In which I continue my work as a temporary fireman at Shoeburyness.
Experiences of a Temporary Fireman - The Railway Magazine, December 1961.
The L.T. & S. 2-6-4 tanks - Railway World, May 1962.
Locomotive Fireman - Shoeburyness - Steam Days, June 1992.
Tuesday 1 August
Went up third hand on 42227 again today. It seems this engine is not so bad as I had first thought but it had been improperly prepared yesterday. I left Jim and Pedro at Fenchurch Street and met the inspector for the test for passed cleaner. It wasn't too difficult and I didn't have much trouble in passing. This means that I get a raise of 15/- a week and I am allowed to fire an engine on my own although I will go third hand for the rest of the week. I came back third hand on 42529 - an uneventful trip.
Wednesday 2 August
Third hand on 42227 again, the same driver but a different fireman, Pedro. I was given quite a free hand and I think it gave me much more confidence. We had to go up to Leigh but luckily didn't waste much time there and I signed off at 14.15. Went for a short walk this evening after having done some work.
Thursday 3 August
Went third hand on 42227 again. Pedro didn't turn up so we had a passed fireman with us. I was allowed to do quite a bit of firing and did so from about Leigh onwards to London. We took 45 wagons up to Benfleet and then brought eleven coal wagons from Leigh. For some reason we had to wait about an hour for the road, with the result that I didn't get off until 15.00. I have now got the idea of working the feed, dampers and firehole door to control the steam pressure.
Friday 4 August
I had quite a shock today. I signed on at 07.00 as usual and asked what was on the 07.26. I was told that I wasn't going third hand but was going out on my own with Jimmy Carter and he didn't seem to be too happy at having a learner. We were on 42226 working up the 07.08, carriages to and from Barking and then the 12.00 down. Altogether I didn't do too badly - at least we didn't lose time through lack of steam! I think I learnt quite a bit today. Of course I had to dispose the engine which was by far the worst part. It is the first time that I have had to do it but I did get it done eventually. A few days later I was looking at the notices and found out that I had been reported for making smoke just outside Shoeburyness that day. There was no follow up so I believed management was happy enough that I was able to make steam to move the train.
Saturday 5 August
Signed on at 07.00 for shed duty this morning. For the first hour I did nothing at all but I have prepared one engine and thrown out the fire on another. Altogether I did very little work and came off at just after 13.00. I slept this afternoon because my shift tomorrow starts at 04.00! It took me a long while to wake up and I eventually went for a walk to clear my head.
Sunday 6 August
I got up at 03.00 this morning. This is an event which is unprecedented in my life! I didn't feel too sleepy walking to work but I had to wait more than an hour for somethng to do and by then I had nearly gone back to sleep. I helped prepare a couple of engines and then I was told to fire the 06.10 up. Fred Harper came as well so I was in good hands. The engine was 42224. We were 13 minutes late starting but arrived in Fenchurch Street only one minute late. I eventually came off at about 13.15 having earned Sunday pay, night work, overtime and fireman's rate. On the way back we were stopped by a red signal. the driver insisted on talking to the signalman on the phone, climbed down and limped to the signal post. The signalman took a long time to answer and as he did the signal cleared. The driver shouted "Fuck you" into the phone and limped back to his engine.
Monday 7 August
Bank holiday my foot! I got up at about 04.00 and signed on at 05.00. I was on shed duty and didn't get anything to do until 10.30 when I had to help prepare an engine. After that I came back and did some reading this afternoon. Have gone to bed early as I have to be up at 02.00!!
Tuesday 8 August
I did manage to get up at 02.00 but felt quite tired when I signed on at 03.00. I was lucky. At 05.15 I was told to go to London on 42227. the driver, Harry Price, was very good. He kept an eye on me but at the same time he let me get on with the job myself. The engine is a good steamer and I had no trouble in keeping the right pressure. I came off at about 12.00 having worked the 06.00 up and the 08.04 down.
Wednesday 9 August
I went out with the same driver (Harry Price) today, His fireman didn't turn up again and so he asked for me, We had the same engine and worked the same turn. Came off at around 12.00 and have just mucked around.
Thursday 10 August
Went out with Harry Price again - same engine, same turn. Pay day today. I earned just under ten pounds which is not too bad. On the way back from work I passed some children playing with fire in a field of tall dry grass. They set the grass alight and I had to dial 999 to call the Fire Brigade.
Friday 11 August
Again with Harry Price today.
