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The Human Revolution - Part 4

by Richard Hardy.

The modernisation of British Rail - from one man ‘s viewpoint - and the effect it had on the staff involved.

This articles have been split into four page sections to make them manageable, this is the final  section of four:

To navigate direct to the other sections, click below.

Human Revolution 1 Human Revolution 2 Human Revolution 3

And now our five Type 4s.  They did us proud, simple and rugged, at home on passenger and fitted freight services, very much an EE product with no nonsense: just what we wanted once they settled down for, at the start, we were plagued by loss of power, “No Amps” in trio vernacular, due to earth faults, broken wires and so on.  There were main generator flashovers, which EE tackled by altering the design and the brush texture, and there were traction motor flashovers requiring a modified brushbox.  I doubt if EE expected these shortcomings which caused delay and steam substitution, often at short notice.  But it was experience for our men and with Bob Bradley around and but five locomotives, no time was wasted in improving reliability.

The turbo charger relied on boost pressure for satisfactory operation but, in locomotive work, there is bound to he a fair amount of slow cunning and idling.  Under such conditions, the exhaust gases could not do their job and the Labyrinth seal built-up with to carbon which gave inferior performance when power was needed or, worse still, seizure and total failure.  This was solved by directing air from the system at 101lbs/sq ins into too exhaust Labyrinth seal.  This was very successful and had been incorporated in the 1750HP engines when they arrived.

There were other minor design faults such as the steam heater flexible pipes beneath the cabs.  The steam passed to the train through pipes mounted on the main frame and then by a flexible pipe to the delivery end mounted on the bogie frame.  The flexible pipe pulled off on sharp bends and the only practical solution was to fit longer pipes.  One can recall the occasional roar and sight of escaping steam which puzzled one’s colleagues in other departments who fondly imagined that steam would be dead and buried once and for all.  It is unwise to criticism decisions made in high places without knowing the facts but if only our people had been in a position to grasp the very painful nettle of electric, heating in the early days, we should have been spared the endless problems experienced with the steam heating boilers which came to a head with the secondment, in Jan 1963, of C.F Rose then Locomotive Engineer of the Eastern Region, to solve the difficulties which had plagued us and the long suffering passengers for so long. Eric Rose and his doughty assistant, Don Cowan, had to start in the most diabolical weather imaginable but they found most of the answers.   They concentrated on the East Coast route where the distances were longer, where sleeping car services hail been the subject of the most virulent complaint and where their effort could principally be concentrated on the boilers fitted to the Deltics.

So, until D6700 arrived in December 1960, these were our crack locomotives which, with the Brits, bore the brunt of the hardest and fastest passenger and freight work.  I can see, in my mind's eye, Harry Hollick and his motley gang getting busy on the already shining paintwork of a Type 4 as soon as it had come to a stand up No9, a daily routine for our Hook and Norwich power.   I can hear the whole satisfying roar of that big diesel as the controller was opened. I have shared that rather Spartan cab, sometimes and far from silent, with many of our men and seen with what ingenuity they, took to their new charges.  I have climbed aboard at Norwich to introduce two French steam drivers to "Brother" Armstrong, a pillar of the Stratford ASLEF Branch, who was waiting to leave with the up East Anglian.  Bill was a 1919 Gorton man, a Mancunian who came Stratford in the twenties but still looked and sounded as if he was about to tackle Woodhead with a full load and a GC 4 cylinder.  Dressed in overalls, fastened at the throat with a safety pin in the time honoured manner, he wore a Burglar Bill cloth cap on the side of his head.   His welcome to his Calais Brothers was warm, friendly and delivered in stentorian tones.  Not a word could they understand but there was no doubting their meaning.   At once, tea was served, Gorton tea, you understand, where the spoon stands unaided in the powerful brew.  Calais used to drinking red wine from the SNCF Economat, dealt nobly with this extraordinary liquor drunk from the lid of the tea can whilst we attacked the 1 in 34 to Trowse Upper and Bill let fly on the injustices of a driver's life.  Sadly, we shall never see nor hear his like again.

