From the When Steam was King by A.C. Perryman

My friend Henry Parrott had managed to get out on a trial trip, and suggested that I should try and do the same. I mentions this to “Peaky”, and he was agreeable, and told me to write a letter to the Works Manager for permission. This I did, and handed it to “Peaky”, who gave it his blessing and took it into the office.

In due course, the request was granted; and “Peaky” was told to choose a suitable engine. We had an “N” class “Mogul” in the gang, No.863, and it was arranged that I would go trial on her.

The trial driver, at this time, one named Freddie Queen, a quiet congenial soul, was going over the engine out in the yard, when I approached and told him I was going with him on this trip. He examined my footplate pass, and pronounced it in order.

By the time Fred had enough steam and was ready to go, the morning was well advanced. We left the yard, and were given a path to Eastbourne, not very far in advance of the Eastbourne portion of the “Sunny South Express”, which left Brighton about mid-day.

Fred did not want to hold this up, so he let 863 go over the viaduct, and had worked up to about 60 between Moulsombe and Falmer; quite a bat for a loco of this type on trial! There was a good deal of noise in the cab, and it seemed to me as if the end roofing sheet was loose, and banging about.

Fred said this class always did that at speed, and was what the drivers called “the big end hitting the roof.” He was not at all happy with her however, and came to a stand outside Falmer signal box, although he had the road. He asked the signalman to let him go back in the loop beside the platform, and as soon as we were safely off the main line, we jumped down to inspect.

The “Sunny South” went sailing by as we did so, and Fred said they should never have sent off so close in front of it.

He could smell something hot he said, and make his way to the left hand cylinder. The piston rod was right out at end of stroke, and it was a beautiful shade of blue! “Packing too tight,” said Fred. As it was a special type of metallic packing, it could not be eased out like the old asbestos type. He went back up into the cab, and returned a few minutes later with some green worsted trimmings, and a tin of what he called “Tecalpot.” This was a very thick black cylinder oil, so thick that when cold you could invert the tin and it would stay put. As the tin had been up against the boiler back-head, this lot was warm and fluid!

He made up a sort of horseshoe of worsted, and soaked it in the oil, then put it on the end of the packing gland like a swab. As soon as it touched the rod, the oil started to spit and boil, just like the cold fat in a hot frying pan! It went up in smoke, and Fred kept pouring more oil on to it. Having got his swab where he wanted it, and used half his tin of “Tecalpot,” he had a quick look round at everything else, which luckily was O.K.

He went down and had a word with the signalman, and got a clear path for Lewes, with nothing behind this time! He decided to take it easy to Lewes, and there have another look at it. If was no better, he would go no further, but take her back to Brighton.

I could see visions of my trip ending prematurely!

Off we went, steadily, to Lewes. This gave me a chance to have a go with the shovel, and I managed to get nearly as much coal over the floor as in the firebox. At Lewes, we got in the sidings again, to have another look at the rod. I was very relieved to see that its colour had now returned to normal! Fred examined it, and gave it some more “Tecalpot” on the swab. He decided it would be O.K. to continue, so off we went to Eastbourne to the running sheds there.

Upon arrival, we had another look at it, and it was quite O.K. Fred didn’t even bother with any more oil! He decided it was now time for us to eat. After our sandwiches, and flask of tea, Fred and I went all over the loco, even getting down in the pit to inspect underneath.

He found one or two small items not to his liking, and I adjusted several things until he was satisfied. We then proceeded to the turntable, and turned her round for the return journey. The tender tank was replenished at the water crane, and then off we went.
We were getting alone fine, until just after Lewes station we were brought to a dead stand by an adverse signal; just short of the tunnel under the road there.

I asked Fred if I could take the regulator up a bit. Nothing happened! So I gave it a bit more. Still nothing happened! I then opened up a bit more, and Fred, seeing how much I’d opened up, rushed over and closed it. I soon found out why. The old girl had started to slip furiously! We moved forward slowly into the tunnel, and filled it with steam. We couldn’t see anything ahead for steam! The effects then began to wear off, and Fred gingerly opened her up a bit and got us out of the tunnel.

I didn’t to any more “driving” that day! He explained to that with a superheated engine, it was necessary to open up slowly, and then “wait for it” as headers and elements had to up to boiler pressure before she’d move. 

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