The opening view for the page shows 25058 at Nuneaton on a fine sunny August 7th 1981. 25058 started the day on the morning T43 job to Hartsill, empties were taken up to the quarry and loads have just been left in the South End yard. 25058 will cross from the Up goods to the down side to reach the North End Yard where the afternoon T43 job will start from. The previous day 25058 had been on a ballast working to Loughborough, where a virtual quarry had been established in the old goods yard.
Opening comments from your webmaster
Two initial memories still come to mind. The first was just how fast the WCML electric services operated. My previous encounters with these services had always been at locations where their speed was minimal, such as Euston, Birmingham New Street & Crewe. To watch the non-stop services running through Nuneaton at what seemed to be a very high speed was quite breath taking. The second vivid memory from Nuneaton was the smell!
1975 saw the end of my grammer school life as I left Ecclesbourne Grammer School with some 'A' & 'O' levels. Regular school routine changed as we took those final exams and there was some free time before starting my full time job. It was at this time that the high speed derailment of a northbound overnight express occurred at Nuneaton, making headlines across the newspapers the next day. With plenty of spare time on hand, I thought why don't I get on my pushbike and cycle down to Nuneaton and check this derailment out! I was going on a cycling tour of the Lake District later that summer, so thought this would be a useful piece of training! It was only about thirty miles there and thirty miles back, should be no problem! It is sufficient just to say that this bike ride is now permanently affixed in my memory, something not to do again, ever! The day turned out to be a warm one, the ride south was most agreeable, but the return was thoroughly miserable with a very warm afternoon and it seemed that every road taken was on a rising grade, and as many miles as I pedalled, Derby never seemed to get any nearer!
But more importantly is the following text and pictures from the memories of Dave Smith, who worked out of Nuneaton from 1978.
Memories from Dave Smith.
Dave had an early interest in trains, taking engine numbers and travelling on a few trips, to Norwich, to Stockport on a Class 40 hauled Merrymaker and to Barry for the scrap yard. Dave's Dad was a firemen at Nuneaton in the late 1950's and early 1960's, but left because he didn't like diesels! The story goes that while Dave's mum was pregnant she went down to Nuneaton shed to fetch my dad's wages, whilst there a loco whistled at her & I jumped in the womb! That's where it all started!
With this interest in railways my Dad suggested I write for a job at Nuneaton, it just happened they were recruiting for the first time in many years. The men were great characters, lots of ex-steam drivers, they taught us alot. The whole depot staff, station staff and permanent way staff came to the annual dinner dances at Christmas.... one big railway family.
An interview was arranged for 11am on Wednesday August 23rd 1978 at Nuneaton station to proceed with the application for a Traction Trainee position at Nuneaton. Recruitment would be subject to being formally approved as suitable for entry into the Footplate line of promotion. The interview proved successful and my first day on the railway was September 3rd 1978. The first few weeks involved helping out on the platforms at Nuneaton Trent Valley station.
On October 5th 1978 notice was received that Dave had been selected to fill the Driver's Assistant's position at Nuneaton with a promotion date of Monday October 16th 1978. The promotion was of course dependant on the satisfactory completion of the Traction Trainee's course. This course would be completed at Crewe.
Notification was received on October 13th 1978 of the practical road training that had been arranged for Dave as 'Third Man' on the following diagrams:
Dave passed out as a relief driver during 1983 with traction knowledge on a variety of locomotives. This knowledge included Class 08 shunters, Class 20's from about 1982 when they were used with a brakevan on the T43 trip to Hartshill, Class 25's of course! Class 31's from about 1982 (described by Dave as horrible), Class 47's, Class 56's for use on a Rugeley MGR job that never happened and of course all the A/C electric locomotives Classes 81-87.
Nuneaton drivers also signed Class 40's and some learnt DMU's for the Pope's visit to Coventry (shuttles were run from Nuneaton to Coventry), there was also a Parcel unit which ran from Northampton to Birmingham via Nuneaton. At this time Dave didn't learn the Class 40's or the DMU's.