I went over to Basildon this evening to see Peter Baldwin of the ticket society. I have never met him before and never been to Basildon but I managed it alright. Basildon is quite a pleasant place but somehow artificial. Peter has an amazing collection of railway tickets, I caught the 23.24 from Pitsea which arrived at 00.16 and I have to get up at 02.00 tomorrow. (At this time Basidon New Town did not have a station even though the railway went through the middle of the town)
Saturday 12 August
I did manage to get up in time but felt pretty tired for several hours afterwards. I managed to get a job again. I was on 42509 with Sam Brown. This engine is perhaps the cleanest engine on the shed and I had quite a time polishing her up. We went light engine to Southend East and then worked the 07.22 up and the 09.14 back. I like the injectors on these engines because they are no bother at all. They throw the heat out into the cab and I was very hot by the time we arrived back. Sam was pleased and impressed that I took the time while we were waiting at Fenchurch Street to clean down the boiler and cab side - I didn't tell him it was an excuse just to get out of the hot cab. The reason for the relative clenliness of 42509 was that it was used on the Tilbury Boat Trains.
42509 on shed at Shoeburyness
Sunday 13 August
I didn't sign on today until 23.55 so that story belongs to tomorrow's page.
Monday 14 August
We were due to take up the staff train but we went light, departing at 00.25 and arriving at Fenchurch Street about an hour later. The engine was 80101 and although I found it a bit difficult to fire she steamed well and I had no difficulty. We changed engines at London to 42223 and had about three hours "rest" on the engine (they are very unconfortable). We brought the 05.10 down and didn't I have fun! I couldn't get my injector to work until eventually the clack stuck up at Southend Central. We did get back alright but I was quite worried. (On arriving back at Shoeburyness the driver risked his life by going on the running board and hitting the clack whti a wrench to clear the scale - he had to do this very carefully because of the proximity toth eoverhead wires. It fixed the problem but I am not sure it was worth it).
Tuesday 15 August
I woke up around the normal time but didn't have to go in until 16.00 so I have had a fair part of the day to myself. I went into Southend this morning to have a look around and do some shopping. I bought a file for keeping my tickets in. When I came back some tickets from the Derwent Valley Light Railway were waiting for me. I wrote to the company but I never thought they would be so easy to come by.
I was on shed duty today and all I did from 16.00 until 22.30 was to shovel out one ashpan. I am, however, booked for a turn tomorrow.
Wednesday 16 August
I came on duty at 20.30 and worked up with 42075 on the 21.50 from Southend East. It is quite different working at night and very strange. I even had difficulty in setting the injectors because it is difficult to see whether they are on or not. Nothing much happened on the way up but we had to do a bit of carriage shunting up there.
Thursday 17 August
I even managed to get a bit of sleep in a carriage up at Fenchurch Street but felt even worse afterwards. We brought back the staff train which leaves London at 02.25 and stops at all stations to Shoeburyness, arriving at about 04.00. Luckily the engine is fitted with a rocking grate which makes disposing much easier and quicker.
I arrived back at about 05.30 and after breakfast went to bed. I arose around 13.00 and have been reading for a bit.
I was on shed duty at 18.00. I didn't do anything until 20.45 when I was told to go on the same turn as yesterday. This time we had 42076. I didn't want to go because it would mean eleven hours working during the night. I had to put a lot of coal on - she seemed to eat it. We reached really high speeds after Laindon - even more frightening at night.
Friday 18 August
I managed to get a little sleep again. The journey back on the staff train was uneventful except for a stoppage of nearly 10 minutes outside Pitsea and single line working from Pitsea to Benfleet. Again, the rocking grate came in handy and she didn't take much disposing.
I arrived home at around 05.15 feeling very tired indeed. Slept until 13.00 and had a few hours off before signing on again at 18.00. I was on shed duty and didn't get out. I prepared two engines and helped fill the coal hopper. A loaded coal wagon is brought down under the hopper and is then lifted bodily and the contents emptied into the hopper. Afterwards I was taken up to the top of the stage which must be about 100 feet high. There is a pretty good view of the station and the engine shed. The engines look like toy trains. Got home again at just after midnight.
Saturday 19 August
I slept until about 900 which meant I had quite a rush in order to be home for a reasonable time. I caught the 1100 train from Shoeburyness and changed at Southend Central in order to catch the "fast" train to London. We arrived late owing to several delays after barking. I just managed to catch an Orpington train at Charing Cross and arrived home about 2.00. Mum was pleased to see me, Nin was indifferent but dad just started an argument. It doesn't give me much incentive to come home. If I earm more than £100 Dad will lose about £40 from his tax so I may have to pack up early.
Sunday 20 August
Auntie Vi and Uncle Jack (Dad's sister and brother) came down this morning and, having had coffee, went up to Deptford to bring Uncle George down (he was working) They took Dad with them. I had an early dinner and left before they came back. It was a very bad journey back to Basildon. I just missed a train at Orpington and did eventually reach Peter's house about four hours after leaving home. I went via Tilbury from Fenchurch Street. I had quite a good time at Basildon, we sorted some tickets for distribution and I had a look at some more of Peter's tickets. I left there at 21.30 and arrived home at around 23.15.
