A Trip on the Footplate at Seventy Miles and Hour
THE “THROUGH” ROAD. When the main line express is scheduled to pass through intermediate stations the up or down main line -
FOR many years there has been an element of mystery and something of the secret society about the locomotive departments of the railways. Members enter it in early youth, promise faithful service, seldom disclose what takes place in their daily work, and make it a “"job for life”.
Only in recent years has that veil of secrecy been lifted; and that it has been lifted is due partly to the GWR, who now welcome visitors to the Swindon works. But in the main this element of secrecy persists. The running sheds of a railway company can be visited only by special permit, and to obtain a footplate pass the applicant must show that he has some very special reason for wanting to ride on the engine.
Driving is a mystery, even to many of those who have spent a lifetime in the service of the railway. And even those who are familiar with it all are always eager to learn more about it.
The most interesting time to visit the locomotive sheds of any of the companies is at midnight. Outside, the streets are quiet, but inside the sheds there is considerable activity.
The shed is a long building which has six tracks or “roads” in it. Between each pair of rails the ground has been dug away to form a pit so that men can stand upright under an engine and carry out “running repairs” -
Not all sheds are of this particular shape; some are round, with a turntable in the middle, and tracks radiating from it like spokes of a wheel; others are fan-
Numerous engines of various types are standing in the shed, some in steam, and some “dead” -
The engines in steam are being attended to by gangs of cleaners, since they will be first out in the morning. In the old days on some of the railways each engine had its own cleaner, who “followed” it; that is to say, he arranged his hours of duty according to the working of the engine. Engines worked in a “link”, and there would be a list of “turns” -
INSIDE THE CAB of a Great Western locomotive. The driver is holding the regulator handle and driving from the right-
On another road, near the end of the shed, stands a powerful yet graceful-
Ready for the Run
The cleaners have finished with “Winnie”, there is nothing needed in the way of adjustments, and the boiler-
WATER TROUGHS near Goring-
He checks off “Winnie’s” time out, looks in the firebox and at the steam gauge, and ticks her off as in order. A few minutes before eight the fireman arrives; he has duly booked on at the time office on entering the depot. His first job is to look at the water gauge; he then puts his “tommy bag” and tea-
Then at last “Winnie” starts to move as the driver gives her a little steam, which hisses loudly from the open cylinder cocks as she leaves the yard, and backs out on to the siding adjoining the sheds. The terminus is half a mile away; two sharp blasts on the whistle tell the signalman at the “Yard Junction Box” where she wants to go, so he sets the points for the “up local” road, pulls the signal, and “Winnie”, with an answering call, sets out for the terminus.
For descriptive purposes, let us imagine a town called Seaville, a little over 120 miles from London. The road is fairly difficult; but at the urgent request of the Borough Council a two-
THESE STRIKING PICTURES were taken from the cab of an engine travelling at speed. They give a vivid impression of the driver’s outlook from the footplate.
on”, but there are ten bogie coaches on the train. Engine-
The sniffing valve makes a smack as it closes, and “Winnie” gives a deep sigh as the steam rushes through the super-
“Winnie” swings into the straight, rapidly accelerating, swaying gently as the mighty thrust from each big piston reacts through the cylinder to the frames. The driver “notches her up” a little; that is, he brings the reverse gear a little way back, which shortens the travel of the valves, and cuts off steam earlier in the stroke. When “Winnie” started she cut off at seventy-
The water is beginning to sink in the gauge glass, so the fireman puts on the exhaust injector, which makes some of the exhaust steam that would otherwise be wasted do useful work in keeping the boiler supplied with water. Next he turns a jet of water from a small hose on the coal in the tender, wetting it down to prevent dust blowing about. The fireman hastily brushes a few stray nuggets of coal from the footplate back against the tender, then takes a breathing space and looks ahead.
The locomotive is now almost touching the mile-
GETTING HER READY. Cleaners at work on the magnificent LNER engine, “Earl Marischal”. This locomotive is in the same class as the “Cock o’ the North”, but differs from that engine in its valve gear, which is of the piston-
Seventy! The engine swings round a long curve, and a busy junction comes into view, with several platforms and diverging sets of rails; two trains are standing there. A layman riding in the cab for the first time would experience a tremor. But the unwinking green eye among the cluster of red ones on the gantry that he passed a little way back has told the driver that all is clear, and with a long blast from her whistle the engine rushes through the junction. Her flying wheels rattle over the points. There is a confused blur of buildings and people, the junction drops behind, and the engine is in the open country. From now on semaphore signals take the place of colour-
The engine has now passed the eighty mark; but a blue line of hills has appeared in the distance, and the line and its banks rise. “Winnie’s” exhaust purr grows louder and she slackens speed slightly. The driver drops the lever a little and increases the cut-
She is still doing about forty-
If the “distant” signal (with yellow face and swallow-
he shovels hard. If one were “on” (at danger) he would not put any coal on the fire, but would drop the damper and open the door a little; the driver would put the blower on, to prevent flames blowing back from the firehole as he shut the regulator and prepared to stop at the home signal if still at danger when he reached it; the safety-
Ahead lie the track water troughs, where the locomotive takes a running drink; the fireman lowers the scoop under the tender by means of a little handle (it is air-
Presently a salt tang in the air becomes discernible; two tracks broaden into four, houses appear on either side. The fireman ceases to shovel, the driver shuts off steam and lets “Winnie” coast. He moves his brake-
IN THE ENGINE SHED at Willesden, London, these LMS locomotives present an impressive picture. The large cowl-