After leaving BR Nuneaton about three years was spent at Coventry Colliey operating hired Class 08's and private owner Hunslets. Returning to BR in 1989, initially hired on as a trainman (guard) at Rugby, driver training followed. When BR was dissolved Dave ended up working for Transrail, then EWS which included a move to Tyseley. During this time a great deal of new traction was signed: Classes 37/58/60/90, Classes 310/321 EMU & Classes 168/175 DMU. In learning the Class 175 DMU's also came traction knowledge for the Class 33's - they were the rescue locomotives for these DMU's.
Dave started at Nuneaton with another guy his age, they were the first for many years to be taken on there. One Driver's Assistant secondman was in his late 50's! He was a passed Driver but awaiting his Driver's position, which he got several years later! You had to move depots to get on even in the late 1970's, some train crews chose to remain in the town they lived in, travelling a great distance to work wasn't as common back then. The next level of ages was in the mid 40's. Saying that the drivers were mostly good fun and taught us so much. We never really thought of them as older at the time they had such good sense of humour and in general most still enjoyed the job. It was a unique time really.
In the 1978 - 1985 period the Nuneaton crews route knowledge included:
Dave signed Euston to Crewe, Leicester, the Birmingham area & Banbury.
After his first stint with British Rail Dave moved on to work for British Coal at Coventry Colliery using hired-in Class 08's and Hunslets. British Rail was rejoined in 1989 as a Trainman (guard), then retrained as a driver at Rugby. Traction experience shifted to Classes 58, 60 & 90 followed later by EMU Classes 310/321 and the Class 37's. After British Rail came Transrail, which was taken over by EWS, followed by a move to Chiltern Railways in 1998! At Tyseley I finally got to learn DMU Classes 165, 168 & 175. The latter interestingly included Class 33's which were the rescue locomotives for the 175's!
About the locomotives driven, Dave liked the Sulzers over English Electrics, the control of power delivery was better for shunt moves. The Class 31's had good cabs but suffered from ingress of horrible fumes that made your eyes water, the control gear was the best of the English Electric's. There was no doubt some animosity towards the Class 31's since they were chosen for refurbishment instead of the more beloved Class 25's! Of course one Class 25 was a bit weak on some trains but at least they sounded as if they were doing their best!
Nuneaton had two Trip/Target shunt duties. One was in the North end yard, the second at the Abbey Street yard and the quarries at Tuttle Hill.
Various trip workings also served the area taking loaded ballast and other permanent way wagons & cranes to where they would be needed for weekend relaying work.
T39 was the Midland trip, this usually started at Abbey Street yard. Booking on was at 04.25, then light engine from Nuneaton Holding Sidings at the north end of platform one. Loaded wagons were taken to Walsall, Bescot, Washwood Heath and sometimes Bordesley and Tyseley. The return trip would be made up of empties. On arrival at Nuneaton the Class 08 shunter would position them for loading whilst the traincrew took a break.
The next trip would then be back to Washwood Heath or Walsall, or sometimes Leamington Spa or Banbury. Frequently this job would end up as a twelve hour turn.
One day on the T39 job we did a loaded trip to Walsall and returned with empties to Abbey Street. Here we took a break and had our 'Snap' (food) followed by taking loads to Banbury yard and then coming back Light engine to Nuneaton. At the time the Nuneaton bakers were in dispute and no bread was available in the Nuneaton area. On arrival at Banbury the talk must have turned to this subject, the Banbury shunter said that the local bakery was baking normally. So our driver (can't remember his name) and Andy Gould, the Nuneaton guard went up to the town returning with alot of loaves! If 25312 would later become known as the ice cream cart (van), our locomotive certainly deserved the title of the bread van! We returned home with the cab full of freshly baked bread. On arrival in the Holding sidings the bread was quickly unloaded and taken down by the Bus station to be sold to the good people of Nuneaton! The crew of course each kept a loaf to take home.
