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Memoirs of a Railway Volunteer - Part 11

Discussion in 'Bullhead Memories' started by sleepermonster, Aug 6, 2008.

  1. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

    Jun 19, 2007
    Likes Received:
    The Chronicles of Rowsley Sidings III

    Building Turnout Number 13 – And Other Stories

    Construction of No.13 Turnout began with a level site dug down to a few inches below the timber bottom level, to allow for later ballasting. Arthur Dudson set out survey stakes which indicated the track centres and the position of the crossing nose. Arthur preferred to work in feet and inches, after so many years experience he knew all the measurements by heart. “Don’t ask me for metric. I have to work it out if it’s in metric”. He would set out the dimensions with a notebook and pencil in moments.

    Arthur has a thing about turnouts. One day he was taken out shopping one day and got his first ride on the Supertram. He took good care to get a seat right at the front, alongside the driver who is unlikely to have forgotten the experience in a hurry. He had an excellent view of the line ahead and began an expert commentary to his wife.

    “Who the heck designed this curve? It’s only got a fifty metre radius. They could have got a hundred and fifty in here.” The tram driver was unwise enough to join in and said his tram was made to go round a fifty metre curve. Arthur gave him a piercing glare.

    “I know it can go round a fifty metre curve, but that doesn’t mean it’s got to go round a fifty metre curve. Haven’t you heard of flange wear?” That was a mean blow. The tramway had just learned all about flange wear, the hard way, from maintenance bills.

    The tram continued on its way and jinked to the left to stop.

    “I remember when there were proper tram tracks up this hill and the tracks were straight. They only put in this nonsense to slow down the cars.” Wisely the driver remained silent. Finally they came to the terminus.

    “Which ruddy clown put a one in five crossing there? I suppose their computer isn’t programmed for owt else and they couldn’t possibly work it out for themselves. Just look at the reverse curve they’ve had to put in after the crossing.

    My informant, his wife, swears blind that he got her to hold up the traffic in the main street in the middle of Sheffield while he inspected the turnout and measured it with the tape he just happened to be carrying, muttering “chuffin’ metric” under his breath.

    Arthur still uses a slide rule, and once had a raging argument with an allegedly qualified surveyor, who was rude about “outmoded technology”. Unfortunately, due to human error, his computer had added what it should have subtracted, and Arthur was dead right. His parting comment was, “we all know what ARICS stands for – A Right Ignorant Clot of a Surveyor”. Clot may not have been quite the word Arthur used. Some years ago at Matlock we had the chance to compare one of Arthurs hand drawn surveys with a modern survey by Railtrack, using lasers, computers and goodness knows what else. The difference in measured length between the two over 600 yards was about ¼ inch, and I’d put my money on Arthurs survey being the more accurate any day. But I digress.

    I set out duplicate stakes ten feet sideways from the originals, so that we could replace the marks if they got knocked over. Next we sorted through our dwindling stocks of crossing timbers to produce a set for the construction of a B8 turnout. I have a copy of the textbook “British Railway Track” which gives timbering lists for all the common designs, but the problem is that all too often the longer timbers are in short supply. In a siding there is no harm in using timbers which are six inches short, and after a certain amount of juggling we had a full set of reasonable quality.

    Now for the ironwork, which is where the trouble started. We had run out of the matched and labelled sets from Hams Hall, but there were a number of miscellaneous bits lying around. We dug out a likely looking crossing nose which had its special chairs missing or unreadable, and quickly measured it. You mark the point where the running edges are six inches apart both before and after the crossing nose, and measure the distance between them. Eight feet exactly; a one in eight or No. 8 crossing. Using the forks of the JCB and our crowbars we placed it on the timbers so that the rails in the vee of the crossing lined up with the rails on one side of the pit and those of the vee of the opposite turnout, which came at the exact spot Arthur had calculated. This gave us a fixed reference from which the rest of the turnout could be built. We went through our special chair dump and found the missing special chairs to complete the crossing. These all have markings cast into them, 8X and 8Y fit before the nose, and 8A, 8B, 8C and 8D fit after it.

