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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 63 - Summer 1987

On From Amersham - Richard Hardy

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Richard Hardy - Great Central Atlantic No. 6085 on a Leicester - Marylebone stopping train runs into Amersham during 1937

In January 1941, RICHARD HARDY joined the LNER as a premium apprentice at Doncaster works. However, he never lost touch with his friends on the Met and GC - and, in the course of his travels, made many more.

Amersham station was a sizeable affair at the beginning of the war. The booking office was manned from a quarter past six in the morning until the arrival of the midnight from Baker Street. The booking clerks knew everybody, which made their work a cheerful and interesting business, the tickets looked like tickets and it was possible to travel first class on the Metropolitan line through to the City. If one had a first class season ticket to Baker Street and wanted to go through, say, to Liverpool Street, all that needed to be done was to ask for an extension ticket at Amersham, which said, on a very nice white printed card headed Metropolitan Railway, Baker Street (Am) to Liverpool Street via Farringdon Street. Price 6d. First Class. A Pullman car ticket before the war, from Aylesbury to Aldgate, cost 6d. The LNER would issue the intending passengers from Manchester (London Road) a green-painted ticket to Amersham and Chesham Bois via Quainton Road; or, if it were Culworth or Charwelton, it would still be a Great Central card stamped LNER, green and white stripes; and, if for some extraordinary reason one wanted to travel from Pinner to Amersham, Chesham, Moorgate, Gloucester Road or Latimer Road with a Perambulator or Mail Cart (not folding) accompanied by passenger, you would receive, for 1/-, a red, white and blue card of considerable style.

The variety was infinite and, through the kindness of Mr. Druce, the chief clerk, I had occasional access to the used tickets to add to the collection I was building up, the size of which grew outstandingly when we discovered that the LNER sorted and checked all collected tickets for the entire railway at Sudbury Hill station, the buildings of which were much more grand than those in existence today. Places like Edinburgh (Waverley), Gedling and Pinxton, Dullatur, Connahs Quay and Shotton, and Seer Green Halt - all very exciting and most irregular!

Mr. Taylor, the Stationmaster, well known in Amersham, but suspicious of young boys, ran a considerable show. The yard handled coal, goods, sundries and parcels (the latter delivered, along with passengers' luggage in advance, by George White, the Met and GC motor driver). Everybody knew George and, after he retired, he worked in the bookstall at Chalfont, until going off to Norfolk well into his seventies. Prior to 1937, he drove a Met and GC Thornycroft which was superseded by a modern LNER blue Fordson. The LNER Road Motor Department was always a very tight ship and their new Fordsons were supplied with a fixed starting handle instead of a self-starter (in 1937) to save the price of a starter motor!

Alf Payne and Ted Jackman were the oldest hand porters and Bob Clarke, recently retired, came from Chesham in 1941 to join that happy band of railwaymen . The three signalmen were there for years. I visited the box whenever Mr. Taylor was away from the premises on half day and had basic instruction from Hector Radcliffe, the detail of which has never left me. Robey Neale, nearly as broad as he was tall, needed three pulls to get the up distant, whereas the powerful Daniel Fox pulled home, starter and advance with one hand and the distant with the other in a matter of seconds. Up trains nipping along a bit often whistled for the distant when the phlegmatic Robey was on duty. Goods porters relieved on the station and there was often a Met freight train on the premises. So it was a busy, thriving, friendly little place, where the passengers knew the staff and the booking office was the centre of the web. There were no London Transport or LNER men at Amersham or anywhere else between Ricky' and Stoke Mandeville; they were Met and GC and their strong and splendid uniforms were marked accordingly. Ron Thorne, relief engineer, who had started at Brill, not only covered the country end of the Met, but also relieved in signal boxes on the GC as far afield as Charwelton and Braunston, whilst Ted Jackman spent quite a bit of the summertime in digs relieving at Leicester Central. I believe the Met and GC breed is now all but extinct, but they were splendid railwaymen.

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Richard Hardy - Amersham signalman Hector Radcliffe pictured in 1939.

The passing scene was, of course, a source of never ending fascination to a boy who was heading for the Locomotive Department of the London and North Eastern Railway. By 1940, the Chesham shuttle had become a push and pull hauled by a GC engine; the two Dreadnought cars had been replaced by the historical re-conversion of converted Met electric stock made redundant by new LT trains. During the war, the shuttle was worked by GC Cl3s transferred from Gorton, the occasional Great Eastern N7 or, now and again, an N5.

