Archive for October, 2014

THE GOLDEN YEARS OF STEAM

October 20, 2014

 

THE GOLDEN YEARS OF STEAM

This month we have lovely little poem from old favourite, Roy Marriott, which allows us in to some footplate tales from Bill.

The Golden Years of Steam

By Roy Marriot

Rumbling, Clattering, pistons shattering

The intense silence of the night.

White steam billowing, in a long stream following

The engine speeding in its flight.

Carriages swaying, snake like shuddering

Staccato rhythms crossing metal points

Intensified screeching ear splitting hissing

Feels like the train is breaking at the joints.

 

Now through the tunnel, distant lights flickering

And the moon seems to be racing alongside

Passengers warm and sleeping, dreaming no doubt

Of adventures waiting at the end of the ride.

 

Rail travel was exciting, back in the old days

Before the airways were filled with jets and planes.

Train spotters in their hundreds crowded the stations

Marking down each peculiarity of the trains.

 

Being a child in the late forties

Often meant journeys to the seaside

With promise of rock and golden sands

Stopping at every station before reaching our destination

Then walking with my parents, hand in hand.

 

How I love to travel, brings back many memories

All the days seemed sunny, full of fun

No computer or television, making our own pleasures

And a bedtime story when the day was done.

 

Roy Marriott.

 

BILL’S FOOTPLATE TALES

Bill, alas no longer with us, was an old workmate of mine and he would regal us with tales of his life as a fireman and later as a driver on the footplate in the age of steam.

One tale I enjoyed in particular was of the time Bill was caught short on the engine. There were no toilets on the engine itself of course nor was provision to get through to the carriage toilets – so evidently the common practice to relieve oneself was out of the side of the engine while it was passing through a tunnel. On this particular day Bill had left it a bit late and he was still in action as the train emerged from the tunnel, resulting in him spraying a gang of platers who were working on the line and were happily standing back to allow the engine to pass safely. Can you imagine this scene from the plater’s point of view? There they were standing back and waving pleasantly to an engine exiting the mouth of the tunnel and then the amazement of coming to terms with the sight of this bloke standing on the footplate and p…..g all over you as it flew past.

Bill had the ability to tell a tale and make it live He described as how he had been a fireman on a train bringing a line of empty goods wagons over the Pennines from Lancashire into Yorkshire. It transpired that the driver, who Bill described as a little gnome like creature who smoked a clay pipe, had been a bit lazy and he had not bothered to couple up the brakes on the wagons as he believed, wrongly as it seems, that the brake on the engine would be enough to hold a train which was only pulling empty wagons. Bill said we came flying down the Yorkshire side of the Pennines and seemed to be gathering speed rather than slowing down. We would meet the main line at the bottom and if a red light was showing we would have to stop to allow the express to pass. Bill said, I said to the drier, ‘don’t you think you should put the brakes on Burt’ and when I turned round he was wedged in the corner bracing his foot against the brake pushing for all his might, his clay pipe dangling out of his mouth. ‘What do you think I’m doing I’ve had the b…..brake on for five minutes and we’re not slowing down’. We shot out onto the main line at the bottom like a cork out of a bottle and thank God there was nothing coming.

Another of his engine tales concerned a tunnel again – on this occasion Bill was the fireman and he became concerned that the train was travelling very fast considering it had to stop at a station which came immediately after the tunnel, ‘Don’t you think we are going a bit fast for such and such a station?’ Bill had said to the driver. Bloody Hell!’ had replied driver, ‘I’d forgotten we were stopping there today!’ With that he had banged on the anchors so hard that the wheels locked and the train slid out of the tunnel and passed the platform with sparks flying from the wheels. An old lady happened to be waiting for the train and unabashed the driver lifted his hat to her and said, ‘I’ll be with you in a minute madam’, as the train slid past. In fact, they had to get permission from the stationmaster to change the signals and allow the train to reverse back to the platform. But yet again it’s the concept from the lady’s point of view that is so funny – the idea of a train sliding out of a tunnel, wheels locked and sparks flying and the sight of the engine driver tipping his hat as it slid past.

