that for name – dropping? Terry Fitzsimmons and Bob Drew are on TV on the AS1 service. As it happens, Bob has also been made up to Driver, but has been allowed to complete the firing turns he had already signed for this year.


    I have cleaned and filled the sight – feed lubricator and the steam brake and am most of the way round the left – hand side, when James slides out from under the boiler and then completes the oiling and examination above the running plate. As he remarks, "preparation goes really quickly when two of you do it." Absolutely right: I had already told James he would be driving the first trip, so I have chucked a few shovels on the fire and spread it forwards. There is enough pressure to put the blower on and keep the smoke out of the cab, (10lbs!) and it has steadily climbed, with doors open and minimal clag, to around 80lbs by the time 43106 goes off shed to Kiddy to collect its driving school.


    The three young cleaners on shed can do very little to fettle the engines in the generally lousy weather, but do some work on the wheels and motion and one assures me that they will take care of the mountain of ash in the flooded pit, once we have gone. Good lads, we've all been there. So, here's Bewdley, a small sub – shed, on a gloomy October morning, with an Ivatt Class 4, a Bulleid Pacific and a 45XX tank engine, all in steam and brewing up at 0900hrs. This would be a Gala on some railways; it's just a regular day on the Valley.


    43106 disappears into a vast cloud of steam fog of its own making, which just adds to the general murk. Fifteen to twenty minutes later, Taw Valley follows suit, generating even more steam from its three cylinders. I buzz off to the car to get changed into clean gear, (not that I have got very dirty) and shortly afterwards, James does the same. At around 0920, 43106 slides in from Kidderminster with its train and I go to ring John Phillips in Bewdley South 'box to tell him we are ready to go. He says, "Oh, you're not due off till 1010, but I'll get you a path."


    Shortly afterwards, as James, and his girlfriend, Lauren return, the dummy signal clears. I have freshened the fire, and we have 150lbs on the clock, so it's a trickle off shed and a gentle amble to Kidderminster, by which time we have a more respectable 200lbs on the clock. We go straight on to the water column and, as James looks after the bag into the tanks, I make sure the injector is on so the boiler is topped up to the max. We only have 6 GWR coaches, but we will be steam heating them for a good while. James runs us out to the points, then back on to the set; he hooks us on, then it's time to amble off to the restaurant for breakfast. In Platform 2, Taw Valley is waiting to depart with its special.


    As departure time approaches, I have sorted the fire out and started to warm the engine up, a healthy plume of exhaust, lightened by the blower and the vacuum ejector showing evidence of our readiness. We are poised, like coiled springs, then, as often happens, passengers keep trickling into the booking office, who keep advising us by tannoy that they have some more. They, showing no urgency, saunter along the platform, as our right – time departure sinks to 9 minutes late. Finally getting the green flag, I call, "Rightaway!" to James and he gets us smartly on the move.


    The 45s small wheels accelerate us swiftly to the 15 mph along the main, past the new diesel depot, arising on our right and the "new" carriage shed, now part of the furniture. As I call, "Green," for the Advanced Starter and then for the Section signal, round the bend, past the Hoo Road bridge, James lets the railway drive the train, as we drift down the gradient on to the Worcester Road bridge, then Falling Sands Viaduct. As we coast across the viaduct and its 20 mph restriction, I flash a few shovels round the back end, before James picks the train up for the climb to the summit in Foley Park Cutting.


    Drifting down the grade into Bewdley, whatever minutes we have saved are lost again in station work. Having finally got the Rightaway, chuffed sedately across Wribbenhall viaduct and cleared the splitting points on to the single line; with the section signal clear in front, I encourage James to "Get stuck into 'em." This exhortation is acted on with some gusto, and, as I reach for the shovel, the 45's staccato bark quickens as she accelerates her 186 – ton train up the 1 in 145 to Orchard Cottage.


    We continue our enthusiastic progress to Bridgnorth and we certainly don't delay anyone else, but only manage to pull back about three minutes, having dipped to twelve late at one point, not through any fault of ours. We are rostered almost three hours here, but they are far from boring. Indeed, they serve to illustrate how a "normal" day on the Valley, even a dull grey and grotty one in late October, can be full of action and interest.