When the first of thirty EE Type 3 arrived in December 160, they were welcomed as the powerful general purpose machine that we needed to bridge the gap between the 200s and the Brush.  We expected them to be trouble free, but they had their problems.  For a start, they were the very devil to move light engine \round a yard or onto a train.  The controller had to be opened nearly halfway before anything happened and then the locomotive would shoot off like a rocket.  This could not be allowed to continue but EE were strangely reticent with us on the subject of the modification.  But the first really serious problem was with the bogie fractures around the horns and where the lifeguards were bolted to the frames.   This was first noticed in March 1961 above the centre axle horn and the modifications consisted of a reinforced plate round each horn and lifeguard, carried out by the builders.  Each locomotive was withdrawn in turn for this to be done.  As a mater of interest, the test equipment consisted of three aerosol sprays, a cleaner, a dryer and developer.  Dozens of these tins had been used and our foreman, being vaccinated against untidiness, were at their wits ends as to what to do with them.   The problem was solved one day well into the last phase of our revolution.  I can only suppose that the nameless and normally sane gentleman, who took it into his need to dispose of the cans once and for all, was suffering from a mental aberration when he decided to dump them in the huge and gently smouldering incinerator made from boilerplates and well away on works territory.  The explosion that followed more than burnt his clothes and, for good measure, set nearby wagons on fire - good old Stratford!

The Type 3 was fitted with the 12 CSVT engine, four cylinders less than 16 CSVT of the 2000HP machine, however it had a higher output per cylinder which was achieved by installing intercoolers in the air inlet manifolds.  For at least two years, we had trouble with the build up of carbon in the sump with frequent and complete oil change.  EE were still wrestling with this in Sept 1962 when our last steamer moved away and they were considering reducing the spray angle of the injectors from 160 to 140 degrees.  However, apart from this, the Type 3 did us proud with the occasional ripple such as a little difficulty with shock waves during breakfast on the Essex Coast Express.  The Clactons were a species of private club, chaired by the late and respected Arnold Quick who bonded passengers, train crews and restaurant car staff together in protest when things needed livening up or did not go according to plan.  Arnold wanted to know why these new machines were sending the coffee flying and what was I going to do about it?  The load regulator was circular and operated clockwise, the tips shorting out the resistances.  Now and again, the operating tips of the load regulator would fuse together.  If the driver closed his controller, as he was bound to do from time to time, the load regulator could not ‘run back”, remaining in the field divert mode.  When he opened up again, the traction motors would be overloaded and a heavy surge felt throughout the train EE wasted no time on this (Arnold and Bob Bradley were two of a pair) and fitted an arm which moved the load regulator and mechanically de-latched the tips to prevent fusion.

Good engine drivers are not necessarily able scribes and, back in the steam days, the repair sheets were blessed with unusual interpretations of our language such as “Engine priming bad” or “Firebars reng’.  Mention of field diversion reminds me that the Ilford Diesel School and its formidable principal did not necessarily improve the spelling of the pupils.  A certain and unusually serious Stratford driver, disappointed with diesel’s acceleration, felt that the non-arrival of final stage of field weakening was the cause and that attention was urgently needed.  Accordingly and on arrival at the shed, he went to the Maintenance Foreman to explain, in no uncertain terms (“Won’t pull the skin off a rice pudding”) what he thought was wrong.  On being told to make out a repair card and in high dudgeon, his spelling deserted him with the result that he booked “Wheat fields slow in coming in”.  The humorous electrician, a one-time boilermaker, who was sent to deal with the problem, showed his superior education and knowledge of the English language by not only finding the source of the trouble but by signing the work off with signature, grade, materials used etc. and the remark that “All is safely gathered in!”

Before we leave the 1750s, there was one weakness that came to light with single manning in the summer months.  The firebells had a tendency to ring, a false alarm caused by a very hot spot above the turbo charger in the V of the engine.  When a second man was present, a quick look round the engine room brought reassurance but, if he was on his own, the driver would be obliged to stop to look round.  Which to any self respecting railwayman is nonsense and, knowing this weakness and taking the law into their own hands, some men would stuff paper in the clapper, a simple and effective expedient which, once known could not be allowed to continue.  The old Stratford would have removed the detector or shorted it out with a halfpenny and EE did not seem to grasp the fact that delays were occurring rather too frequently.  However as Eastern Region Locomotive Engineer early in 1963, I was in a position to put things right.  At our meeting EE talked of trial and experiment but I had to rule that the problem must be tackled at once, as we would neither tolerate delays nor firebells stuffed with paper.  I believe that their immediate solution was the old fashioned one which was up to them but our troubles were over when EE moved the detector to the engine room gangway where it could do its work in peace.