T43 required booking on round about 08.00 and ran from Nuneaton north end yard to Hartshill quarry. You backed in off the down slow via a guard operated ground frame. The locomotive then ran round and pushed the wagons clear of the top points to drop down the left hand siding under the loading hopper. The propelling move here was to the stop blocks above the canal, on occasion a couple of catfish wagons had been unceremoniously pushed into the cut! Depending on demand there were usually two daily trips to Hartshill. This trip shunted the south end yard with the loads often forming the afternoon 6A74 Nuneaton - Willesden, generally worked by an AC electric, but pairs of Class 25's or the odd Class 47 could be utilised.
Hartshill - Guide Bridge ballast workings.
In addition to the two workings show below others noted on this turn were:
25201 had earlier worked the Guide Bridge - Hartshill working on January 13th. The TOPS report showed it as out of service at Nuneaton on January 17th with loss of power, could its entrapment at Hartshill have something to do with this? Time was running out for 25201, it was noted at Toton on the morning of January 23rd (for repairs?), by the early morning of January 25th it was at Bedford and moved on to Bletchley by the evening of January 26th but again reporting loss of power. Its next move was to Crewe arriving in the early hours of January 29th where it was promptly withdrawn.
T43 also had an afternoon trip which took some loaded wagons and any wagons for repair, plus any vent vans from the goods shed. A company providing in-house insulation rented the goods shed. En-route CO2 tanks were picked up at Colshill from a private siding.
The above view features the T43 afternoon trip with the train stopped at Colshill sidings. The wagons of stone have been backed in to the siding to pick up the CO2 tanks from the Distillers siding. The air braked CO2 tanks were also fitted with a vacuum through pipe only (no automatic brakes on the wagons) which would allow the vacuum system to work on the ballast wagons behind. Regulations required three wagons with working brakes on the rear of freight trains. There was always a check (test) done by the guard/shunter on coupling to the train or running around a train. These CO2 wagons were headed for Bescot via Sutton Park.
The Class 08s outstationed at Nuneaton came from those allocated to Saltley. From time to time it was necessary to return these to Saltley for their examinations and come back with a different one. This would take up the whole shift of a Driver & Secondman. If the shunters required refuelling whilst at Nuneaton a road tanker would be called, with the refuelling taking place at Abbey Street. The Nuneaton men knew the Class 08's as 'Dobbins', in particular there was a 'green card' man who worked the Class 08 job. 'Green card' drivers were those with medical problems but who were still considered fit enough to handle driving the yard jobs. The source of the term comes from wagons that needed repair but were still fit to travel, and were identified by a green card.
Dave once derailed a Class 08 in Nuneaton's North End yard. The early Sunday morning job required a BG van loaded with newspapers to be removed from the back of an express and shunted into Platform one to allow for the unloading of its contents. After being emptied the BG would be attached to the back of another service later in the day. On this particular day it was snowing quite heavily. We started up the Class 08 in the North yard and set out to position it for cutting off the BG from the arriving express. As normal we ran through the hand points in the yard, any trailing points set against us were pushed over by the locomotive wheels. After removing the BG and placing it in the platform we returned to the North End yard to put the shunter away for the night. The yard points we ran through earlier were now facing. At one set the snow must have compacted between the blade & rail and we derailed. I thought the locomotive was going to tip over it was so very rough in that cab.
Having delivered the green carded wagons and the Colshill tanks to Bescot if there were wagons to return to Nuneaton, they'd be coupled up and made ready to go. Sometimes we'd refuel the locomotive or swap it out for another one. On Friday's we'd frequently pick up an extra locomotive for use on the weekend permanent way workings.
T57 required booking on at 07.20 and was the Trent Valley trip. This would take loaded spoil trains from any weekend relaying to Crewe Gresty Lane. Trains were also made up of ballast and empty spoil wagons, cranes and other permanent way equipment for delivery to Stafford, Rugeley, Lichfield or Tamworth.