    James hooks off, then runs the engine round the train and hooks on again. Here, I take over the regulator and we prepare to shunt our stock out of the way down the Hollybush Road siding. This is necessary, as two other trains will need to occupy the station simultaneously, during our long sojourn on the shed.


    A radio transceiver appears on the footplate and our guard departs for the far end of the train with his own device. We shunted, for all my years on the Valley, with hand signals, hands during the day, and 3 aspect lamps at night, as did the Big Railway, whose rules we adopted. For the last couple of years however, at Kidderminster, and now, at Bridgnorth, radios are deemed necessary. Apparently, "It's safer, innit?" and the moment anyone mentions 'elf an' safety, you know you've lost the argument.


    So, we get a "Clear to set back," from the guard, and I release the brakes and let the 1 in 100 gradient ease us back towards the Hollybush siding. The guard had said, "I'll call you in; stop when you're inside the dummy." This is the double disc ground signal, just the other side of the public crossing, which is just past the end of the boiler shop. Now, I know, because I'm a Driver, and I'm supposed to know this stuff, that Hollybush siding will comfortably hold six coaches and a tender engine, without actually punting anything into Hollybush Road. This would cause extensive traffic disruption and earn one an award of the Bodfish Trophy, (see the Railwayman's Arms).


    I am, therefore, shunting very gently, giving the odd gentle nudge, when speed drops on the level track. We are crossing the barrow crossing when I hear, "One coach…half a coach…quarter of a coach," over the radio, from the guard, who is at the last door of the far coach. Looking through the cab, I can see the apple green bulk of 60163, "Tornado," which is in the coal drop siding adjacent, sliding past. Just as I am level with the cab of the A1, James calls, "Inside!" and I gently brush the brake. At our very slow speed, the train stops immediately and James drops down to uncouple.


    The vertical double ground disc, behind which we have stopped, reads to Platform 1, (top disc) and Platform2, (bottom disc), so, with the bottom disc clear, we bimble through Platform 2, past a clear Starter signal, to stand behind the Inner Home Bracket signal beyond the Cleobury Road Bridge, ready to go on shed. The shed board drops and I am about to move, when the radio crackles. "SVR guard to SVR driver, 4566. John, you haven't left enough room for a tender engine to get behind the dummy." Oh B****r! A quick radio check with the signalman reveals he was monitoring and has got the picture, then we sidle nonchalantly back, hook on to the set, blow up, then ease it back fifteen feet or so. Job done; it's back out to the Bracket, then gently on to the shed. No – one is waiting, so we ease on to the column and James hops up to put the bag in.


    I am operating the water valve; a few yards further on I can see Terry Jenkins doing stuff to 7802, "Bradley Manor's" tender, when Will Marsh, ace Bridgnorth fitter and Passed Fireman himself, pops out to ask if we have had coal. Receiving a negative, he goes to the mechanical loader, fires it up and drops two buckets of bibbles into our bunker. Thus replenished, he asks us to drop on to 2 Road on top of TV, which has now been swapped out for 2857, which Terry and Bob, on AS1, have taken over.


    As soon as we are at a stand, I can see Andy Sweet gently dragging Bradley Manor from the shed, with the 08 shunter. The Manor seems to be painted to museum standard to me. A short while later, with Bradley now re – united with its tender, Will asks me to move up to the headshunt, as he needs my road for a short while. Whilst up there, "Erlestoke Manor" runs into Platform 1, then, as we are summoned back to our original berth on the shed, it passes us, outbound through Platform 2, before coming back on shed for coal and water, then shunting on to Road 1, so that the fitters could examine its brakes.


