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With a complement of 120 Drivers and 120 Firemen, 60 Passed Cleaners, 20 Cleaners, shed and office staff, and artisans Barrow Hill had approximately 390 staff looking after the 70 locomotives allocated to it between 1955 and 1965 and the visiting locos on shed because of a failure or unbalanced workings.

When looking around the Roundhouse, it can be easy to overlook the impact the site had on the surrounding community.  It is not just about the hundreds of people who have worked in the building but also about their families and their aspirations.  The employees have also been subject to the impact of two world wars and the immense change of work pattern on the change-over from steam to diesel power.  

Barrow Hill Enginemen

Barrow Hill Locomen

BHESS 2013 735

ONE Shed Sweeper – went all round the shed every day, starting in the signing on lobby, then going round the shed anti-clockwise clearing up any sand and spillage.  You knew the time by his position in the shed!


ONE Water Treatment Plant Operator – saw to the water treatment at the two plants: one in the down sidings at Barrow Hill and the other at Chesterfield.  Cleaners would be sent to help him unload the chemicals which were used which came in bags in a 12 ton covered van.


ONE Pit and Sump Cleaning Operator – in the shed, pits were swept out and the sump emptied when there was no loco on.


SIX General Labourers (Light Duties) – these were retired Drivers who opted to stay on helping out at the shed, known as the “Easy Six”.  They assisted in cleaning up, helping with the clothing issue, helping in the stores and generally keeping the place tidy.  They would gladly talk about their days on the footplate and give advice.


ONE Foreman Fitter – his small office was where the volunteers’ locker room is today.

NINE Fitters – there were always two fitters and their mates on each shift, adjusting brakes, making sanders work, seeing to any running repairs.  On-the-day turn X Day Exams would be carried out.  Lifting a loco using the sheerlegs for attention to a hot axle box was very common on Derby 4Fs, the largest the legs could lift.


NINE Fitters’ Mates – worked with the Fitters.


TWO Fitters’ Apprentices – did a six-year apprenticeship; a combination of practical work with a fitter and going to “Tec”.


ONE Brake Block Man – changed the brake blocks on locos.


ONE Machine Shop Man – looked after the Machine Shop and did turning jobs, etc.  Also went to Derby Works to fetch any urgent parts required at the shed for a loco to get it back into traffic quickly.  He would take a Cleaner with him to help with the carrying.  Non-urgent parts came in the tariff van, a passenger train parcel van, which came from Derby Works attached to a Derby to Leeds stopping train.  Arriving at Chesterfield Station at around 7.30pm, two Cleaners would be sent by bus to meet it.  When they found the van they would check if there was anything for Barrow Hill.  If it was a large object like a steam pipe or even an injector or ejector, the shed minibus would be summonsed to fetch it.  In the meantime, the Cleaners would have a cup of tea OCS (On Company’s Service) in the refreshment room, now long gone.


ONE Handyman Joiner – could be found in what still is the joiner’s shop or pump house under the big water tank.  He did many jobs around the shed and repaired loco footboards.  He also looked after the shed’s breakdown van train (packing vans), going out with it to incidents, keeping the fitter volunteers who manned it on an on-call basis supplied with hot drinks and food if it was a long job.


SIX Boiler Washers – washed out loco boilers, usually two per shift.


ONE Firebox Man – rebuilt loco firebox brick arches when the loco was cold after a washout.  He could always be recognised because he would be covered in white dust from the firebox.  He was one of the few people during this period of time to be supplied with and wear a face mask.  He fetched his large firebricks from the store against the shed wall, wherethe Permanent Way (PW) parts are today, using a flat barrow.  He never had any help, probably because only he knew which bricks he wanted.  The bricks had a pattern number, each loco using different types.


Other Maintenance Work – not based at Barrow Hill, the Outdoor Machinery Department looked after the turntable, water cranes, coal stage tips and anything else that was their responsibility.  Another department, the Cottage Department, looked after building and joinery work.  The PW Department looked after the points and track work in the shed yard, coming in once or twice a week to check and oil and grease the points.


The Cleaners and Passed Cleaners were a very versatile part of the workforce, being utilised for almost any job in the shed: telephone attendant, steam raising, bar setting, smoke box painting, coal stage, ash pit, going out advising, tube sweeping, assisting a Fitter.  And always available for a firing turn and anything else that cropped up at Barrow Hill.  Sometimes, they were sent to other sheds like Hasland or Toton to help out if they were short staffed.  It was all part of learning the job and you did it. If you didn’t like it, you packed it in and went to another job.  Everything came by rail to the shed and had to be unloaded and things for going away loaded up: loco springs, brick arch bricks, fire bars, drums of oil and paraffin, firewood.  All had to be unloaded and put in its proper place.  The only time a delivery van came to the shed was to bring and take away the fitters’ overalls.  This was a scheme where the fitters and mates had a clean pair of overalls delivered every week which were put in the small locker each man had.  

