How Tom Price met his Match
Tom Price was one of the most miserable egineers I have ever met. He used to walk with a limp and always seemed have a permanent scowl on his face. To make matters worse, he was short and used to carry a piece of wood which he placed on his seat so that he could see through the windows of his 2-6-4 tank engine. I only fired for him once and that was only after he had initially refused to take me because I was inexperienced. He didn’t have much choice because there was nobody else and he eventually agreed to take me. He made several dire threats as to what would happen to me if I didn’t give him enough steam. I must have done alright because I returned in.one piece and all I can remember about the trip is being stopped at a red signal on a rising grade. I wasn’t even allowed to go to the signal to telephone. Instead. Tom climbed down off the engine and limped to the phone to carry out the regulation. The signalman took a long time to answer and we had a green signal just as he answered the phone. Tom shouted one swear word into the phone, slammed the receiver down and limped back to the engine.
Tom Price had made quite a name for himself among the younger and more inexperienced firemen at the depot and everyone dreaded having to go with him. Everyone, that is, except Ray. Ray was a quiet man who knew his job, but he had one basic fault, he couldn’t fire a locomotive from the right hand side. On the 2-6-4 tanks the engineer sat on the left hand side and the fireman had to move the coal from his left hand side to the firehole, which was on his right hand side. This, was the wrong way round for Ray, who used to fire with his back to the engineer and from the engineers side, so that he could fire the right way around.
One day Ray was booked to work a passenger train with Tom. They I started out fine — that is until Ray started to fire from Tom's side of the cab. Every time Ray took a shovelful of coal, he put his backside right intoTom's face, (remember Tom was a short man). This annoyed Tom so much that every time Ray went to swing the shovel, Tom poked him in the rear. Of course, this didn’t go down too well with Ray and very soon they had an argument. At this, Tom climbed down from his seat, produced a piece of chalk and drew a line down the middle of the swaying footplate. He said to Ray, pointing to the two halves of the cab:
“That half's your half, this half's mine. You stick to your half and I'll stick to mine”.
So Ray began to fire the wrong way round and it wasn’t long before he was hitting the firehole ring and scattering coal all over the footplate. Of course, this amused Tom price. However his amusement soon changed to anxiety when he took a look at the steam pressure gauge which had slowly started to drop back. As the steam pressure continued to drop Tom's glances over to the fireman's side became more frequent. Ray wasn’t concerned. When he wasn’t firing he was keeping a look-out ahead. In the end Tom Price couldn’t stand it any longer and shouted across:
'What' s up with the fire?”
Ray looked up surprised. He got up from his seat, opened the firedoor and looked at the fire. He straightened up, slowly shut the fire doors and said to Tom:
“I don't know. My side's alright, but yours hasn’t got any coal on it.”
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, January 1972.