Memories of Fireman Charlie Peters

 from the by A.C. Perryman’s book 

 "The Brighton Baltics"

Charlie was fireman to a well-known main line Goods Driver, who rejoiced in the name of (William(?)"Father" Broadbridge. Now this character was a man of immense stature, with a large, bushy, black beard. Charlie himself was no mean figure of a manbut looked puny up against "Father". The latter was particularly partial to slake his prodigious thirst at a little pub called "The Bridge", very conveniently situated opposite the entrance to Brighton Motive Power Depotand a favourite resort of most of the personnel of the said depot(This pub incidentally has been demolished to make way for a traffic island on the A27. Neither the pub nor the M.P.Dnow exist).

In those days the pubs were open all day long, and "Father" was on the night goods. As soon as he had booked off he adjourned to the pub, and didn't go home for a fortnight! His wife brought his meals up to him in the pub, and the only time he left it was to go back on duty! On these night goods, as might be expected "Father" was often in no condition to do very much, least of all drive a locoSpeeds in those days, luckily were on the low side and demands upon the fireman not very over the side of the cabgasping for breath, reminiscent of a landlubber leaning over thrail of a shipin a storm-tossesea.

He retired in silence to a corneof the cab for the few remaininmileintBrighton. Athe verwelcomplatformsof Brighton Central hove in sighthbreathed a deep sigh orelieand managed to gasout "Thank God that's over."After the old loco had shuddered to-a halt, ~ very dishevelled City gent might havbeen observed leaving the cab. Before hdid so howeverhdived his hand into his pocketand presented both the driveand fireman with a shiny goldesovereigeachHe took hileave of theand thenevesaw him again!

Earlin 1906thfirst of the H1 Atlanticwere arriving at Brighton Shedfrom Kitsons of LeedsThe fitters were immediately set to work on themtreplace the varioumotion parts which had been removed to facilitattheir southwards journeycertain fitter, who we will 'call George, was engaged, with others, underneatan Atlantic,refitting such parts.

Upoglancinoutsidebetween the spokes of the drivinwheels, hnoticed thlegs of several persons, one of whom was shod with a pair oshiny brown bootsSensinthat this must be a V.I.P., George exhorted his fellow workerto redoubltheir efforts to render thAtlantic road-worthy. Thidid nopass unnoticed by thV.I.P.and hinquired the name of the energetic fitter, statinthat hwould be a suitablcandidate foeventual promotion.

Thidulmaterialiseand George finished up as Shed fitter's foreman. Nomishap haoccurred up the line, requiring the services of thbreakdowgangA vawaincluded in the make-up of this, to transport the fitterandtheir gear and in hinew capacity Georgwas in command of this. No sooner had thtrain cointo itstride on the main linethan George decided that progressin that vawas distinctly uncomfortableto say thleastThe van was long since past its first flusof youth anat the speed the driver was now indulginin the progress of the saidvan was reminiscentof a kangaroo fleeing a forest fire'

On the side of this redoubtable vehiclGeorge suddenlspottethe means of his salvation, a release cock controllingthe Westinghousbrake. He seizeit with both handsin thmanneodrowninman seizing a spar in a shipwreckand depressed it tits fullest extent.

Thprogress of thmadly cavorting vehiclreceived a severe setbackwhicwas transmitted throughout thlength of thtrain to thlocomotive, much to thdisgust of thdriverProgress nohaving returned to what George considered tbe ethicalhe released thhandleand resumed hiseatbreathing freelonce more. But not for long. Itsoon becampainfully obvious that thpreviourate oprogress was tbthe order of thdayand George rosonce more, and restored thstatus quby depressinthe handle on the brakvalve. The journey continued thus for its entirdurationthdriver on the onhand, seemingly bent on plunging the luckless occupants of the ageing van into eternitand the efforts of George on the other handwith thnew found powers bestowed upon him by that providential brake valveequalldetermined that he and hicolleagues should emerge from thavasound in wind and limb.

