June 1961

In which I come towards the end of my first year at Reading University, am offered a summer job as a temporary fireman and cycle to Stonehenge to see the Druids' ceremony of the summer solstice.
Friday 2 June
I went down to Sonning to do some more work on the excavations.  It was very hot this afternoon, also very humid which made work very difficult.  I have started trowelling but didn't find anything.  It is rather boring, not nearly so interesting as at Lullingstone.

Saturday 3 June
Went up to Reading General station.  There were one or two relief trains, one of which was hauled by King 4-6-0 No. 6024 which I hadn't seen before.  The latest diesel from North British Locomotive Co. is D849 which was on the 11.45 to Paddington.  This is a regular turn for engines running in from Swindon. 

Sunday 4 June
I went out with Johnny and Dave to help Jeremy Whitehead in his survey of the settlements of the Chilterns.  We were dropped close to marlow on the Henley road.  We first surbeyed an RAF station married quarters and then did our area which contains much woodland and relatively few houses.  It was hot again, similar to yeaterday but very humid.  This made the job rather unpleasant.  To add to this we had nothing to drink and there wasn't a pub in the whole area. By the time we were picked up again at 6.00 we were very thirsty.  There is some nice prpoerty in this part of Buckinghamshire.  One house even had its own swimming pool.  We arrived back at around 7.00

Monday 5 June
I went to the Union for lunch and saw a notice concerning vacancies for firemen on the Southend line.  It would be very interesting and I have written off to see if they will accept me.  Went down to Tilehurst station this evening to do some work.

Tuesday 6 June
Had two letters today concerning vacation work. I have been turned down at one place but I hav to get in touch with G. Freeman Allen later on to arrange a meeting. This is for a job on the editorial staff of Trains Illustrated.

Wednesday 7 June
I wrote a reply to a letter which I had from the railways about the job of fireman.  I am going up to London on Monday for an interview.  The letter was very vague and I don't know whether or not I have the job.
I went down to Sonning with Simon.  We have been trowelling all afternoon but found nothing but worms.

Friday 9 June
I went out again on a field survey with Jeremy Whitehead.  We went out into the Chilterns and I was dropped at a place calle Bix with Pamela Greenway. We did a fair amount of surveying but I could have done much more on my own because I could have walked further and faster.  Even so she was pretty good company.  We had lunch at Stonor and made our way to Greenway where we were picked up (20 minutes late)

Saturday 10 June
I suddenly decided to go to Basingstoke today.  I caught the 10.49 diesel from Reading West.  It is quite a pleasant ride.  There are two intermediate stations - Mortimer and Bramley, at the latter are extensive sidings and a big network of War Department railway.  I spent the rest of the morning  on Basingstoke station.  There was an almost non-stop stream of trains to Southampton, Bournemouth, Weymouth , Exeter and stations west.  I had lunch in a pub in town and then  had a look around.  It was cold and I caught the first diesel back to Reading arriving back at about 16.15.  We were stopped at Coley Junction for about five minutes waiting for a train from Newbury.  It is interesting watching the drivers of these trains - there is a good view from the front seat of the line ahead.  These diesel multiple units are fitted with Automatic Train Control.

Monday 12 June
The next stage of the Kent Coast Electrification on the railways comes into operation today,  This entails the electrification of the line from Sevenoaks through Tonbridge and Ashford to Dover.

The Golden Arrow Puffs Farewell

The last of the Golden Arrow steam engines, the Appledore, came to a halt at Victoria station last night.

And with a certain amount of ceremony two fitters removed the nameplate.
It shouldn't really have been a sad occasion. The Golden Arrow boat train will still run - as it has for 35 years. Now it wil be drawn by electric locomotives.
But to a man like Mr. Tom Crabb, the 64 year-old driver, of Melbourne Avenue, Buckland Estate, Dover, the trip from Dover Marine Station to Victoria Station was a nostalgic one.
Said Mr. Crabb, "I've been driving steam engines for more than 35 years"
He had spent 30 minutes cleaning the Appledore at Dover sidings, watching the crowd.
Before the last journey back to London, a motive power inspector tried to explain the sadness, "Its just that all men here have steam in their veins."

Tuesday 13 June
Went up to London for my interview today.  It wasn't until 14.45 but I went up this morning and had a look round first.  I caught the slow train to London which is a multiple unit - I had a front seat.  From Paddington I went to Kings Cross and St. Pancras.  I then went on to Liverpool Street.  The station pilot there is a J69 0-6-0 tank No. 68619, it is kept in marvellous condition.  It is painted in Great Eastern blue lined in red and edged black with black boiler and smokebox. The coupling rods and buffer beams are red while all fittings, as well as buffers etc., are polished.  The Great Eastern crest is painted underneath the number on the bunker.  Truly the cleanest engine I have ever seen.  I think I have got the fireman's job. I have to go up again for a medical examination but apart from that I think it is alright.  I don't think I will have any problem with the medical.

