Unless otherwise stated, all photographs were kindly provided for this article by Derek himself.
Derek was born at an early age and started his working career with steam as a locomotive cleaner at Gloucester Horton Road (85B) on the 8th of May 1958. There were no fireman vacancies at 85B at the time that he attained the grade of passed cleaner, so he transferred to the number 4 roundhouse at 81A Old Oak Common (OOC) on 15th February 1960.
In his own words:
After engine cleaning, some of the time of which I served behind the booking on/off office window hatch, checking men in and off for their turns, plus occasionally going out on the shed call bike with messages for crew. (I had been recognised as being able to read and write well so.....), I got passed out as a Passed Cleaner prior to the Spring of '59.
At OOC, being freshly made up to fireman, I was largely in the prep gang and on the 'Ups and Downs'. Prepping was hard work, getting to do around six engines in a shift, but, did the lot, "Kings", "Castles", other W.R. 4-6-0'S, 92'S, one sole "County" 1025,('Radnor), (On that occasion, taking it tender first to Paddington where we were relieved by the train men working the (Bristol?) passenger train. We also prepped 61's, Panniers of all sorts, the occasional Stanier 8F and virtually any other Class of WR loco's there. Ups and downs generally involved preparing or taking to a ready prepped engine, then, to either OOC or West London carriage sidings. Mostly 15XX's, the 9400-9409 'fleet' and other of the class, plus ordinary Panniers. Sometimes we had a 61xx, remembering a pretty clapped out 6121 as a regular.
|6862, Derwent Grange|
Sometimes we'd use a freshly prepared train locomotive to take the empty Coaching Stock (ECS) up to the stops at Paddington. Then, once the train had left us, we'd go outside and wait until we backed on to a main line job, have relief, then go and relieve an incoming express. The driver and fireman were generally well on the way to the cabin for their grub and a brew before passengers from the second or third coach back got near the cab! Many's the time we've accepted "Good trip up today" and similar accolades! Once the up and down engine had coupled onto the country end of the stock, it was either trail down, cutting off at the entrance to the relevant carriage sidings, and either standing just outside and waiting for an arrival, then with the Main Line engine, taking the ECS tender first to the sidings. It was on one such occasion that the "King" we'd taken over had gone onto a later arrival to do just this, I gained great pleasure in getting a few shovelfuls down the front of that long box, great! I was 17 at the time (Also had my first ever shave in the BR hostel I stayed in!).
When you worked the stock to the carriage sidings or sheds, same as if you'd cut off after being trailed down, i.e., taking the engine onto the shed "run" (Entry pit road for the fire droppers to do the fire, ash pan and smoke box, then, (Also a job I was often on), place the engine under the coal stage, move to take water if needed, then into one of the 4 Roundhouses and turn it off onto the track for it's next trip, or for repair/washout or the like.
The other alternative at Paddington was, follow the stock down, then go Light Engine (LE) to Ranelagh Bridge depot, just near the terminus, to turn, take water and for the coal men there to shovel all the coal forward for say, a return Wolverhampton. When the Kings were on a job, (Euston rebuilding leading to a much more intensive service), if 84A. Wolverhampton Stafford Road, had coaled with hard coal, the pile would be well eaten into and I'm told they frequently got back with very little left! Stafford Road or Tyseley men used to work the jobs both ways on a lot of the turns, just having relief in Paddington, then walking up to the departure end after their 'snap', and boarding their steed for the return!
The furthest I ever got was the Express Dairy shunt at Wood Lane or, Acton Main Line pilot shunt jobs. I well remember an ex Gloucester driver who'd gone to OOC for his driving job, leaving me to hit 'em up and knock 'em off on my own whilst he was otherwise engaged. Experience gained which, with train lengths then (1960),and today's lack of preserved trucks in vast quantities, couldn't ever be replicated again! This was with an 87XX PT. (The 15XX's didn't include 1501, because she wasn't at OOC).
Steam heating uses a lot of water and can keep the clock off the mark, well, we had a job where you were doing nothing more than that at OOC Carriage shed/yard, all the different rakes of stock in turn, some with 14 bogies on. A pannier towards the end of her shift with a dirtying fire, well, blower well on and quite a struggle to keep both the clock well round and water in the glass I'll tell you!
