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 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.

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