I had got to know Len Hyde, one of the Met drivers, whose son was on the electric locomotives at Neasden, very well indeed over a number of years - and, when I was working at Stratford in the latter part of 1945 and at Liverpool Street in 1947, I would make it my business to travel home on one of the two through trains to Chesham when Len was on the job. These trains were diagramed to the pull and push engines which were working at Neasden and , if a change was necessary at Chesham, it was made on one of these trains. More often than not, an N5 was used and this meant very hard work. These little engines were built in the 1890s for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway; splendid machines, but not much of them! l had fired on several in the West Riding and had some excellent trips over the very heavy road between Bradford, Halifax and Wakefield - and I had had some rough trips too, which are best forgotten. The N5 was an 0-6-2 tank engine with a short, sloping firegrate, faceplate injectors, Belpaire firebox and a very free steaming but very small boiler. But, to get steam, the fire had to be in perfect shape, bouncing on the bars (and up the chimney) at the front and built right up to the mouthpiece. One fired to an invariable system: two small shovelfuls in each back corner, one up each side, and shut the trap door quick when the engine was working hard, then repeat immediately the chimney was clearing of smoke, about fifteen seconds later. We would leave Rickmansworth bunker first with six well filled protesting Dreadnoughts jingling and rubbing and so, to keep time, the N5 had to be thrashed the whole way, shutting off for Chorley Wood and Chalfont near the platform end, as neither coaches nor the engine would run freely. The left hand injector was never shut off, the right hand used whenever possible, the firing virtually continuous. Time would be kept to Chalfont and, with luck and much attention to detail, the safety valves would be buzzing all the way, but one was always glad to turn the summit with the water in the bottom nut and roll down to Chesham at 1 in 60. This short trip with a heavy train and overloaded engine was a real challenge. One did not feel justified in losing time and worked like hell to keep to the book; this meant 150 psi and not 130, which was no use at all. I used to look forward to pitting my wits against that little engine, with absolutely nothing to throw away, at a time when Neasden shed was going through a very bad patch.

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Richard Hardy - No. 3 Goods (Verney junction - Finchley Road) runs into Amersham during 1940. The locomotive is LNER No. 6158, formerly Met K Class 2-6-4T No. 111.

During the war, one or two Top Link drivers retired. though Jack Fisher stayed on the main line until he was 70, being allowed to do so under war-time conditions. David Bareham, Bob Grange and Ben Riddington, all of whom I knew very well, moved up into the Top Link. Each had different personalities and styles of driving. David Bareham was a very hard runner, Bob Grange was a bit erratic and Ben Riddington very light indeed. Bareham came from Nottingham, Ben Riddington from Leicester and Bob Grange had started at Neasden in the very early days of the Great Central. He was firing on the suburban services before the A5s were built and was courting a lady (the future Mrs Grange) who was kitchen maid in one of the biggish houses backing onto the railway near West Hampstead. Bob and his girl had an arrangement. He would whistle up (when his driver let him, for some of them were real martinets) when approaching the house, having chalked their meeting time that evening on the back of the shovel - and would hold it up for her to see as they climbed the bank. Luckily, they were always head first to the country, so the fireman was on the left hand side. No driver in those days would have allowed his stoker to cross the cab to his side to indulge in such tomfool tricks!

Bob Grange and his contemporaries would go off suburban and local trains on to the main line freight and this meant Marylebone to Grimsby and lodge via Nottingham, Woodburn Junction, Mexborough and Doncaster or maybe via Edwinstowe and Tuxford with fish empties and home next day with a heavy fish train for Marylebone - a long, long way. The engines on those jobs at the Neasden end were the 1100 class or Imminghams. I knew them well in later years in the West Riding and what splendid engines they were. My first journey on the B4, No. 6100, was from Wakefield to Doncaster, in June 1941, with over 500 tons behind the tender on the London Mail. The driver was a Great Central man and the fireman - a young hand of 35 and a great friend to this day - had started on the Great Northern on 31st December 1922, one day before the grouping, so that he was, so he said, a proper GN man!

