Article 2: A Logging Locomotive in the Snow.
A story of two rail journeys in adverse weather conditions.
The wrong sort of snow:
A regular traveller on the 7am Burton upon Trent to Derby service, usually a Craven 3 car diesel multiple unit complete with rattling windows, my journey to work on Tuesday 9th January 1968 proved to be exceptional.
Snow had fallen throughout the night and on arrival at the station, I was greeted at the ticket barrier by Bob Gilman, one of the station inspectors, with the words: “I don’t know what’s running this morning, I’d go to the waiting room and keep warm”.
Keeping warm at Burton Station:
As the accompanying photograph, taken some four years later, demonstrates, in its heyday, Burton station exemplified Midland Railway architecture at its finest, with every facility the traveller required, but by 1968 it appeared in a very down at heel condition. The waiting room to which I was directed had once served as the refreshment room; as I sat on one of the benches trying to feel some heat from the one working bar of two twin bar gas fires, the experience reminded me of how life must have been during the Russian Revolution as described in my current reading material at that time, Pasternak’s novel “Dr Zhivago”.
As time passed, more intending passengers arrived to share our meagre source of heat, whilst outside one sensed the hush associated with heavy snowfall; not even the usual squealing of pigs at the neighbouring sausage factory broke the silence. Possibly an hour or so passed before the rumble of a train broke the silence. Would it be northbound? Yes, an ‘express’ with class 47, or Falcon, as we referred to them in those days, at the head.
On finding seats in a compartment, a colleague and I settled down quietly taking care not to disturb the sleeping man stretched out across the opposite seats. Our train proceeded at a cautious pace towards Derby, reaching Willington and Repton station before our reclining companion roused. He asked where we were and explained that the train had left Bristol around 11pm the previous evening, and he needed to attend a funeral in Newcastle at 11am that day. I believe the man had not fully awoken from a very heavy sleep by the time we de-trained at Derby because I think he still believed, regardless of our advise, that he would arrive at his destination in time for the funeral.
As the week progressed, transport adjusted to the conditions and by the Friday, a friend and I decided a trip to London the following day to visit the Model Engineering Exhibition at Seymour Hall would be feasible. I took my usual service to Derby; keeping perfect time on that occasion, I arrived promptly at Derby where I would meet my companion, and proceeded to platform 6, only to be informed by the train announcer that our intended train to London, St. Pancras had not left Sheffield due to frozen points.
As my companion had clearly been delayed, I returned to the booking hall and noted that the station approaches were white with a fresh covering of snow. It was some time before my friend emerged from the blizzard resembling a walking snowman. Awaiting the arrival of the later London service, we were entertained by 0-6-0 diesel shunter, D 3047 maneouvring an ex LNER, Gresley full brake, something of a rarity by that time – see image at top of page.
We successfully found seats on a very crowded, later London bound express; making steady progress, calling at Leicester, our train came to a halt at Harlington station. During the ensuing long wait and not being informed of the reason for the stoppage, as is habit, conversations began between fellow travellers. One American gentleman asked if these sort of hold-ups were frequent in Britain as he had experienced quite a few during his visit being anxious to reach Heathrow for his return flight to the States. Another couple were bound for the Earls Court Boat Show and it transpired that a third gentleman was acquainted with many of my work colleagues – small world!
Following a long and tedious series of shunting operations to remove a carriage from our train that should not have been operating on a main line, as spotted by an observant signalman, we finally came to a halt beneath the ironwork that is the magnificent arch roof of St. Pancras Station at 1pm, just 6 hours after leaving Burton upon Trent.
The street market:
Already behind schedule, my companion suggested that we could still have time to visit a model railway shop before visiting the exhibition. I dutifully followed him to the tube station, taking the Northern Line to Angel; in those days, this station consisted of one narrow island platform with trains arriving and departing from each side, and would not have met modern health and safety standards. Our subsequent walk to the model shop took us through Chapel Market – what an experience! a street lined on both sides with wheeled stalls and thronged with Saturday shoppers; clearly the inspiration for a well known soap opera, although at that time, a similar setting was being used for a programme called ‘Market in Honey Lane’.
A musical model railway shop:
Passing further along the street, loud rock music of a genre I had not previously heard, filled the air. Looking around for its origin, I noted that my friend was heading in the direction of the music and into the very shop. “The model shop is this way”, he explained as we walked towards what is best be described as a large cupboard under the stairs.
We stood in an Aladin’s Cave of shelves piled with boxes, all of that lovely shape that could only contain model locomotives and rolling stock. Noting our arrival, the proprietor, Mr Bernie Victor followed us into the ‘model department’. This proved not to be the sort of model shop familiar to me, but a specialist business supplying hand crafted brass models of Continental and American outline produced in Japan.
The 'Shay' articulated logging locomotive:
I was about to be familiarised with a type of locomotive not previously known, as my friend asked if Mr Victor had a 'Shay' in stock. He had, and willingly demonstrated the beautifully made HO scale model of an articulated locomotive with outside geared drive-shaft, designed to work steeply graded tracks, conveying logs from forest to mill. The quality of this model exceeded any other product known to me; at this time manufacturers producing models to the standard expected of Bachman were yet to emerge.
The model engineering exhibition:
Leaving Chapel Market, the three of us (two lads and a Shay) made our way to the Seymour Hall to view some magnificent working examples of model engineering, most to a much larger scale than my companion’s purchase. Apart from featuring railway locomotives, traction engines and industrial machinery, slot car racing was very much to the forefront; the exhibition including a large multi lane circuit on which visitors could test their driving skills. The newly-formed Millholme Models outlet occupied a trade stand and some time was spent with them discussing the poor standard of contemporary British products as opposed to those available for Continental and Americana enthusiasts.
As evening approached, we began to wonder if the return journey would be as horrendous as that of the morning, but having noted a gentle thaw on our way back to St. Pancras, it was pleasing to see a Derby-bound train ready to leave. Sitting in a vestibule carriage, the Shay was unpacked and the two of us, bent across the table admiring the fine detail and precision of this model, realised that a third person stood leaning over us also admiring the Shay. It was the guard to check our tickets, commenting “We’ll probably need that before we get home tonight”.