With the summer, what little there was, long gone, the autumn mists, rainfall and dips in temperature became the gloomy norm in October. More gloom was on the horizon not only in the shape of the forthcoming end of steam on the Western Region but there were persistent rumours that the North Warwick line was to lose its freight services before 1965 came to an end. Also, the Beeching axe was affecting vacancies amongst those signalmen in the West Midlands on the lookout for higher grades – the nearest advertised ones were as far away as Manchester.
On the bright side there was a highly amusing incident that happened to me one night at Earlswood Lakes, one I can laugh at years later, but one which was not quite so amusing at the time. As a rule, on night shifts, after the last passenger service had departed there was a lull of around two hours until the first freight was due. On the shift in question I had an urgent need for a call of nature and as there was no toilet facility in the signal box it meant using the one at the station, which at this hour was deserted. As I anticipated being away from my post for only a short while I neglected to inform my colleagues at Tyseley (South) and Bearley Junction of my enforced absence.
A large notice on the toilet door stated ‘OUT OF USE,’ but my needs by now were quite desperate and thinking the notice would only affect the general public I chose to ignore it and slammed the door shut after entering. On attempting to leave the cubicle I discovered, to my horror, why it was out of use – there was no handle on the inside of the very solid door, which was firmly shut. The nearest house was some distance away and I banged and shouted to no avail and gave it up as a waste of time. Being an old building, the ceiling was about fifteen feet off the ground. The only logical way I could escape from my embarrassing predicament would be to climb onto the cistern and somehow clamber over the top of the inside toilet wall which had thoughtfully been provided with – long sharp spikes.
The only other alternative was to stay put until help arrived. This help would undoubtedly been in the shape of an inspector summoned by one of my fellow signalmen when unable to contact me in my signal box. As I could not face the humiliation of being rescued in this manner I chose the former method to try and escape. It was extremely difficult and harrowing. The cistern just about took my weight and I had nightmare visions of falling and going down the pan – so to speak. Having successfully negotiated the cistern I then had to squeeze between the spikes and ceiling; all it needed was one slip to ruin my chances of one day becoming a father.
The Great Escape
Once over the spikes I then faced the difficulty of reaching terra firma – a rather long drop. Keeping a tentative hold on the spikes wasn’t easy as my hands were wet with fear but gradually I was able to work my way round until I reached something sold to stand on before jumping down. With great relief I slunk back to the safety and sanctuary of the signal box.
Steam locomotives observed during October 1965
GWR Grange Class 4‑6‑0 No. 6849 Walton Grange
GWR Grange Class 4‑6‑0 No. 6849 Walton Grange (81F Oxford) passes Earlswood Lakes Box on a misty 1st October 1965 transporting Austin 1100 cars from Morris Cowley, Oxford to Bathgate in Scotland.
Photograph by Peter Hands
GWR: 2800 Class 2‑8‑0 No. 3836 (82E Bristol Barrow Road). Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 4920 Dumbleton Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 5932 Haydon Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 5971 Merevale Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road). Grange Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 6819 Highnam Grange (85A Worcester), 6849 Walton Grange (81F Oxford), 6859 Yiewsley Grange (81F Oxford). Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 6947 Helmingham (Hall), 6951 Impney Hall (2A Tyseley), 6952 Kimberley Hall (2A Tyseley. Modified Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 6967 Willesley Hall (81F Oxford), 6984 Owsden Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 6998 Burton Agnes Hall (81F Oxford), 7904 Fountains Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 7914 Lleweni Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 7922 Salford Hall (81F Oxford), 7924 Thornycroft Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road).
GWR Modified Hall Class 4‑6‑0 No. 7922 Salford Hall
GWR Modified Hall Class 4‑6‑0 No. 7922 Salford Hall (81F Oxford) with a down mixed freight reaches the summit of the climb from Tyesley and heads for Stratford‑Upon‑Avon and beyond on a sunny 8th October 1965.
Photograph by Peter Hands
GWR locomotives in transit ‘dead’ to scrapyards.
5700 Class 0‑6‑0PT No. 3631 from 2B Oxley to Bird’s, Long Marston on 19th October.
Grange Class 4‑6‑0 No. 6851 Hurst Grange from 2A Tyseley to Bird’s, Long Marston on 18th October – hauled by 6859.
Modified Hall Class 4‑6‑0 No. 7929 Wyke Hall from 2A Tyseley to Bird’s, Bridgend on 22nd October.
LMS: Class 5 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 44661 (2A Tyseley), 44730 (8B Warrington), 44775 (6B Mold Junction), 44777 (2A Tyseley), 44821 (6D Shewsbury), 44865 (2A Tyseley), 44944 (2B Oxley), 45006 (2B Oxley), 45038 (2A Tyseley), 45043 (6B Mold Junction), 45201 (8C Speke Junction), 45395 (6G Llandudno Junction), 45451 (12B Carlisle – Upperby), 45454 (2D Banbury), 45493 (2D Banbury). Class 2 2‑6‑0’s Nos. 46457 & 46470 both of 2A Tyseley – Stratford bankers. Class 8F 2‑8‑0’s Nos. 48085 (2E Saltley), 48112 (16G Westhouses), 48632 (6B Mold Junction).
LMS locomotives in transit ‘dead’ to scrapyards.
Class 4F 0‑6‑0 No. 44139 from 2F Bescot to Bird’s, Bridgend on 22nd October.
Class 8F 2‑8‑0 No. 48333 from 9K Bolton to Bird’s, Long Marston on 20th October.
BR: Class 5 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 73026, 73069 & 73156 all from 2A Tyseley. Class 9F 2‑10‑0’s Nos. 92013 (2D Banbury), 92030 (2D Banbury), 92074 (2D Banbury), 92107 (8H Birkenhead), 92109 (8H Birkenhead), 92125 (2E Saltley), 92135 (8H Birkenhead), 92137 (2E Saltley), 92158 (8C Speke Junction), 92223 (2A Tyseley).
BR Standard locomotive in transit ‘dead’ to a scrapyard.
Class 2 2‑6‑0 No. 78024 from 9K Bolton to Bird’s, Long Marston on 20th October.
WD: 90471 (40E Colwick).
As can be observed from the above there was still plenty of active steam on the North Warwick during October including examples from the few remaining WR depots along with others from depots as far away as Birkenhead, Carlisle, Llandudo, Mold Junction and Speke. Two locos worth a mention are: 3836 – the last time I saw one of these in action in BR days and the rare appearance of a WD – 90471.
To be continued