Monday 21 August
Was on duty at 07.00 this morning. I was lucky enough to be sent out on "The Spiv". We had 42527. It seems a sluggish engine and we lost about 1½ minutes for no apparent reason at all.We went up Laindon with the regulator full open yet it still only seemed to "chug" up it. The run back was better. She seemed to steam better on the way back probably because the driver let me fire little and often.
Tuesday 22 August
On shed duty again today. I helped empty a wagon of oil drums and take four of them into the stores. I also helped move a wagon and a dead engine around. We were told to unload a wagon of firebricks in the shed. I undid the door but it dropped with more force than I thought and I had to fall out of the way. I have badly bruised my leg and the base of my spine. I was rather shaken up and came home afterwards. It is now very painful and I don't think I will be able to go in tomorrow.
Wednesday 23 August
My bruises were very sore today and I had difficulty in even getting out of bed. I obviously couldn't go to work. I went to the doctor this morning. I am just badly bruised but will have to be off until Friday. I went down to the depot, or rather hobbled down, to tell them about it later on and they didn't seem to mind too much, At least the worst of the holiday traffic period is over. Went for a limp down to the sea this afternoon.
Thursday 24 August
My back and knee still hurt but are a great improvement. Have been writing some letters this morning and, after drawing my pay, I went into Southend.
Friday 25 August
First day back at work. I was on shed duty but was sent out on the Southend Shunt straight away. We had 42516 and went to Central light coupled to another engine. We then shunted the yard. The driver took his bike on the engine with him! It just fitted on the back in front of the tool chest. We then did some shunting at Southend East, back to Central and, after a bit more shunting, we spent the rest of the time in the shunters' hut. The engine was in a bad state, only one injector and one glass.
Saturday 26 August
Was on shed duty at 06.00 this morning and did nothing until about 11.30 when I took a message down to a driver. I came off at 14.00 and took a privilege ticket to Liverpool Street. I broke my journey at Stratford to have a look around. It has changed a great deal since I was last there. Most of the trains are diesel hauled but there are still a few steam engines left, particularly the ex-Great Eastern engines - 0-6-0, 0-6-0T and 0-6-2T. Several of the J15s were well cleaned and polished. I took the train back and arrived back at 19.00.
Sunday 27 August
Was on shed duty at 09.00 this morning but didn't have time even to get into the mess room as I was told to go with Jimmy Carter on 42539. It was not a good turn as there was a great deal of waiting. We left the depot at 09.30 but didn't leave the carriage sidings until 10.30. Empty cars to Benfleet and then light engine to Tilbury. We waited ten minutes outside Southend Central for an engine to get enough steam to get out of the way. We took coal and water and turned at Tilbury (vacuum operated turntable) (even though we had a tank engine) and, after half an hour by the river, we worked up the 13.14 to London. There was a great deal of permanent way work and also some wrong line working. We worked the 15.00 down. We did well as far as Barking (had to wait 9 minutes) but were stopped outside Upminster and Pitsea. When we eventually came into the latter statin it was obvious by the crowds that the diesel ahead of us had failed. Thus we were quite late back and I didn't finish until 18.00.
Monday 28 August
I was not on until 13.00 so I have spent the morning doing some studying. Have been on shed duty today. I helped to shunt the coal bank and after that I was actually allowed to drive the engine back. It wasn't very far but it was very thrilling. After that I went back and helped Mr. Bancroft do some paperwork! At least it makes a change from shovelling coal and it was very hot this afternoon.
Tuesday 29 August
Spent the morning writing letters and signed on at 13.00. We threw the fires out of two engines and Mike nearly drove one into the turntable pit. It was only my putting on the handbrake that stopped it! I was then told to prepare 42224 and go if the fireman didn't turn up. So I found myself working to Tilbury, from there to London and then back via Tilbury. It took a long time and I didn't get back until 23.00. It was very hot, even more so because the driver would insist on keeping the firehole door open.
Wednesday 30 August
Got up at 06.00 this morning and then we (John and Bill) caught the 07.08 to Leigh and then the 07.42 to Barking. We changed to the diesel to South Tottenham. There we caught the train to North Woolwich. The trip was a very interesting one, particularly the part past Temple Mills and Stratford. We spent half an hour at North Woolwich and then went back to Stratford. The engines on this line are N7 0-6-2 tanks. I eft the others and then came home via Liverpool Street and Charing Cross. Mum and Dad were quite pleased to see me. I left quite early and got back to Shoeburyness at about 20.30. Very tired.
Thursday 31 August
Have been doing a few odd jobs this morning and went on duty at 13.00. I didn't do anything for the first hour but then helped the shed pilot for a bit. At 14.50 I was told to go on 42500 which was due out at 15.02. I got there to find the tanks were empty, there were no tools and there was only 70 lb of steam. I started to work frantically while the driver looked on. It was only when I had seen to the fire that he told me we were light to Upminster. We chugged down to Upminster, stood there 3¾ hours and chugged back. We had to be there in case another engine failed.