Tears By A Railway

It’s late February 1964, a small boy is accompanying his father to witness something very special.  Something he will remember for the rest of his life.

The location is Crewe South Locomotive Shed, once a busy engine depot supplying motive power to freight trains in the Midlands and North West of England, but now a crumbling shadow of it’s former self and staring imminent closure in the face.

On shed today is one of the last Royal Scot class steam locomotives, number 46115 named “Scots Guardsman.” Tomorrow she is scheduled to haul a prestigious special train that will commemorate the service of these famous locomotives before the last of them heads to the scrapyard. The class was introduced by the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1927 and soon achieved fame across the World; doyen of the class 46100, “Royal Scot” visited the United States in 1933 and wowed the crowds at the “Century of Progress Exposition” in Chicago with its looks and performance. Later all 70 locos in the class were re-built extending their working lives into the 1960’s.

The young boy, whilst in awe of these leviathans, is totally at ease in the “Shed” environment; his father is an engineer and now quite senior in the operations management team, Crewe South Shed is like a second home!

Today “Scots Guardsman” being fitted with wooden replica nameplates for tomorrow’s special train, it’s own brass pair having been removed months ago for safe keeping. With his Dad filming the event on an 8mm cine camera, the small boy watches two fitters mount the wooden nameplates on the locomotive. It seems to him that by this simple act, somehow the dignity of the magnificent locomotive is restored as she quietly hisses contentedly in light steam.

46115 Scots Guardsman February 1964

Scots Guardsman February 1964


Next day, just to the north of Crewe near the old station at Minshull Vernon, the boy and his father are standing by the side of the railway line. The air hangs still, in the distance a familiar syncopated beat can gradually be discerned across the frozen landscape. The musical three cylinder rhythm of a “Royal Scot” hard at work draws nearer as the locomotive battles against the rising gradient with its heavy train. Then in a flash “Scots Guardsman” roars past with a mournful toot on it’s deep noted whistle and a cheery wave from the fireman. Carriages rattle by and then the red tail lamp on the rear of the train recedes into the distance as father and son watch the swirling steam disappear.

Fast forward fifty-two years.

Only two “Royal Scots” escaped the dreaded cutters torch, “Scots Guardsman” was one and the other is “Royal Scot” itself. Both locomotives have now been restored to mainline running order and are available for the haulage of special excursion trains on the national network.

A man stands by the side of the railway line near Bodmin Parkway Station. The air hangs damp and still, crows call noisily in the high trees bounding the line. In the distance a familiar syncopated beat can gradually be discerned. The musical three cylinder rhythm of a “Royal Scot” hard at work draws nearer as the locomotive battles against the rising gradient with it’s heavy train. Then in a flash “Royal Scot” roars past with a mournful toot on it’s deep noted whistle and a cheery wave from the fireman. Carriages rattle by and then the red tail lamp on the rear of the train recedes into the distance as the man watches the swirling steam disappear. He walks away with tears in his eyes and starts his Harley Davidson motorbike.

46100 Royal Scot, April 2016

46100 Royal Scot, April 2016

He is still that little boy.

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10 thoughts on “Tears By A Railway

  1. I meant to add that it is a rare occurrence for me to read a blog entry more than once. This one of yours is an exception. I’ve re-read it on a number for occasions and it still moves me.

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