    Somewhere in the course of our travels we had picked up an incomplete and non standard pair of switches. They had been cut down to fit in a special turnout, and all the special chairs were missing. However, the blades were 22’6” long and the planing on the blade was 7’4”, so these were B switches. The distance from switch tip to blunt crossing nose was a known length ( 65’1½” as it happens), so the length of the closure rail was simple arithmetic. Nevertheless one nasty problem remained.

    The turnout to be built was left handed, and these were right hand switches. There was nothing for it but to separate the blades from the stock rails, and reverse the curves with a jim crow. This device consists of a half moon of steel, about three feet long, with claws at each end which drop over and grip the rail head. A large and robust screw thread passes through the middle and drives a ram against the rail, driven by a large steel bar which fits through holes in the end of the threaded bar. Normal crowbars will bend in the process, and we used an offcut of two inch solid steel shaft, about eight feet long. Rails are in their nature tough and heavy, and so is anything which can work on them. A jim crow needs three men to carry it

    The bending process involves marking the rail at about eighteen inch centres. The jim crow is dropped over the rail and the head of the ram is tightened up by hand as far as it will go, and then three or four men set to work twisting the bar. The general rule is that you bend the rail as far as you think it ought to go, and then give it another quarter turn for luck. If you go too far you have to bend it back. Bending rail is not easy – if it ain’t hurting it ain’t working. For the last turn I used to stand on the end of the bar and use my leg muscles. Then move on to the next mark and keep going until all the bent rails are straight and all the straight rails bent the other way.

    Once we had re-handed the switches we could cut the inside straight closure and bolt it to the left hand half of the switch and the crossing. The next step was to square up the other half switch, for which we used a dodge known as “Platelayers Pythagoras” which as far as I know was invented by Mick Thomas as I have never seen it mentioned anywhere else. If two rails are set accurately to gauge, for example with a pair of gauging bars, then if you measure 10’7” down one rail, and then measure diagonally 11’7” to the opposite running face, that is where the other rail end should be, to within a thousandth of an inch, which is a lot closer than any of us can measure in practice. It is a version of the old 3-4-5 triangle, and if not a perfect solution it comes remarkably close.

    After that we rounded up the necessary switch chairs. Chairs usually have four sets of markings on them: railway company, foundry, date and type. The last is the critical one. Unfortunately it is often hidden under a thick layer of fossilised point grease. The markings follow a system. First come the plain slide chairs, then two slide chairs with a distance block between the stock rail and the switch rail. The blocks are marked, starting 1BL on the left. Next the main chairs, which are one piece castings, starting at 1PLB on the left and ending at 4PRP on the right. At a pinch, in a siding a pair of M1 bridge chairs, which are small and square, can be substituted for the No.4 chairs. We had a fine old time scrabbling in the chairs dump and scratching the grease off. B is for “B Switch”, a particular radius. We also had plenty of A and C switch chairs, also covered in grease and which look remarkably similar – until you try to fit them.

    When we had wangled the switch chairs into place we could add the outside straight stock rail. Once it had been straightened up and gauged to the crossing it was used as a straight edge against which the timbers could be aligned and barred into position, and the ordinary S1 chairs were slid into place. The switches, crossing and straight rails were screwed down, and the whole assembly began to look like it would become a turnout one day.

    The next tricky bit is the inside curved closure. It has to be cut to fit in the arc between the end of the switch and the beginning of the crossing. The technique is to measure the distance between the two rail ends in a straight line, and then cut a rail to that exact length. Once it is bent to the correct curve a gap will open between the rail ends to give a correct expansion clearance – near as makes no distance on this design of turnout anyway. Drill and plate the rail, then bend it to shape with crowbars. If it looks good, it is good. We screwed it down and gauged the outside curved rail off it. After we added a few minor details like check rails and stretcher bars we could move on to ballast the track and the job was done. Once I saw a spaghetti western in which one of the baddies built a turnout by himself in five minutes. Do not be fooled, it can take a little longer.

    Around this time we received assistance from a most unexpected source. Peak Rail undertook to stage a train crash, on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive.

    One of the most terrible consequences of a railway accident in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century was telescoping. This meant carriage bodies, or rather fragments of them sliding one inside the other, crushing everything and everyone in their path. As train speeds rose some terrible accidents took place, the very worst being Quintinshill when over 200 persons were killed.

