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Author Topic: Railway anecdotes from bygone days  (Read 2210 times)
Robin Summerhill
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« on: March 24, 2020, 12:27:15 pm »

From another thread, and as no-one else has picked up the challenge I thought I would  Grin

Can we start a thread of unusual railway related stories from forum members? I have one bout losing a government minister at Southampton Airport Parkway......

Of course we can - please start away!

It was late summer 1965 and I was coming south from the Midlands on the 1635 Sheffield to Bristol TM, with a poorly “Peak” at the business end.

Surrounded by clouds of black smoke at Gloucester (Eastgate in those days of course), a fitter was summoned from Horton Road and clattered about for 10 minutes or so, but to no avail.

A wheezing black 5, perhaps better described as a steam leak on wheels, then appeared from the depot, was coupled on to the front and given the job of dragging a dead peak and 8 or 9 mk1s to Bristol. I think we had passed Haresfield before we exceeded 15mph...

Nostalgia, eh?  Wink
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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2020, 12:45:57 pm »

A (very) long time ago, when I was a trainee in the S&T department (then called a 'Probationer'; what a lovely job title to have), I worked in the S&T gang that did all mechanical and telegraph installation and recovery.  One day I was being shown how to climb a telegraph pole with climbing irons and safety belt (i.e. no ladder used) up a pole that was to be recovered.  Now then, lots of old telegraph poles were rotten just below ground level and were only held up by the wires being in tension each side of the pole.  So, reaching the top of the pole I was then instructed to cut the wires one by one each side until only two wires were left.  The next instruction was to loosen my safety belt and be ready to force the climbing irons from the pole.  I then cut the last wire on one side and felt the pole begin to move (sway actually).  The next instruction, urgently shouted, was to remove my climbing irons from the pole and slide down it using the climbing belt.  I reached ground level very quickly, shortly followed by said telegraph pole!  Oh, such happy days..... Grin Roll Eyes


« Last Edit: March 25, 2020, 10:29:57 am by SandTEngineer » Logged
Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2020, 07:36:39 pm »

             THE CORK

It was Saturday 3rd August 1968. A couple of thousand of us (OK – hyperbole for effect, but there were quite a few like-minded souls) spent the afternoon at Lostock Hall shed, Preston, as unofficial engine cleaners. I was on the smokebox of Stanier Class 5 no. 45318 that was to work the 2125 Preston to Liverpool Exchange that night.

There wouldn’t be quite as much hyperbole to say that there were a couple of thousand of us on that last ever ordinary steam-hauled passenger train on British Railways. What the devil any "normal" passengers thought was going on is open to question – there were enthusiasts packing the corridor; sticking sound recording equipmentout of the window; standing around with stop watches. You name it, and a trainload of railway enthusiasts were up to it. Railway-enthusiast-related things, of course, I hasten to add…

As many other people have written, there was something of a party atmosphere in Liverpool Exchange that night. Through choruses of “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save Our Gracious Steam” we cheered and shouted, and a woman in a red coat emptied a bottle of Martini over the smokebox of 45318 that had brought us from Preston. Thinking about it now,  she probably was an ordinary passenger who wondered what the devil was going on, asked someone and then entered into the spirit of the event when she found out.

Following my joke protestations to her of: “Oi! I’ve just cleaned that bit this afternoon!” I was presented with the cork as a souvenir.

The cork has now aurvived almost 52 years, and is seem here posing on page 466 of Railway World of October 1968 where this incident gets a mention. Geoffrey Barnes' article in that magazine “Impressions of August 3” captures the atmosphere very well.

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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2020, 08:24:18 pm »

Robin, thats a brilliant and very nostalgic story to tell.
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eightonedee
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2020, 09:39:24 pm »

Having sown the seed, I'm afraid my anecdote is nothing like as interesting!

It only goes back to 2000. I was involved with organising a conference at Southampton University. Elliott Morley, then a junior environment minister was invited to give a keynote speech in the opening morning session. He was due to arrive by train that morning, and as our venue was the Avenue Campus at Southampton, we suggested he get off the train at Southampton Airport Parkway as it would be easier to park and pick him up, and avoided getting caught in the morning traffic jam to get to Central. As the committee member with the smartest car at the time I was duly volunteered to be his chauffeur, so set off and was in position strategically near the exit but with a view along the platform the better to pick him out and "meet and greet".

