In which I visit Shoeburyness shed and make a second visit to Wantage.
Monday 1 January
The New Year found me, with Dave Waywell, at Hawkshead youth hostel, by the side of Esthwaite water in Lancashire. There had been a fall of about an inch of snow last night which added to that which had already fallen. The plumbing system of the hostel was still frozen and we helped bring up water from the beck which flows down the hostel garden and into Esthwaite water which was partially frozen over. We walked down the road as far as the ferry across Windermere and, having crossed the ferry into Westmoreland, walked from Bowness into Windermere. Most of the shops were closed for New Year's Day in this part of the country but we did manage to buy a newspaper. It seems that the snow, ice and fog have made road conditions very bad in all parts of the country, We walked out a little way along the Kendal road and had dinner. We decided to try to get to the Peak District and were given two lifts which took us to the northern end of the Preston by-pass. On the way there was a magnificent view of the snow-covered Pennine chain from just before Kendal. It was still very cold and we ran into fog going south. We were picked up by a man in a Ford Anglia at the Preston motorway. He was going all the way to London. It was getting late and we would have had difficulty in making a hostel so we decided to go with him. However, the fog came down rapidly and this, with the prospect of ice on the roads further south caused the driver to call it a day and put up at a hotel in Newcastle-under-Lyme. We went round to the police station who fixed us up with a bed and breakfast at a good Guest House.
Tuesday 2 January
We decided to hitch home today. We only waited for about 15 minutes when a Lyons Ice Cream wagon stopped and took us right the way from Newcastle under Lyme to Greenford, Middlesex. It was a Scammel wagon which was very slow and noisy but the advantage was that we had a good driver and a heavy load which made it much safer in the very bad ice-bound roads. There was only one seat and as we were in the wagon for seven hours we were very sore afterwards. Our route back was through Stone, Rugeley, Litchfield, Coleshill (where the roads were very bad indeed), round the Coventry by-pass and then onto the M45 and M1. The motorways had been cleared of ice by the time we came on them but in some places only two lanes had been cleared. Caught a tube into Charing Cross. There was some confusion on the Southern suburban services but I was lucky enough to catch a Hastings train which was making a special stop at Orpington (first stop after Waterloo). Arrived home into the warm at about 19.15.
Saturday 6 January
I went down to Shoeburyness today catching the 10.25 train from Fenchurch Street. This was an electric but there are still a great number of steam engines at the shed. I saw Harry Price on my way to St. Andrews Road (where Mr. and Mrs. Banyard live) who told me that there has been a hold-up with the electrics and there was a frantic call to bring back the steam engines which had been sent away to be withdrawn.
Sunday 7 January
Went down to the shed this afternoon. There wasn't much doing at all, of the 42 engines on shed, 31 were dead (of couerse this was Sunday). 42514 had a pitch in atthe Shoeburyness Carriage Sidings and has broken up her buffer beam. As one driver put it, "At least, it got rid of some of the rust." I was just about to go when the pilotman was told to move 42518 to fill the tanks. I asked if I could go, just for the ride, and they let me drive her! It wasn't very far, about ¼ mile all told, but it is the farthest I have driven a steam engine. Although she was only moving slowly I made the wheels slip because I opened the regulator too quickly! I think that just about made my weekend,
Engines at Shoeburyness Shed on Sunday 7 January 1962
* 80102 running without smokebox number plate
* 42509 was very dirty - used to be the cleanest engine at Shoeburyness because it was used on the Tilbuty boat trains
$ 42514 badly cracked buffer beam sustained in a collision while shunting at Shoeburyness Carriage Sidings
% 80133 very bad leaky tubes. Doubtful if it will run again (built 1955?)
