In which I complete my second year at Reading University and start work as a temporary fireman at Shoeburyness locomotive depot.
Click here to see pictures taken at Shoeburyness
Experiences of a Temporary Fireman - The Railway Magazine, December 1961.
The L.T. & S. 2-6-4 tanks - Railway World, May 1962.
Locomotive Fireman - Shoeburyness - Steam Days, June 1992.
Monday 3 July
I phoned up Jeremy Whitehead early this morning to ee if he wanted me to go surveying with him. He did, so we left just before 1000 and went via Maidenhead, Slough and watford to St. Albans. I was left to do St. Albans with Brenda Strangleman. This is the fiorst time that I have surveyed a town and it is not nearly so interesting or pleasant as in the country. We had to finiah quite early in order to get back in a reasonable time. We came back the same way except that we by-passed maidenhead on the new motorway.
What my diary doesn't record is that I asked Jeremy to put me with Brenda so that I could get to know her. Nothing came of this.
Thursday 6 July
I caught the 1128 train from Reading South. It takes much longer from the South but if I go through Paddington I would have to go along the Underground which is difficult with my case.
Saturday 15 July
Went down to Tenterden on the back of John Palmer's scooter to the meeting of the Kent and East Sussex Railway Preservation Society in the town hall. We went down via Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Goudhurst where we had dinner. The meeting started at 14.30 and went on for about 1½ hours. It was very interesting and although very little has been accomplished yet it seems possible that a train service could run next year. The main difficulty seems to be that of the level crossings. B.R. are prepared to lease the line but the crossings have to be worked by professional railwaymen. We inspected the track near Tenterden and it seems to be in quite good condition. We came back via Rolvenden, Newenden and Hawkhurst to Flimwell where we sheltered from a heavy storm. Carrying on, we managed to get as far as Sevenoaks but there the scooter broke down and we had to come home in the Guards van to St. Mary Cray.
Monday 17 July
Started my job today. I arrived at Shoeburyness depot at about 11.00 and was told to go to my temporary lodgings and come back at about 14.00. The lodgings are pretty bad bad really. It is more like a doss house! The work at the moment just entails sitting in an old coach learning the rules - it does get a nit boring. I have been fitted out with overalls etc. We went in for a swim just before dinner, it was very nice although pretty cold. There are two other chaps in our room other than Johnny. These are a Canadian and a post graduate from Nottingham. We went around after dinner and knocked at several houses trying to get accommodation. We were eventually lucky. The woman has never had full time lodgers before but the house is very nice. She seems willing to have a go at it.
Tuesday 18 JulyStarted down at the depot at 08.00 and just sat in the coach and stuck in the amendments to my rule book and signed forms. I then started to read the book but it is very uninteresting. After dinner we were shown over an engine and shown the various controls. At least it is the first time I have worked soe of the controls of an engine. After that we went down to the line of condemned carriages and were shown how to couple and uncouple. I managed the train heating alright but stuck the brake pipe. I couldn't undo it and had to get Fred (the instructor) to do it eventually - he just hit it once and it parted. have been in swimming again.
Wednesday 19 July
Have spent the morning in the coach talking to Fred about railway matters in general, including the Southwold Railway and the Tilbury tanks. After dinner we spent some time looking around the locos in the shed. I worked the injectors today for the first time and know how to operate most of the cab controls. We also went down to the condemned carriages and did some more coupling and uncoupling.
We have at last managed to get out of the lodging house. The new digs are quite good - it seems that nothing is too much truble for them. Bill and Adrian, two other students, live next door. Johnny and I went out for a stroll with them this evening.
Thursday 20 July
I had a very pleasant surprise this morning. I booked on at 08.00 and reported to the school. Fred told me to go third hand on the carriage shunter. Most of the people have at least a week in the school or shovelling coal. the carriage shunter is No. 42520, otherwise known as twenty-five, twenty. I was on with two crews. I just watched mainly with the first onebut with the second one the driver spends all his time in the shunters' hut so i had a fair amount to do. Tis is an easy duty really. I have been shown how to work the feed and also how to fire although it isn't very difficult because it is very easy to keep a full head of steam and also a full glass of water.
Friday 21 July
Started at 08.00 this morning and was put third hand on the carriage shunter, fwenty-five, twenty, with the same crews as yesterday. The fireman on the first shift left soon after we had taken coal and water so I have been firing the whole of the day. Firing isn't really the right word because it is so simple. I tried some experiments with the blower and also with firing. I soon realised that firing to the front produces a higher pressure - she soon started to blow.