Jack Kitching came from Barnsley to Neasden as a driver, a cheerful smiling Yorkshireman, a really good mate, although he was regarded as a heavy driver, particularly on a Caprotti. The resident Caprotti engineer had gone back to Germany at the outbreak of the war - Neasden was short of good artisan staff and the Caprottis suffered accordingly. In 1944, I came up from Doncaster on the engine of the Aberdonian (4.03 am off Doncaster, if one was lucky) and travelled to Leicester with Jack on the 10.00 from Marylebone. Instead of the usual Pacific, we had the Caprotti No. 6168 with eleven bogies and had an excellent trip. She was new out of the shops and in really good form, but on the return journey we had No. 6167 with a high mileage and in very run-down condition. She had a horse-shoe tender, which meant that the coal on the flat top of the tank had to be trimmed by hand once the hole had been emptied. She was very hungry indeed. Jack sent his fireman back into the train and five empty coaches were added to the seven already behind the tender, then we were all stations from Leicester to Harrow-on-the- Hill, 27 stops and starts with about 380 tons behind us.

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Richard Hardy - Driver Jack Kitching and Fireman Cecil White with long-time Neasden Director No. 5504 Jutland. The nameplate, brass splasher beading and cab window are all blacked out as a war-time precaution.

Jack worked a Caprotti as he would any other GC engine, which was not necessarily the right way, least of all a steam controlled poppet valve B3, which required a wide open regulator throughout, all variations being on the reversing wheel, which was finely serrated. 10% cut off, even 5% was perfectly acceptable, provided the regulator was always wide open. Jack preferred about 40% and a touch of second valve and, under those conditions, coal disappeared like paper. And so the last of the coal from the back of the tender I brought forward while we stood at Chalfont waiting for the shuttle and the last of this went into the firebox as we passed Neasden. Jack had shown me no mercy, but he made up for it on many occasions. When we reached Marylebone, we had burned about six tons of coal in 103 miles, but I was young and strong. I had time for a drink and a bite to eat and then worked my passage home on the down Aberdonian!

I used to come south when Jack Kitching was on the 11.20 Marylebone - Woodford and the 3.05 return on a Sunday. This was a comfortable little number; six coaches, a Director Jutland, Ypres or Gerard Powys Dewhurst, out via High Wycombe and stopping at every little station, however small and barren, such as Wotten or Akeman Street. Coming home we came via Quainton Road and the Met. Jack would hold a competition for the benefit of his fireman, Cecil White, and myself. We would not use the second port of the regulator, we would not blow off steam, nor whistle unnecessarily, nor make smoke, nor fire in stations, nor slip; the footplate would be kept spotless and we would coast as much of the journey as the timetable allowed. The sliding cab windows were blacked out during the war and on the left hand one Jack would chalk up two columns: '15"' and 'under 15"' - or more precisely 'GC' and 'GN'. Any true GC man came to a stand with the brake coming off; whereas, in his eyes, a GN man stopped at 0" and with a jerk fit to bring the luggage off the racks.

The aim of all this was to have the maximum number of stops on the journey with 15" of vacuum or over when coming to a stand, a reasonably fast approach at the station, but with the brake gradually releasing as we ran down the platform, stopping smoothly and without a jerk, which is never quite so easy as it sounds. Our enjoyment of this exercise, presided over by the smiling if outspoken 'Inspector' Kitching, was sharpened by the fact that Cecil White was a GN man from Peterborough!

On Easter Monday 1943, I came south from Sheffield on the new B1 No. 8301 Springbok. What a revelation - a beautiful, smooth riding, economical locomotive. You only had to show the shovel to make her blow off. Our driver from Leicester was Jack Procter of Neasden, who had been in the Top Link before the war, with fireman Charlie Simpson, son of my old friend Ted, who had retired in April 1941. Charles was to lose his life at Barby in 1955, when, as a driver, he took the crossover at high speed during engineering work on a Sunday, under the impression he was right away. His Green Arrow tipped over down the embankment and Charles went with it. In 1943, we had a perfect trip, the only incident was when my cap blew off, taking with it my much prized Bradford coat of arms, somewhere near Moor Park.