Saturday 27 January
I decided to see what happens down at Reading West on a Saturday morning. I didn't see any down stopping trains but there was one up train. This was the Wolverhampton train from Bournemouth. It was most unusually hauled by Lord Nelson class 4-6-0 30860 "Lord Hawke". I had quite a long talk with the driver and pilotman while the train was in the station. This engine had come down from Eastleigh the previous night and had been borrowed for this trip which took it as far as Oxford. The driver liked the Nelsons, but preferred a Merchant Navy. The state of maintenance wasn't too good, many of the rivets holding the cab roof were either loose or missing, This particular engine steams well, she is fitted with exhaust steam injectors which function well. She started easily with the light load, it was very pleasing to hear the very soft exhaust which is a feature of engines of this class.
I caught the 11.57 train to Reading General and there was a bit of excitement. I talked to the fireman of Castle class No. 5052, "Earl of Radnor" on a down express to South Wales. He had his fire built up above the top of the firehole ring. I have never seen a Haycock fire piled up so high. The fireman said he normally fired like that and he had a full head of steam with the live steam injector on. The diesel on the 12.24 arrival at Reading failed at Twyford and the closely following South Wales train was diverted to the slow line and back to pass round it. The South Wales train arrived abut 20 minutes late but the diesel hadn't arrived by the time I left at 12.55, I could see it standing at the signal gantry about a mile down the track.
Sunday 28 January
I decided to cycle up to Wanyage again (see 12 February 1961) to have a closer look at the Wantage Tramway locomotive preserved on the station. I cycled up the oxford road and turned left past Moulsford to get to Cholsey station where the booking clerk gave me a GWR privilege ticket. From there I went to South Moreton and Didcot to harwell where I had lunch in a pub. After that I went to Steventon and East Hanney and on to Wantage Road station. The engine, which is in a special space which has a roof, is on the down platform. There is an inscription bolted to the railings in front of the engine. This reads:
Driving Wheels 2'10½"
Working pressure 120 lbs per sq. in.
Cylinders (2) 9¼"x12"
It is difficult to get a good view of the cab controls. The regulator is of the "push and pull" type similar to that on a SE&CR H class 0-4-4T. The driving was from the right hand side, reversing being by means of a lever on the right hand side in between the firebox and the cab side, this space on the left hand side was used for coal. There was one gauge glass, fitted at an angle on the left hand side of the firebox. As far as I could see there was only one injector but there may not have been one at all. I couldn't see well enough into the cab to see the brakes etc. It is a very good thing that this engine is preserved but it is a pity that it is not at a more accessible place (it is now at Didcot Railway Centre) also the presence of twigs, leaves etc on the footplate don't add to the interest. It is a pity that closer inspection is not possible, this being hindered by the high railings.
Having had a good look at "Shannon", I cycled along the road by the former track of the tramway to Wantage itself. There is nothing to be seen now of the tramway except for an exceptionally wide verge on the left hand side (east?) of the road, From Wantage I cycled through Challow and on to Farringdon, it is a very easy ride and, as I had plenty of time to spare, I took it very easy. Farringdon is a pleasant town. It has a market cross in the centre and the church lies back from the cross. From Farringdon the road is, if anything, even easier. By this time the cloud had cleared completely and the sun shone brightly. I reached Lechlade at about 16.30 and made my way to Inglesham youth hostel at a walking pace. The hostel is quite pleasant and well looked after. I was the only one in that night but the warden provided me with meals.
Monday 29 January
I cycled back to Reading today. the clear skies which had made yesterday afternoon so pleasant had remained last night and caused a frost and a reasonable amount of fog. The hostel was frozen up. I left about 09.00 and cycled via Farringdon to Abingdon. It was very cold and I had to watch out for ice on the road. Knobs of ice even formed on my gloves. The road from Farringdon is all downhill - 14 miles of it. I didn't run out of the fog until well past Abingdon. From there I took the Henley road, stopping at Culham station where I was given some interesting luggage labels. At Wallingford I had a snack in a pub and arrived back at about 14.00, pretty good going for a morning's work - I am feeling quite tired this evening.