There were problems with trains that morning, but the appointed train eventually came and went - no sign. The next train - the same. By now worried, I phoned in by mobile. Nothing had been heard but his slot to speak was fast approaching. Eventually I was called back in, and was told - he had gone through to Central!  He eventually arrived and gave his speech late.

Nothing to match Robin - but has anyone else lost a government minister on a railway station?
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2020, 11:02:43 am »

Nothing to match Robin - but has anyone else lost a government minister on a railway station?

I must admit to being quite surprised with the reaction that the tale of “the cork” got because none of it was planned. It was just one o those things; just one of those crazy things (there we are – there’s a tune to hum now whilst you’re reading...)  Grin

My friend Steve Slade and I both wanted to go to Lancashire to see out the last momentous days of steam. We went up on the Wednesday night/ Thursday morning 31st July/ 1st August and stayed until Sunday 4th. Being both 16 at the time we had no money to speak of other than from paper rounds and the like, so accommodation had to be cheap. Really cheap – cheap spelt “free” cheap.

We had dome plenty of “overnighters” before using overnight trains and Mk1 compartment stock but that approach wasn’t really feasible – you wouldn’t have got much kip on an overnight train from Manchester to Lancaster or similar. Our “digs” for the three nights was the waiting room on the up platform at Wigan North Western where we would arrive off the 0100 Manchester Exchange to Glasgow (where a portion from Liverpool was added) , and leave again on the 0630 stopper to Barrow, getting to Carnforth at 0748. And then it was a case of doing the rounds of the sheds at Carnforth, Lostock Hall and Rose Grove, until evening came when we would repair to a boozer just outside Manchester Victoria station for a pie and a pint.

And yes I know I’ve already said we were 16 at the time but it was all different then... Thinking back about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if our West Country accents helped – perhaps the Mancunian landlord thought we were travelling squaddies or something. Anyway, I digress...

We were there to witness the momentous last days of steam but, if truth be known, the actual hours and minutes of those momentous days were rather boring and repetitive. There wasn’t much steam left, and that that was left was clattering around on freight and station pilot work doing the same jobs that those engines had done for the previous 30 years (that was one of the oddities of steam in the 60s – the black 5s and 8Fs generally outlived the newer standard designs).

So when we heard on the grapevine that Lostock Hall were going to roster a black 5 on the 2125 Liverpool on Saturday in place of the booked EE type 4 we decided to make it “suitable” for the occasion, together with what appeared to be an army of railway enthusiasts who had clearly tapped into the same grapevine. We packed out Lostock Hall yard. There was a short intermission when a member of BT Police turned up so we all scarpered, only to return 15 minutes later when he’d cleared off.

And I’ve already told the rest of the story of Saturday up until just before we got ourselves over to Lime Street to get the Liverpool portion of the Glasgow back to Wigan North Western.

The Sunday was the day of the final railtours. We were in Manchester Victoria and Exchange on the Sunday morning seeing them off, and then spent the afternoon at Blackburn with cameras at the ready.

The end of steam for us personally came at Stockport Edgeley on Sunday evening. This isn’t the best photograph I’ve ever taken by a long shot, but it shows 44871 and 45017 handing their train over to electric traction for the run back to London,


As for us, we actually got home on the Monday evening, after travelling overnight to Euston and then going on for a trip on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch. And you could say that that was “typical me” – “Right, that was the end of steam. Now let’s go and see some steam”  Wink


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eightf48544
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2020, 12:00:26 pm »

One for SandTEngineer.

A cold winter's morning in 1967  i was  early turn ASM at Sutton (Surrey). First job of the day to supervise the up morning peak. All was well until control at Redhill instructed us to turn the next Epsom Downs around in platform 4. Whch was fully signalled for bidirectional working.

Having got any unfrortunate passengers for the Downs branch off the train we loaded the London bound  Sutton passengers. Driver and guard swapped ends and the signalman got the road to Hackbridge.

All went well the points were set and locked, but when he tried to pull the platform starter the slide detector jammed! Now we had the whole East end the station jammed up with trains on the Home sigmals waiting to enter the station.

