|Bill & his daughter Juliet, who is a guard on the Talyllyn railway.|
|2807 departing Toddongton, photo courtesy of Chris Crump.|
|Dinmore Manor about to depart from Toddington, photo courtesy of Chris Crump|
I received a message in the middle of the week from Phil which read simply "Do you want to swap engines on Sunday?". I was able to infer from that several important things; it was forecast to rain, that I was to be on 4270, and Phil was getting one of our tender engines. Not being a complete idiot, I declined his offer, preferring to stay nice and warm and dry on 4270 than getting soaked on Dinmore Manor or 2807. On Friday as I was passing Toddington on the way back from a work event, I called in to make sure that 4270 was also running on the Saturday and wouldn't therefore need a warming fire putting in. Whilst I was there doing that I took the opportunity to have a quick look round and see what else was going on:
For the very first time, I found somebody depositing rags into our rag collection bin in the yard. I've emptied the bin on many occasions, but never yet seen anybody put anything into it. I'm afraid that I don't know this gentleman's name, but I did discover that he is from our Signal & Telegraph dept.
The pit on road 7 is looking good, the area around it has been leveled ready for concreting and notice a drainage inspection hole has appeared next to it.
|It's looking good.|
|Who was that masked man?|
|Perhaps the bubble car is aspiring to being a steam engine...|
|... or perhaps it is just dreaming of being as free as a bird.|
|Roy, suddenly alone.|
|Steve, trying to keep dry on Dinmore Manor.|
|Neil watches John oiling up 4270|
|One of the one and a half bins of ash that I emptied out of the smokebox.|
|I'm sure we get through more tea than coal|
|Steve at work|
Neil fetched us both breakfast from the Flag & Whistle.
|John (l) and Neil with breakfast|
|Carriage and Wagon's new benches.|
|Neil off to check the points|
|Grease gun by the track, 4270 waits.|
|Look mum.... no hands.|
In fact, I'll start with parenting in general. One of the fireman's duties is to watch the train into and out of station platforms and make sure that there are no problems that would require the train to stop. One of the things that scares the hell out of me is when arriving in a platform and some youngster decides to race the train along the platform. One trip, roll the wrong way, and the consequences really don't bear thinking about. On Sunday, there was even a young girl doing cartwheels on platform 1 at Toddington as we pulled into the station. It is lovely to see our visitors enjoying themselves, but there are times and places for everything and our platforms are really not the place. There is a perfectly good children's amusement area behind the Flag & Whistle at Toddington for your children to let off a little steam of their own if they need to. It pains me to say it, but I have no doubt that when I was of Junior school age, I too would have raced our trains along platforms given half the chance. Parents, please discourage your children from doing it, I really don't need any more grey hairs and I doubt that the paper work involved afterwards would be much fun either.
Anyway, to the main point, excluding barrow crossings at the ends of some of our platforms, there are seven (from memory) crossings on our line where people may, if no trains are coming, walk across the line. Six of those are in the middle of nowhere and you rarely ever see a soul crossing them, the seventh however is in the middle of the busy town of Bishops Cleeve. It is rare that you go through Bishops Cleeve without seeing somebody on the crossing, usually they are stood on one side or the other, behind the gates just watching the trains pass by, which is fine. Occasionally we see people crossing when we are some way off, it causes comment in the cab and the use of the whistle, but it's not a major concern. We have a speed restriction of 15 MPH for some distance either side of the crossing. 15 MPH may not sound like much. It is fair to say that I have been heard to complain at great length to anybody who will listen about a certain Mayor who has introduced a blanket 20 MPH speed limit in the city that I live. There is however a world of difference between being struck by a car at 20 MPH or even 30 MPH and being struck by a train at 15 MPH. For an adult, hit head on by a car at 30 MPH, chances are that the impact will be mitigated by the point of impact being your lower legs, your torso will usually roll over the bonnet. Your legs might be a bit mashed up, but the survival statistics are very good. It's also fair to say that the brakes on a modern car are also extremely efficient (regardless of what the Highway Code would have you believe) and can stop in a fairly short distance. The brakes of one of our steam trains however are trying to stop a combined weight of carriages, loco and passengers well in excess of 300 tons. You shouldn't be surprised to discover that bringing 300 tons to a halt doesn't happen in a hurry. The dynamics of being hit by a train are also very different to that of being hit by a car, the point of impact will be much higher, you won't just roll over it, you'll go under and no matter how slim you might be, there is a lot of stuff under a steam loco to hit you, it won't just roll over you letting you emerge unscathed at the other end. I did write out a description of what the likely effect on the human body would be of being run over by one of our trains, but have decided to edit it out. The bottom line is that it won't end well. In an argument between a human being and a train there is only ever going to be one winner. I was about to say that there are no prizes for coming second, but then I remembered the title of this blog post. All of the above should really be common sense. Unfortunately in spite of its name, common sense appears to be a scarce commodity amongst some of the youth of Bishops Cleeve who have taken it into their heads that "playing chicken" with the trains is a good idea.
It is worth remembering that this was John's first driving lesson, it is just as well that he wasn't flustered and managed to bring the train safely to a halt albeit just yards short of the crossing. A less proficient trainee may not have been so quick off the mark. As it was, if we had been going in the downhill direction rather than uphill and if one of the half a dozen or so kids involved had tripped, or slipped on a wet rail etc then we could easily have been looking at a fatality.
If you are the parent or teacher of a teenager living in or around Bishops Cleeve, please do try and make them aware of the dangers and encourage them to see the error of their ways. I'm fairly sure that I have linked to this video in the past, but there is no harm in repeating myself, it's an important message to get across. Unless you want your kids to receive Darwin Award nominations (look it up if you don't know), please educate them about the dangers of railway crossings.
Edit: changed link above to go to the right place.