Thursday 15 June

Went down to Tilehurst station this evening in order to work.  There were a large number of extra trains from Ascot races.  As well, there was a Britannia 4-6-2 and a 2-10-0 which livened things up a bit.

Friday 16 June
Went out to do some more field work for Jeremy.  We went to the area around Great Missenden and Wendover.  I was dropped off just the other side of Great Missenden from High Wycombe.  It was very pleasant.  Once again the weather was kind although it didn't look too promising at first. I did quite well until I came to some new building which slowed me down.  I think I have broken in my boots now, it has taken quite a long time but at least they don't hurt now.
I went into Davids to meet the crowd from school.  Altogether there were five of them, Roy Bennett, Clive Grenyer, Dave Wright, Dai Bamford and Roy Boulton.  We had a drink and then it was time for sleep.  I don't know where they have gone.

Saturday 17 June
They slept in the bike sheds at Whiteknights. I should have thought there was somewhere better to sleep - but still.

Sunday 18 June
Went to help Jeremy today.  We went even further afiekd.  I was surveying an area in the Chilterns near Little Gadderston. We went via Henley, Marlow, High Wycombe, Wendover and Tring, the first time I have been to Wendover or Tring.  It was a very hot day but was rather spoiled by my hay fever which was worse than ever.  I was quite close to Dunstable and could see the gliders going up.  I didn't have much time to do the area and I had to walk a long way for a drink.  I was very hot at one time but quickly got cold.  I think I have caught a cold.

Tuesday 20 June
I did an essay this morning and then made preparations for the bike trip to Stonehenge this evening.  We left home at about 16.30 and cycled through Theale and Aldermaston to a spot the other side of Kingsclere.  We had tea at the top of a hill looking over the Thames Valley.  From there we went through Whitchurch and had a short rest at Andover.  We then decided to go via Salisbury.  It is further that way but we thought it would be possible to find a coffee bar open.  We stocked up with drink at Middle Wallop but, due to the switchback nature of the road, didn't make Salisbury until after 23.00 by which time all the cafes were closed.  The road to Stonehenge was then in pitch darkness and along a very narrow winding lane.  We arrived at about 00.30.  There seemed to be quite a riot going on up there so Dave Cameron and I tried to get some sleep in a field.

Wednesday 21 June
At about 02.30 we went up to Stonehenge and met up with the others from the University.  At about 04.30 the Druids appeared and walked about three times around the circle.  They even came inside and performed their ceremony.  Although I was quite close, I could not see much.  The thing I can remember the most is the sounding of a horn to the four points of the compass.
We started back at 05.00.  It was rather a nightmare journey. We walked up any hills.  We went back via Amesbury, Andover and Salisbury.  There were stops at Whitchurch (by a stream), Basingstoke (cafe), and Reading (stream and pub).  Arrived home at 12.00.  Very tired.  Slept this afternoon.  Very tired now.

Friday 23 June
Caught the 09.49 train to Paddington.  It was an empty train and I managed to get the first compartment to myself, it was hauled by County 4-6-0 No. 1018.  I went by tube to Marylebone for my medical.  I had to wait some time but the actual examination didn't last too long.  I have passed the medical alright so I think I have the fireman's job. Went to Orpington for the weekend

Sunday 25 June
Left home at 7.30 and caught the 7.59 train to Victoria.  I took the 9.25 train hauled by Castle No. 5041 back to Reading and arrived back at 1030.

Tuesday 27 June
Have heard about my fireman's job and it seems that I have definitely been accepted.  I will be starting on July 17th and they are now going to fix me up with digs.  Now it is all cut and dried I have written to Wales to cancel the working holiday I was going to have at Ffestiniog.
Did some work this afternoon and then went down to Tilehurst in order to do some reading.  I was there in just over an hour and in that time I saw a Hall, a County, and a King (4-6-0s) which I hadn't seen before and also the Bristol Pullman.

Tilehurst 1961   Tilehurst 1961

Tilehurst 1961

Thursday 29 June
Went down to Tilehurst station at about 16.00. It was very interesting to compare the working of the railway today and on Tuesday.  There is one suburban train still hauled by steam.  This is a down stopping train hauled by a 2-6-2T 61xx class.  It gets up quite a speed before slowing down for the stop.

Previous Month      Next Month

Home   Main Diary Page