I stayed at OOC until moving to my local home town depot of Cheltenham Malvern Road, a 4 road Sub-shed of 85B.
|Derek on the left on the footplate of Jinty, 47506, at Cheltenham High St. 5/3/62|
Monday, 12/12/60, booked on at 9.30am to travel as passenger (A.P.) on the 11.15am off Paddington, right through to my new workplace, alighting at Malvern Road and boldly walking forward, away from the footbridge, to access the shed via the boarded crossing at the East/Toddington end of the station, booking off at 2.50pm. Tuesday, I was marked on the shed roster sheet as, on duty 6am, R.T.F., ("Report To Foreman"). I rode upon the footplate of newly prepared 8107, for the 6.30am stopping passenger service to Kingham, in order to get to St.James' goods yard. This was to relieve a Gloucester fireman on 9471 as the booked Cheltenham fireman 'had done it in' (Hadn't turned up!). I have it recorded that we shunted from about 6.50am until 7.15am when the late running fireman appeared! During this time, I'd just put 2 shovelfuls down the front. I was then instructed to travel over to Gloucester on the 7.35am train, to attend Horton Road shed, staying unused/Spare in the cabin, until catching the 1.20pm train back, booking off in 8 hours at 2pm. Easy first day!
|Black 5, 45263 passes Toddington with a Wolverhampton to Kingswear train, 24/7/65|
15th was on duty at 4.45am and prepare 8491 for 5.30am off shed to work St James' station passenger pilot. Around 11.55am, swopped footplates with 9471 in order that the 84 could get over to Gloucester shed, possibly for boiler washout, something which wasn't undertaken at Cheltenham. Noted that day was SR 31791 of 71A (As Eastleigh's shed code was then), in on the 3 coach ex MSWJR train. Friday saw me on the GWSR track as, having booked on at 5.30am to prepare 3203, we went off shed at 6.15am, waited for a guard then, LE to Cheltenham High Street via reversal at Lansdown Jct., did a bit of running around getting some wagons and a brake up together, retraced our steps and back at Malvern Road, picked up 2 brakes and four open ('Grampus'?) wagons before setting off for Winchcombe, with our "Engineers train". However, there were those who had different plans, and we were stopped at Bishops Cleeve and told to back into the up siding, run round, and then head back to Malvern Rd in order to go up over Dowdeswell viaduct, through the tunnel and to Andoversford instead, having stopped at one point to pick up 3 gangers. Whilst up at Andoversford this date, 4MT Std. 2-6-0 76011, (probably of Eastleigh) was on the MSWJR service. We worked back and forth between Andoversford and the viaduct then, until going back down with eleven wagons and 2 brakes to Malvern Rd sidings, then onto shed, this time, filling up the boiler etc. and leaving it on the "Sand furnace road", as it was to be taken over to 85B for servicing later. I booked off at 4.35pm so made 11hrs 51.5mins for payment, taking into account pre-6am enhanced hours, and the 3hrs 5mins overtime at enhanced time and a quarter rate too.
|Odd interlopers in Gloucestershire were LNER B1's, this one is 61245, Murray of Elibank|
I remained here from arrival, 12/12/60 until it was closed around Sep'63 which is when I opted to go to 'the other side', the (Former) Midland/MR roundhouse shed at Gloucester, 85E, (formerly 22B until the WR took it over in 1957), and also 85C for a period. I thoroughly enjoyed just over 6 months there before the merger with my original shed down the road, 85B, from 4/5/64. When it first happened, all the remaining sets of men, engines and work came together, thus for a few months in '64, 85B had an allocation of over 100 steam engines again. Saturday/Sunday 2 and 3/1/66 saw the end of steam at Gloucester and Monday 4/1/66, other than for the delayed former S&DJR Line and depot closures, we were without an allocation of steam, the last steam shed, along with Worcester (85A) in the WR. In brief, it wasn't the end though, as right up until the end of Summer '66, steam from the MR depots continued to slip through the border to us and, especially in the early part of that year, the visitors were frequently requisitioned for duties. Indeed, a supply of coal was still dispatched to us for use from our coal stage to top up the fuel if required.