I signed on at 05.45 this morning. We only work four hours on Saturdays at the moment and were shovelling the ashes into heaps for the grab to pick up tomorrow. We knocked off at 09.30 and caught the 10.40 train for Southend central. We then went to Colchester via Southend Victoria and Shenfield where we had a short break. Johnny and I then had a good look around and came back with extra breaks at Chelmsford and Southend. Altogether we have had quite a busy day - it is advisable to use the travel facilities while we can.
Saturday 22 July
Monday 24 JulyWas back on the old shunter again today, This time the engine concerned was 42513. I am learning all the time and now I seem to be getting the hang of firing. We had quite an eventful day really. The first fireman shut off one of the water gauge cocks because he said it was about to blow. However, the other fireman said that this was nonsense and simply tightened up the nuts. Perhaps the highlight of the day came when we had to tow an electric multiple unit out of the platform because of a failure, I really enjoyed this although there were some glum faces on the platform including that of the station master.
Tuesday 25 JulyHad my first trip out on the main line. I caught the 08.55 up to Fenchurch Street and then came back on the 11.25. I had some time in London during which time I went down to the Tower. The up train was hauled by 42679 while I came back on 42681. The up journey was quite exciting - the engine running bunker first, had quite a thump when the regulator was opened. The down journey was good fun - the crew were very friendly and I had a good time. The injector kept knocking off and we didn't have much water in the tank when we got back. I did some firing.
Wednesday 26 JulyWas third hand on 42681 all day today. We went up on the "Spiv Special", the 09.05 from Southend Central stopping only at Westcliffe and making the journey in 50 minutes. Consequently the run was quite exciting. At one point we were six minutes up on schedule but we were stopped by signals because we were catching up the train in front. I did an errand for Ben Diamond, the driver. I took his watch into a shop in Holborn. We came back on the 11.25 slow train. I didn't do all that much today although they said I could do some more tomorrow.
80103 was derailed in the yard today. It was eventually rerailed by the breakdown train hauled by a diesel.
I was on the same turn today as yesterday. Terry, the fireman, filled the box up as much as possible before Southend while we were bringing the empty carriages, and then only put on a little once all the way to Fenchurch Street. We then spent about half an hour in the first class compartment waiting to take the 11.25 out.
Thursday 27 July
A lady asked Terry if the train was the quick one.
Reply "It all depends how quick you like it!"
I fired 42681 all the way back and also had a go at working the injector. It was temperamental and kept knocking off. I had a job to keep the boiler filled.
Went in Mike's Austin Seven to Southend to get the overalls washed at the laundrette. I was quite a laugh. We blew a gasket on the way back. We had to go to a different laundromat each time because our greasy overalls made a mess of the machines.
Friday 28 JulyWas on the same turn today. We were just going out of the yard when the inspector climbed up. That would have been bad enough with four people but he told the fireman to go and sit in the Guards van so I had to fire all the way up to town. Anyway we didn't lose any steam and arrived in London before time. The ride back was quite exciting. We had to retrieve pieces of brick arch out of the fire and also had a hole. Quite an eventful day's work.
Saturday 29 JulyWent on at 08.00 this morning and shovelled ashes until 12.00. I then went to Hastings. We caught the 13.10 to Fenchurch Street and 15.20 from Charing Cross to Hastings arriving at about 17.00. We had a look around, including a visit to the castle. We came back via Ashford - just for the ride. We had half an hour at Ashford to look around and eventually reached Charing Cross at 22.40. We caught the 23.00 from Fenchurch Street and straight away ran into trouble. - somebody pulled the Communication Cord. After Barking we made an unscheduled stop at Dagenham East - the guard came down and had an argument with the driver, all the time our fireman was using his fire irons. We made another stop while the crew examined the big injector with a torch and we eventually had to change trains at Hornchurch - the engine was in terrible state - 42684. I slept from Laindon. We arrived at 01.10 instead of 00.17.
Monday 31 JulyWorked up to Fenchurch Street on the 07.26 on 4227 this morning (third hand). The engine was in bad condition and we were 15minutes late. The brakes were bad and we were afraid of hitting the buffers at Fenchurch Street. We had the doors open ready to bail out in a hurry if necessary. The problem was that the fireman had let the steam get too low with the result that the brakes would go on alright but the steam pressure was insufficient to release the brakes quickly.
Pedro, the fireman, standing in front of the firehole said "Goodness gracious, great balls of fire" - Elvis Presley.
We came back on the 09.08 and then worked some wagons to Benfleet. Altogether it was quite a long day. I think I will be able to pass out tomorrow. Came off at 15.00.