We would really like to develop this section of the website.  After all, it was the people who helped make Barrow Hill Roundhouse, it was not just about the buildings we can see now.  If you have any photographs, information about people who worked here or anecdotes we would value the opportunity to share them on our website.




Below is a list of people who were needed to run the site in the steam era.  We have some records of their names in the archives, unfortunately many were lost during the time when the site was derelict between BR days and the opening of the museum site.


ONE Shed Master – his office with a fireplace is now part of the archives.


FIVE Office Staff – the Chief Clerk and his staff of four including a junior typist.  They dealt with wages, time cards and all depot records.  The General Office is now the shop.


THREE Running Foremen – allocated locos and train crews to jobs, worked with the Control Office, sorted out most problems, their office was known as the Shant.


THREE Foreman’s Assistants – worked with the Running Foreman and saw to the rostering of Drivers, Firemen and Passed Cleaners.


THREE Telephone Attendants – also based in the Running Foreman’s office, gave out time cards and job cards to the loco crews and answered the telephones (both GPO and BR internal) and took messages.


FIVE Motor Drivers – for the shed minibus, used for ferrying train crews around.  They could often be found in their cabin against the shed door where the gas cylinder compound now is.


THREE Callers Up/Advisers – calling up or knocking up finished in the early 1950s but they were still used for taking advice notes out to train crews for a change of duty, eg Passed Fireman for a driving turn, Passed Cleaner for a firing turn.  They were supplied with a company bicycle but would sometimes be taken in the minibus.  When money was transported from the bank in the shed minibus, he would ride shotgun!


THREE Store Keepers – looked after the issuing of stores and keeping records. Provided loco oil, lamps and tools for the locos, and the cleaners’ and fitters’ requirements.  All were issued through the stores window over the counter, still there today.


ONE Sand Man – dried the sand in the sand hole and riddled it; also stood in for the Charge Hand Cleaner if he was off.


ONE Charge Hand Cleaner – delegated work to the cleaning gang who as well as cleaning locos did labouring work.  He had to keep a good record of who did what as cleaners got higher pay for labouring jobs.  This was allocated on strict seniority.  He always carried a large note book around with him.  He also distributed the pay checks to employees for wages collection on pay day.


Approximately TWENTY Cleaners – they cleaned locos sometimes but mostly did labouring jobs, working one shift 7.55am to 4.25pm.


Approximately SIXTY Passed Cleaners – Cleaners passed out for firing duties worked three shifts starting at 6.00am, 2.00pm and 10.00pm.  Firing turns were covered in strict seniority. If not firing, they would be used on other duties – Coal Stage, Ash Pit, Telephone Attendant and any other job that required doing.  There were about 20 on each shift.  In the winter in freezing conditions they would look after frost fires and fire devils at the water cranes.




























20 Loco Drivers and 120 Firemen – in Links of 12.  There were four Main Line Links = 48 Drivers and 48 Firemen; two Branch Links = 24 Drivers and 24 Firemen; two Relief Links = 24 Drivers and 24 Firemen; one Shunting Link = 12 Drivers and 12 Firemen; one Shed and P&D Link = 12 Drivers and 12 Firemen.  (There was also another Link of 12 Drivers and 12 Firemen stationed at Sheepbridge.)  The 12 Firemen in Shed and P&D Link were Passed Firemen and so could be used as Drivers with their job covered by a Passed Cleaner.  The 24 Shunt Link Firemen were also usually Passed Drivers.


ONE Mess Room Attendant – kept mess room and toilets clean, usually a green carded medically restricted man.  He also supplied clothing issues, and to new starters.


THREE Steam Raisers – looked after locos in steam.  Lit fires in locos after washout or repairs.  Cooled boilers down before a washout: blew any steam out, then coupled up a water pipe and ran water through, cooling the boiler down gradually ready for the boiler washers.


THREE Bar Setters – replaced fire bars in loco fire boxes when they had been removed (usually about five) to facilitate fire cleaning.  Used a long iron bar hook to place them in position.  Also helped the steam raiser, especially on Sunday afternoons when most locos would be fired up ready for Monday morning.


THREE Ash Pit Men – kept the ash pit where loco fires were cleaned clear of ash and clinker.  Operated the electric ash hoist which tipped the waste into wagons, making sure that it had been well watered.


NINE Coal Stage Men – three on each shift for the four wagons on the coal stage which filled the ½ ton coal tubs for tipping into loco tenders.  There were about 30 tubs in use.  A loco would usually need six tubs but a large tender could take seven or eight.  Passed Cleaners would be sent to help on the night shift, the busiest time on shed at Barrow Hill.

Barrow Hill Locomen

We don't know how this picture came into our collection but if you look carefully the second man on the right is marked 'Dad', now known to be Henry Turner.  We would love to get more information on both him and the others in the picture.    BHESS 2013 736.  Picture attributed to Harry Burkinshaw 1950.

The picture quality is poor but  this shows some Barrow Hill employees around 1950.

Barrow Hill Locomen 1950s
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