Norman Denty 

Memoirs of Fireman Norman Denty 1941~1950 
Curtsey of Neville Watts


April 1940 I started work on the Southern Railway as a messenger boy, dressed in a smart black uniform and peak cap. I was with the Central Despatch DepartmentWho because of the bombing blitz on Londonhad moved with their office staff to Brighton, their new home was the old disused wheel shops in the locomotive works. The ground and first floors of the old shops were hastily converted to office use. The office staff now travelled daily from the city. Not long after the move came "Dunkirk". With the withdrawal of the armed forces from France came the new fear of axis armies invading the south coast of EnglandThe offices that had been evacuated to Brighton now returned to London Bridge Station, to a nine-storey building at the end of platforms 18-22Originally it had been a hotel for the London Brighton and South Coast RailwayI along with three othemessenger boys that had started with me, now travelled daily to London
On Saturdays we worked until 12:30pmthen along with three other messengers who lived in London we would go to Waterloo Station and become porters for the afternoonThis was allowed by the management, because we wore uniformsIn the summer of 1940holiday makers were still going in their thousandto the resorts on the Isle of Wightand to Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall all served by the Southernharto believe after the evacuation of Dunkirkbut nevertheless true. Trains from those counties arrived continually on Saturday afternoons during the summer of 1940. Porters awaiting the arrivals were lined up on the platform from end to end of the terminus, and they all would get jobs carrying passengers' luggage, and often business was so good that we got more tips, by going back to the same train. The messengers could earn as much as their weekly pay in an afternoon, so it was well worth the effort, these were the good old days when tips were not taxed. Railway porters today are a rare breedbut one day there might be revivedMany passengers still have difficulty understanding train announcements over the loudspeaker systems at stationsIt was just the same fifty odd years agoI once knew a Spanish lady who lived in England for over ten yearsShe could not speak a word of English but got a job as a station announcer at Waterloo! 
With the dark nights of the 1940 winter, the German bombers came back over London andduring the midday lunch breaks the messengers would go to the top of the offices and from there look down the River Thames to the dock areas and watch the warehouses on fire from incendiary bombsSome warehouses would burn for weeks on end owing to the highly flammable type of materials stored inside them. Messenger work also consisted of rolling off printed notices from the "Roneo" hand machines, which with other letters were sent to all stations on the Southern Railway systemLetters for the "Foreigners" main line stations in Londonof the G.W.R.L.M &.S.Rand L.N.E.Rwent by road transport oroccasionallyif it was urgent, by messengerQuite often it was difficult to get to London Bridge owing to the railway lines beyond Norwood having been blown up
If this was the case, once the train had reached East Croydon it would be diverted to Victoria. From there the messengers from Brighton would go by tube to London BridgeOne particular day, the tracks above Norwood Junction were blockedso the trains were now routed to Victoriawe reached Balham Stationbut the tracks beyond had also been bombed
If this was the case, once the train had reached East Croydon it would be diverted to Victoria. From there the messengers from Brighton would go by tube to London BridgeOne particular day, the tracks above Norwood Junction were blockedso the trains were now routed to Victoriawe reached Balham Stationbut the tracks beyond had also been bombedThe messengers now made for the Northern line to London Bridge, but that was out because of enemy actionSadly many were killed at Balham underground station in the early hours of that morning; the death toll 164 and most were women and children.
There were no buses going to the Bridge for one reason or another, so we caught one foWestminster BridgeOn arrival there we walked to the pier on the river and boarded a river bus, with a London transport conductor collecting the fares, we left the water bus at Tower Pierthen we walked through Billingsgate fish market and on over the old London Bridge [which is now in America] to the stationsomewhat late for duty. The management knowing the problems the Brighton lads had getting to work were always pleased to see us arriveGetting home again was just as difficultOur day normally ended at 5.00 p.mbut if there were no trains from the Bridge, that meant the tube for Victoriacontacting that station first by telephone to see if the trains were runningWe always managed to get back to Brightoneven though it was often late at nightI will not forget the night when our train was slowly going forward near Croydon the train stoppedthe bombs were literally whistling 
the search lights flashing up into the night sky searching for the bombers
the anti-ack-ack guns firing at them like fury. Nearby the bombs were exploding, the noise was deafening, and then the carriage lights went out. The four messenger boys lay down on the floor, and their carriage was swaying and shaking. So were we! By the end of NovemberI had left the offices at London BridgeJust as well, as at the end of December they were in ruins. Bombs had gutted he old L.B.S.C.RhotelThe office personnel now took up residence in offices above Waterloo Station.
downthe search lights flashing up into the night sky searching for the bombersthe anti-ack-ack guns firing at them like fury. Nearby the bombs were exploding, the noise was deafening, and then the carriage lights went out. The four messenger boys lay down on the floor, and their carriage was swaying and shaking. So were we! By the end of NovemberI had left the offices at London BridgeJust as well, as at the end of December they were in ruins. Bombs had gutted he old L.B.S.C.RhotelThe office personnel now took up residence in offices above Waterloo Station.



I transferred to this department and was now a signal lad at Keymer crossing signal boxBurgess Hill, SussexIt was a small but busy box with only twenty-one levers and some crossing gates. It controlled Keymer Junction where the lines diverged for Brighton and Lewes. Two signal men lived in the two houses across the tracks right opposite the boxand the third signal man lived in a house across the tarmac road Years before it had been a station house. The signalling on the Brighton line in the Keymer section were aspect electric automaticand the junction signals were semi-automatic, as was the up line home signalwhich meant the signal man could control themFrom Clayton tunnel to within four miles of Haywards Heath the trains could be followed in both directions on an illuminated panel, indicated by a white light going out when the train was between signals, and when it passed them the white light came on again. The lines to Lewes and beyond had semaphore signals and between each signal box they had what was known as "Block Working". This system demands that there be a compulsory space interval between trains travelling in the same direction on the same line. Bell codes were used to describe the type of train from Keymer to the next signal box down the Lewes linewhich was Spatham Lane. The signal lad booked the times of passing trains and when he was not there, the signal man had to do the recording. On early shift the lad had extra duties, i.e.:
Monday                       Clean the signal box windows.
Tuesday                       Shine up the handles on levers with emery cloth.
Wednesday                  Polish brass fittings with Brasso polish.
Thursday                     Scrub out the signal box and wood floor with soap and water.
Friday                          Walk the line climbing semaphore signal and trimming lamps and filling with oil.
There were just three semaphore signals in Keymer's sectionthe up Home, outer Home and a DistantThis latter signal was over a mile from the box. The lad walked to these signals carrying a can of oilwicks and a box of matches. The oil lamps burnt twenty four hours a day, and had to be refilled on a weekly basis. If the signal lad was at the top of the ladder when an express train passed him below, the ground would shake. This in turn would shake the signal post and the lad had to hang on for dear life! Now the scene has changed. British Rail have modernised the area, the signal boxes and signal men. Station houses and semaphore signals have gone. Even the signal box at Brighton is now controlled from a building at Three Bridges, which doesn't even look like a signal box 


During my six months in the signal box I applied for a transfer to the above Department, as an engine cleanerThis request was duly granted but it was not to Brighton I was sentThree Bridges, some twenty two miles away was my postingI started there on the 19th of May 1941. Ray Round also came from Brighton and started a week behind me. He later, in B.R steam days, became heavy weight boxing champion of British RailAt times we did clean engines but within two weeks 20 ton coal wagons started to arrive in the yard. Using spare ground they were off-loaded making a large coal dumpThe cleaners had many weeks doing this taskFor the first time in my working life I was doing hard and dirty work, with no washing or shower facilities in those days. My ambition should have been to be a signal man! On other occasions I was a boiler maker's mate and on various shifts I would "light-up" engines for their duties, tend to them later when they had raised steam, and attend to other engines in steam. At that time "coaling up" was carried out by handshovelling coal out of 12 ton trucks (trucks were wood built, wagons were steel) onto a coal stage, then up on to bunkers and tenders of engines. Helping the coal man on the 2 p.m. to l0 p.m. shift when the engine yard got busy with engines was heavy work and I was all in when I arrived home from that day's workThe cleaners received the men's rates of pay for these different tasks, no doubt by past efforts from the Unions negotiating with the management. Some men were in the N.U.R. (National Union of Railwaymen) others like me were in A.S.L.E.F. (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen). 
During one lightning rail strike one morning, I was in the station buffet with ‘juice rail drivers’ having a cup of teawhen in came an irate commuterOn seeing a coloured driver he knew, he asked "Where is your train?" The driver's answer was “A.S.L.E.F. MAN, train is in the siding”There was no doubt about which union he was in! 
The cleaners also worked on clearing the ashes and clinker made by the locos, shovelling this waste up into ash trucks. It was while doing this task, at about l0 a.m. each weekday that Stewarts Lane, Londonengine men would arrive in the yardfill up at the water cranethen on to the disposal pit, clean the fire etc., then I would ride on the footplate to the other side of the shed to the turntable and help the fireman turn the engine around, this was before the tables were vacuum fitted. The driver balanced the engine on the turntable, and then it was pushed around by hand. If it was a "King Arthur" N.15 Class 4-6-0 with a six wheel tender which weighed approximately 135 tons balance was critical. I can also well remember No795 Sir Dinadin in MaunselI green paint worklined out looking immaculate, coming off the table. However once the locos weninto the workshops for overhaul that was the end of them looking smart, as they were given a coat of wartime black and never looked quite the same locos, until they visited the shops againwell after the end of 1939-45 hostilities.