Other classes of diesel came our way to complicate life but some of them passed on for which we were profoundly grateful in at least one case.  In 1959, a group of Eastern Region engineers were invited by Sulzers for a few days in Winterthur, amongst the party being our GE Motive Power Officer, Colin Scutt, Tommy Greaves from the GN and myself.  At that time, Tom was having a lot of trouble with his 1160HP Type 2 Sulzers built by BR.  Compared with the EE and Brush products, they looked a shoddy job and we were not best pleased when some were transferred to Stratford for a short time, which meant of course, yet another class for driver training although they had come, so it was said, for freight work only.  I seem to remember that we had persistent trouble with cylinder head joints, both the water joint between the liner and block as well as the gas joint between the head and the liner.  In time, Sulzers introduced a design improvement to prevent water leakage and later builds had a strengthened cylinder head to give more even pressure around the head joint.  Time has proved the Baby Sulzers to be first class machines, but we were not sorry to see them go, if only because we knew that our fleet of Brush 1365s was steadily growing which helped us in many ways.

Then the 1100HP NBL/MAN.  We landed these as well, but mercifully the whole class went to Scotland and we saw them no more.  The first ten went to the GN where they were used on the outer suburban services and were a constant source of trouble.  Another 48 had been ordered before the first batch had entered service and we got D6110-6119, which were supposed to work on the LT&S.  We did not mind this as it got them out of our way and kept the need for training our drivers to a minimum.  This class had GEC electrical equipment and the unconventional German designed MAN L12V18/21 4 stroke engine, built under licence by the North British Locomotive Co.

The NBL/MANs did very little hard work at Stratford, local freight previously worked by small GE goods engines, the odd empty carriage train and carriage pilot.  There was no question of their being used on our steam hauled suburbans, the Jazz, the Hertfords or Stortfords.  We had fourteen major failures in the short time that they were with us and that was nothing compared with the troubles on the GN.  Some of the initial failures were due to indifferent workmanship at NBL but our main trouble was with the burner inserts and the pintle type injectors.  The injector inserted in the cylinder head projected downwards and the piston head was recessed to receive it.  However, the insert in the cylinder head overheated, drooped and melted in the cylinder.  The result was damage to pistons, valves, bearings and the spectacular con rod through the crankcase.  We had fires in the exhaust manifold, pistons scrapped due to thermal cracking in the crown and all manner of other failures.  As a lot of the damage was pretty severe, the locomotives were sent to the Main works or returned to the manufacturers.  In fairness to MAN, the German built engine gave little trouble and I think I am right in saying that this was NBLs first attempt to build diesel engines under licence.  It was a sad story and I heard that it did much harm to the splendid reputation of the Scottish firm.

Now we come to the last of our main line locomotives, the old “Plumber’s Nightmare”. D8400-D8409 came to Stratford during 1958 and spent their whole working life there.  Built by NBL, they had GEC traction equipment and Paxman 16YHXL engines, giving us a mere 800HP at the comparatively high speed of 1250 RPM.  We had cast envious eyes on the Devons Rd EE10005, to us the ideal power for our local freight and excursion traffic.  But it was not to be.  I was told that our new locomotives were to be the blood brothers of 10800 which was actually built to a LMSR specification by NBL in 1948-50.  Having heard of the antics of this machine when I was on the Southern, my blood turned to icy water at the news.  However they were not as bad as all that.  The engine was a “Plumbers Nightmare”, no doubt about it.  Our artisan staff cleaned the engines and equipment as well as the engine rooms at each examination, but it was impossible to keep the myriad joints tight in the lubricating oil system, which was festooned about the engine, nor from the exhaust manifold from which dripped the oil carryover when the engine was idling.

