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The unique smell of smoke and the hot oil and the “CLANG!” of a loco’s firebox doors being closed, followed by the roar of the loco’s blower to draw the fire up would not drown out the singing of the cleaners belting out the latest hit of the top ten as they went about their duties……
….the boiler washer shouting “BELOW!”, as he releases boiler’s mud hole door to let the water out with a great rush and if the drain in the pit gets blocked, filling it with water and the irate boiler washer cursing as he pokes the drain cover with a boiler washing rod to try and get the water to run…
…a fitter can be heard knocking seven bells out of a stubborn nut which refuses to move, or his mate on the same loco belting the sand pipes with a hammer to try to make them work…..
…the heavy metal “THUD!” as the last bolt holding a broken Class 8F spring is released and it crashes into the pit and more cursing as the fitters struggle to get a new one in position.
A shout of “CLEANERS!” from the foreman fitter to summon assistance with the winding gear on the shear legs lifting a loco for an axel box repair.
The heavy metal to metal “CRASH!” as a fireman throws out the safety catch on the turntable prior to winding it round to the engine which he is taking out of the shed…..
…..then a shout of “RIGHT HO! 44070!”, who’s driver opens the ejector to blow the brake off, releasing a spray of sooty water from the loco’s chimney, but the fireman is ready for this and stands clear. With a “POP!” on the whistle and a hissing of steam from the open cylinder drain cocks.
The loco moves onto the table. The shout of “WHOA!” by the fireman as the loco reaches the correct position, another metallic “CRASH!” as the safety catch is thrown out followed by the shout of “BLOW UP!” from the fireman for the driver to create a vacuum in the locomotive’s brake pipe which he attaches to the vacuum pipe on the table to operate the table’s vacuum operated motor to turn the loco…
…another shout of “BRAKE!” from the fireman as the loco is in the correct position to leave the table and he can disconnect the vacuum pipes…..
…another “POP!” on the whistle and more hissing of steam as the loco moves off the table to leave the shed.
All goes quiet in the shed, except for the singing of a boiler water injector topping up the boiler water of a loco, in steam by the shed’s steamraiser, and the rattle of his shovel as he puts coal on the fire. Just enough to keep it in steam ready for when a crew come to take it out…..
….another metal “CRASH!” as he throws his shovel off the loco on his way to his next charge.
The “BANG!” of the heavy weight door closer on the running fireman’s office (the shant) would put cleaners on their toes as it might mean he is coming on tour of the shed checking on what loco’s he has got. Cleaners were always on their best behaviour when this ‘worthy’ was about and at the same time hoping he was looking for the senior hand for a firing turn.
A loco comes off the ashpit into the loco shed doorway and gives three “POPS!” on the whistle meaning the barsetter is required to put back the four of five firebars in the firebox which had been removed for fire cleaning.
The barsetter comes with his long metal rod with a hook on the end, used to put the firebar into place after he has thrown it into the firebox, or, if he is not skilled enough in this operation, there is a dull “THUD!” as the firebar slips into the ash pan. With a gleeful shout of “BELOW!” from the cleaners!
A driver, none too pleased at having to bring his loco into the shed near the end of his shift, comes onto the table a bit smartish with the accompanying “BANG!” as the leading wheels hit the turntable.
At the end of the week, especially on a Saturday night with not many people about, the shed took on an air of peace and quiet, with loco’s with their fires dropped and cooling down with just the odd creak or crackle from the boiler as it contracts…..or were they talking to one another?
Dave Darwin, 2nd November 2016
We have many photographs of the Roundhouse in both steam and diesel days. It was only at the recent steam gala that we got to really appreciate the smells and the visual impact of the shed with a number of steam locomotives working. As a working roundhouse we continually hear the noises of engines and rolling stock being maintained but we wondered what it was really like when busy in the steam days.
Talking to Dave after the article was written he also commented that he missed the sound of people whistling as they worked. Indeed, as I watched our volunteers and some of the private owners work I was struck be the quietness of the people. A radio could be heard quietly playing underneath a class 40 and there was a dull murmur of voices inside our guards van. An electronic click of a digital camera was heard as it ate up every inch of the Midland Compound 1000 as a couple of enthusiasts marveled at engineering over a century old.