    One idea produced around the dawn of the twentieth century to deal with this danger was the fitting of substantial castings at the bottom corners of railway carriage bodies. These had serrated faces like corrugated iron and the idea was that in the event of a collision the castings would bind together and prevent the steel underframe rising up and crashing through the wooden body. I cannot now remember which company produced this idea, but it was not widely adopted. The castings would have been very heavy and the real problem was that the wooden bodies were relatively flimsy compared with the chassis.

    Later wooden bodied carriages were as strongly built as possible within the limitations of the material. If you ever have the chance to examine, for example, a Gresley LNER carriage, the size and quality of the hardwood timber framing is magnificent.

    The real advance came with the advent of the all steel bodied carriage, and LMS designs after WWII became the basis of the British Railways Mark I. Photographs of these after collisions in the 1960’s show the bodyshells relatively intact, with the casualty lists reducing accordingly. However time marches on, and after forty years or so there were serious concerns about the safety of the Mark 1 railway carriages under modern operating conditions on the national network. Modern coaches have a tubular structural body and no chassis as such and are much more crashworthy. Trains had become much faster and safety expectations had increased. The old Mark I coach design was regarded by HMRI as a garden shed mounted on a battleship, but there were still a lot of these in service. Could some way be found of improving them and so extending their service lives?

    HSE wished to test a proposed device for the prevention of telescoping, the exact details of which remain classified. There was a great deal of talk in the railway press about a “cup and cone” system under which the ends of the vehicles would lock together to prevent telescoping, which as we have seen is not a completely new idea. There would also need to be a crumple zone to absorb energy. Tests on some aspects of the design had been going on for some time under laboratory conditions but the question was whether the system would work in a real collision and that is where we came in.

    I first learned of the matter one Sunday night. Mick told me we had been approached to provide facilities for a battery of crash tests and asked for my opinion. I felt it was outside our normal line of business and sounded absolutely crazy. Obviously we had to do it. It promised to pay well but that was secondary. We talked it over until long past “doghouse time”, which is seven o’clock on a Sunday night, the hour by which a domesticated man should be home for tea, or else.

    The test would require a very violent fly shunt. A single Mark I coach would need to be accelerated up to high speed and sent smashing into a second mark I with its brakes hard on, with the result being recorded by a battery of remote controlled cameras. If that worked then the test would be repeated with two coaches crashing into two more.

    First, a safety analysis had to be approved, and I am pleased to say that our track on the Rowsley extension was passed for running up to 50 mph at once. Next we had to build a sand drag at Nannygoat crossing, just in case the automatic braking system failed. A few days before the test, the South Crossover at Rowsley was replaced with plain line and the ground frame removed. Mick made sure that the JCB and railcrane were moved up to Rowsley, just in case.

    Meanwhile the Health and Safety Executive were bringing their equipment onto the site. Apart from the Mark I carriages, which turned out to be former Southern Region buffet vehicles, a temporary carriage workshop was built by contractors on the Civil engineers approach, and there the modifications were completed. The Carriage Department volunteers were absolutely fascinated. They spent a lot of time getting to know the HSE personnel and pressing their views on the railway directors. From their perspective these nice friendly people had not only provided an excellent source of spare parts, but also a shelter in which to remove them in peace and comfort. After all the carriages would be going for scrap in the end and the scrapman would not want to waste his time removing wood and glass.

    The North Notts Loco Group agreed to the use of Pen Y Gent as motive power, fitted with a footplate controlled slip coupling, and rumour had it that this was an ex-RAF bomb release shackle.

    Each crash required a number of calibration and practice runs. The coaches had their air brakes charged up and these were applied, in the absence of the target, by a lineside trigger which snapped a wire stretched between a couple of angle irons bolted to the underside of the coach. I managed to see the first crash, which took place late one afternoon. There had been a number of minor hitches and a considerable number of VIP’s were waiting in the car park. A gang of carriage volunteers were slowly circling the doomed target carriage; after being shooed away by a security guard they went off to sit on a dead tree and watch. Meanwhile the track gang were lurking nearby, drinking tea in the mess coach which was parked out of harm’s way on the shed approach. We weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the impact, but quite a lot of volunteers were holed up in the large dump of tree stumps in the sidings area opposite the crash site when the time came. The first test was something of an anti-climax. There was a colossal thump and a shower of sparks, and that was that. Champagne all round in the buffet.