|The last working Fowler 4P, 3 cylinder compound, 41123 at Gloucester Barnwood|
|Derek (2nd left) about to leave Ashchurch on 7808 Cookham Manor for a Tyseley open day|
On the subject of "Castles", I remember preparing 7012,"Barry Castle" at Oxford, to work an ironstone (Loose linked) freight from Yarnton Yard. My mate told me it was withdrawn about 3 weeks later. (It's possible that job was when I was still at Cheltenham?) From Gloucester I've worked steam to places such as Cardiff, Swindon, Bath Green Park, Bristol West Depot, Bordesley Junction via both routes from Bearley, and Wolverhampton Low Level. (once), Water Orton (Birmingham), Rowley Regis (towards Smethwick on the Lye and Cradley Heath route from Stourbridge Junction), to Oxford via both Honeybourne (Yes, on our GWSR route) and the Ashchurch-Evesham branch. We also had a turn to Leamington Spa too, turning right at Hatton Jct. I didn't manage hardly any trips in the Forest of Dean with steam but I did venture on steam along the Stroud, Wallworth and Nailsworth branches from Stonehouse, the Coaley Jct to Cam and Dursley line, these only with freight. I also did a couple of freight with steam (78xxx 2-6-0) turns from Ross on Wye as far as Lydbrook Jct.
I had one of Barnwood's 14xx's on the temporally introduced passenger service between Berkeley Rd to Severn Bridge station, as the downed bridge over the Severn wouldn't allow the normal service to and from Lydney Town. Until the end of the Summer Service '65, it was nice to get to get the stopping passenger jobs to Birmingham New St via Worcester and Droitwich Spa, and in the other direction, Eastgate to Bristol Temple Meads, generally going into the old roofed terminus platforms, there on the far right! On the subject of 2-8-0's, we had 2854 and 3848 allocated to us, as were a trio of WD's (Austerities/Wobblers/Dub Dees, as you may), these latter mainly for the Woodford Halse jobs. Cardiff Canton and Newport Ebbw Jct sheds often turned one up for jobs, latterly working them to the exchange yard/sidings at Honeybourne West. There we'd have a break and later, swop footplates with Woodford men on a S. Wales bound job, generally with one of their WD's, or a WR one returning home. One thing that was always apparent to me, was the ease they steamed with the ER hard coal, and the comparative 'struggle' you often had with soft Welsh, even good stuff. Depth of fire and the sometimes quite soft exhaust had something to do with it! Western men were well known for thick back end fires but, given my time over again, I would definitely have tried the light and bright/little and often method with a WD and soft coal.
We also used to get 9f's and the remnants of the WR 4-6-0's and 2-8-0'S on these turns. All were the same, in that you had to be prepared for the fireman from the Woodford job, keeping his own shovel and, if he had one, keeping his handleless brush wrapped up in a wiper. There have been a few occasions where it's been necessary to go back to our incoming loco', and rescue the necessary, especially if the Woodford loco' hadn't got a decent second shovel!
|Derek having a brew in the cab of 9F, 92203, Black Prince on the GWSR|
|Jinty, 47417 at Malvern Rd, 21/4/57|
|8731 on Malvern Rd, 26/7/56|
|Derek's mate Keith on 34023 Blackmore Vale on the Weymouth Quay to Waterloo boat train, June 1967|
|Soon to be scrapped, l-r, 34071, 73117, 73115 & 34077 at Eastleigh, 8/7/67|
Everybody has the odd embarrassing incident occur in their lives every now and again, Derek provided the following anecdote of a faux pas during his firing career at Gloucester on a train for Kingham:
It was Saturday 9th of September and notable in that it was the final day of passenger services over the old M.S.W.J.R. (Midland & South Western Junction Railway) route, known locally as the 'Tiddly Dyke'. This was as far as trains between Southampton Terminus and Cheltenham Spa (St James) via Andover, Swindon Town, Cirencester & Andoversford were concerned. I was in my ninth month as a Cheltenham Malvern Rd fireman and on duty this day at 6:15 am for turn 276A. I was with diver George "Jolly" Alsopp and our engine for the day was 6126 of 85B, Gloucester Horton Rd which was our parent depot. Following preparation, we went off shed light engine the short distance to St James' station where I coupled up to "4 for 124 tons" in the bay arrival platform. This formed the 7.35am stopper to Gloucester Central, which we duly worked.