July 1941. I had my first firing turnwhen a special came up out of the blue. A horse box had arrived at Three Bridges on the back of a passenger train from Tunbridge Wells WestIt had to be taken to Haywards Heath cattle marketI was cleaning engines at the time, and passed fireman Doug Bates was on shed duties with his driver. The running foreman told us to get a ‘U1’ Class 2-6-0 ready for the "Road", the number of the engine was 1907, still looking smart in Maunsell green. Doug and worked the special with the one horse box and brake vanThe engine and tender were longer than the train. On the Southern Railway passed firemen were senior men who had passed the drivers' exams and were rostered on the duty board as drivers when the work was available, and cleaners became acting firemen. Once or twice in a year all engine sheds which had vacancies for drivers and fireman advertised on all shed notice boards through the SouthernIf a man applied to the engine shed of his choice, he would only get the position in order of seniority, there was no jumping the queue, a man's starting date as an engine cleaner was on record and once he became a driver or fireman he was appointed as such, and then to passing the medical was the next worry colour blindness, or weak sight were all causes for failureEighteen months from the day I started as a cleaner I had what was known as the fireman's first rate of pay. After one year of firing turns I received 9s 6d a day (48p). If a cleaner with this rate went back to cleaning engines (as I did) he would still get the fireman's rate. If the cleaners thought their rate of pay low, it is interesting to note that the conscripted private soldier received 12 pence a day (about 6p), incrediblebut nevertheless true!



Saturday night – Sunday morning were usually the times of the week for trains from Three Bridges. On such a night, after the last passenger rains had gone to their destinationsI was rostered with passed fireman Charlie Doyle. What a character! Leaving the "up" side yard with a train of materials and work gangs for Redhill Tunnel and going out on to the "up" slow line, we then crossed over to the "up" fast line. The driver now proceeded to get the train moving with momentum. The green aspects of the electric signals showed up in the dark night, and could be seen one after the other for miles ahead to Gatwick Racecourse (now the airport). Charlie suddenly took hold of me in the ballroom dance position and we waltzed around the cab of the C2X Class 0-6-0 to the beat of the exhaust from the chimney! In spite of the dark war years, with certain drivers the firemen could have a good laugh and an excellent comradeship was established. Black out sheets were fitted between engine and tender, these also had side sheetsTank engines just had the side sheetsCertainly on tender engines when the fire hole door was opened, the glare from the fire would shine up into the night sky like a search light, making a good bombing target. Blackout sheets prevented this penetrating glare. It also had the added effect of keeping the crews warm in winterespecially when running tender first, but in the summer they were hot to work under. During the day the sheets were rolled up and tied to the underside of the cab roof on tank engines side sheets were on rings, so were drawn back.


On another Saturday night works train, Clayton Tunnel was "Under Engineer's Possession"I was with passed fireman Len Edwards, again on a C.2.X Class. We were standing just outside the south end of the tunnelThe gangs of men were working on the "up" line, on the same side as the works train. My driver said to me "Right lad, take the billycan and fill it with water for a brew up, there is a tap halfway into the tunnel". On my arrival at the halfway marksurprise, no tap! Gangers at work there told me the tap was at the mouth of the tunnel, north end. What a walk that was, just over three miles to the water tap and back to the worktrain. The "down" line was open for single line working and goods traipassed me by on thwalk back to the works trainThe noise from the distant rumble of the goodsdeafening when ipassed meand the steam and smokehad to be heard and seen to be believed ithe confines of the black tunnel, but it was worth the effort foa cup of tea during a long nightIt would have been easier if the can had been filled uat Three Bridges but thennobody is perfect!


One summer dayworking on an E.4 Clas0-6-0T with a passenger train from Horshamthen on to the Christ Hospital singlline to Guildford, the name of the driver escapemeI had been shovelling coal into the fireboxHaving finished this taskI applied the injector for the water levelWhen that was singing awaylooked over to where the driver shoulbeI found to my disbelief he was not at the controls of his locomotiveThe forward gear lever was notched up and the regulator to the steam valve ithe dome was openwondered where the hell hhad gone! The train was travelling at between 40 and 50 miles per hourlooked out othcaon the driver's sideTherhe was on the running plate, by thleading wheel splasher! What was he doing? Why looking under the boiler at the Stephenson's valve gear in motionMy driver had walked alonthe running plate which on the EA Class is about four inches Wide at the bottom of the side tanknot mucoa footholdThere is a hand rail on the top of the sidtank, but it is still like walking a tightrope on an engine aspeedPerhaps the driver had heard a knock coming from the motionsI never did find outIf he had fallen off it would have ruined the timetable for the rest of the dayReferring to my old rule book1 quote "unless it is singlmanninof cabs, no locomotive must be alloweto be in motion on a running line, unless both thdriver and the fireman are on it"Though it could be argued the driver in this case was on the locomotiveeven ihwas not in the cab, the Locomotive Inspector would not have been amused had hknownAt Guildfordwaiting with the train for thguard's "right awaysignal, a passenger was talking ta railwayman with a long handled hammer, and he asked him what his job was on thrailwayThe railwayman replied "1 am a wheel tappertap the wheel and it goes 'clang"'The passenger then asked "What happens when the wheels don't go 'clang'?" Thwheel tapper's reply - "Then I know the train has gone!"



My home at Brighton was in Ditchling Risewhich runs parallel to the London Road ViaductA continuation of the Rise is Argyle RoadAt twenty past midday on May 25th 1941a bomb literallbounced in throad there. (I remember seeing thgroove it left). It then went through a house (it stands today)and exploded upwards under two arch spans of the viaductdestroying themleaving th"upand “downlines to and from Lewes suspended across the space that was created. Four bombdropped the other side of the viaduct, smashing up carriages and trucks with railwaymen losing their livesMy friend Ken Hillmanwho had been a messenger in London at the same time amewas now a boiler maker's apprentice in the locomotivworksOhearing the whistling, falling bombs, hdived for coverSimultaneously at the schoolalmost under the archesKen's mother on hearing the bombs falling dashed intthe schooyarto usher the children there to safety. SadlyMrHillman died later ihospital from the blascaused by the five bombs exploding in close proximity. 
The damaged arches had temporary steestructurand it was not long before the trains were running agaiover thviaduct undespeed restriction. Later, in October 1943, the damaged arches were as good as new havinbeen repaired. I worked on a 'K'Class 2-6-0 mogul taking a works train tthviaducfrom Three Bridges on one occasion.


After the incendiary bombing oLondoBridge Stationthe offices transferred to Waterloo StationLucky for the staff thbuilding was bombed durinthe nightbut all the equipment, files and invoices etcwere all destroyedWhat had been the old London Brighton and South Coast Railway Hotel was razed to the ground and never rebuiltMy messenger friend Ken Hillman stayed on at Waterloo for a yearand then transferred to Brighton Loco Workshe becaman apprentice boiler maker and after five years became a boiler makerNow and then on the way home from Three Bridges shedsI would call in at the works to see mold mate at workOften he would be using an aipowered riveting gun on a boilerThe noise would be deafening" aneven worsif he was working on the plating connecting the boiler with the smoke box inside thdooopeningIn the wartime years the boiler makerdid not wear ear protection padsthey had not been thought abouin this countryso the noise echoethroughout the works causing great discomfort for all thmen. Consequentlmany a man had problems with deafness in later yearsThe Health and SafetAct was not thought about in those daysMy great friend JQuinlivenpopularly known as "Mad Jackhad left the works ithe 1930sHe was a gentle giant of a mana weight lifting enthusiastOne true story of him when rebuilding a locomotivefor he was fitterhe would offer up (lift) a hydraulibuffer to the buffer beamhold it there whilst fellow fitters fitted the bolts and the nutssecuring the buffer to the beamthe weight upwards of two hundredweightNo wonder he was named "Mad Jack"All the fitters would use thoverhead cranebut Jack did not like to wait about for the availability of the crane.