T?? was a working that served Coventry - Three Spires for coal wagons/MGR's, this was driver and guard only.
The driver and guard combination was one of several transitions in the manning agreements since the end of steam when train crews still had a Driver, Second man (later Driver's assistant) and a Guard. Freight turns saw the loss of the Driver's Assistant, now it was just the Driver & guard, the guard often travelled in the back cab on fully fitted trains. A Driver's Assistant would be provided for trains such as local & ballast trips to aid in looking out for shunters hand signals etc. All light engine moves had a Driver's Assistant! By the early 1980's some Driver Only turns commenced on fitted trains only, and now included light engines movements.
Oil train workings - there were a number of booked diagrams that were worked by Nuneaton crews.These were mostly Driver & Guard turns. One ran from Bromford Bridge to Northampton & back, whilst another ran from Willesden to Coventry, usually with an electric then a Class 47 to Charingtons at Hawksbury Lane. Another daily Driver & Guard job was the Nuneaton to Bedworth Murco tanks, again Class 47 hauled. This originated from Immingham, the Toton crew being relieved by the local Nuneaton crew who then took the train on to Bedworth, then light engine back to Nuneaton with a layover here before returning later to collect the empties. This oil depot was accessed from a ground frame off the up Coventry line. The train was required to go to Hawksbury Lane goods loop to runround. Also at Hawksbury was the Charringtons siding on the Down side, which was accessed by a signalled shunt move. Rugeley power station was also serviced by oil trains during the winter - see below for further notes on this working.
Special workings included track panels, long welded rail and cranes. Oil tank trains ran from Bromford Bridge to Rugeley/Murco, Bedworth/Charringtons (Hawksbury Lane). Car trains ran to Bell Green from Scotland. Other traffic included special MGR workings, parcels and freightliners.
Generally most car trains destined for Gosford Green carried Chrysler/Talbot products from the Linwood Plant. These trains also carried containerised products. On my first trip down to Bell Green with a load of new cars there was one piece of track on the branch which had our Class 25 leaning a good way to the left, then back again. I had visions of new Sunbeams going down the bank!
On weekends passenger drags were handled from Birmingham, the Nuneaton drivers worked expresses into Euston. Assistance could also be provided to failing WCML services plus handling any problems (wires down etc) south of Nuneaton. Diverted passenger services could be taken to Wigston/Wellingborough for St Pancras and via Coventry and Leamington for Paddington.
And there were of course countless engine moves to Crewe, Saltley & Bescot.
From 1981 we also loaded ballast trains at Croft & Loughborough.
One Sunday we were booked on for a ballast renewal job down the Trent Valley line. My driver was Percy Starkey who was quite a character and lived in Tamworth on the A5. He didn't own a car so frequently got to work by catching a ride on freight trains or from lorry drivers travelling the A5. There had been a hard frost the night before and all the stone had frozen in the hoppers so the jobs were cancelled. With the plans now changed I had to multi-up two Class 40's and take them over light engines to Bescot via Coventry, the normal route being closed for track work. On approaching Bedlem Crossing we passed the semaphore distant which was showing 'off' (clear), as we came around the curve the home signal was at danger, with the crossing gates shut to the railway! The speed limit on the branch was only 45mph, we put in the brake to emergency and stopped less than a foot from the closed gates! Most likely the hard frost had caused the distant signal to freeze in the clear position! The Class 40's would have made light work of the crossing gates had they failed to stop.
Rugeley Power Station
Rugeley 'A' Power Station was built between 1956 & 1963 adjacent to Lea Hall Colliery which allowed conveyer belts to deliver coal direct from the colliery to the power station. The dry cooling towers were an innovation designed to eliminate water loss and the first large-scale experiment globally. Rugeley 'B' Power Station was completed in 1972.
