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7 February 2011
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Dave (Spanner)
I began work on the Railways when I left school in 1954. I worked in the York engine depot on Leman Road. As I was only 15 my first job was in the stores where I would weigh out oil, cloths and cleaning materials. When I turned 16 I applied for and got work as an engine cleaner as I hoped for a career on the footplate. Life as a cleaner was much different. For a start it wasn�t just engines we cleaned but ash pits, scraping floors clear of layers of grease and grime and emptying wagons by hand onto coal stacks. It was also my first introduction to shift work which took some time to get used to particularly nights when you would be going to bed as others were just going to work. I soon found out that once you just got on with their work you gained the respect of others quickly. After a while I was considered able enough to try some basic firing turns round the shed and after a few weeks was let loose on the station pilot. This was far from an easy job as I found it very hard getting the engine just right when it was needed to work, whilst when we were stood still it was full of fire and blowing off steam. Luckily some of the drivers were very understanding but some of the older ones wouldn�t give you the smoke off their pipes they were so miserable. A shift with one of these uncompromising gentleman was a chore and time almost stood still it went so slowly By more luck than skill I started to get better and in 1957 I became a passed cleaner, able to be booked on firing turns when no staff of that grade was available. As I was one of the last choice to be sent out on the footplate it was really only in times of need to cover illness or when there was additional work that could not be covered by the regular men such as excursions and extra trains. This got me out to Scarborough, Whitby, Hull and one day even as far as Cleethorpes. This was far more agreeable and at times wasn�t like working at all as I enjoyed it so much. There are a few trips that stand out in my memory. One was a Summer Sunday excursion to Blackpool in 1959 where we layover something like 7 hours before bringing the same train back that. It was a brilliant sunny day and rather than mope about the driver and I went down the beach and enjoyed the seaside before returning to get our engine ready for the run back. We were the only two paddling that day wearing overalls and I remember we both got some strange looks. Once I was called on at short notice to work an additional from York to Bristol as far as Derby where our loco would come off. The engine was either a B1 or a K1, both types I was used to. The driver had a reputation for working locomotives and his firemen very hard. He hadn�t signed the road past Sheffield as a driver (though he had worked past as a fireman) so conductor would be provided From York to Sheffield he lived up to his reputation, going like stink. The engine was in good condition though and I kept it steaming with no problems. At Sheffield we took water and he went on to say it was quite a pull out of the station and I should get a good fire on. So I started piling in the cobs, keen to make certain there would be no shortage of steam on my behalf. As departure time grew near we were aware that there was no one to conduct us forward until the station inspector came up to the engine and said a goods link driver would be with us in a few minutes. I took the opportunity to get yet more coal in the firebox. A short while later a character joined us on the footplate, looking though he had stepped out of a Dickens novel. He was shrouded in a huge black overcoat; cap and scarf secured round his head with an old belt and was wearing moleskin trousers, which went over his clogs, tied on with bicycle clips. Why he should have been dressed like this as it was quite a pleasant day I don�t know. He introduced himself with a Yorkshire accent so thick I for one couldn�t understand what he said.

Andrew Robinson
Sadly, i missed the age of steam, but my dad has told me stories of his dad, who was a porter at Darlington Bank Top Station. On one occasion, a departing train slipped so fiercly that the upward blast of smoke and steam broke the overall roof, showering the train and platforms with falling glass. My dad has his own memories of standing on the footbridge at the station, and seeing the Flying Scotsman come thundering down the straight stretch of main line towards him, whitle shrieking. He is still a follower of the LNER, but i am a follower of the GWR, so there is sometimes conflict! I am a volunteer on the preserved Talyllyn Railway in Wales, where we keep a spark of the age of steam alive.

Barrie James Banks
I remember the glorious days of steam with great affection , and with a touch of sadness..!. My came from a railway family as her father worked out of patricroft, also many other family members worked @ crewe.Her father was sam mainwaring who was a leading light in railway unions,he was a express train driver and when i was a young "un" he said he would take round the loco sheds,but sadly he died before i got the chance.Nevertheless the age of steam was a wonderful era that i will never forget.

Michael Joinson
worked on the railway as 1 st. a cleaner,& then a fireman, at Hereford loco sheds Barton sidings. I started as an office boy in the yard masters office, taking messages over the phone, as to the loading of trains & there destinations. Also cleaning toilets, the guards room, controle room & the yard masters office. I then got a transfer overe to the loco sheds,& became an engine cleaner. This was in 1960-61, and when i was 17,i was sent to Pontypool to attend firing school, I was 17 then,& when I passed,I was made a fireman. I do have a lot of tales to tell about those times, & would be interested to hear from others who were on God's Wonderful railway(GWR)in the future.

Frances McDermott
Starting my first job , I worked at Paddington Station , on the enquiry lines . I loved the age of steam , and have many memories of my time at Padington. The steam and heat , that you could feel , coming from a train , was amazing , especially in the winter . We had the excitment of royal travellers, when the station was spruced up , the white edging on the platforms was always renewed , and later , out would come the red carpet . Among the trains I remember the Cornish Riviera the Bristolian , and I think the Welsh Dragon . A reminder of this period came some years later when , during a train workers 'go slow' the workers brought out the old hammers , which were used to ring the wheels , to check for cracks etc, although this was no longer a requirement , I understand it was still on 'part of procedure ' and was an effective way of causing further delays. In my job at enquiies I sat looking down on platform one , and can still remember when leaving the office , how you might come across live stock waiting to be loaded on , ambulances arriving to collect ski accident victims , and the sadness when a coffin would be taken on board , to be returned home for burial. I still get a kick from travelling by steam ,and will be doing so again , just before Christmas for a trip to Winchester , wonderful

Ralph Pepper
Winter 1947. I was stationed at Donnington in Shropshire and was going on leave. The train got stuck in a snow drift just outside wolverhampton. I left camp at 4.30pm and eventually arrived at Birmingham about midnight where I had to change from the LMS rail to the GWR rail for Cheltenham. My train eventually arrived at Birmingham at about 3 am having left Newcastle the previous day at something like 10 am. I arrived at Cheltenham at about 10 am. The journey, normally taking 2 hours, had taken 18 hours. Incidentally, Cheltenham was knee deep in snow.


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