Now it was June 1942and as an acting fireman this particular morning I was booked on the 5 :20a"goodsfrom East Grinstead to Tunbridge Wells West. After "preparingan E.5 Class 0-6-0T for the "road", hooked the engines on to a C.2.X Class 0-6-0This engine was hooked to an I.l.4-4-2T, which in turn was hooked up to an 1.3 Class 4-4-2TThe four coupled locos now crossed thLondoBrighton main lines for the single line to Rowfant, with the single line staff (key) carried by the last engine ithe rearOn arrival here the staff was exchanged for one marked Rowfant East GrinsteadOnce here the stafwas handed to the signal man. Stopping at the station platformall the engines were now uncoupledThe E.5 trundled over to the Goods Yard, with the 13 going on light engine to Forest Row twork a London passenger trainThe I.l.went down the incline to the low levestation to work a passenger train to Brighton via Sheffield park (Bluebell Line) while the C.2.X would now work a "Goodsto OxtedMy mate and I now worked the "Goodsto Forest RowPassing the train for London in th"upplatformwe shunted the yard hereNext down the line would be HartfieldWitham and GroombridgeLeaving Forest Row behind us the sun was rising in theaston my side of the cabThe morning dew was slowly dispersing at the start of a lovely summer's dayThe scenfrothe countryside was lika wonderful perfume that filled the air all aroundfrom the treesterns and flowers plus the earth and grassThe single line now was mostldown gradientThe section between East Grinstead and Forest Row was 1 in 70The engine was lightly worked with about ten trucks in tow I shall always remember the fragrance from the picturesque Sussex countryside on this early morning. "Goods" we passed playfuhares boxing one anotherthe colourful plumage of the cock pheasants, and all kinds of birds singing theihappsong in the treeand hedgerows, and flyinhappily on the wing. The scene, trundling along at 25mph was tranquillity itself, and a far cry from the death and destruction not many miles away across the Channelor indeed the bombing here in England at thatime, caused bman's inhumanity to man during the waror in the so-called peace later declared, On arrival at the West Stationafter uncoupling in the Goods Yard it was over to the engine sheds where I cleaned the fire aspan and smoke boxMy mate inspected the Stephenson motions etcfor defects, and another parts that needed tgo into the repaibookAfter taking on coal and water it was over to th"table", where we turned her around and left her on one of the shed roads, screwed the hand brake onopened the steam cocksshut off the Westinghouse brake pumpand put the reversing lever in mid-gearThe running foreman gave us an Ll.X Class No 2602 to work a passenger train back to the Bridges. Walking over to thloco mmateon seeing the wartime black painted machine said tme "Whaa picture of misery!" "Yes", said"She is"Once the engines went into the shops they lost the smart coat of Malachite green and the yellow lined letters of "Southernon passenger engines. On the "working" back to the Bridges we usually had a Bridges engine No 2600, which then was still in pre-war coloursOf course this picturesque branch line was closed back in the 1960's under the Beeching axeI did volunteer work in 1970 for a year on the-Bluebellwhertheris aabundance of steam and pleasant Sussex countryside to see from the carriage window


Most of the early turns of duty or rosters for drivers and firemen at Three Bridgestarted from 3.0 a.m. onwards. The first stopping train from Brighton to the Bridges left at 5:48amand not itime for the early rosters. So I would catch the 1115pm van traifor London Bridge, which stopped at the Bridgesor I would get the 12:40am Three Bridges "Goods" from the top yardIt was a Three Bridges rostered workingI had worked it a few timesthe engine was usually a 'KClassI travelled many times with an old school chum's father, "Goods" guard ChapmanThe brake vans were often six wheelers and at times were bone shakersfor after passing Clayton Tunnelthe train would get a move onand then the van would vibrate and shake the life out of meHow thguards put up with that vibration on their daily runs I never did ask themNot long after the bombing of the Viaduct, the family moved to Hovebut not far from the Brighton running sheds. Treach th"top yardnow, I would take a shortcut and walk through the sheds to the North East corner, then out into the openwalk over New EnglanBridge, walk across some sidings and the electrified main line. I was now by the brake van ofthe goods trainI had gonthis way twweeks earlier usinthe lighof the moonin Dec. 1942, to guide my way isafetyOn this particular blacnight made the mistake of nohaving a torch upon my person. I had crossed the bridge but walkeon too farnoturned to cross the sidings anmailineI lifted my foot high over what I thought was the "juice" rail and stepped over. That's when I fell into a pit fulowaterWith my fireman's cap on my head I can remember swimming using the breast strokto the end of the pitanwalked up the steps leading out of the pitI was soaked through tthe skinso I took my well soddebodback tthengine sheds where there was a furnace used for lighting udead" enginesand over thtop of the furnacsand dried out used in thloco sand boxes. In front othe opened furnace I undressed and dried outFortunately did not see a soulWhen my clothes had reasonably drieout I dressed and toooff for the running foreman's officeFrom there I phoned my foreman at Three Bridges telling him of my misfortune and whI had missed the "Goodsand was not able to arrive for my roistered firing turnOf course word soon got around my shedEngine men asked each other if they knew the clown who took a midnight swim in the Brighton water pits on his way to workIt took quite a time for mto live that down! A number of D.1 Class 0-4-2T Stroudley engines were equipped witpumpand hose pipes for fire fighting purposes. They were stationed at various sheds on the Southern during th1939-45 war years. NinElms used the water from a spare tenderIf Brighton had used this method instead of a pit filled with waterI would have stayed dry on that ''wet'' nightI was not on duty when going to catch the "goods"By crossing the running line I was, in fact, breaking the rolesEmployees not in the course of their duties were forbidden to cross the running line. After that ducking I took a longer route to the top yard when going foth"goods"!



Three Bridges running shed did not have anyD l Class allocated tthe shed while I was therebut I did havone trip on the Class from Horsham tBrightonThe first journeon the "working" was aearly morning van train from the Bridges to Bognor with an I.3 Class 4-4-2Tand speeding down to Faygate wadriver Bungee Charmanhis smiling face lighted up by the red glow from the fire hole half door openingLooking imy directionhe shouted over, saying "Isn't this great Norm?” If ever a man enjoyed his work on the footplate of an enginehe didOn arrival at Horsham engine men from that shed would relieve us and work the train on. My driver and I waited then for a passenger train from London Bridge which was routed viWest Croydon and Dorking Town, crewed by New Cross Gate men. 

On thiparticular day at the head of the train was a D.1 Class 0-4- 2TChanging over witthe New Cross menwe filled the tanks at the water crane and worked the train tBrighton via Steyningworking back to Horshamusually with a D.3 Class 0-4-4TThe double tracked line was known by railway men ath''Linger''One reason for the name I had been told was because it was the long way round from Brighton to Three Bridges. Another version was the Steyning linelinger and die on another day the engine waa Billinton BClass 4-4-0

This class along with the D.1 Class were m their final years before scrappingdid not see them againMaunsell had some of the B.4 Class rebuilt to B.4XThere was another sad day, it happened not long before the closure of the Linger i1966"goods" bounfor Horsham anpowered by a diesel engine ran by the Home signal at Dangefor Itchingfield junction and ploughed through a "goods" on the Mid-Sussex lineSadly the creon the diesel lost theilivesOf interest to melater in the 1970s I met the Horsham man who was in the brake van on the back of the Chichester bound train, on that fateful night, goods guard Foster.


An engine had failed at ThreBridges Station when working a speciafrom AddisoRoadKensington to NewhavenI wacleaninengineat thtime: Passed fireman Fred Elliott and I were given orders by Charlie Millerthe running foremanto do a rush job preparing a Q Class 0-6-0 fothe road and take the train at the station tits destination. Thdriver drove the engine to the coal stagewilling hands helpeus to place the coal into the firebox, but too many large lumps were hastily fed into the box whichin turdinoburn through quick enoughfoon the risininclinto Balcombe signal box steam pressure dropped downshowing only 80 psi on the steam pressure gaugebut fortunately the Q had a powerful air ejector to create the vacuum in the train pipeotherwise the brakes would have automaticallbeen applied when loon steamBusing the dart (like an 8 ftlong house poker) and lifting the packed coal this allowed more primaraito reach the grate area and the fire. Entering the tunnelthwas slowly "coming round" and "steaming" at last.


As a Cleaner on the 7.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. shift once or twice I would go home on the Brighton portion of the Bognor Vans from London Bridge. The enginemen were from Three Bridges. I would ask the driver for his permission to ride in the cab and perhaps learn the skills of driving and firing. The engine was usually a Class K, Brighton built mogul, on this particular day the fireman was a senior cleaner (known on the Southern as an acting fireman) nick-named “Split” and he was a good fireman. Three Bridges was a sub depot of Horsham, so on occasions the Locomotive Superintendent would call. But for reasons I never knew Cleaner Split had a hatred for the ‘Super’. Sometime later all of young cleaners were reading the notice board which had vacancies for drivers and firemen all over the Southern Railway system. Cleaner Split was also reading the vacancy sheet, and then saying to his fellow cleaners. “I am going to apply for a fireman” in chorus we all exclaimed, “where are you going” so he just said “anywhere.” Later he got his fireman’s appointment. Drivers and fireman and cleaners soon knew where and what running shed Split was going too, yes! It was Horsham. Just about the last place on earth he wanted to go. Why he did not apply for Redhill or Norwood was strange, for it was easy distance from his home at Brighton and important for Split he would not be anywhere near his mentor. He did not stay long at Horsham. The last I heard of Split, he was working at Shoreham-by-Sea gas works. How he was allowed to leave the railway during the war to me a mystery for Split was in a Reserved Occupation. I passed for the Navy, and was told I had to stay where I was.