Lea Hall Colliery closed in October 1990, which required all future coal supplies to be delivered by rail. In 1995 Rugeley 'A' Power Station was closed and later demolished.
The oil trains to/from Ripple Lane were identified as 6E72/6Z72 or 6E67. The train came off the Leicester line then down the Trent Valley to Rugeley TV, running round here and then down the Cannock branch. At the power station the train was propelled into the unloading siding. If the weather was really cold the heavy oil required heating prior to unloading, this would greatly increase the unloading time. Once the oil was unloaded we ran round again and propelled the train out of the power station and then back to Rugeley TV to run round again and then off to Nuneaton. This was most likely a Stratford Class 47 turn, but occasionally Class 25's would turn up.
On one working to Rugeley for the power station we did the run round followed by the brake test then drew around the branch to Cannock and propelled the train into Rugeley 'B'. We then pulled forward into the unloading loop runround and waited for the tankers to be emptied. Since the crew were very hungry we left the locomotive and walked up to the CEGB canteen to purchase some pies! These were cold so we returned to the locomotive to heat them up on the electric hob ring in the cab. With the empty wagons now ready to go, a brake test was completed and then the train was propelled out and then onto Rugeley Trent Valley. Here it was another runround and brake test by the guard! One wagon was found to be defective so we had to shunt the train to get three wagons with working brakes on the rear!
Meanwhile up in the front cab we had warmed our pies & eaten them. The guard, Mick Kelly (later to become an instructor/Driver for London Midland at Coventry) had put his pie on the metal strips above the hot electric ring in the back cab. But now a strong burning smell was permeating the vicinity of the rear cab. A quick look around soon revealed the source. During the extra shunting moves Mick's pie had slipped off the holding rings above the hot plate and had fallen on to the well heated hob - all that remained was a mound of black gunk on the hotplate! Mick was not very happy!
Charringtons, Hawkesbury Lane
Another oil train handled by David was the Ripple Lane - Hawkesbury Lane tanks for unloading at the small Charringtons depot situated just north of the Coventry - Nuneaton line. This working was generally electric hauled up the WCML to Coventry where a diesel would take over to Hawkesbury Lane.
The opening of the oil terminal at Bedworth brought another oil train to the area which would from time to time be handled by Dave.
Nuneaton Open Day, May 5th 1980
Although the facilities at Nuneaton were of a modest nature, they were the location of an 'Open Day' on May 4th 1980. Not wishing to miss out on this event your webmaster made the trip by car, the excuse being that on the way home we could call in at the preservation site at Shackerstone.
My notebook reveals about twenty locomotives seen on this visit, quite possibly some were noted as they passed through the station. Noted were:
If you have visited the 'Barrow' page and read up on the Open Day at Workington, you will gain a little insight on just how much work went into putting these special events together - it was a lot of work!
During the cold winters at Nuneaton we used to be on Frost Duties at the Holding sidings, the TCS had a warning device on the wall. It warned of below freezing tempretures. When it went red we had to run the nearby locomotives and test the brakes every couple of hours (there was a set pattern but cannot remember it now). One cold period we had frozen air systems with broken air pipes in the bird cage area on three Class 25s! They were towed to Saltley to be fixed. Methylated spirits was put in the brake system to try and stop them freezing. When the brakes were applied the smell was unmistakeable. Nowadays I doubt the 'green' lobby would approve of running the diesels all night!
The branch from Three Spires yard to Coventry Colliery & the adjacent Home Fire Smokeless fuel plant was around a mile and a half long. The double tracked branch left the busy yard at Three Spires on a stiff gradient. About half way up there was a signal box with miniature lights, trap points and a barrier crossing. The signalman controlled these signals/point/barriers including the road lights for the crossing. He also controlled all movements from both ends of the yard by radio. The call sign for Coventry mine was 'Kercoal 6' whilst the Homefire plant was 'Kercoal 5'.