 hopper at east end pard

Hopper at East End Park

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The Stepping Stones

October 1, 2014

The Stepping Stones

This month our tales are not really about Old East Leeds but as they are both by old East Leeds lads I hope that’s ok. They both concern adventures crossing stepping stones: Dave Carncross’ antics on the River Wharfe at Burnsall reminded him of his great friend and hero, Ricky Chappelow, who although a great lad had a tendency to be injury prone (see ‘My Hero’ tale in the archive for December 2011) Dave’s tale is followed by Eric Allen and Pete Wood’s perils on the stepping stones across the River Crimple near Harrogate.

Hope they make you smile

The next Old East Leeds Codger’s reunion will be on Tue Nov 4th 2014 around noon at the Edmund House Club Pontefract lane Leeds. All welcome.

DOING A CHAPPELOW

By Dave Carncross

During the school holidays we look after our two youngest grandchildren, Matthew and Lucy, while their Mum and Dad are at work.

Yesterday, we took them off to Burnsall for a picnic and an afternoon by the river. We walked up the river a good way until we got to the suspension bridge -this is an old triangular affair which is pretty wobbly and springy and quite novel to walk on.

Just before the bridge there is a row of stepping stones which cross the full width of the river. These have been deliberately put there and, in fact, are pinned to the river bed by metal rods right through them. My wife and I were resting at the side of the river and Matthew who is just 13 years old and very tall for his age ran at a great pace across the stepping stones. It was great to watch because he seemed so graceful and effortless and was going so quickly he seemed to be only stepping on every third stone or so.

Naturally, my mind went back to a time when I could have and definitely would have been doing exactly the same thing so I resolved to at least go over the stones but not running of course. If I am walking any distance, I always use my walking stick these days (ever since I had my knee replacement). So I carefully got onto the first stone and using my stick as a forward brace against each stone as I went proceeded in a stately and ,though I say it myself ,competent fashion appropriate to a gentleman of my advanced years. I got to the middle and stopped for a general look around realising that the water was pretty rapid and noisy at that point. I reached with my stick for the next stone and found what I thought was a dry secure position to use as a brace point and stepped confidently forward. The stick slipped and I plunged into the River Wharfe up to my waist in the gap between the two stones and ended up with one foot on the bottom and the other leg half on the next stone. I was not unduly alarmed but was aware that if I misjudged my next move I could end up completely under water. Anyway, I scrambled up successfully but realised that I had had to let go of my stick and damaged my right hand more than somewhat. I looked for my stick and saw it sailing merrily downstream about ten metres away towing my dignity with it line astern. For a brief moment I considered plunging after it on the basis that I couldn’t get much wetter but the thought occurred just in time that there might be hidden depths which I would most assuredly plumb if I tried.

I carried on to the far bank and returned over the bridge already mentally rehearsing my explanation as to how this mishap had occurred. I was conscious that the expressions on the faces of the onlookers had changed from expressing “good on yer, Grandad” when I first set out to cross to “silly old bugger” when I fell in. My wife`s initial concerns seemed to relate to my wallet, car keys and mobile phone in that order. Once assured that these vital signs had not suffered she noticed that the thumb of my right hand was bleeding copiously where the nail had been bent back and torn away from the nailbed. I am aware that this problem amounts to a phobia in the fairer sex so wrapped it up as tight as possible with a tissue. My main problem was that my two middle fingers had been bent back to an unfortunate extent and were turning purplish and swelling rapidly. Taken all round it could have been a lot worse but I didn’t feel that I had got away with it either.