During 1941 a number of engines were stored on a siding by the down Brighton main line, just north of Three Bridges station. One of them was a Brighton Atlantic she was placed back in traffic and came into the engine sheds nearby to be serviced and cleaned. The engines we cleaners normally cleaned were E1, E4, E5, I1X, I3 and C2X, which were allocated to the shed at this time. I do not know the number or the name of the Atlantic now. The shed foreman gave myself and fellow cleaners the task to clean the engine. I remember I was on top of the boiler with cleaning rags and oil the boiler seemed to be endless in length to what I had been used too and it was the first and the last time in my 2 ½ years at the Bridges that an Atlantic came into the shed. Later in 1946 when on loan to Stewarts Lane as a fireman I worked on of the Atlantic’s and wished I had worked them more often. 
One of the Passed Fireman at the Bridges was appointed a driver at Horsham he lived in the town, his son was a cleaner at the engine sheds, he was appointed fireman at Newhaven. I often met up with him at the Lane with his driver. He would come in on an Atlantic having worked to Victoria on a Boat Train, no doubt Newhaven running sheds at least three Atlantic stabled there in those days. The class were looking smart in Bullied’s ‘Malachite Green’ with ‘Southern’ on the tender sides. Today when I see a train with no locomotive (steam) on the front, I do not turn my head at all to look but a loco on the front, out would come my camera.


I was working the 5: 18am Sunday morning paper train from Victoria to Brighton one summerwith Driver Hodgeson, on a Class Q1, 0-6-0. The train was at speed near Horleyand the vacuum gauge pointer was wavering up and down. I looked out of the cab towards the Guard's vanThe guard was frantically waving us down to stop, as a sheet of flarme and flying sparks were coming from one of the vansI shouted to my driver to drop the "handle"which he promptly didThe guard had been applying the emergency brakes and his vanbut It did not stop the trainIt was by the odd reading on the vacuum gauge that I realised something was wrongMy mate intent on watching the "road" aheaddid not notice the vacuum gauge s odd behaviour at the time. 
When the train came to a haltdriverguard and fireman ran to the van which was causing the troubleOne of the brake hangers had broken loose and was now fouling the "juicerail
I ran to the brake van where the guard said I would find a long wooden shaft handleIt was either my mate or the guard who cleared the obstructionI do remember thoughthe fireman stood well back from the flames and showering sparks - I was no electrician! 
With the brake hanger now secured, the van continued on its way to the next stopThree Bridges (a paradise for firemenI should never have left), arriving at Brighton twenty minutes late. After the engine had been on the table it nohad to work back to Victoria via Lewes and Edenbridge Town with a passenger train.  


It was hard on a driver if he failed his medical, like the eyesight test on his appointmentor if in later years he failed Re would now most likely be roistered on shed duties if the engine yard was a large one or he would be condemned to the Marshalling or Goods yard shunting engineAs luck would have itI did not do much shunting workIn my early firing days at Three BridgesIlike other passed cleanersdid work now and then on the "upand "downsidings on E.1 Class 0-6-0TI had one day in the Poole goods yard shunter with an M.7 ClassThe driver and I had shunted up and down for more than seven hoursAt the end of the day my driver said to me "That's what I call perpetual b****y motion".  I also had a day on the Bournemouth goods yard shunter with a G6 Class 0-6-0TThe fireman had to stop the engine, and the only brake was on his side of the cab, which was a ball bearing hand brakeSeven hours or more of screwing the hand brake on and off was not my idea of happiness, so I was pleased never to see Bournemouth goods yard ever againFireman's verbal instructions to driver decoded from shunter's hand signals in daylight and darkness, if shunter is on fireman's side: 



My driver this day was a Top Link engineman, before the 1945 hostilties he must have worked on the Bournemouth to Brighton service, this was cancelled during war time although Brighton still worked the service in the morning and return later that day, with a Class S15, it was tender first to Blandford on the Somerset and Dorest. Arriving there we coupled to an ambulance train off the L.M.S. injured sailors where en-route to Haslar Naval hospital in Gosport, Hampshire, these trains often had fourteen coaches on behind the tender, our load was no exception. I knew after St Denys the road was like a switch back, though I had never worked over this road, but I often been a passenger going to my family home in Hove. Now the locomotive was working hard with the heavy train on the gradient to Brisledon with the reserve curves, on and over the River Hamble to Fareham, Cosham, taking the right hand semaphore signal for the line to the next junction from Havant and on to Fratton Station where we stopped at the platform. My driver was not sure of the signals for the line ahead, so he sent me over to the ‘Box’ crossing the lines, halfway there the signalman was waving his arms and shouting “Alright to proceed” no doubt my mate knew the road to Brighton, but I did wonder if ever driven a train to Portsmouth, anyway I didn’t ask. We arrived at Portsmouth Harbour alright. Here the sailors embarked for the short sea crossing over the Solent to Haslar Naval Hospital. Once our train was taken to the sidings by the station pilot. It was tender first to Fratton engine sheds, where we left our steed. Now home on the cushions, my mate to Bournemouth, myself off to Hove for a one night stay.



While still school boys with my friends we would go training spotting to Hove as well as Brighton, about one hundred yards east of Hove station a fence and on a level with the railway lines was Hove ‘A’ signal box, beyond that were the sidings for the goods yard. From our advantage point we could see the yard shunting engine at work which usually was a Class E1 0-6-0. But what was most interesting was to see a Sentinel Steam Railcar go by on its way to and from the Dyke Railway. This line closed in 1938. I am not surprised that it did so, for on reaching the Dyke Station, passengers had to walk half a mile or more to the Dyke Hotel, which I am told is the second highest point on the Southdown’s, as Ditchling Beacon is the highest. The climb from the Dyke station is steeper to the hotel than the 1 in 40 Dyke Railways. Today people arrive by bus, car or walk to view the five or six counties that be seen on a clear day, plus the fact it is a haven for Para gliders. 
During my firing days at Bournemouth locos sheds, I often worked with Driver Fred Dunstan, who during his firing days at Brighton often worked the Sentinel Steam Railcar No.6. however these railcars were not that successful climbing the 1 in 40 gradient, for once it left the south coastline the climb was constant to the Dyke station. Unlike the Sentinel steam lorry built at their Shrewsbury works. 



The first gang I was in was the Poole Quay shunterOn early turn the driver and fireman prepared an old Adams B.4 Class 0-4-0T for the roadGoing off shed it was light engine to Poole yardthen couple up to five or more truckswith two shuntersWe trundled along to thQuay side with one shunter in frontone at the back of the train, with red flags at the ready to stop traffic .from running into the trainThrailway lines went in a half circle across-roads and T -junctions to get around them. In some places the train ran on the right hand side of the streetIt was on this side, when stopping athe Workman's Cafe, the railwaymen would all pile in to the cafe forefreshmentand vans and lorries woulpark behind the train, with their drivers also in the cafeThis is nowof course, just a memory for those who knew Poole the way it wasAt mfirst lodgings, every day for my packed lunch I was given plain cheese sandwiches. Unfortunately I never liked cheeseso each day at break would wipe the shovel cleanplace the sandwiches thereonand by resting the shoveon the fire hole ringI would have toasted CheeseIt was more edibleLaterwhen in another gangarriving in Poole yard on a "goodswith a Kl 0 Class 4-4-0, whad shunted thtrucks and were at reshaving our lunchMy driver was frying some chops using the shovel on the fire hole ring, when the shunter came up and asked him to move the trucksup a few yardsOf coursemy mate forgot about his fry up, opened the regulatorand the forcfrom the exhaust steam uthrough the blast pipe sucked his chops into the fireboxThey were burnt ta cindeand lostI remember the September skthat day was bluebut the language on the footplate was even bluer! 


When I was appointed a fireman at Bournemouth, passenger workings were by far more numerous than freight workings. However one roster I did look forward too was a goods from Feltham Middlesex, marshalling yards. After signing on, the crews had to look at notice board applying to this particular working, as it was a short walk to the station and a ride on the cushions to Eastleigh. Here the goods stopped on the down line, we relieved the Eastleigh crew, the engine was usuall a war department 2-8-0. I found this class to be excellent, free steam with plenty of space in the cab. At times for various reasons there was a shortage of crews,more than often I travelled to Eastleigh alone, so the Eastleigh driver was on overtime. The lenght of the train could be fifty, sixty or more wagons. The destination was Poole sidings. These 2-8-0's had a peculiar fault, one I had never met before. If the speed reached 35 to 40 m.p.h. The linkage between engine and tender would vibrate and shake the life out of the crew, not a very pleasant experience, with the speed reduce it would cease, Speed meters were to come later, but thesetrains were timed to clear the expresses from Waterloo, so we had to motor.
Most of the lines on the Bournemouth were one down one up except between St Deny's to Northian, Southampton to Redbridge and the two down and two up at Pokesdown, so there was little chance of being overtaken the traffic just piled up behind us. We tried to keep out of the way of the fast trains and arrive at Poole sidings on schedule. After the goods was propelled into the yard, it was tender first to Bournemouth where I cleaned out the smokebox, cleaned the fire etc. The Eastleigh man returned home on the cushions.