The Paxman had 16 cylinders against the eight of the EE 1000 HP, which meant high maintenance costs for such a low powered engine.  The cylinder heads were a constant source of trouble due to leakage from the cylinder head water connections between block and head.  The cylinder head injector sleeves fractured which let coolant into the cylinders.  Then there would be trouble, hydrauhicing, liner to aluminium head joint troubles and every likelihood of bent connecting rods.  Eventually, the design of the heads was modified which improved matters considerably.  There were many other difficulties.  The piston and scraper rings had to be modified due to excessive wear in the ring grooves and at times the engine governor would suffer a spasm when dirt got into its oil supply from the engine.  We might be paralysed with smoke or, for good measure, the engine might shut down.  But for all that, the 800s replaced steam locomotives on their last legs and did a useful job when they were running.  Although we cursed them and the name of Paxman, one has to remember that we often used them in the summer on excursion trains through the “Pipe” to New Cross Gate and thence to Brighton or Eastbourne from Loughton or Chingford which could never have been done with the steam engines they replaced.  With a maximum speed of 60mph, they took their time, but they usually got there and back without too much trouble.

Nevertheless, they were no use on the Clactons for which we still had to help ourselves to March K1s on Friday evenings against the next day.  The K1’s would “fail” time and time again with firebars burnt or “engine primming bad” necessitating a water change, quite extraordinary really.  But we had 800s to spare and matters came to a head after a Devons Rd EE 1000 hauling a heavy LM excursion train had tapped the stops at Southend Victoria.  I forget the circumstances but we were not satisfied with the findings of the enquiry.  We asked for the train set of 10 coaches, the same LM driver and locomotive.  I shall never forget how that old chonker lifted her train over the heavy Southend roach, which started me thinking about the 800s again.  Could we use them on the Clactons on a Saturday?  It was worth a trial, rather than a try and it was as well we did.  Inspector Dick Elmer and I struck off from Stratford with eight coaches, reached about 50 mph before Romford but faded away to 21 mph up the 1 in 84 to Ingrave summit.  So that was that.

So much for the various types of diesels which came our way.  Their arrival saved the day; of that there is not a shadow of doubt.  They caused us a lot of trouble, we learned a great deal from them and they opened up a new world for us all.  By Sept 1962, we had done it, the human revolution was complete.  Wherever one looked, enormous changes had taken place and that vast army of men throughout the District had made history.  But they were not all artisans, boiherwashers, drivers, firemen, shedmasters, District Officers.  There were clerks, there were foremen, labourers and coalmen, there was the District Stores and there was Charlie Lock.  Stores may not fascinate you, my readers, but then you would be denied the humour that seemed to be inseparable from such mundane establishments in steam days.  I am unlikely to forget my first visit to the Ipswich Loco Stores, capital letters no less.  My first day as shed master in 1950, I was shown round by the Stores Clerk, Frank Lyons, as if we were soaking up culture in the British Museum, concluding with the lean-to bicycle shed where Frank Girling repaired bicycles for every Eastern shed!  But Ipswich paled into insignificance when compared with Stratford where the Stores was a comprehensive dictatorship run, not by the Stores Clerk, but by a certain Charlie Lock, wages grade Storekeeper Special Class.

In my first spell at Stratford in 1945, when I was chasing material for the Running Shed, Charlie saw to it that I was partly responsible to him.  We used to have lunch together in Oatmeal Cottage, the 24-hour stores, where I would be lectured on the art of hoarding material.  He always looked an old man and he had not changed when I came back in 1955.  The District Stores was an “Accountant’s Nightmare”.  It contained, under the direction of the fierce, fearless and gnome-like little man in overalls with his humped back and endlessly smouldering Park Drive, every conceivable item that had ever been used or likely to be required.  The stores were under the main water tank in the tall brick building on which the tank was constructed.  It was a labyrinth of passages, nooks and crannies which had grown upwards, floor by floor, until the arrival of the diesel shunters and railcars gave Charlie his final fling.

He eschewed modern racking and dictated the construction of an additional floor, which supported his conception of racking, made by the Running Shed carpenters.  When they had finished (much to their relief), it was impossible to stand upright under the tank.  Of course, they got the blame for that (“Bloody wood murderers”, said Charlie) but he was a happy man for he could rule that top floor with a rod of iron.  You may ask why. Charlie was classed as “Semi-Skilled”, but he had had a lifetime in the shed, first as a Fitters Mate and then in the stores.  His knowledge was remarkable and he was at his best when called from the heights of his empire to clarify what a particular CRAFTSMAN required.  He would open with a blistering attack on the craftsman’s competence and birthright.  He would determine what was wanted, he would find it at once and he would return, sparks flying from his Park Drive, to bang the item triumphantly on the counter with a homily on its use designed to give the impression that he had personally paid for it.