    When the dry run for the next crash took place there was an unforeseen snag, or rather the absence of a snag. The wire jumped the trigger completely, and the brakes were not applied. The buffet coaches hit the sand drag at a full 35 mph, barely slowed at all, and set off for Bakewell up our access road. If they had hooked to the left they would have gone in the river. Fortunately they sliced to the right and stuck in the bank at the back of the Happy Eater, (now the Shalimar Indian Restaurant) where they carved a gap in the trees which could be seen until quite recently.

    Much anguish followed, and by all accounts Mick, who thrived in such situations was in his element. “Are you going to report this to yourselves?” he asked, before rolling one of his horrible fags. Then while the HSE wondered where on earth they would hire a crane at short notice and dreaded the arrival of the press with daylight, Mick fired up the mighty Drott caterpillar and dragged the coaches back on the way they came off at two in the morning. I asked him afterwards how on earth he had done it single handed.

    “Well,” he said “ the flanges had gouged some pretty deep grooves in the tarmac, like tramlines. I reckoned if I got the line right they’d go straight back on again – and they did”.

    The coaches were reckoned to be still fit to run, but I have wondered if this had any bearing on the result of the second test, which was very successful, but something ripped up half the timbers on the South Crossover in the process. The HSE paid for a new set of timbers, and Mick and the gang had it back together in a week.

    Meanwhile the remains of the four buffet cars were shunted into the engineers sidings to await removal for scrap. About two weeks later I was chiselling the works plates off the solebars (to sell in aid of the Stock Fund) when Jeremy Clegg, one of the joint managing directors came over to see me.

    “Ah, Tim, I’ve spoken to HSE and we have permission to take any odd small parts off the coaches before they go for scrap”.

    “Just as well – you’d better take a look”

    By then the carriage volunteers had been on the job for quite a while. All the surviving windows had gone, with the frames, all the doors, any remaining light fittings and a fair proportion of the roof insulation, ceiling panels and internal veneers. The last of the drinks bars was in the act of walking out of the far side, assisted by a number of volunteers, while the rest of the gang were making an initial study of the bogies, just at the thinking stage you understand, with a view to jacking up the bodies and rolling the wheels away. The coaches left early the following week, and with the bogies still underneath, to the frustration of the carriage volunteers.

    Out of the proceeds, the Plc bought 50 sleepers and two sets of crossing timbers as a reward to the volunteers for their hard work. With this material we were able to complete the track on the shed approach and bring the remaining three tracks right up to the site of the shed entrance, but we had run out of rails again. Another problem was that the diesel rail crane had developed a water coolant leak; Mick told me the problem was that the water ran through the cylinder heads and that these had corroded through due to old age. Provided we didn’t run the crane for long enough to get hot it was fine, but this was definitely a long term worry and potentially expensive.

    We had quite a few remnants from Willington, but they really were not nice. No. 1 pit in particular was supposed to be the maintenance road, so we wanted reasonably good rails to provide an accurate base for reassembling locomotives after overhaul. Our luck held. We had an approach from Mick Protheroe, a track contractor who urgently wanted rail for 200 yards of flat bottom track. We swapped him rail left over from Bloxwich for twice that length of bullhead, half mainline quality, half siding, and all of it clean and straight. He threw in some obsolete and incomplete No. 8 crossings and a variety of switch blades; we still had plenty of spare turnout chairs and fittings so these were very welcome.

    By this time money was starting to come in on the shed appeal, and was used to buy, among other things, enough 15’ longitudinal timbers to put track on the remaining three pits. We would need a large quantity of bridge chairs to hold the rail.