After various moves on arrival, we awaited the arrival of our ex Hereford train atop the Chalford auto-car in the up bay. 7811 Dunley Manor duly arrived and passed us on its way to shed. We then moved out and trundled half way along the long up platform where I coupled up to our "3 for 94 tons" train. At 9.30 am, right away back to Cheltenham calling at Churchdown and Cheltenham Malvern Rd stations on the way.
After arrival at the main line arrival platform at the terminus (St James), I uncoupled before drawing up nearer to the stops to get the road to run round via operation of the bell code push situated at the platform end. The uncoupling move was an unofficial agreement with the shunters. This was so as to expedite our change to the other end of the stock, thus enabling us to snatch a brew and have a little longer for our bait (sandwiches or whatever). In between though, we had to take water from the column on the arrival bay run round road. It was from here on that things started to go awry!
I clearly remember my mate squeezing up the buffers on our stock on the main line arrival to assist the lifting on of the coupling, and me winding on the hand brake. Then I climbed out onto the bunker, lifted off the headlamp from the top bracket, then going atop the engine and tanks to put the lamp on the chimney bracket for our third class B, stopping train of the day. Things were much busier than usual due to the end of the M.S.W.J.R. services and I recall seeing U class 2-6-0, 31791 arrive in the adjacent platform with its 3 coach train and about 6 or 7 on the footplate.
Now I can't recall who actually 'officially' who was responsible for coupling us up to our 10.50 am train, all stations to Kingham, but suddenly, it's time to go, whistles were being blown, the road was set and we hadn't even started creating the brake! As George created the vacuum, I struggled to unscrew the handbrake off, never that easy unless the brake has been applied a little before. Frank Walker, our guard, was in his compartment towards the rear of the train waving his green flag so as the brake was released, we tooted an acknowledgement and off we went, leaving as it turned out not just the throngs behind.
I remember seeing the distant signal off for Malvern Rd West box, just before we plunged under St George's Rd bridge. I also recall looking up at Malvern Rd East box as we passed with nothing to be seen, put a couple of shovels full round before my mate shut off to run into our first stop, Malvern Rd. As we ran in they were announcing the "10:53, all stations to Bourton on the Water, Stow on the Wold and Kingham. Change at Kingham for stations to Oxford and London." As we drifted under the footbridge that linked the station booking office area and concourse with the platforms, some strange excess of light emanating from the rear open cab/bunker doors caused my mate to go a horrible white with traces of purple and exclaim "F... me, we ain't got no b...... coaches".
With all the activity back at St James' and the rather hasty departure, we'd overlooked the coupling up. Inspector Huxley told us to put a tail lamp on and run round to Malvern Rd West dummy (ground signal) in order to return from whence we had come. This we started to do, only to find that following the points being pulled for us to go from the down line to the up line, the dummy wouldn't come to the off/clear position properly; it just moved slightly and that was it. After scrambling down and giving the point blades a few frustrated kicks, all seemed alright, so with the bobby leaning out of his sliding window calling us back, we resumed our bunker first run to the scene of the crime.
As we clattered over the Malvern Rd East junction, what should we see but the down Cornishman waiting at the signals to come off the Honeybourne line to take its rightful place in the platform at Malvern Rd. Oops! We, somewhat cowed, resumed our rightful position and were coupled up by George Leighton, one of two passenger shunters on duty that morning. We have since been told that our guard's face was a picture, after he'd slammed his door, leaned out, waved and whistled and listened to the exhaust of our disappearing loco with no appropriate forward movement of his stock.
|Part of the end of line activities, a pre-beard Derek on the left in the cab|
The rest of the day went alright as it happens, we arrived at Kingham only 3 minutes down. We ended up the day by working the 12:38pm departure back all stations, Kingham to Cheltenham. After arrival back home, I recall seeing the 1:50pm, Saturday's only, the last "Tiddly Dyke" service passenger train, leave, again with 31791, whilst we waited at the dummy off the pilot road to go to the shed. I know that photographers at Andoversford, Notgrove and Bourton captured our train that day, but we had some coaches coupled up to us by then.
|Derek cabbing B1, 61306 at Gloucester earlier this year|
|Derek on Cheltenham at Cheltenham Race Course|
|Derek Smith on 5542 on the GWSR|