I returned to Sheffield on the 15.30 from Marylebone and we had a terrible time! Old Ben Riddington was in charge, another smiling, stout old gentleman, who had spent much of his career on local train work in a small link covering only this type of duty. There was no overtime and precious little Sunday work in the link, which was known as the Hungry 6. But Ben was now on the expresses and he had a mate who was a remarkable character, whose looks belied his personality. He was very dark, very tough, pigeon-toed and, until one knew him, pretty blunt. In fact, he was a splendid railwayman and became a much respected driver. Syd Jenkins had been a very good footballer and usually swept up with his twinkling feet. On this occasion, however, he sat in no great comfort on the fireman's seat of the unbelievably rough B17, No. 2847 Helmingham Hall. She was no better rider in 1943 than in 1950, when I was to meet her again, passed on to Woodford from Lincoln, whence I passed her on to Ipswich, before I knew that I was going there myself - which served me right for being too clever by half.

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Richard Hardy Collection - Pictured at Aylesbury with LNER B17 No. 2847 Helmingham Hall are (left to right): Richard Hardy, fireman Syd Jenkins and driver Ben Riddington. In 1937, the locomotive worked the funeral train of King George V from Sandringham to Kings Cross.

We had quite a good run, with no trouble for steam, but a coupled axle box ran hot. The engine, which should have gone through to Manchester, had to come off at Leicester, to be replaced on an eleven coach train by a GC Atlantic, which was by no means ready for the job - and we had a terrible time. We had to give this engine up at Nottingham and the Welsh-speaking Gorton driver, A V Davies, who originated from near to Llangollen and had started on the Wrexham, Mold and Connahs Quay Railway, backed on with a GN Atlantic No. 4447. She was one of the two such engines stationed at York and we had another really bad trip, the only time I had known a GN Atlantic short of steam. We were down to 100 psi at Kirkby South Junction, but we managed to keep going and kept time by going downhill at 80, instead of the theoretical war-time maximum of 60. However, A V Davies had no intention of taking No. 4447 beyond Sheffield and he finished his trip with a four-cylinder B7 No. 5482. Needless to say, he had steam and water throughout and regained some of the time he had lost on the climb to Woodhead tunnel. One could not make a B7 slip and this engine stepped out of Sheffield across the Wicker Arches with the driver and fireman sorting out the tool boxes and clothing cupboard, while I got busy on the fire. I left them to it at Penistone and came back to Doncaster by Barnsley and Wakefield, arriving home at half past eleven at night. Not a bad old Easter Monday!

Mention of Woodhead brings to mind the many firing trips I had over that rough, hard road and the 21-mile climb from Sheffield to Dunford. I fired a lot for Driver Joe Oglesby of Sheffield. He was a Great Central man through and through, a very hard runner and he loved his work. The first time I went with him we had a GN Atlantic, No. 3296, a side valve engine and not very strong. We had to stop at Hazelhead in the middle of a 1 in 100 gradient and she would not lift the train. Indeed, it took twenty minutes of unremitting toil with the reversing lever, cylinder cocks and regulator to get away, but after the Woodhead tunnel that 60 mph limit went for a burton and we regained eleven minutes to Manchester London Road. Wherever I went with Joe, over Woodhead with a four cylinder and twelve coaches, stopping to blow up with a K3 three times at Thurgoland, Penistone and Dunford, before we dared turn the top of the hill, or to Leicester on the Mail or to York with a GN Atlantic or a Director, it was a day out, every minute packed with pleasure and excitement. On the way to York, we would run into Rotherham Central round the sharp curve at 50 mph and Joe would shout to me : Over here quick and stop at the platform . Good training! Our last trip together, in August 1945, was on that most famous of all Great Central locomotives, Valour, the war-time memorial engine to the men of the Great Central who lost their lives in the 1914-18 war. It was a good way to finish, for she was in perfect shape - and Joe said: Right, our last trip and you are the driver. I never saw Valour again and, sadly, Joe Oglesby died about ten years later.

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Richard Hardy Collection - Richard Hardy (aged 21) and Driver Joe Oglesby of Sheffield (Darnall) pose beside Great Northern C1 Class Atlantic No. 4452. The photograph was taken in March 1945.

Our apologies to Richard for a couple of errors which crept into his article in No. 62. On page 19 the Met Pullman car should, of course, be Galatea and on page 20 Sevenoaks should read Savernake. Must get a new atlas! T.P.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1987 and so does not reflect events in the 27+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

On From Amersham - Richard Hardy - Quainton News No. 63 - Summer 1987

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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