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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 16 - June 1973
Plumb Loco or Breaking Coal and Crawling Slow
(With apologies to Peter Hanscomb) by Reg Uphill
A large group of members are gathered round the Brill platform station building at Quainton. This must mean the new rosters are on the notice board. After a few minutes the crowd disperses and I can read what fate or fortune has in store for me!
First I am booked for a stint on the ground frame; well, thats good for the figure; then a turn in the car park, that keeps you in trim too! You never get used to waving frantically at motorists who have veered off in the wrong direction and then suddenly turn at the last moment and aim straight for you! Next, a two hour bash in the refreshment tent which can't be too good for the figure; and I must remember to save two fruit pies for Roy. What comes next? Ah, a turn at the barrier, a slow job but very necessary. Last of all on the menu, and well worth waiting for, a 2 pm to 4 pm turn as driver on the Beattie, 30585, with Anthea as fireman. With every prospect of perfect weather I wait anxiously for the holiday.
Two o'clock (1400 hrs!) arrives on the great day and with tea can in one hand and a lump of clean rag in my pocket I ease my way through the crowds on to the platform to await the arrival of 30585 which has been running the service since 12 noon.
The train duly comes into the station with a squeal of brakes and a hiss of steam. My fireman has also arrived with her tea can and rag, and with a cheery word the old crew depart and our turn begins. When you take over an engine in the middle of its service it does not give you much time for checking around, so while my fireman checks the pressure, fire, coal and water, I check, quickly but carefully, all the oiling points on the engine. Having satisfied myself that all is well, I take my place on the footplate. The checks here reassure me that the engine is properly in mid gear, the hand brake on, the gauge glass about ¾ filled, the pressure gauge needle nearly on the red mark, and everything else in good order.
Meanwhile, passengers have been loaded, tickets clipped, doors closed, and with a 'clunk' the starting signal is lowered. The guard's whistle is shrilly blown and the green flag shows that we are ready for the road. Now it is our turn! So, steam brake on, hand brake off, engine in reverse gear as we are running bunker first, drain valves open, brake off, a gentle nudge at the regulator, and we're off. With a hiss of steam from the drains we move quietly out of the platform. The fireman stands just behind me ready to grab the token and with the usual 'check' from the signal location we are away on our own towards Aylesbury. We whistle for the crossing as we head for Quainton South and as I kick the drain valves shut the blast sharpens and the clink of the shovel is heard as the fire is fed. As we approach South at a slow pace, the fireman leans out of the cab, token in hand ready for the signal man. With a shout of 'OK' from Anthea I whistle once and open the regulator and with a snort the old Beattie responds and we clatter off down the main line. This allows me a short breather but not the fireman, coal and water is a constant need. As we approach the end of the line the regulator is closed and with gentle applications of the brake we come to a stand. When we have the green flag from the guard I have the lever in forward gear and when Anthea's 'OK' is given we head back to the station. The South home signal comes off with a clatter as we ease off for the points and we then collect the token for the single line as we squeal round the curve, only to be brought to a stand at the station home signal.
A short pause and we're off again to bring our train into the station. On our next trip we are taken into the yard at the commencement of two train running and then shunted back into the platform as soon as the Pannier, 7715, has left with yet another load of passengers. The rest of the shift follows the same pattern but things can warm up a bit especially when the fireman nearly forgets to collect the token and leaps across the footplate in a last minute dash, or when the engine fads to move when the regulator is opened and a quick check reveals that either the hand or steam brake are on! And it also keeps you on your toes when you must be ready to dodge the small, shrapnel-like pieces of coal which ricochet around the cab from the hammer wielded by an enthusiastic and energetic fireman, not forgetting the clouds of dust, of course. But its all good fun and it is a happy crew that hand over after two hours to have a well earned rest, - or, maybe, another spell in the car park!
(The Editor hopes you have enjoyed this humorous account of the life of an engineman on the Quainton Railway but, just in case you have taken it too seriously he hastens to reassure you that the operation of the traffic is carried out in absolute recognition of our responsibilities and in accordance with a Rule Book which is strictly enforced. Now you can smile again!)
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 21 October 2017