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Quainton News archive - Quainton News No. 35 - Summer 1978
Teamwork at its Best - Reg and Janice Uphill
As some members will remember, five candidates took the practical fireman's exam. On October 15th last year preparatory to being examined again by the Society's independent examiner, Mr T C B Miller, on November 5th. The light was beginning to fade during the last candidate's turn, and as soon as the exams were over everyone was asked to stay on to help shunt the vehicles back to their original places, and move some vehicles into the yard at the request of the Loco Department.
It soon became pitch dark and was then a real test of our knowledge of shunting at night; in fact it could not have been a better experience as none of us had done much shunting before. As we only had one loco in steam it was necessary to have long lines of wagons, and at one time when the engine was in the platform, end of the train was at South! Owing to the length of train and the double curve on the track (since removed, thanks to P Way Department) the shunter (Reg) and his lamp totally disappeared from the view of the footplate. If the shunter at the end of the train stood far enough away so that his light could be seen from the footplate, he could not see the stock. So it became necessary for him to get close to the stock and have the use of a repeat shunter (Dennis) with lamp.
We had to pick up a truck from the short siding prior to going back on the main line and completing our move by picking up the trucks at the end of the main line. The points were set for short siding by Mick and a green calling on signal was given; the end of the train wound its way slowly into the short siding, the shunter gave the red stop signal and heard all the couplings open up and the train stopped twenty foot short of the truck. The green calling on signal was given again, which was repeated by the middle shunter, and the main shunter listened for the sound of the engine. After two puffs a red was given, the end truck had not yet moved but the coupling slack came all down the line and the last truck moved gently forward the required 20 feet to kiss the other truck. Coupling up then took place, and the train moved slowly back onto the main line for the next move; and so it went on. The driver (Les) said he had never used the reversing lever so many times in such a short space of time.
The operation also called for some good firing too as it was essential to keep steam up with this load. We had the correct lamp on the back of the loco but we had forgotten the gauge glass lamp, so firing was done by the light of a torch and the glow of the fire when the firehole door was open. Coal was a bit short by now and we were glad we had had the foresight to fill two barrows with coal while it was still light.
By this time we were all tired as we had lit up at 7.00 am and had been keyed up with nerves because of the exam, but it was a real test of cooperation and showed what members can do when the occasion arises. Putting coal on the fire was not too bad as you could see what you were doing by the glow of the fire, but making sure the pressure was up and the water topped up properly meant shining a torch on the pressure or water gauges at frequent intervals. Simon, Dave and Janice took it in turns to be fireman, whoever was not firing keeping a sharp look out for the shunter's signal which at times could not be seen on the driver's side. When more water was needed in the boiler one fireman grovelled in the corner in the pitch dark to work the water valve, while another worked the steam valve, it was impossible to see the overflow pipe, so one had to gauge when the injector was feeding correctly entirely by sound, which certainly tested our skill.
At one point we had to manhandle the Mellishmobile on to the main line; fortunately it ran quite easily, in fact once we had got it going it was stopping which was the difficulty, and then putting the scotches under its wheels. We put a torch with a red aspect on the front so that it could be seen clearly in the dark.
By about 8.30 pm everyone was getting famished, and when Janice offered to get a large bar of chocolate from the horse box, they all let her go with alacrity and someone's torch. The torch was just as well as the loco had stopped just by the S & T equipment pile (since removed, thank goodness!), which was a perfect trap for unwary walkers, particularly as there was also a point rodding stool lying just by the track. The chocolate just about saved the day, though no-one had tried to skive off home, in fact everyone remained right until the end and the fire was being dropped. We got quite expert at finding the firing tools in the dark, and it made us realise how important it is to keep the footplate clean and tidy at all times.
We did not finish the job until 9.30 pm, but we had the satisfaction of knowing that the job had been well done, and it was nice to get the appreciation of Loco Department the following morning.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 17 November 2017