Put Her Back on the Way She Came Off

“6106 has just come off the road in the loop at Bourne End. I know it’s almost quitting time but you can come and see us get her back on if you wish”.  I was doing my training with the Mechanical Section of the London Division of British Railways, Western Region. We soon found ourselves at Bourne End walking in the dark towards the loop where the dark outlines of ex-Great Western 2-6-2 suburban-tank engine, No. 6l06 could just be discerned.

The engineer was sitting morosely in the cab.

“The bobby gave me the road, then put the board back in my face and opened the derail. I slapped on the anchors but couldn’t stop the pony truck and the leading driver from going on the ground.”

“She's off quite straight.  Have you tried to get her back on?”

“Now you know the regulations, sir.  I shouldn’t try to do that, should I?”

We interpreted that as meaning “Yes, but it doesn’t work. Otherwise you would never have heard about it”

We got down and on our signal the engineer put 6106 into reverse and opened the throttle.  The four drivers on the rails just couldn't get enough grip to pull the leading drivers back on the track and the derailed wheels began to dig into the ballast.

In the signalbox we heard the other side of the story from the signalman.

"I wanted to make a move before the passenger arrived.  I gave him the road but he must have been having his lunch because he did not go.  I lost my margin in front of the passenger so I put the road back. Next thing I know is when I hear him bumping over the ties.”

“Where is the breakdown, train?”

“It’s been at a derailment all day but should be here any time now.”

As he said this I looked up the line just in time to see a steam engine with the two headlamps signifying “Breakdown Crane on way to derailment”, draw slowly up to the Bourne End home signal.

The foreman came up to look at the damage.  He wasn’t very happy because he had been picking up a wreck for well over twelve hours.  He was on his way home when the call came to detour via Bourne End.

"She’ll go on the way she came off only we’ll give her a little help.  We could put the breakdown engine in the other end of the loop and pull her back but that takes too much time and I haven't my tea yet.  We’ll push her on.”

The foreman picked up a tie and held one end against the front buffer beam of 6106. The locomotive was uncoupled from the breakdown train.  It was brought towards the front of the derailed engine and put against the other end of the tie.   The foreman moved clear and on his signal the engineers of both locomotives opened their throttles full. 6106 went back as easily as she had come off.

The foreman looked at his watch.  It had taken ten minutes from  the time he had arrived. With a look that said "Next time don’t bother me with such trivial matters" he walked to the warmth of the breakdown van where he pondered his delayed supper.

The steam locomotive was rapidly being replaced at this time and so I took the opportunity to ride 6106 light engine back to Maidenhead where I could catch a diesel home.  As we made our way through the dark I wondered whether this would be my last ride on a steam locomotive.  At that time I’d never even heard of 1057!

Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, March 1974

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