But this could not go on forever.  No.1 Shed, into which much of the diesel maintenance was crammed in 1958, had a small stores, closely supervised by the old man.  However, we could not make the final transfer to the new main stores until immediately before Nos. 2 and 3 sheds were opened in August 1960.  Thus 1959 was a year of appalling congestion.  The ER Stores Superintendent decreed that he would cut off the supply of steam spares to the Running Shed and that the Works could let us have all that was necessary.  We had a poor opinion of the 1959 idea of a Main Works Store, open from 08.00 to 17.30 and I successfully fought for the retention of steam stock when the Works refused to man their stores twenty fours hours a day, seven days a week.  The transfer of equipment in 1960 and the ultimate closure of the steam stores were Charlie’s swansong.  It was he who did the brunt of the work, guided by Norman Micklethwaite, the shedmaster so that the transfers and new procedures, all part of that human revolution, were seen to be Charlie’s own work.  Despite his irascibility, he was open minded and dedicated to the cause and we gave him an unofficial bonus of 50p a week which brought him a little nearer that hated craftsman’s rate of pay!  The new stores being in good administrative and clerical hands and working smoothly, under the direction of none other than J. J. Groom, erstwhile boilermaker and Chairman of the workshop Committee.  Charlie closed down his beloved steam stores in Sept 1962 to become an integral part of the new organisation and then to retire as happily outraged as ever, a legend and his work well done.

In steam days, there were very rare occasions when things did not go quite right on the footplate when working a Royal train but they were more likely to be concerned with the stopping of the train with the Royal Saloon doors opposite the red carpet.  Mechanical troubles were unknown, Grade 1 coal was used, even for the five mile run from Kings Lynn to Wolferton, the engine cleaned and burnished to perfection.  We expected that this good fortune would continue with diesels working the train and so it did until one afternoon in 1961.

The Queen was travelling in the Royal saloon attached to the rear of a service train from Liverpool St to Wolferton.  I think it was the D1536 and it was certainly worked by a March Brush and either Cambridge or Lynn men.  So we were not involved except to see that all was well when the locomotive arrived off the up working, to clean it once more and to meet the requirements of the HO Locomotive Inspector and Les Thorn’s opposite number at Cambridge who was travelling with the locomotive which was, I think, D5658.  It arrived in London in good form but, on release from the platform, there was trouble in the country end cab with the deadmans equipment.  Our people wanted Cambridge to take the standby, which was one of our new 1365s, ready, and waiting in every respect.  However, Cambridge felt that, by turning the locomotive, there would be no more trouble with the deadman and they were supported by the Line Motive Power Officer to whom they appealed.  Fair enough, we thought, Cambridge has worked Royals with steam since the year dot and they should know.

Away they went and the train passed out of the Stratford District right time.  But, at Audley End, disaster struck.  The dreaded red light came up on the panel, the engine stopped, and D5658 was a total failure to be rescued by the standby from Cambridge. This had nothing to do with the deadman and it could never have been foreseen.  The drive shaft to the lubricating oil pump had broken and when the pump was stripped down, the bearing was found to have seized.  D5658 had an uprated 1600HP engine and was practically new from Works.  As a result of this failure, all 1600 HP engines were stripped and the bearing tolerances eased.  The Queen took an interest in what was going on and rather enjoyed the experience, which is more than could be said for any of those involved at Audley End that evening.  The sequel was that the defective part was on show when the Queen visited the new Stratford on 15th February 1962 and I had to explain to her what had happened!

There were still steam engines alongside the new Depot when the Queen visited first the Works (where she was photographed by a Baby Deltic of whose reputation she was blissfully unaware) and then was brought across to us by the General Manager.  It fell to me to take Her Majesty on a tour of the premises and to introduce her to some of the staff.  It was an experience that I shall never forget and, for exactly twenty-four minutes, I was oblivious to those behind me who included the great Dr Beeching and member of the Eastern Board.