We set off walking back downstream – my shoes squelching with every step. My left trouser leg was two tone because part of it was still dry so it was obvious that either I had been in the river or was alternatively tragically incontinent. The riverside path forms part of the Dales Pathway and is well used so I was never short of cheery walkers enquiring about my “paddling”. It wasn’t a very warm day so I was hard put to share their merriment and was thinking that my condition brought a new slant onto the expression “chillin` out with the kids”. We had done about quarter of a mile or so when my wife spotted my stick floating in a becalmed stretch of the river. Matthew soon had his shoes and socks off and, with the aid of a very long piece of tree branch which his sister had found, managed to bring it to the edge. I would think the odds against finding it again must be as high as winning the lottery.

I was well pleased naturally but felt obliged to remonstrate verbally with the stick for collaborating in my dunking. Since this was attracting the interest of other walkers I thought it was best to carry on walking and got back to the car without further incident. My fingers were now like over- inflated pork sausages and I had some pain when gripping the steering wheel. It seemed to take a lot longer to get home than it did to get there.

 

The Stepping Stones Over the Crimple

By Eric and Pete.

The guidebook clearly stated: beware of the stepping-stones across the River Crimple; they are libel to be slippery and dangerous in winter. They were indeed; I took one look and didn’t like what I saw at all. Eric, my walking companion, who was the proud possessor of a walking stick proddled about testing the depth of the water; as proddlers with walking sticks always tend to do. The problem was: there were a couple of a major gaps between the stones, which must have been all of four or perhaps even five feet wide. Sure there were a couple of tiny stones, now underwater, bisecting these ‘giant leaps’ which would have probably served all right in summer when the water flow was low but this was mid November, we’d had a lot of rain and the water was now gushing through in a raging torrent.

Eric, with his stick was making unnecessary progress over the stones towards one of these chasms. ‘Let’s go around the road way.’ I pleaded, ‘It’s only about a mile further according to the book.’ But proddlers with walking sticks are never satisfied until they have caused injury or mayhem. He proddled into nothing with his stick and was in up to his knee, miraculously pirouetting on one leg and narrowly avoiding a full-length fall into the icy water before managing to hoist himself, soggy leg and all onto the next stepping stone and screeching in mortal anguish from the cold all the way to the other side.

This dismaying sight made me less keen on making my own crossing than ever. However another problem now confronted us in that he was on one side of the river and I on the other. There was no chance of him coming back and I preferred dry land on this side. Stalemate! Contemplating our position I saw we had a dilemma in that neither of us had done this walk before and if I now went round the road way and he carried on from the stones we had no idea where we might meet up: if at all. On the other hand the gap between the stones looked awfully wide and the stone to land upon looked green and slippery. I mentally saw myself, jumping, landing on the catching stone and tippling backwards and slightly to the left to go full length into the deepest part of the river – probably smashing my knee in the process – finally I’d have to drag myself the many miles back to the car, injured and soaking wet. ‘I’m going around the road way,’ I shouted across while at the same time making the same mistake that Eric had made – in that even as I spoke I had advanced to the very stone from which Eric had made his desperate attempt. Meanwhile, our accompanying dog crossed and re-crossed in the river itself, barking and obviously wondering what all the fuss was about. Eric had by now retraced his steps to the stone immediately next to his side of the chasm and held out his stick in a futile attempt to aid my crossing. At this point I made the amazingly fearless but foolhardy decision to shout: ‘OK I’m going for it – catch me.’ But his big feet were taking up almost all the catching stone, especially the part where I was aiming to land. ‘Shuffle back a bit,’ I said you’re taking up all the b… stone!’ So I leapt, a great majestic leap, instinctively he made a grab for me. ‘Whooa!’ we swayed backward, we swayed forward, we swayed to the east we swayed to the west; a great battle between man and the forces of nature was being played out, observed by none but the bemused dog. For many seconds our fate was in the balance but gradually the swaying became less frantic, the ship was steadied; the day won and the two intrepid walkers, one limping and with a wet leg the other thankful for his deliverance and of course, a wet dog, waddled off to face other of natures trials.

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Look, they’re building a ruddy great incinerator on our lovely old ‘Black’ Road.

Iicinerator