The next gang up on the afternoon (2:00pm 10:00pm or 4:00pm 12:00am) had the main line engines on the roster for "disposing" or putting away when the "top link" engine men arrived at Central Station from Waterloo. In those days it was usually a Lord Nelson Class 4-6-0 and when they left the footplate my driver and I got on taking the front portion of the train to Bournemouth West, the rear six coaches going to WeymouthAfter arrival at "West" station when the train was empty it was then propelled up the incline to the carriage Sheds. Afterthis movement it was light engine to the Central sheds where the fireash pans and smoke box were cleaned (one smoke box took me an hour to clean), then we were taking on coalfilling water tanksthen onto the turntable, and stabling the locfor the nightOn early turn thengines were prepared for the "top linkmen who had their own Nelson in those days, the driver oiling up all the necessary parts, the fireman slowly building up a boxful of fire and raising steamthen shovelling the coal forward from the back of the tenderThe job disliked was filling up the sand boxesBuckets of non-slip fine sand had to be lifted up onto the running plate and poured into the sand boxes, every grain kept away from the moving parts, but the trains did not stop because of ice or leaves on the line. Then it was up to the "dummy(ground signal), waiting for the signal man to pull it off, light to Bournemouth WestOnce thereback on to the carriages and couple up. Leaving Bournemouth West with six carriages for Central Stationthe Station pilot was waiting for a further six carriages which had come from WeymouthOn arrival were now pushed or propelled onto the waiting six carriages forming a twelve coach train for Waterloo"Top linkmen now took over from my mate and me, a round trip of 232 miles in front of themAfter a given number of miles they were on mileage payThis was the link to be in, but it took a few years for a fireman to reach and even longer for a driver.


can well recall my first trip to Weymouth with Sam Baker on a NelsonIt was a "top linkworking at Central Station. Bournemouth men would relieve Nine Elms men and take the train onto Weymouth. After arrival at the terminus it was light engine to the G.W.Rsheds to turn the loco on the table. Then it was tender first to a siding outside of the terminus and then wait until train timeOn the other side of a low parapet wall and across the road was a "Strongpublic house, temptation for a quick drink on a hot summer daybut I made the mistake of having a pint of West Country rough ciderLeaving Weymouth behind us, on the climb to Bincombe tunnel I was suffering from a light head, shovelling coal into the 10'6" firebox as if I were a robot under automatic controlBy the time the train reached Dorchester I had worked it off by perspiring from my labours. 
Passing the "up" station platform on our left going into the curve of the line, the driver stopped when the guard showed his red flagWhen the points were seton the now straight section of the line the guard waved us back with his green flag and the driver propelled the train into Dorchester's one platform terminusThe downside platform was on the other side of the line. Leaving Dorchester with the semi-fast train to Waterloo, on reaching Bournemouth Central we were relieved by Nine Elms men. That was the first and last time I had rough cideras it was rough on me! I have been a "mildman ever since! Now trains do not reverse it has a new through road at the station.


On a special train from West Moors petrol dump in the New Forest the driver was Ted Vigar, the engine was a 4-4-0 tender K10 Class, with a load of petrol tanks bound for Southampton Docks. When we apssed Ringwoodthe loco working hard up a bankand with the shovel in my hands, my head down and backside up, I was hard at work keeping up steam pressure, when suddenlyabove the beat of the exhaustat the engine's chimneythere was the sound like machine-gun fireThe driver and I gave one another a blank stare and looked out of the cab side towards the guard's vanand in the distance a plane was fast disappearingIt was the German LuftwaffeFortunately the pilot had not been on target and did not return to the highly inflammable petrol trainso we were able to proceed to the docks in safety. Later that year on the other side of the English Channel the RAFdive bombed all trains, blowing them up, locomotives alsoI had seen these air strikes on Pathe News at the local cinemaThe face of good fortune had smiled on the Bournemouth guard and engine men that day. 


"Queens" was in dock, having arrived from America with thousands of troops. My driver and I were now in a siding behind other engines waiting for a train at the docksideIt took some hours for the Yanks to disembarkLater one of the dock shunting engines had brought empty carriage stock in the platform. At last it was outime to back onto the train and couple up, which on the Western section was carried out by the firemanWhile the Train was being loaded there was refreshment for the Yanks on the platform of coffee and doughnuts, and wleft the docks at approximately 3:30pm for BasingstokeOn arrival at this station my driver and I were relieved by engine men from Reading shed
The Bournemouth men now expected to have a ride home on the cushions as originally stated on the "specianotices", but the Basingstoke running foreman had other plans for Henry and DentyThey now had to report to him at the engine shedsthe message having been passed on by the Reading engine menOn our arrival at the sheds the foreman informed us that the T .14 Class 4-6-0 on one of the shed roads was ours, and we were to wait for an ambulance train due off the G.W.Rvia Readingwith wounded Yanks returning to the U.S.A. on the "Queen" now at Southampton Docks. Basingstoke had no available crews to relieve us, and not even controknew what time the train was due. My mate and I were in for a long and boring waitand as it turned out, it was for eight hours. The ambulance train finally arrived at the station at about 1:30amTen minutes later I had coupled up, the guard ,gave his green light hand signal and we were "right away". These ambulance trains had sixteen coaches to pull.On the climb to Litchfield Tunnel, the old "Paddle boxwith the four cylinders working hardstruggled with the heavy load hooked en behind the tenderthe m.p.h. no faster than a heavy "goods" working flat out up the bank. Fortunately for the fireman the "paddle box" steamed well enough while it was being hammered up to Litchfield TunnelThen it was a downhill run past Micheldever, Winchester, and on to Southamptonrunning in alongside the dockside platform, stopping here at approximately 2:30amThe T.14 arrived on the disposal pit at Bournemouth sheds at about 3:30amI screwed down the hand brake, and my driver and I just about fell off of the footplate. We signed off duty at 3:30amtwenty hours after signing on. It was indeed a hard day’s night! I can well remember the time I was off duty, which was eight hours, and then I had a shovel in my hands once again! 



During the time I was at Bournemouth the Branksome shed L.M.S.Rengines were stabled at my shed. One of the Southern's cleaners was on loan to the L.MS. as a fireman for a long spell, working to Bath Green Park and back to Bournemouth West on a 2P Class 4-4-0. These engines were built for the old Somerset and Dorset Railway and had 7’01/2” driving wheelsThey often passed me at Poole Yard when I was on a "goods" waiting to leave the yard after the Bath train had cleared the section of the lineTo my surprise I was on loan to the L.M.Sfor one dayThe engine was a 4Class 0-6-0. Going off shedit was light engine to Poole Yardand then we were working a "goodsto Evereach Junction, arriving at Bailey Gate, shunting the yardthen on to Blandford, and bumped the trucks about hereWhen the goods train was sorted we then waited in the "up" platform for a train from Bath to arrive on the next lineMy driver and I changed over with the crew on a Black Five 4-6-0, taking the passenger train on to Bournemouth WestGreat locomotivesthose Stainier designed machines. I would have liked to have worked on them more often, over Southern rails.



No.3 Link was the "Push and Pull"Crews had their own engine (except on shed days), early turn engine men sharing a loco with the late turn menThe firemen kept the cabs immaculate with polished brass and copper pipes gleamingand this was during the war years when locos were not as clean as they might have been, though at Bournemouth shed they had young lady cleaners who did a grand jobI was not yet in the "Push and Pull" gang, though for some reason or other I had plenty of opportunities to work in itOn early turn the crews got a Drummond 60 ton M.7 Class 0-4-4T ready for duty. Going off shed it was light engine bunker first to Bournemouth West, then back on to a push and pull sethook up with the screw couplings vacuum pipe, compressed air pipes and connect the plugs for the electric bell (bell code between engine men)Alsoif it was winter servicethe steam heat pipe had to be connectedThe fireman did not have much room to move between engine and carriage. It was just as well most firemen were slim enough to get out of the maze of pipes after connecting and coupling upThe vacuum and compressed air gauges were tested for correct readings. If all was in order, the train was now ready for the "road". When the time came to departit was off all stations to Brockenhurst Old South Western, main line. When working the train back to Bournemouth from Brockenhurst the driver would now go to the guard's van where there was a driving compartment complete with vacuum brakewhistle and a regulator handleThis handle was connected through the compressed air pipes to the steam regulator on the engine, which the engine men connected up by a movable steel rod secured by a large pin and chain. The compressed air was created by a Westinghouse pump on the running plate. A ring on the bell from the driveracknowledged by the firemanmeant "right away"The driver now opened the regulator handle in his driving compartmentand the fireman had to be ready in case the regulator in the engine cab opened too wide
Inevitablythis would happencausing the engine driving wheels to slipIf the fireman opened the sand lever, spraying sand onto the rails while the driving wheels were slippingthere was always the risk of bending the coupling rodsThe fireman, howevercould not close the steam regulator because of the compressed air. To get over this difficultyI, like other firemen, took out the pin connecting the rod to the steam regulator and worked the engine as though I were the driverIn any casethe fireman had to notch up the reversing lever for valve cut off
The driver had control of the train with the vacuum brake in his compartment up front. The brake handle on the engine was placed in the running position and the small jet valve opened, maintaining 21 inches of vacuum reading on the gauge. Once the train was on its way it could be all stations to Christchurch via RingwoodI was now in my element as the train sped along towards Ringwood, quite a few miles away. A ring on the bell from the driver meant shut off steamOn one occasion I kept the regulator open for a few more milesThe train was moving at high speed, the driver up front must have been quite happyand did not check the speed of the trainAt Ringwood thoughwe had to wait fifteen minutes before the guard gave his "right awaysignal. Margaret Lockwoodthe film and stage actress, lived in the Ringwood areaand was often on the "Push and Pull"changing at Brockenhurst to or from Waterloo. Firemen had to look out for the locomotive inspector who could be standing waiting at any stationIf the steam regulator handle was not connected to the pin and chain, on seeing him waiting at the station the fireman had to couple the pin and chain in double quick time, otherwise the gentleman in the bowler hat would have you in the office later and give a lecture in chapter and verse about engine men's rules as contained in the railwayman's Bible"The Rule Book". 