On approaching the box you called up from the locomotive stating 'On the way up 15 mgrs' for example. He repeated this or stopped you if not ok. You were able to follow close behind another train at times! The top yard crossovers & yard points were all hand worked. The Home Fire plant had Barclay type locomotives, two in multiple with a Driver & Shunter. Coventry Colliery had a Hunslet and also hired in Class 08's from Tyseley depot! Due to its poor mechanical condition the Hunslet was restricted to the top yard during Dave's time there, it was not up to the long up hill drag from the Three Spires. It did sneak down on occasions in times of emergency.
The above view shows improvements made to the colliery branch during the 1980's. With the development of ProLogis Park on the site of the former Colliery and Homefire plant a rail connection was maintained. Later the double track was replaced by a single line, with a new access road (Winding House Lane) paralleling the railway line to provide road access to the new development.
Going up the bank we ran with a maximum of fifteen mgr empties, which was definately a challenge. Fifteen five loaded mgr wagons was the maximum allowed down the bank, which took quite a bit of careful handling considering the steep grade. The morning & afternoon mgrs to Didcot loaded to forty five wagons! Domestic coal was also sent out in HEA wagons.
The morning shift brought empties up from Three Spires and loaded them. Some loads would also be in the yard left over from the Pm shift. One locomotive took the empties, weighed them over the weigh bridge and drew them under the load hopper, then ran around and began the loading process as controlled by light signals from the loader. Meanwhile the Class 08 was taking down loads and returning with more empties. There was also HEA's to weigh which were moved by gravity on a brake stick over the weigh bridge. They were then piped up to form a train to the Spires.
On one trip down from the colliery with a Class 08 and some MGR loads we entered No.5 siding. As we ran down the siding there were newspaper sheets covering the rails at intervals of about three feet, which was very puzzling until we reached the first sheets of newspaper. Then it was Bang, Bang, Bang all the way down! It turned out the Three Spires shunter had some out of date detonators that were in need of disposal!
The Weigh Bridge was our cabin/mess room, which in winter held a huge coal fire. The weigh bridge clerks worked here so there was a lot of banter going on! On PM's if we worked well there was often time for an hour's card school before clocking off! One day I was on the top yard job on the Hunslet loading MGR's. I had done around seven moving forward one wagon at a time to the signals off the loader. When I stopped for the next wagon there was a bit of a lurch. I was puzzled but could see nothing amiss so drew forward after the wagon had loaded .The wagons were weighed at 2 mph, then drew to the end of that siding in the top yard. I uncoupled the loco, the top yard man was both Driver & shunter whilst the other two crew did the run to the Spires.
Where I was now all the sidings came together at the exit from the yard. There was a facing point which was hand operated and closed by the shunter of the trains leaving the yard to reach the branch main, beyond which was the steep down gradient and the controlling signals for the crossing box and then more catch points! The other route led to a sand drag, which was normally the route set unless a lazy shunter would occasionally leave it set for the main. As I moved my locomotive to return up an empty siding to the weigh bridge I tried to slow down, but nothing happened! I put the brakes to emergency and applied the hand brake! The locomotive was still moving so I thought it best to get off! Fortunately the previously mentioned facing points had been correctly set and the locomotive ran into the sand & stopped. A little investigating soon found the problem, the big thick brake part was found to have sheered in half!
This locomotive also had badly fitting windows because the cab had been banged back into place twice after hitting the slack mgr loading shoot! Near the end of my time at Coventry Colliery they spent millions on new yard & loading facilities. It closed only a couple of years later! I enjoyed the banter with the loco men there and the weigh clerks. The card games and the real toast off the coal fire! I also trained to work the Box & signals (covering for sickness). We worked two shifts 0600-1400 & 1230-2030 with weekends off unless extra trains were run. The time overlap was spent shovelling coal on conveyer belt spillages!