Fortunately there were local S&T Technicians at Sutton in those days so a quick couple of hits with a lump hammer  and the signal was pulled and the train departed. Ironically at roughly at the time it would have left had it turned round at Epsom Downs!

The best laid plans of men and control!

You couldn't do that SSI.
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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2020, 02:25:56 pm »

Very good indeed.  But, did the S&T gang fill in all the paperwork and carry out all the risk assessments and site safety briefings before hitting said detector with the hammer?  I think the train would have reached Waterloo by then.....

Its, supprising what a big hammer can fix.  Used that countless times in the past, and still do on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway I work on now Cheesy
« Last Edit: March 26, 2020, 02:58:57 pm by SandTEngineer » Logged
Oxonhutch
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2020, 02:36:10 pm »

My "Gentle Persuader" lives quietly in the garage. He was born in Africa and weighs in at nearly 16 lbs. Doesn't get much work - but he does it well
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stuving
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2020, 02:52:59 pm »

Fortunately there were local S&T Technicians at Sutton in those days so a quick couple of hits with a lump hammer  and the signal was pulled and the train departed. Ironically at roughly at the time it would have left had it turned round at Epsom Downs!

The best laid plans of men and control!

You couldn't do that SSI.

On no? I've said before (I think) that the majority of faults in electronic equipment aren't electronic at all - most of them are "non-conductive wire" in the broadest sense. So, like the dodgy contact with the batteries in a TV remote, a sharp knock is often called for. Since things vary in how robust they are, and also how heavy, the knock needs to be carefully calibrated. Thus a micrometer* hammer is best - all part of the art of impulse engineering.

Most of the remaining faults are, of course, conductive insulation. Truly electronic faults, i.e. faulty electronic components, are not that common (provided you don't mistreat them).

*Definitely not a micrometre.
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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2020, 03:00:03 pm »

Fortunately there were local S&T Technicians at Sutton in those days so a quick couple of hits with a lump hammer  and the signal was pulled and the train departed. Ironically at roughly at the time it would have left had it turned round at Epsom Downs!

The best laid plans of men and control!

You couldn't do that SSI.

On no? I've said before (I think) that the majority of faults in electronic equipment aren't electronic at all - most of them are "non-conductive wire" in the broadest sense. So, like the dodgy contact with the batteries in a TV remote, a sharp knock is often called for. Since things vary in how robust they are, and also how heavy, the knock needs to be carefully calibrated. Thus a micrometer* hammer is best - all part of the art of impulse engineering.

Most of the remaining faults are, of course, conductive insulation. Truly electronic faults, i.e. faulty electronic components, are not that common (provided you don't mistreat them).

*Definitely not a micrometre.

Dropping a circuit board on a hard floor has the same effect, I found out in the past Wink
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Oxonhutch
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2020, 03:20:30 pm »

Dropping a circuit board on a hard floor has the same effect, I found out in the past Wink

A colleague took a non-functioning circuit board out of his TV and baked it in the oven for 20 minutes - fixed!
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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2020, 03:41:46 pm »

Talk of SSI (Solid State Interlocking) below reminds me of another tale.  SSI trackside equipment, like all electronic equipment, doesn't like to be warmed up too much, although the temparature parameters it can work in are quite broad.  Somebody came up with the brilliant idea of fitting the trackside cabinets that housed the SSI modules with fans to circulate cool air inside.  Now then, guess what happened when summer time came  Roll Eyes
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Western Pathfinder
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2020, 07:02:34 pm »

My old Linn amplifier used to cut out if we ran it hard at parties,pop it in the freezer for ten minutes and bobs your uncle music again.🙂
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bradshaw
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2020, 07:16:56 pm »

I had a 2010 MacBook Pro in which there was a problem with the default graphic processor. It was an endemic fault in that batch.
However, if you switched it on and waited it would over heat. Then switch off and restart and switch to the other graphic processor and it would work for a few days.
Then you would carry out the procedure again. It lasted for another six or so months. I had to sell some of my railway signs to finance getting a new one.

The most annoying thing was that it first happened one day after the six year period that Apple allow for official repairs!
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