Locomotive Repair Report

During my vacation from university in the summer of 1961 I worked as a cleaner/fireman working the steam trains between Shoeburyness and London, England. We had only 2-6-4 tank engines of several different types as this was basically a commuter operation.

One night turn I shall never forget. We were booked to take a staff train up to London but this was cancelled so we went light engine up to town.  I had a Standard class tank engine no. 80101. Boy was that easy as the Standards had a number of labor saving devices and running light engine cut the work load considerably.

Things began to go pie-shaped as soon as we reached the London terminus at Fenchurch Street where we had to change engines. The fireman on no. 42223 was delighted to see he was getting a Standard. He said to me, with a smile on his face: “Your fire is heavily clinkered and the fireman’s side injector doesn’t work.”

The fire was burning with a sickly green flame indicating a heavy layer of clinker over the firebars so the engine was not going to steam well. We had three hours to wait until we departed with the down paper train – plenty of time to clean the fire but I couldn’t get to the fire irons which were locked because we were under the overhead wires (25,000V AC).

On a Standard both water injector controls were under the fireman’s “seat” which was a flap of wood big enough for one cheek.  On 42223 the second injector controls were under the driver’s/engineer’s flap. Every time I wanted to put water into the boiler I would have to get my driver to stand up out of the way.

42223 was ready for the scrapper and we banged and rattled our noisy way back to Shoeburyness. The driver made good use of what little steam I could supply. We just managed to climb up the grade to Laindon with low boiler pressure. Of course, running down the other side of the summit the safety valves were roaring. The driver was philosophical about having to stand up every time I needed to work the injector.

 We finally made it to Southend Central, about five miles out, when the second injector failed. We managed to make it back into Shoeburyness but the steam pressure was very, very low. My driver said: “About the only thing on this engine that works is the whistle”.

It was a long laborious job to clean the smokebox, fire and ashpan – which would have been so easy on a Standard with its self-cleaning smokebox and rocking grates.

As I made ready to go home to bed my driver came up and showed me his Repair Report.

“Jack up whistle. Replace engine. Lower whistle.” 

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders  Interchange September 2022

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