By Roy Vinter
Promotion was very slow at Grantham - one of the reasons I stayed at King’s Cross where, though still only a passed cleaner, I was firing all the time. I did very little cleaning on return home, but I was not a regular fireman 'til 1963 I think.
Speeds of 100mph were frequent down Stoke bank at the time. I remember a trip one Sunday about August 1961 to King’s Cross and back with driver (then passed fireman) Bill McKee with A3 No.60047 Donovan. She was recently ‘new out of plant’ from overhaul and complete with smoke deflectors and newly fitted speedo, which was a novelty at the time. We were intrigued at the prospect of getting the speedo round as far as it would go, which was a stop/peg for the needle just past 100. This we achieved and, as you may imagine, it was a very exhilarating experience until suddenly we were faced with adverse signals. We were going far too fast, applying the vacuum brake fully didn’t seem to be having a big effect and we didn't look like stopping. Luckily the following signals were more favourable and we survived.
Some of us kept daily diaries recording hours and distances worked, and sometimes other details such as the locomotive number. In my case I think it was mainly to keep a check on wages due. As you know, pay varied during night time hours and overtime (after 8 hours), which were ‘time-and-a-quarter’. I think Sundays and bank holidays were ‘time-and-a-half’, and Christmas Day and Easter Sunday (holy days) were the highest paid at ‘time-and-three-quarters’. Then there was mileage allowance to work out. For each 15 miles (or part of) over 140 we used to get 1 hour extra; e.g. to King’s Cross and return from Grantham, 210 miles, was ‘a-day-and-five’, i.e. 8 hours for your shift + 5 hours for your mileage = 13 hours; the 5 hours for mileage was (210 – 140) ÷ 15, rounded up.
It was also interesting of course to look back on things. I only kept two of my diaries, much to my eternal regret. I know quite a few of us of my age kept diaries, but not sure whether older chaps did; I imagine the novelty would wear off over the years. I'm sure there was no requirement to do so.
Some Grantham Loco ‘characters’
I remember Lou Baldwin; relieved him and his driver once in the down main platform at Grantham on a B1 with a pigeon special going north. It appeared he'd struggled a bit up Stoke bank. He'd one hell of a fire on - right up to the level of the firebox door all the way to the front of the box. I said to Arthur Musson, my driver, "What am I to do with this Arthur?" He said to just shut the flap and hope, see how we go. As far as I can remember it was quite an uneventful journey, so I suppose the fire settled down as it would be relatively easy going as far as Newark, anyway. I think we went to York with the pigeons. When I saw Lou again he said, "How'd you get on with that f…… engine the other day?" What could I say? Happy days!
I once fired for Roy Veasey on an A3 to King’s Cross when he had not long passed out for driving. And I well remember his top link mate, driver Charlie Hopwood - a Salvation Army man, and a very conscientious and upright man who I also went to King’s Cross and back with one day. We relieved on train, and Charlie wouldn’t take the engine as it was very low in coal. It would certainly have been hard work for me, so we waited on the platform for the main line pilot engine to be brought out for us, the incoming crew meantime taking the train engine to the Loco. I thought it was very good of him to think of me, but I also learned much later that he didn’t like tenders to be low in coal as it was draughty on his back, which he suffered with.
I remember old Pete Ballaam too; nice enough chap but a bit shy of work. He was supposed to be the mess room cleaner, as I remember; spent more time studying the horses for the day I think.
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