    In the meantime, Steve Ryska had other business for us to attend to. Among other things I remember a trip to the undercroft at Manchester Picadilly to collect a number of small corrugated iron sheds. They had mains electricity and Steve swore it was switched off. I was sitting on the roof of one of them sawing through the lighting conduit at the time. Shortly after that I was looking at a hacksaw blade with a large bite missing. Wrong switch. We searched the huts carefully, and among other things I found about forty spare glass globes for Tilley paraffin lamps together with an enormous quantity of wicks and silk mantles. Vince and Steve said I was quite, quite mad: these would never sell. Well, a few months later there was a festival of transport in a field near the railway at Darley Dale, and there I met a character with a whole stall full of Tilley lamps, mostly without globes. I made his day. He made mine.

    Then we were back at Wakefield again, where a container load of Hi-Viz overalls were being thrown out, because they had the wrong company logo. We swapped quite few of these for a consignment of S1 chairs from someone less fussy. In fact at this time so much stuff was being thrown out that it was beyond the combined efforts of all the preservation societies in the country to shift it in time, though goodness knows they tried.

    We also ran a trip to Doncaster, where there was a yard that wanted tidying, badly. I made a preliminary examination, and found that other yards had been closed, and the miscellaneous stores had been recovered and dumped in a heap, well several heaps, and never sorted out. The yard manager was very friendly and keen to have this problem solved. Among other things there was a spare three cylinder McLaren diesel engine block. It was seized up solid, but the cylinder heads looked good. I booked the transport and put the word out once again.

    The pickings were extraordinarily good, bearing in mind that they were due to be thrown out as rubbish or for scrap. We managed to get the engine block into the back of a hired van, never mind just how. The springs at the back of the van were looking a bit grim but we added a number of 110V generators, and a couple of rail drill and saws, then went after the small stuff. In among a rammel of extension cables we found items such as a mag drill, electric wrench, several chain blocks and a small heap of brand new Westinghouse brake application valves. I don’t know what they were originally for, but they looked just the right size for narrow gauge engines, and most of them ended up in North Wales.

    One item I brought out was a large square McLaren radiator which looked very similar to the one originally fitted to the Kerr Stuart diesel which ran on the Welsh Highland in the twenties and is now a candidate for restoration. I couldn’t spark any interest in it at the time, but if any FR/WHR supporter should read this, the radiator is still in our stores at Rowsley. I can’t say what the dimensions are, but it was an interference fit in the boot of my Toyota hatchback.

    After the job was over I rang the depot manager to ask if he was happy with the result of our activities.

    “You left a few old oil stains behind”, he said, “but apart from that you seem to have been commendably thorough.”

    Mick cannibalised the spare block and fixed the crane, while we looked about for more materials for the inspection pits.

    Once again our good fortune held. Some time previously our intelligence service had picked up a rumour of something interesting at Llandudno Junction. Steve Ryska had business which took him to that part of the country, and made contact with a firm of developers, Messrs Watkin Jones, who had just bought the old LNWR carriage shed for re-development. We would be allowed on site for one weekend only, after they had fenced off the site and made their own access track, and before the bulldozers moved in. Once again we had an operation running.

    By the time we moved onto site at Llandudno, just about all of the rails had gone, and those which were left were trapped in concrete, but the work was incomplete, and we had a general feeling that someone had been interrupted. The forlorn shell of the carriage shed had four full length pits, and all the M1 pit chairs were still bolted in place. The annoying thing was that there wasn’t much in the way of spring steel keys, of which we had again become very short. One of my contacts had recently offered to sell us a supply at sixty pence each. I scrabbled around in odd corners and managed to find enough to fill a few sacks, but it was nothing like enough. Normally on a job like this you will come across a dump of keys or something somewhere, if you look hard enough, and I could almost feel there were some around, but I couldn’t find them.

    Meanwhile the rest of the gang had managed to get the petrol wrench going, and started to whizz off the nuts which held the chairs down. I’m not a great fan of petrol wrenches – they shake themselves to bits too quickly and air wrenches are lighter, but I grant they are easier to transport and I think this one earned its keep over the weekend. We ferried the chairs out of the shed in wheelbarrows, and as soon as there were enough to fill my hired truck I was off. The aim was to get two trips a day out of it, and Rowsley to Llandudno and back twice is quite a fair way.