Stratford ran true to form.  Days beforehand, people were saying with a touch of black Cockney humour that the Queen ought to have something better to do than to visit “this bleedin’ dump”, but the scene gradually changed.  Our depot, which had been spotless, became a palace, the floors almost dangerously polished, the Locomotives shinning, the staff expectant, the whole ensemble a triumph to those who had done so much to create a new and better Stratford.  In the comprehensive instructions that I had given to Norman Micklethwaite and his people, I had asked for a Driver Instructor to be put in charge of D5694, standing in No 3 shed George Marler, one of the best, was selected.

The Queen arrived and I found myself being presented to her.  Away we went, past a shining D200, a B1 and a little old “Westinghouse Goods”, lined with spectators standing on the gangway, the cab and the boiler after they style of Promontory Point.  Then up the steps into the Diesel Depot, pausing for a word with two crippled ex-drivers in wheel chairs, with the Queen showing great interest in everything she saw.  We paused to look at that same lubricating oil pump that had brought about the downfall of D5658 (whilst resisting the temptation to tell her that it was not one of ours), and then moved on to D5694.  I followed Her Majesty into the cab and suggested that she sat in the driver’s seat.  The Press took a photograph which even appeared on the front page of the French national dailies and which gave no hint of my state of mind at that moment.  I had been told that the Queen might like to start the engine but that I must not put this to her direct.  With hindsight, I could have done this several ways, but my plan was for George Marler to put the controller in the “Engine Only” position so that when we arrived, a red light would be shining brightly on the desk whereupon I could explain that if the start button was pressed, the engine would burst into life.  But I was too clever by half for when I entered the cab, there was no red light, no control key and everything was shut down!  Knowing my Stratford, I took this as a sign that something had gone wrong so we talked about all manners of things, except red lights and starter buttons.  Nor did we shatter the peace with exhaust roar.

However, as we were turning to leave the cab, George Marler appeared in the engine room doorway.  He had been dissatisfied with the condition of the control key, had gone to the stores for a new one, and got cut off by the crowds.  In desperation, he had dived into the trailing end cab to reach the front and to replace the key, but we had beaten him by a short head.  Poor George, he was much upset but he rose to the occasion.  As he would not normally have been presented, I stifled the urge to say, “What the hell are you doing here, George?” and introduced him to the Queen.  He was all smiles and standing as he was, by the electric cooker, he gave her the old story of frying bacon on the shovel and now we have a modern cooker, Ma’am.  This improvisation temporally shortened my life but not for long, for we continued happily on our way to talk to the six representative members of the staff whom we had chosen to meet her.  But that is another rather enjoyable story which has very little to do with the diesel traction we are supposed to be discussing in this article.

The cheers as the Queen left in the General manager’s Saloon, the diesel horns and the shrill clear Great Eastern whistle of the little J15 will live with me for ever.  It was very moving and the memory of the day will never be lost nor those unforgettable years which enabled me to preside over the end of one era and the beginning of the next.  A few months later, our human revolution was completed as it began in 1952, quietly and without fuss, while I was away at the British Transport Staff College on an important four-month course.  Nor did I witness the arrival of the last steam hauled train into Liverpool Street as I had done on the Jazz in November 1960.  And, as electrification affected the lives of our enginemen and shed staff, there is yet another story to be told.

Whilst we were battling it out on the diesel front, we were not idle by any means, with the problems of electrification.  Whereas with the diesels, structural changes such as new depots and fuelling points, were largely made on our premises by contractors, the Civil Engineers, the S & T, the CM & EE’s Overhead Line people and, of course, the Operating side were deeply involved in the enormous problems and practicalities of the reconstruction of bridges and stations in a dense urban area, formation and track work, resignalling and the design and erection of overhead structures and electrical equipment.  Our Stratford breakdown crane was constantly used on bridge work at weekends by the remarkable District Engineer, K. H. Tredinnick, being the most powerful crane available and manned by very competent Fitters’ Mates out of the Running Shed, all volunteers under the direction of such legendary foremen as Syd Casselton and Tommy Newman.  Our gang was quite outstanding, there was great comradeship, anybody that was slow in answering the call was immediately replaced and, as the men were expected to continue their normal shifts when not on a job, they worked very long hours but this was traditional.  Breakdown work, with 40-50 callouts in a winter month, and no on-call allowance, disrupted their lives for years on end and they rightly expected their pound of flesh.