    I had been for a clean up and, whilst I was away, James had scalded the shovel, and cooked chilli burgers for himself, Lauren and me. Shortly afterwards, 43106 runs into Platform 2, with the Driving School, (full train: 8 Mk1s). As I sit, munching my burger, I look around and remark to James, "Look at this lot. Behind us, there's a Bulleid Pacific, in steam. Next door to that, is a Scot, (make that the Scot), a 14XX, a 15XX, another Bulleid Pacific, us, a Manor in steam, a brand new Manor, about to steam, and an Ivatt Class 4 down the Hollybush unable to move because there's sixteen coaches in the platforms. This is just a regular day on the Valley." "Oh yeah, and there's an A1 parked on the coal drop road."


    We have a wonderful run back, having been instructed to take 7812's path, as it was still not quite ready. Our performance is effervescent, to say the least. We keep, more or less, to the 1555hrs departure's path, and, as we stand at Bewdley, champing at the bit, James straightens up from shovelling and says, "Do what you want with that."


    So I do.


    At Kidderminster, within 30 seconds of our booked time, I run to the blocks in Platform 1 and stop alongside 43106, in Platform 2. It is rostered on a "Ghost Train," later and I have a natterwith John, "Half" Price, the driver, and Jordan Taylor, the fireman, who are going to work it. Bob and Ollie, the Driving School crew, ex 43106, are rostered to ride back to Bewdley with us. It's going to be cosy, the 45's cab being somewhat on the bijou side.


    We shunt our stock back into CS3 in the Carriage Shed, hook off, shoot back for water, and then out to the Loop Advanced Starter signal. I am on the moby, explaining to my dearly beloved why we are delayed, when 2857 thumps round the corner from Bewdley, taking no prisoners. As soon as the signal clears, we are gone, trickling back to Bewdley and on shed with very little to do.


    I am taking off my overalls and boots by the car, as the first Ghost Train, headed by a Class 50 and tailed by 43106, trickles through Bewdley. I can hear maniacal laughter and children screaming, so I assume everyone is having a thoroughly good time.


    A few minutes later, James and I are toasting each other, with Batham's, at the Waggon. Just a regular day at the Valley.
     
  5. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member Friend

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    Having signed off at Kidder after a diner I just have time to grab a pint.. Now being a soft southener I ask for Bathams to rime with BARF. We domt sell that here. Yes you do its that one. Thats Bathams - to rhyme with BATTH. I down my pint and retire to the sleeper for a good nights rest.
     
  6. jtx

    jtx Well-Known Member Friend

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    It's Batham's, to rhyme with bathe, lathe, staithe, etc, etc.

    Yo needs ter practiss yer Black Country, Dave. Yo wo get the roight beer if yo cor say it proper!

    :)
     
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  7. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member Friend

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    Tuesday 16 Feb. My first turn since recovery from an achilies tendon injury. I have AS2, the DMU turn. Its half term so that means buggies galore. True to form the brake is full leaving Kidder. Had a good run to Highley when I loose most of the buggies. P2 at Bridgenorth and time for a coffee. Back to Highley, a changr to AS2 this year. When we arrive the TTI in the other unit reports a droplight has shattered by itself. I lock the coach out of use so we can have a good look back at Bridgnorth. All the train crew muck in trying to clear up the mess toughened glass makes.

    Without the glass the window appeture does look low and with the risk of a child falling out in my mind I decide to leave the coach out of service. Make the DO aware who will talk to C&W.

    We leave a bit late as the down was late in. Stop at Country Park for a shopper to detrain and run into Highley. Buggies ,buggies and more buggies.A particularly large double buggy is being pushed by a lady determined to get it on come what may. She meets an obsteruction, my foot is in the way a big push gets the buggy over the obstruction. Thank goodness I wear shoes with reinforced toe caps. They look like ordinary shoes but have a internal toecap made from a composite material which is much lighter than steel.

    Work the train back to Kidder. The window will be looked at in the morning. ECS back to Bewdley and wait in P1 for the up. Get the road for our shunt, down past the up bracket and stop clear of the bracket but short of the section. Driver changes ends and we get the dummy for the Rock. Berth the train, sign off and post the journal in the SMs letterbox.

    Back on the roster I look forward to my next turn which will be at the spring gala. Lets hope the weather is better than the year the spring gala was more like winter.
     
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