    Rob Sanders and one or two of the others camped out in the shed overnight, partly for security, partly to get a flying start in the morning, so by the time I got back on Sunday the first load was stacked up ready. It was late in the year and the nights were cold; I think they started early just to get warm. I took a walk to stretch my legs and had a look round some disused outbuildings. One of them must have been the S & T stores, for I found an Annetts Lock lying in a corner. On my way back to the truck I spotted an oil drum, all by itself in the middle of the yard, and it made my thumbs itch. It was lying on its side with both ends still on, but it had no business to be just there.

    As I walked up to it, a van pulled up onto site close by. A chap got out and while he looked like a railway volunteer, he wasn’t one of ours. It turned out that he was with some embryonic standard gauge outfit not far away, and wondered if there was anything to be had. I’m afraid I wasn’t very cooperative, and faced him off over the drum. He was welcome to anything we didn’t take – after we’d gone, if the developers would let him.

    Once he had left, I gave the drum a speculative kick. It rolled over with that nice musical clonking noise which spring steel keys make when they knock together. Someone had cut a letterbox slit in the drum and stuffed it full of keys. It was too heavy to lift on the truck, but the keys started to fall out as we kicked it across the site and there were hundreds of them. As it got lighter, I jammed a spade in the slot and we shook the drum – a variation of the technique I used on my money box as a small boy. We bagged them up and threw them on the truck with the chairs.

    I got two trips in that day myself, and David White turned up with the Slaters Plasticard works van. Between us we got away with all the M1 chairs, about 400 in total, and other miscellaneous tackle.

    A few weeks later we got the solution to the mystery. Some friends of ours were visiting Rowsley Site to do a little business. They were from a company which maintains private sidings and trades in railway equipment, and they had come to arrange a swap.

    Among other things they wanted some M1 pit chairs, which they urgently wanted for a job in hand. I regretted that they were all needed for our own use.

    “We had been hoping to get some from Llandudno Junction”, said one. This was embarrassing. “Oh gosh. Er, what went wrong?” I hope I kept a straight face. It seems they were there as subcontractors clearing the site ready for sale. This brought them under the direct control of Railtrack. The result was that their daily activities were regulated to such an extent that they were unable to work effectively. When the contract deadline expired a lot of valuable stuff had to be left behind. The new owners then fenced off the site from the railway, so we had a free hand.

    I felt it would be tactless to reveal the source of our M1 chairs, and I thought we had got away with it when some nameless clot said, “Was it you what filled that oil drum full of steel keys?” Indeed they had, and they had been hoping to get sixty pence each for them.

    For a moment I thought he was going to say that the keys were in the sacks at our feet, which they were, but our friends were too busy describing the habits and parentage of privatised railway companies for him to say any more.

    All things considered, they took it pretty well. They wanted a two lever ground frame – and an Annetts Lock, we wanted a really good No.8 crossing for the start of the carriage sidings, and so parted still on good terms. I did wonder if the crossing came from Llandudno, but some questions are best left unasked.

    While we set about cleaning up the M1 chairs and laying them out on the pits, Mick and I were able to give the green light for work to begin on the carriage sidings, and the carriage department made a full blooded start on clearance between Christmas and New Year, aided and abetted by various family and guests. Unfortunately no-one had tipped off the commercial department, a senior member of which erupted on site. Apparently the opening shot went something like:

    “What do you think you are doing!?! You’re making this place look like a building site!!!”

    Personally, I thought that was the whole idea.

    OldChap likes this.
  2. BR34095

    BR34095 New Member

    May 1, 2006
    Likes Received:
    One end of the Nene Valley Railway
    A couple of years ago I was involved in the setting up of the Bullhead Memories section of Nat Pres.
    This is just the type of thing I was hoping for when it was set up.
    Everyone who is involved with railways has a story in them, whether they are involved in preservation, on the main line, or even as passengers.
    If we do not write our stories, whether we are old or young, those stories will go to the grave when we go.
    They are far too valuable to go to such waste.
    All of these stories go to make up the history of railways, as seen by those that make them work.
    Maybe one day all of our stories can go to make up a Nat Pres book.
    I am sure it would be a best seller!

