Failing memory

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Failing memory

Post by jaraws »

I wonder if someone can help my failing memory. I was once based at Stratford MPD as a fireman (second man) and really having a busy and enjoyable time. However my memory is letting me down a bit now and it is really frustrating the way the things I knew have faded away. For instance, during our time in the "classroom" we were taught the basics of the job to become a passed cleaner, and one of the things taught were the bells, that is when shunting takes the engine out of sight of shunters. At the time I did wonder if this would ever be needed but lo and behold once, just once, it was needed. And this is where my memory could be playing silly beggars. I remember clearly going up a small incline with some wagons that curved to our right when the driver said, "listen for the bell". So I stuck my head out and when I heard the single bell I told the driver to stop. We continued shunting without any sight of the rear at all and eventually finished back in the loop where we had started. All done by the bell. Obviously the driver had done this before but it seemed very surreal to me at the time.

Now all of this happened whilst I was still a passed cleaner and really learning on the job, so my question is which yard still had bells in 1967. I always thought it was Old Ford but having read an article recently it had a map but it did not extend beyond the platform. I am fairly confident it was, but 1966 was a long time ago so I could be wrong.

You may wonder why I left the footplate but some things I could not tolerate and when I was placed with a driver who was incompetent I was finished. We had a ballast train to take from Temple Mills to Liverpool Street to pick up the permanent way guys who worked on the track, no problem.

However, for reasons known only to him, once we had cleared Stratford he open the throttle on a Class 15 and got our forty mph train up to forty five mph. I thought he would start to brake our unfitted train before the drop down to the terminus. But no, we flew past a double yellow still accelerating and down the one in seventy towards Liverpool Street. I tried to "whistle up" the guard to help with stopping. No joy and so was trying to think what I would say at the enquiry.

I was scared witless, then I lost the signal because of the nose of the engine, but could see the red light reflected on his gormless face. And then it went RED to GREEN and back to RED faster than you can read that. I had no idea which platform had shown on the indicator but realised the direction as we rocked over towards platform five. I knew it well, my journey to work often took me there, it was at that moment I realised it was a "short" platform. I dont know what you would have done but I jumped out when we were flying down the platform. I did however grab the handrail of the brakevan behind and swung up onto it, dived inside and screwed down the brakes. We stopped about ten foot from the buffers. Bad enough you may say but after the train was pulled off of us it was pushed into platform four and with the ganger crew complete we coupled up to it again and away we went headed for the Southend line. This should have been a breeze, he lived on this line so travelled it every work day. But, moron that he was, he had the throttle wide open up to Shenfield having passed a single yellow. That was a surprise, a red light at the end of the platform. No he couldn't stop in time and just sat there after we had stopped doing nothing. So I decided I had better have a word with the signalman as he did not move. To say the signalman was angry would be an understatement. He was shouting "you've put the signal back in front of the Southend passenger train". What do you say? I just went sorry. He then said "Are you the driver"?

I had to say no. He then calmed down and gently told me to replace the phone and tell my driver to get down and talk to him.

No idea what was said to him but I put my notice in the following day. Never went on an enquiry for that, did not feel comfortable telling the truth and could not tell a lie.

I really hope someone is still around to confirm my vague but patchy memory about Old Ford (before it goes completely).

best wishes to all
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