One afternoon in the summer of 1944, a train from Waterloo came into the platform road at Bournemouth Central. I was with driver Fred Billet a gentleman and a good engineman. The train stopped by us and we relieved the crew from Nine Elms sheds and we climb up into the cab, to take the train to Weymouth, stopping at all stations. The engine was a Class N15X, No. 2333, Remembrance. I was pleased to be working an old L.B.S.C.Rly. Locomotive again, for my original shed had been one of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway, now Southern Railway. On the way up to Branksome I noticed a large hole in the wooden floor by my feet, I could see the right hand rear driving wheel with the coupling rod, the cab was swaying to the left, then the right, quite a rough ride, I thought then, she needs to go to the shops for overall, anyway I forgot about it, and got with the shovelling coal into the firebox. At Weymouth, the station pilot took our now empty train to the carriage sidings. We now went tender first to the G.W.R. engine sheds, once on the ash-pit, I cleaned out the smoke box, then I noticed four fire tubes were leaking, I called my mate to look,  he made a note in his repair book. I now cleaned the fire, throwing out the clinker, there were two tubes leaking just above the brick arch. On seeing this Fred rang the Running Foreman at Bournemouth Running Sheds telling him No. 2333 would not make it to Waterloo with twelve on. Also we would need a banker at Poole Town even with six coaches for Pokesdown Bank. After servicing and turning the loco, it was back to Weymouth station to work the train back to Bournemouth. At Poole, a Class M7 came on the rear and banked us up to Branksome. At Central station, I uncoupled the engine from the coaches, and then we took off for the engine yard. Six coaches from Bournemouth West were now propelled forward onto the six coaches by the station pilot. A Class V ‘Schools’ now took over the head of the train for Waterloo. Later in the week No.2333 was coupled to an engine and brake van destination Eastleigh workshops. 


Like many railway enthusiasts, I am particularly pleased to see No. 850 is working again over the railway lines of this country. During my time at Bournemouth No. 850 was allocated to the running sheds, when I was in the preparation and disposal gang, I worked on this engine many times. 
It was near Xmas 1944 that I worked on Lord Nelson it was a number 2 link working, from Bournemouth West to Eastleigh and it was all station stopping train. Having come off at Eastleigh, it was tender first to the engine yard; No. 850 was booked for an overhaul at the workshops. I remember that particular day well. The Running Foreman allocated my driver a Class H15, then it was tender first to Southampton Terminus, here we coupled up to the night mail ex-Waterloo. The train was long, and well loaded, until we reached the top of the incline at Pokesdown. I did not stop shovelling, in my endeavours to maintain the necessary P.S.I. for this fast working to Weymouth, and the ‘Pep-pipe’ was not working properly to keep the coal dust at bay. So I was relieved, when I was relieved by Dorchester men. The fireman was a bit of a wag, saying to me “You look like you have been in the black hole Calcutta.” His driver’s comment was no better “You look like you are off to the Chimney Sweeps Xmas ball.” Looking in the mirror later I could see why they had a laugh. By the time the Dorchester men arrived back to their home shed, the fireman no doubt looked like a coal miner on his way to the pit head baths. No, I didn’t tell him about the Pep Pipe and the dusty coal.


In the 1930s the Southern ran Airway special trains from Victoria to Poole Harbour of Southampton Docks and from there to Victoria or waterloo for flying boats passengers. This service continued during the 193 – 45 war and for a time in the post war years. Short Brothers built the Sunderland flying boats, and when these graceful machines touched down on water and came to rest at anchor, the passengers boarded motor boats for the quayside at Poole, and then they were taken by motor coach to Bournemouth West Station. Waiting here would be an engine and four or five Pullman cars, but in war time there were no car attendants to serve the needs passenger on the journey to the British Over-sea Airways Corporation Hotel at Victoria Station. Across to the hotel could be gained from where the train stopped at was platform 17. By the departure end of the station near the signal box on the countryside. No. 2 gang at Bournemouth Shed had a B.O.A.C. Airways working, and was a standby roster time of departure was only known at short notice during war time and could run A.M. or or from Victoria.
While I was at Bournemouth the special usually ran only once a week in each direction in the week. In 1944 - 45, I was called out by a ‘call Boy’ from my lodging many times to work the B.O.A.C. Specials. When the crew booked on duty it was either a ride on the cushions to Victoria, or go tender first to Bournemouth West with a T9 Class 4-4-0 or a Stewarts Lane E1 Class or a D1 Class 4-4-0.
Leaving Bournemouth West, the Airways went on the ‘Through Road’ at the Central station on a non-stop run to Victoria, slowing down at Wimbledon station for the Stewarts Lane conductor to jump on the footplate. He was there if the Bournemouth Driver did know the road to Victoria. In these days there was no crossover at Clapham Junction from the Western to the Central Section.
From Wimbledon the Airways went via Haydon’s Road, Tooting and on to Streatham Junction spur meeting the main Brighton – Victoria line. On arrival at the terminus a Stewarts Lane fireman would be waiting, my Driver and I were now relieved from duty, we then made our way by tube to Waterloo for a ride home on the cushions.
Leaving Victoria on the Brighton down line the airways passed over the fly over at Streatham Junction for Wimbledon and on to the Western section for Bournemouth West.
It was probably the longest non-stop run on the Southern during the 1939-45 hostilities, about 116 miles. It was easy work for the fireman with a light train on a very fast train. The driver and fireman must have enjoyed the trip. I know I did. 



My driver this day was a Top Link engineman, before the 1945 hostilties he must have worked on the Bournemouth to Brighton service, this was cancelled during war time although Brighton still worked the service in the morning and return later that day, with a Class S15, it was tender first to Blandford on the Somerset and Dorest. Arriving there we coupled to an ambulance train off the L.M.S. injured sailors where en-route to Haslar Naval hospital in Gosport, Hampshire, these trains often had fourteen coaches on behind the tender, our load was no exception. I knew after St Denys the road was like a switch back, though I had never worked over this road, but I often been a passenger going to my family home in Hove. Now the locomotive was working hard with the heavy train on the gradient to Brisledon with the reserve curves, on and over the River Hamble to Fareham, Cosham, taking the right hand semaphore signal for the line to the next junction from Havant and on to Fratton Station where we stopped at the platform. My driver was not sure of the signals for the line ahead, so he sent me over to the ‘Box’ crossing the lines, halfway there the signalman was waving his arms and shouting “Alright to proceed” no doubt my mate knew the road to Brighton, but I did wonder if ever driven a train to Portsmouth, anyway I didn’t ask. We arrived at Portsmouth Harbour alright. Here the sailors embarked for the short sea crossing over the Solent to Haslar Naval Hospital. Once our train was taken to the sidings by the station pilot. It was tender first to Fratton engine sheds, where we left our steed. Now home on the cushions, my mate to Bournemouth, myself off to Hove for a one night stay.


My next gang up the ladder to the "top link" had local "goods" and passenger workings. My regular driver was Bob Adams. On this particular day we were oan afternoon homeward bound workman's train from Wareham. The engine was a (LSWR) S11 Class 4-4-0. Waiting at the platform tor the time of departure was my girlfriend at the time, who worked in a factory nearby. She came up to the engine and had a word with my driver and myself My mateknowing the young lady lived at f!~worthy Junctioninvited her to have a ride on the footplate, which she duly accepted. Receiving the "right away" from the guard, we were off, stopping at all stations to Bournemouth. The train was rattling along, so I dared the lady to try her hand at firing with the shovelShe was anything but a shrinking violet, and coal was sent into the firebox with great skill, but alas, calamity struck (her name must have been Jane)the shovel slipped out of her hands and was lost in the heat of the fire box. Bob was a placid man., he never said a word. From the junctionusing my hands, I fed lumps of coal into the firebox till we reached Poole Town., having a good box of fire now for the 1/64 Parkstone Bank aheadLater at Bournemouth when the engine had been "put away" for the night in the engine yardI looked for a firing shovel in the shed among the brake blocks, tubesfirebricks and other locomotive bits and pieces used for repair workLuckily I found oneit had been battered about a bit, but now at least I had a complete set of tools to hand in at the store. The store man gave me an old fashioned look when I handed them over the counterIt saved me from a lot of embarrassing questionsLater the girl friend told me that the signal man on duty at Hamworthy box had seen her getting off the :L12.Class engineShe had been chastised by him in no uncertain mannerThe signal man was her father!   


