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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 31 - Spring 1977
Now it Can be Told - Roy Miller
It is often said of the British that it takes an emergency situation to bring out the best in them. It is not in the best interests of our Society to publicize our occasional wrong doings, even though everyone knows that these things must inevitably happen.
However, the letter in Quainton News No. 29 from Rik Hunter referring to the value of co-operation and working together has prompted me to tell this tale.
It happened so long ago in the history of our Society that it should not embarrass anybody! It is part of our Society's story and proved at an early stage that we really can pull together very effectively when we want to. No names are mentioned as to do so would run the risk of leaving out someone who was there; those that took part will read with satisfaction, those that did not will perhaps wish they could have done so.
It was the closing two hours of one of our early three day open weekends, two train running had just ceased and the locomotive of the second train our Pannier - was running light engine from the Station to the short siding where it was to await the end of the day's operations. Exactly how it happened was the subject of a full Society enquiry (sufficient to say that it could not have happened to a passenger train) and is not the subject of this tale; but as the locomotive passed over the points at Quainton South there was a "thump" and she made her way between the points and towards a non-existent third siding. All six wheels were derailed and a major part of the points and trackwork in the vicinity of the South junction were smashed. The second train, full of passengers, was being safely held at the outer home, as is our standard practice during shunting movements, but due to the derailment on the single line section was now completely marooned.
At once the signalman at South sent the "line blocked" signal to his colleague at Station, and all signals were placed at danger. The Stationmaster was summoned to the scene of the derailment. As with all operating railways, we have an emergency procedure which everybody thinks would work, but the "proof of the pudding is in the eating" and we were about to digest.
In accordance with the Rules, the Fireman from the second marooned train had walked to the signal box at South to report the presence of his train. He was acquainted with the facts (he could hardly avoid seeing them for himself with the Pannier obeying the laws of gravity before his very eyes) and was given written authority for his train to pass the outer home and to proceed to the inner home, still some way from the misbehaved Pannier.
Safety was the first consideration and an immediate check was made of the water reserves of both locomotives; it was quite obvious that the Pannier would not move far and so the boiler was filled and the fire dropped where it stood. The Beattie on the second train had less water reserve but had ample to remain in steam until the situation was fully considered. On the authority of the Stationmaster, ladders were obtained and the passengers on board the marooned train allowed to climb down onto the track. Fortunately there were no infirm passengers on the train and all, especially the children, took it in good part. Once the passengers were off, the train was shunted back some distance from the "incident" and the fire dropped on the locomotive.
As can be imagined, the offending Pannier had by this time attracted quite a lot of spectators. The public were still on the site in quite large numbers and at that time had access to the pathway along the length of the running track right up to South signal box. Most were sympathetic and genuinely concerned about the damage to the track and the well-being of the Pannier. One of our friends, a local BR Inspector of great experience, looked at the prostrate loco and said, "A good eight hours work". Not all were so favourably disposed, however, and a small group of young men were seen on the edge of the crowd laughing and were heard to say, "Wait till we tell the others." And the word "Press" was mentioned, followed by, "We will come back in the morning and get some photographs. It was the latter remark that really brought out the spirit referred to earlier on; and red rags to bulls, together with being galvanized into action, do not describe the feelings of those QRS members who were also looking on, perhaps a little hesitantly at their first big derailment. "Photographs in the morning," over our dead bodies!
By this time the evening was drawing in; all six wheels of the Pannier were derailed and positioned some eighteen inches away from their running lines, the loco having travelled some twenty feet along the sleepers. The track and point work were torn up on the side of the loco over which it had to travel in order to return to the station, and we had a train "marooned" in section.
One member set off for home to fetch his petrol generator. Juno had been working trains earlier in the day and was still in light steam; her crew readily agreed to stay on and started preparing the loco for a night's work. The fire was raked over and the lamps lit. Again, as is a national characteristic, the lady members present lit the tea urns and made ready for the gallons of that refreshing beverage that was to be consumed during the next ten hours.
Each of our Sub-Committee Chairmen were busy taking note of the circumstances and damage to the equipment in their charge, while their members started work on clearing the area around the locomotive from such encumbrances as point rodding, signal wires and broken track work. Soon a "heavy gang" was formed and the loco jacks, crowbars, special tools and a great heap of timber arrived on the scene. All available lamps were lit and Juno, our breakdown engine, busied herself in clearing the station platform and yard ready for the movement of the trollies and other items that would be required.
Soon the generator arrived, together with a flood light and strings of lamps; obviously their owner was used to night work, but we hope not in this present situation. The lamps were strung along each side of the track and provided an even light all around the shadowy outline of the loco, it now being quite dark.
Work started in earnest at 6.30 pm; the permanent way lads started removing the damaged point work and laying temporary straight track to join up with that actually beneath the Pannier, which because the loco wheels had run along the sleepers, had remained undamaged. Depot were searching their stores for any odd pieces of sound timber, and Signals and Telegraph were in the final stages of unlocking their signals to ensure that free movement could take place when required.
The first task was to get the loco onto "firm ground"; one pair of wheels had sunk into the ballast in the space between the sleepers. This was achieved using the loco jacks under the frames and then placing solid timber under each set of wheels. It is surprising how much free movement there is in the springs when faced with this situation. Some of our best spare sleepers were placed at the front and back buffer beams, and the travelling loco jacks positioned under the frames. As the jacks slowly lifted the engine, follow up timbering ensured that if anything slipped the loco could drop no more than the thickness of the thinnest packing, about one half inch, at any time.
After some four hours of careful jacking, the still simmering Pannier had her wheels hanging clear and level with the rails but still some way away to the side. The warmth of the firebox, although now empty, provided comfort to those waiting their turn on the timbering but little to those pushing on the end of the screw jack bars, while the odd wisps of steam from the injector overflow did nothing but add to the adjectives that from time to time punctuated the still night air.
It was at this time that we discovered that "travelling jacks" do not necessarily travel when supporting a fully coaled and watered 50 ton locomotive. However, with the aid of more jacks working horizontally, the large black stage situated against a beautiful starry sky slowly moved over inch at a time until poised over the rails over which it was originally intended to pass. Again half inch at a time the Pannier was lowered down onto the track until as the church clock struck two, steel touched steel and she was back.
All the timber used as packing was pulled away and stacked at the side of the track, and the jacks and tools placed to one side. Slowly and with our hearts in our mouths, we watched Juno slowly make her way across the temporary track and with a gentle kiss of buffers made contact with those of the Pannier. Even more slowly the two locomotives made their way back across the damaged track, but our permanent way lads had done their job well and much to everyone's relief both locos were pulled clear and into the station yard. The time 2.30 am, just eight hours since we started work, and our line was clear! Was that time estimate by the BR Inspector for professionals or railway preservationists? We do not know. We like to think for professionals, for that is how we all felt at that moment of time. There was no serious damage to the Pannier.
It only remained to recover the Beattie and her marooned train again across the temporary track, to clear up the tools and put Juno to bed. She is still the only loco to work at Quainton all night, and received an extra pat for her night's work. By the time we were ready to leave and had drunk the last cup of hot soup, the dawn was breaking for another day. Although tired and faced with a day at work within the next few hours, it was not the tiredness that tempted us to skip the next day's professional graft, but the temptation to stay and watch the arrival of those "micky" takers with their cameras all ready poised. None of us did and to my knowledge none of us skipped work either, but we all went home with the knowledge of a job well done, a superb example of how we can work together if the situation demands it and we all really tried.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 11 November 2017