Above: Paul (nickname 'Lenny the Lion') with a B1 locomotive at Grantham Loco.
Photograph lent by John Aldous.
I was 16 when this photo was taken. I started work at Grantham Loco as an engine cleaner on 24th April 1962. For a time I worked in the Depot Office with Mr Richardson the loco depot master. He was very strict.
I worked on most types of steam engines. A1s, A3s, 4MTs, 9Fs, K1s, Tankies and a few other types. But only in the capacity of an engine cleaner which included firebox cleaning and emptying ash pits, from ash pit to ground level then shovelling the ash from ground level into five-board wagons. It was hard work for a 15-year-old young man, but I really enjoyed it. In the early 1960s initiations were still taking place. My initiation was a mixture of smoke box ash and thick oil which was poured down the inside of my trousers. What a mess! I don't think health and safety would approve now.
I did have the privilege to work a few local trains as a passed cleaner, like the 'Collic [Colwick, Nottingham] and Newark bus' as it was called, a regular type B1 loco called 'Oliver Bury' always worked this train. I also worked a few trips to the ironstone quarries at Highdyke.
After approximately one year I was made redundant in 1963 and moved to Stratford Loco in London, where I was promoted to fireman. I then worked on diesels - Class 31s ('toffee apples'), 37s, 40s and shunt engines. Preparing to leave Liverpool Street station, having just started my Clayton steam heat boiler it discharged excess steam which brought down the overhead live wires. It was my lucky day because I was only a few feet away from the cable, which was zig zagging across the top of the roof of the class 37.
I then had the chance to move back to Grantham Loco as a fireman on an '8b' move. The 8b 'Depot to Depot' move allowed redundant men first choice of returning to their depot when available jobs arose at a later date. This lasted until 1967 when I was made redundant once again and I moved to King's Cross loco for a few years until 1973. This was the best move ever. now having the privilege to work on 31s, 37s, 40s, 47s and my favourite of all, the Class 55s.
Around 1970 working a football special from King's Cross to Leeds, one supporter kept pulling the emergency cord. After the third time that the cord was pulled I had to threaten the supporters that if the cord was pulled anymore we would stop at the next station and everyone would have to disembark. Needless to say we had no more cord pulling.
As a fireman I graduated through the links and into the top link which was the Newcastle lodge link. I can't help remembering the thrill of being one of the first firemen to travel at 100 mph on a Deltic flying along to Newcastle. There's nothing like driving an express train at 100 mph through heavy snowfall, a real heavy blizzard. Also, in the early hours in January and February, you can witness scores of meteorites shooting into our atmosphere with the streak of light behind them. Not many people get to see these things.
And the jewel in the crown, working on the Brush prototype Kestrel …oh and I nearly forgot, the odd trip on DP2 before her unfortunate demise.
Near to getting married I decided to apply to move to Peterborough Loco circa 1973 as a secondman, where I worked until about 1980. Unfortunately I failed my driver's exam, which bitterly hurt me for years to come. Fortunately, in those days British Rail did not sack the failed men. I ended up becoming a Freight Guard, which served me well until 2004 when I had the chance to take early retirement.
The two photos bring back happy memories.