One late afternoon on a passenger train to Eastleigh on No 563 X6 Class 4-4-0 (they were very similar to the T.3 Class), while working through the New Forestthe engine broke down". Driver Watts sent me on to Lyndhurst Road Station to arrange for assistance with the Station Master. I had a walk of approximately two milesand I had just arrived on the platform when my train arrived. The driver had managed to-get the old Adams L.S.W.R main line engine workingShe was being worked back to Eastleigh to go into the "shopsfor overhaulIt was not before time as the old loco was just about clapped outNow the old girl is a museum piece aYorkOn this roistered working it was usual to have another engine for the "workingback to BournemouthOn this occasion, the running foreman of Eastleigh sheds allocated us a D.15 Class 4-4-0. This pleased meI liked to work on these powerful "Urie" rebuilds of "DrummondsoriginalsNow it was tender first to Southampton Terminus to work the night mail ex-Waterloo to WeymouthOn this train it was a fast run to Central Station.  On arrival there we were to be relieved by Dorchester menI was now off to my bed.


During my time at Bournemouth depot the lines were steam south of Woking on the route to Waterloo, and Portscreek junction on the outskirts of Portsmouth when going south along the coast, did we meet the electrified third rail system. When at Three Bridges many lines were electrified with a 660 D.C. live third rail, so crews were in danger when climbing down from their engine to change the red tail lamp etc., they had literally to watch their step as many men have suffered from an electric shock or burns from touching the live rail, made worse as they usually be holding on to the cab steps hand rail, so making a path to earthWorking over roads with no live rail system, was no problem, but going into the live rail system again engine men had to be alert to the danger. As a signal lad at Keymer crossing on the Eastbourne line, I have seen dogs run down the track towards Spatham Lane, touch the live rail, receive a shock and bite the offending rail, sadly that would be its last bite.


Usually a 'T9' coupled on to four carriagesduring the trip most of the fireman knew where most of the prettyoung girls resided, and mild flirtations naturally took place on the local platformsAyoung ladies travelled to work or college
After passing through Downton tunnel we were the same height above sea level as the top of Salisbury Cathedral spirewhich we could see in the distanceacross the fields and water meadowsThis train entered the busy east bay platform shared with the Eastleigh and slow Andover trains. On this section the fireman unlike the Brighton line was expected to do the uncoupling and rearrangement of head code lamps and route discsThis completed the coaches were shunted to release the engine which went off to the motive power shed and coaches were pushed back into the bayAt the shedsa quick look at the fire bars for clinkerand c1eanoutThen on to the turntableand what a table it wasonce the locomotive was balanced and the locking lever catch released. The table could be pushed around with one hand, giving credence the tales of wind catching locomotives on turntables and spinning themThis must have been one of the Southern’s finest turn table perhaps it had roller bearings or the fitters kept it in good conditionIt also had an operator in attendance to operate itBut guess what? Later this turntable was converted to vacuum workingwhich involved connecting the turntable to the steam engines vacuum systemwhich required a showing of at least 21 inches of vacuum the gaugeThis made the engine men's work a lot easier, as by this time some turntables were in terrible condition. This did however mean the attendant was made redundant and properly ended up working on the ashpit or coal stage. Often these men started out as footplate personnel, but due to failure of the annual medical, were relegated to lesser duties. Although working on the railway was a job for life, it did not always mean promotion.

Now the engine re-joined the carriages for an easy return run back to Bournemouth Westwith time to enjoy the sceneryNow the villages we passed through though once in Hampshire now come under Dorsetshire. And of course now the line is closed 



When I was at Bournemouth I had worked on the Merchant Navy ClassFor one reason or other I worked the Eastern section's "top gang" quite often. This particular week, I signed on about 3:30pmand rode on the cushions to Cannon Street Stationthen relieved Bricklayers Anus men on a West Country ClassI then worked a commuters' homeward bound train to Chatham,and Dover. These Bullied locomotives had excellent boilersThe blow-off mark on them was 280 psiWithin the design of the firebox were "Siphons"(thermic) and to protect these from cold secondary air going into the firebox when the door was openBullied had designed a steam operated butterfly doors which functioned well when I worked on the classSituated close to the floor on the right hand side was a foot pedalThe firemanwith a shovel of coal taken from the tendeshovel plate, could then turn round, and by placing his right foot on the pedal the doors would openand he could the slide the coal where it was needed into the fireboxBy turning around for more coal, and taking his foot off the pedalthe doors would close, By using "rhythm and grace", there was no need to race, a fireman could enjoy hiworkbut I found the "spam canshot to work inIn the summer months the perspiration would run down my hairy legs into my bootsOn this particular roster workingmy driver and I changed over with another crew at FavershamWe worked from this station with vans to Victoria with another great Maunsell engine, the L.Class 4-4-0They rode the "wad" like a Rolls Royce. All the different locomotives I worked on had two fusible plugsforward and rear of the crown plate of the firebox, This was a safety device, if in the event of ejector or other failure, and the boiler water fell below a safe level, these plugs would melt and the water left in the boiler would put the fire out, saving the boiler and firebox from severe and expensive damageIt was also a protection for the crew, but an enquiry would be held as to the cause of the happeningwith the emphasis on crew competence. The Merchant Navy, West Country and Battle of Britain classes had six of these fusible plugs; these boilers though had a working boiler pressure of 280psi Three 'popsafety valves were fitted on the front ring of the boiler barrelThe usual position on top of the firebox was different in these classes of locomotive to eliminate the possibility of lifting water and steam from the turbulent area over the top of the firebox which had the afore mentioned Thermic SiphonsSo that in the event of emergency braking (when the emergency braking handle is dropped), The pressurized boiler water surges towards the firebox tube-plate and is likely to cause the safety valves to lift (Blow off steam) at below the maximum pressure at which they are setThis emergency stopping with the brakes applied firmly on all wheels of engine and carriages especially at speed with passengers sitting and standing falling forward, creating flats on wheels, loss of boiler pressure, and coupling strain it is really a desperate response. In avoiding one problem another has been caused
On the Bournemouth line at the end of steam in 1967 these rebuilt and as built Bullied Pacific's in badly maintained condition were still reaching speeds of l00 m.p.hAs these locomotives had a low mileage and were relatively modem they also were some of the last to reach the scrap-yards, we find that more of this class have been preserved than any otheryou either like them for their innovation or you prefer traditional design



The finest locomotive on the Southern from my viewpoint as a fireman was the VClass 4-4-0 SchoolsKeeping the steam gauge pointer on 220 psi on the twelve coach trains was not hard workas they were excellent steamers and economical on fuelThe speed limit during wartime on the S.was 70 mphThis restriction was owing to the lack of track maintenanceI never did work on a loco with a speed meterThe driver had to judge his speed on the road, curves and all, speed restriction signs etc. 
When working out of Waterloo on the 11:30am to Bournemouth with Driver Greenwe were on a very fast run with '925 Cheltenham'. Nearing Winchester the speed of the train felt as if it was on the 80 mph markThe wind was rushing past, the telegraph poles were flashing by, and the exhaust steam from three piston valves and pistons was chattering away at the chimney. The loco was performing superbly. On "the swaying footplateI hung over the side of the sloping cab and was enthralled by watching the driving wheels and coupling rods spinning round. I had never seen before or since steel wheels and rods going at such a bewildering speed
Driver Green was on his seat preoccupied with his eye on the "road" ahead of him. If he had seen me bent over the cab side, hanging on to the hand rail, he would have said a few choices swear words in my directionIf, like the Three Bridges driver two years earlier, I had fallen off, it would have ruined the timetable on the mainline that day!    



Passed fireman George Dunstan went "Westfor his appointment to fireman at BournemouthHe was a Brighton man. He hadas a passed cleanerfired the Sentinel Railcar (which has a vertical boiler) on the Dyke Railway which closed way back on the last day of 1938. As a school boy train spotting in Hove in 1935I can remember the Sentinel steam railcar runningPassed fireman Dunstan and I prepared a D15 Class 4-4-0 for the "road". Going off shed it was tender first to Southampton DocksThe engine now backed on to a prisoner of war train. The passengers were German soldiers, guarded by the military policeLeaving the docks behind, the train was destined for Devizes on the G.W.R Arriving at Salisburya G.W.R conductor was waiting (he wasn't there to collect the fares)Of course, my driver did not know the "road" to Westbury on the Great Westernbut he drove the engine with the conductor responsible for the road aheadAt the Westbury station the engine was uncoupled form the trainNow it was taken on to Devizes by a G.W.R locomotive and crew. The Southern engine went into the G.W.R shedand the engine men here politely told my mate and me to get off and go to the mess room for a breakas thewould see to the cleaning of the fireash pancoaling and turning the loco on the tableThe G.W.R men certainly gave us "foreignersa welcomeI don't suppose they had many S.R locos go into their shed. I found time to clamber over a "Castle" which happened to be named after the town I lived in and went to school in - Caerphilly - which loco incidentally is now in the Science Museum, Kensingtonto engine lovers a beautiful sightThe empty stock form Devizes was now in Westbury Station. We said our goodbyes to the friendly engine men at the sheds, and leaving Westbury behindwe had a fast run back to SalisburyThe footplate certainly "swayedonce againbut this time the three men on it were ankle deep in coal which had been shaken down from the tender. The G.W.R men were used to quality Welsh steam coal and a large tonnage came from Bedwas Collierywhere my Fatherhis Father and five brothers were miners in the village I was born inI can well remember at my former shed, Three Bridgesat times mixed in with the coal were bricketts. This was a mix of cement and coal dust, a poor fuel for a firebox needing high temperatures for keeping steam on the blow off mark. Now it was farewell to the G.W.R. conductor at Salisbury. The next stop was Southampton Docks where we left the empty stockAfter uncoupling it was home to Bournemouth shed, and on arrival I screwed down the hand brake, and my driver and I signed off duty. 