  3. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

    Jun 19, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I have just run a print of the articles to date, they add up to just under 100 pages. I'm off on holiday tomorrow, so that shouldd give a nice opportunity to work out some more themes and a little padding. I reckon I will need a good 150 pages for a book; there were some details which I thought were just a little too outrageous for publication - perhaps I should think again.

  4. Small Prairie

    Small Prairie Part of the furniture

    Dec 8, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Coach Driver
    North Devon
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    It really is brilliant , I wish there was a part 12 to read right now !

    i think you should put it all in , why not show what preservation was all about , people working together with what can seem like very little at times .
  5. jtx

    jtx Well-Known Member

    Jul 4, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Happily retired
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Those of us who date from the time you would drive to Kidderminster, hook off, run to the stops, screw down and nip across to the "Railway Bell" for a couple, before taking the train back to Bridgnorth, probably wouldn't be too surprised at anything, Tim. You are a great story - teller. Keep 'em coming.


  6. Sighthound

    Sighthound New Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Likes Received:
    For information, the 'anti collision fenders', or large castings with corrugations attached to coach bodies, devised in late pre-grouping days were the invention of J G Robinson, and attached to some of his late Great Central coaches. I believe they were 'tested' in at least one real collision in early LNER days, and did their job, but the exact details escape me.
  7. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Mar 24, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Freelance photo - journalist
    Reading some of the tales from early days of preservation also makes me wonder how much the early pioneers benefitted from "a nod and a wink". We all love the tale of Dick Hardy hiding V2 Green Arrow for potential preservation (which succeeded) but how many other cases come to mind ?

    An early experience for me was with a project initiated at Corby to save one of the small Manning Wardle / Kitson / Robert Stephenson Hawthorn 0-6-0ST locomotives then being displaced from the Mineral System fleet by diesel locomotives and a local enthusiast held a public meeting after his early attempts to obtain an example had been rejected by the company. The meeting was held to judge how much interest there would be in a public appeal for funds to buy a locomotive at its scrap value (£500:00 IIRC) as the first stage of a larger project to create an Ironstone Mining museum. Interest was high but, as is usual in many cases, the meeting progressed little beyond words with little attempt to garner either funds or more support.
    After the meeting had finished and the audience drifted away one person approached the enthusiast to discuss the project further. During the course of the conversation the person noted that he wished he had been contacted and been made aware of the project; when asked what difference that would have made he replied that, as the Cost Accountant in charge of the Plant Register, he would have been able to sell the locomotive for a nominal £1:00 (the asset's book value) with no questions asked !

    Another experience I had was in the 1970s when I was commuting to London and made friends with one of the commuters who worked at BR's Marylebone headquarters and often passed on details of interesting workings that I could see. At that time I was much involved with the Diesel & Electric Group in its preservation of Hymek D7017 and moves from Old Oak Common to Minehead which my friend was aware of.
    One morning he asked if I could use my contacts to help with a minor problem; it appeared that his job involved TOPS and he had been contacted by a workman at Swindon querying a locomotive he had been authorised to cut up. The workman noted the number as 20050 but said that he had it in mind that there was "something special" about it and wanted confirmation that he could start cutting it. My friend immediately recognised it as D8000 - which should have been transferred to the NRM but, no official request having been received, it appeared that the NRM had no interest in its preservation. However my friend had placed a 2-week embargo on it being cut and asked me to get an official request to BR within that period. When I reached my office I immediately contacted with D&EG members who were able to contact the NRM and (a) confirm that the NRM still wanted the Class 20 and (b) arrange to have an official request raised to ensure it would not be cut.
    It subsequently turned out that the NRM had made an official request for D8000 but the letter had been mis-directed and the recipient didn't appreciate the nature of the request and had simply binned it! Fortunately, as we now know, D8000 is safely part of the NRM's collection but had my friend not asked my help and had the D&EG not had the contacts then D8000 would doubtless have ended up shaving a lot of faces that would have been even redder once the news of its disposal had become public knowledge.

    I'm sure there are many other examples of "friends in high places" contributing behind the scenes and perhaps now may be a suitable time to acknowledge their contribution(s) which - at the time - could have cost them financial penalties at least or their jobs at worst.
    Matt37401 and Corbs like this.

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