Whereas we maintained the diesel locomotives, the electric trains were the responsibility of the Electric Traction Engineer at Ilford who reported to the CM & EE.  But the trains were driven by our motormen, so that we worked closely with Col. Leishman, the Electric Traction Engineer and his Assistant, Ted Lyon, the more so when the changeover from 1500DC TO 6.25 & 25KV AC got nearer.  On the 1500DC Shenfield and Chelmsford services failures were unknown and timekeeping exemplary with the 1949 Shenfield stock.  The 1956 stock on the Southend line was not so good and I can vividly remember its rough riding.  Conversion turned both ‘49 and ‘56 into units of doubtful reliability and the new GEC trains for the NE London services, on trial running, were reputed to be in trouble.  Scotland was having difficulty with transformers on their AC trains and we were still getting the best from steam, particularly on the Jazz.  Indeed, on the last week of steam working, not a single minute was lost by the locomotive on any Jazz service, which was some achievement!

As indeed was the DC to AC weekend in October 1960 in which we played a relatively minor role.  By 4th November, all the lines included in the scheme: Enfield, Chingford, Hertford East and Bishops Stortford via Churchbury, were ready for the start of electric services.  I travelled down to Enfield late on the Sunday night on old 9719 with Driver Bob Baker and returned with the last up steam hauled train, staying the night in the Great Eastern Hotel.  The electric trains started to run with the Burglar services.  By 07.00, we were in a terrible tangle with the failures and difficulty in getting through the neutral section, which had been placed immediately after starting from Bethnal Green on a sharp curve and rising gradient.  We had an awful week, but this was nothing to our troubles when the new and revised timetable came into operation on 21st November.  Eventually, the entire fleet of new GEC trains had to be withdrawn for extensive modification of the electrical equipment and stock from elsewhere was drafted in to run a reduced service.

Although we were not involved technically, the Jazz motormen, who had born the last steam years with fortitude, were disappointed with the turn of events.  Nor had I helped by making an error of judgement.  In steam days, the turnaround of a 10-coach train in the peak had been five minutes, which allowed the crew of the incoming engine to unhook and take water and to follow down promptly on release.  The turnround of the electric services was tighter still and, according to national agreement, did not allow a motorman sufficient time to change ends against the throng.  Unwisely but to maintain the agreement, I agreed to the incoming driver laying over one train, which was fine in theory but, as the service was in tatters, it only made things worse.  After a week of chaos, we all said to hell with the agreement, much to everybody’s relief.  Our motormen had to get to the other end against the tide but they always made it somehow!

That is the end of the story.  It had been a remarkable experience.  Come hell or high water, we were there to run a railway, to run trains to time.  We did not always succeed with the cross-London and local freight services, through shortage of engines or men for one could not undertake that enormous training programme without creating serious shortages.  We were not constrained by strict budgetary control and, had we been, we could never have achieved the impossible.  But we knew where and how to apply the pressure and how to tread on illegal and dishonest practices.  There are men around who can still bear witness to that and who respected a management that was a step in front of them most, if not all, of the time.  Our targets, apart from the implementation of the human and technical revolution, were reliability, punctuality, discipline, constant attention to the detail that runs the railway, high morale, strong, firm but human management and the closest of staff relations right through the District.  We did not waste time with long and turgid meetings, we did not need to look over our shoulders at each other, we took decisions and got on with the job.

So, as always, it boiled down to what people at all levels were prepared to do.  Old Bert Webster, my Assistant, Jim Woolvett who helped so much with electrification, having come from the CM & FE, Norman Micklethwaite and Dennis Barrett at Stratford and the shedmasters further afield, the foremen, the inspectors, the clerks and the vast outside staff whose lives were constantly changing: Les Thorn, who learned much from the legendary W.O. Bentley, one time Doncaster apprentice and whose engineering genius was the inspiration behind the original Bentley motorcar WO rode on our locomotives, steam and diesel, and spent many hours talking diesel engines with Les in the shed at Stratford.  And, if one can harness those human resources and they have the courage, self-discipline, capability and the sense of humour and of the ridiculous to take them through the darkest moments of disappointment, change and frustration, then one can take on the world.  It was my good fortune and an honour to be in charge of such people at such a historic time.

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