I was sent on loan to sheds as a firemanI went to HorshamRedhillSwanageBranksome (L.M.S.)Bricklayers Arms and Stewarts LaneThe last named shed is the only one I volunteered to go tobut in spite of that factan experience I would not have missedJusafter V Da1945Stewarts Lane and Bricklayers Arms engine sheds were short of firemenand asked for volunteers for a loan period with lodging allowance paidI applied and two weeks later I was working at Stewarts Lane with another fireman from Bournemouth, with one other man from our shed going to Bricklayers Arms. I now travelled up daily from the family home at Hoveusing a privilege season ticket. By way of coincidence, my driver now was Reg Alden, who, back in my cleaning days at Three Bridgeswas one of the firemen in the "Lanes" Brighton goods gangwho I used to help turn the N or N.15 Class engines on the table. The Lane had drivers working the Central division onlyand drivers working the Eastern divisionbut firemen worked their way through all the gangs or "links". Of course the top link worked the Golden Arrow Pullman trainWhile I was at the Lanethe drivers and the firemen in this link had an exchange with the French engine menwho rode on the West Country Class, and Stewarts Lane men rode on the footplate of the French locomotive from Calais to ParisThis continued untiall the men in the link worked on this exchange. By the geographical position of Stewarts Lane running sheds, it carried quite a number of rostered spare crews every twenty-four hours, in case of un roistered specials working off the G.W.Rat Old Oak Commonor the L.M.S. from Willesden Junction, by way of the West London extension passing Addison Road, Kensington. As a boy I can remember in 1932 riding a day excursion from Wembley to BrightonThe L.M.Sengine came off at Willesdenand an S.RAtlantic Class 4-4-2 worked the train to the South Coast, but during 1945-47with the specials I worked on the locomotives all changed over at Addison Road, now Olympia Kensington. 



Driver ReAlden and I weron standbon this particular afternoon shiftThrunninforeman walkeinto the mesroom and gave his orders to me and my mateWe were to go to AddisoRoad and take a train load of sailors to Chatham. The foreman allocated us an F.l Class 4-4-0Iwas then tender first to KensingtonI had worked over the WesLondon extension beforeas Three Bridgehad an earlmorning rostered return "goods" workintOld Oak Common G.W.R. The special train of sailorarrived aAddison RoadKensington pulled ban L.M.S. compound engine Class 4P 4-4-0. My drivenobacked on to thspecialand then iwas "right away", non-stop to Chatham.
The Southern had some old timers on the main line and they wernot all "drivers". Sombright sparin Sterling's day had nick-namehis design off l Class engines "FlyinBedsteads"and this old locomotive steamed like oneThe blooff mark was 175 psiknoI had a hard job to keep the steam gaugneedle on 150 psi. I fit wasn't mbad firinthat nightperhaps it was the qualitothe coalAt least thS.R. did not have bricketts anymorebut then, idid not have Welsh steam coal either. I never used it in the areaI Worked on excepthe time I worked from G.W.R. Westburythough the hard coal from the Nottingham mines was excellentas was the best Chislet coafrom Kent
So after Chatham it was now light engine to Gillingham shedOne of mmates from the Bridges wanow a fireman hereI looked at the roster board for his name. Yesit was there - Eric SkinnerHe was a bright ladand nobody's foolthe yard shunter wawork enoughLeaving the old Bedstead on the disposalmy mate and had a ride home on the cushions


November 1945 was nohereDriver Alden and I were on a rostered working on a midnight mail train from Victoria to Willesden JunctionThe engine was an HClass 0-4-4TThe train had crossed over the Thames in slight fogVisibility was gettindecidedlworseOn passing Chelsea football ground iwas nodensemdriver crawling along slowly, lookinfor the next Semaphore signal that he knew was in thvicinityIn this case it waon my sidof the cab, as thregulatorfor steam oWainwrights locomotives were on the righhand side othe cab footplateThbottom outline of the signal posnoloomed intsightIgood railwayman's language I shouted "Woe"The arm of thsignal could not be seen, so I climbed the ladder. At the top, thsignal arwas in fronomebut I could not see itI ran mhand along the armIt was horizontalat danger. I shouted to my mate "It's on!”NoI had to wait on the signal ladder until the arm wa"pulled off"With mufflesoundit was eerieand the anticipatioof another train running into youtrain was always the dreadThen, a clattering soundand the semaphore arm wanow slopindownwards, swe crawlealong tthe next signal. I climbed a few more laddersand eventually we ran into Addison RoadThe startinsignal could just.aboube seen, and we were agaion the move, visibilitslightly better climbing the North PolBankbut on enterinWillesden Junction it was "pea souperagain. 
The mail from Birmingham was latethe fogoing all the way there. Nothing was normathat night. It was decided tunhook the HClasfrom the vansand over to the L.M.Sshed we trundledThiwas not on the rostered workingbut a welcome break. 
Outrain of vans left Willesden over three hours behind schedule. It was still murkybut at least the signals could be seen from the cab sides, and we arrived back at Victoriicomparative safetyThe station pilot moved thvans to another platform. Iwalight engine to thLanewhere my mate and I booked off duty, with the short round trip to Willesden and bachaving taken eight hours


One darFebruary nighin 194Driver Sam Jingle anal rode tile cushions tDoverAt the running sheds we werallocateNo 1698 U Class then it was light engine to the Marine stationnow Western DocksMy Driver backed onto a B.O.A.R troop train (British Overseas Army on the Rhine)Our boys werhome fodemob somewhere up in the Midlands. We left at 22.00
These trains had heavy loads of around 400 tons working over the hilly former London Chatham and Dover line My driver was well known at thLane fobeing an engine basherI had been busy with the shovel, my head had been dowand mrear end up since leaving DoverSlowing down for the speed restricteRochester curves, thespeed down to 20mphthen suddenly the U  was now climbing the five mile 1 in 100 Sole Street Bankwith the steam regulator open wide in second valve, and with the piston valves on a long cut-offWhen the reversing lever is placed towards mid-gear thiwould be a shorter cut off i.e. the valves then travel a shorter distance so the engine uses less coal and waterThe locomotive was now being thrashed without mercyWhite hot coals were drawn through the fire tubesand blasted out of the chimney into the sklike a shower of rockets that would have lit up any Guy Fawkes NightThe chimney's bark must have awakened the locals! 
As the rockets fell they turned from white hot coalinto red hot cindersnow raining ocarriages and country sidalikeAt this moment itime I wasn't very happyand the steam gauge needle protested by dropping fro200 psi down to 140 psiThe driver shouted at me "Shovel harder!" I shouted back ''Wind the flipping lever up or words to that effectHe took no notice of my pleaanthe shower of rockets continuedbut later eased off before the summit of the incline was reachedHappilthe ‘U Class made it to Kensington Addison Roadnow Olympia

If sole Street Bank had been lined with wooden buildings that night they would all have burnt down. It was a one off trip for me with Driver Jungle. I would not have volunteered to be his regular fireman. Later at the end of steam workings from Victoria, Driver Jingle was popular with enthusiasts who travelled behind the locomotive he was driving. I can still see the glare from the fire hole door, hear the loud roar of the cylinders exhaust at the chimney, and feel the sweat running down the back of my legs from the sheer physical effort of keeping up steam for this Main Line Driver, as firemen before and after me must have found out. Yes, working with him was unlike happy times at Christmas, though he was nicknamed “Jingle Bells."  


Working on the footplate ovethe years, with the exception oodd dayswas ordinary everyday routine work. For example, working "goodsto Norwood Marshalling yards through Clapham Junction via Streatham Hill and back to Battersea via Norburon a WClass 2-6-4Tthen tThree BridgesHorshaor Brightonand return on a Q1 Class 0-6-0or S.15N.15 Class 4-6-0or Nor U Class 2-6-0 locomotivesOr workinpassenger trains to Tunbridge Wells West via Edenbridge Town or via East Grinstead high level on an I.3 Class 4-4-2T. Or Victoria to Ramsgate and backworking on West Countrys with E.D.E.1D.1L.or L.l ClassesThe variations of enginused were interesting to say the least
In August my loan period was at an endThe Lane now had a full quota of their own firemen. I was to return to mhome shed at Bournemouth.
Mlast daat the Lane I was on a U.S.A. Class 0-6-0working empty stocto Cannon StreewitDriver HarrIrelanda great character witdry cockney witI mehim in my cleaning days at the Bridges when he was a fireman in the Lanes Brighton "goodsgangI can remember him telling me thahe was "on the shovel" for twenty two yearsMy old cleaning pals at the Bridges were passed firemen in less than ten years.

By 1950 I had immigrated to Australia and worked for the NeSouth Wales Government Railways working on their locomotivesbut that is another story. By 1974, I was back in Brighton.

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