Everyonbreathea sigof relief when the scene of thmishap was rather surprisingly reached, and preparations were hurriedly made to vacate that-vanThese efforts could hardlbe described as lethargicbuthey were whencomparewith the corresponding efforts of thdriver.

That worthy haappeared othpermanent way opposite thvan's door, purplin thface and as George lowered thwindow tunlatch thdoor which would release the occupants, he receivethe full penup fury of thdriver's wrath.

Thresultindialogue is best left unrecorded. Suffice it tbe said that thdriver demanded to know who wathebloodfool that kepapplyinthbrake as sooas ever he started to "run"George nobly rose to the occasion by proclaiming thait was he, and what the so anso dihe mean by trying to exterminate them?

Thdriver countered bstatinthat hhad been instructed bhisuperiors to get there as quickly as possible, as theyhasenhim off in front of fast passenger train whicthey did not wandelayedIf therwere any questions askeabout delays to the said train, theGeorge'namwas going down on threport as being responsible for it.

A certain hostelry in Brightonknown as "The WilliaIV", was the regulaoff-duty abodof Driver JCox. On thenight in questionhhad gone therin the company of Charlie Peters for the annual share-out othSlate Club. Theircondition bthe enof the evenincan better bimagined than describedbut in spite of this, they adjourneto theCruising Club when it was time fothem tleave The William IV. Charlidoesn't remember mucof what happenedathlatter abode, but came bacto earth with a jolt in the early hours of the next morningwhen he was awakened by a very zealous young police constable whhad just commenced duty. WheCharlihad regained consciousness,he realised thathey were in a tram shelteathbottom oNorth Roadalthough he couldn't remember hothey got there,

ThcombineeffortoCharlie and thconstable borfruieventually and they succeeded in awaking Driver Cox.Now the latter was driving HAtlantic No.39 La Francat thtime, and the awful truth dawned on the pair of revellers, athey staggered out of that shelter on that bleak, cheerless dawn. The Atlantic was rostered to takunoless thathe City Limitedat 8.45 a.mthat vermorningCharlimanageto reach home safelunder his own steam. What imore remarkable, somehow DriveCox managed to reach the shedand booon duty. Hboarded theAtlantic and made an excellent ruto time with the "Limited." Had the commuterand stockbrokers knowof thecondition otheir driver, they might not havtravelled so smugly behind their newspapers, as thenoted the latest prices!

Ithe mid 1920's the Southern authorities decided to augment their number oRiver clas2-6-4 express tank engines.Ashford works wertoo busy tundertakthisso the ordewas passed tBrightonmosof the partbeing supplied bAshford. An exception was thboilers, which, Charlireported, camfrom Scotland, (probablthe now-defunct North British Locomotive Co., builders of th"King Arthurs" and the L1’s).

Whilst engaged in putting one of thRivers through itpaces on ittriarunCharlihad thignoble experience (for an experienced driver) of  “dropping thplug". The firebox was badlburnedand of course, ruinedNaturally, Charlie was othe carpet, and hmaintained that hhad not lethe water levefall to dangeroulevels. A new firebox had tbfitteand upon the old onbeinremoveand examinedit was found that the crown was covered witmixturof cutting oil and swarfwhich formea sludge of considerabldepth, thupreventing the water reachinthe firebox crowand keepinit coolwhen the gaugshowed that there was sufficientThese findings exonerated him from all blameand he was naturallpleasedIt was considerean unpardonable sin for a driver to "drop plug."           .

A steam locomotive firebox roof or crownwas drilled and fitted with a numbeof hollow brass plugs. These plugs were fillewith white metal, which has a relativellow meltinpointAlthe time thiis coverewitwater iis kept cooand stays putShould the water level drofoanreasonand thplug becomuncovered, then the whitmetal will melt andbe forced out by thrush of steam and water which would be released'and which wouldof course, extinguish thfireand so save the firebox from damage.

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