Coventry Colliery was perhaps famous for its use of ex-BR 15xx pannier tanks long after their use had ceased on British Railways. In turn these were replaced in 1969 by two Hunslet 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic locomotives (one of which is seen in the above view). These were powered by a Rolls Royce VEE (type DV8T) engine rated for 562hp at 1,800rpm. Maximum tractive effort was 35,000lbs, weighing in at 54 tons. Dave remembers that in his time only one of the two Hunslet's was regularly in use.
This line is still open to general freight but is now single line only from Three Spires with an automatic road crossing. In British Rail's days big mainline locomotives did not venture over this line, sometimes attributable to the condition of Hen Lane bridge at the top of Three Spires yard. However there never was a weight restriction on this bridge - it just never had been tested for strength as up to recent years there never was the need. Today the big locomotives do use this bridge! There is now an industrial park on the site of Coventry Colliery & Home Fire plant. The latter was built next to Coventry colliery to use the locally lifted coal for conversion into smokeless fuel. But they found out after being built that Coventry's coal wasn't suitable for this purpose so trains were run from Toton to Three Spires to serve the Home Fire plant!
Ron comments that a number of Class 58's were named after collieries, with many of these colleries being closed soon afterwards, as happened to Coventry Colliery. Hopefully there was no connection between the locomotive naming and the colliery closure!
'Big' locomotives were a rarity at Coventry Colliery, normally the shunters would perform all the duties on the NCB trackage north of Three Spires yard. Besides the visit of 58048 mentioned above several other large BR locomotives did venture beyond Three Spires yard. One Class 25 to travel the branch was 25313 which went as far as the throat of the top yard to clear snow off the branch in January 1987. This had been arranged by the Head Shunter at Three Spires yard as the NCB had no method whatsoever of clearing snow off the branch. If the branch wasn't cleared no loaded trains could operate outward, which would greatly affect the flow of coal to Didcot. The Class 25 had been in the area clearing the Coventry - Nuneaton branch and the move was sanctioned by BR management, although technically the branch was not approved for use by BR locomotives. The signalman at Coundon Road had tried to notify Ron of this significant event, but unfortunately this was one that got away!
The first attempt at a railtour to Coventry Colliery was on March 28th 1992. 58013 was leading the train with 47597 on the rear, the railtour was the 1Z19 07.30 Manchester to Kineton.
On March 27th 1993 a railtour with 47300 & 47821 top and tailed the whole branch. Typically the weather was atrocious making any type of photography a challenge. This was the second effort to get a tour up the branch. The first one was worked by a Class 58 and RES Class 47 top and tailed with the former Manchester Pullman set; approval wasn't given to cover the branch so all that the train did was arrive from the north, reverse onto the reception road, then sit waiting time to continue south to Banbury and then Kineton.
The next was 66250 with a demonstration train, the first up the branch after rebuilding as ProLogis Park. In connection with an open day, with superb Exel and Safeway containers. Both arrived and departed in the dark for operational reasons.
The barriers in the view above of Wheelwright Lane crossing are not automatic. The 'resident' EWS shunter normally operates them when trains are running, accessing the crossing by van. If necessary the traincrew can also operate the gates.
The movement of coal in the Nuneaton area was a daily occurrence with many trains originating from Toton destined for places such as Rugby, the cement works at Southam or Three Spires Yard for Coventry Colliery. All three of these destinations would require the coal train to make a reversal at Nuneaton. If Toton provided a Class 44 for these turns a Toton crew would work the trains throughout.
A Day Trip to Nottingham & Regular Trips to Loughborough
It was August 15th 1980 and Dave was on duty but with no designated job, eventually ending up as part of the crew handling a Parcels train, possibly from Bletchley, with 25276 in charge. The locomotive and train were in charge of Driver Ron 'Beefy' Smith, Guard Terry Rayson and myself working the train forward to Leicester, its ultimate destination being Nottingham. Upon arrival at Leicester we were informed that we'd be going all the way to Nottingham with a conductor driver and guard. It was a rare treat for us since Nuneaton crews did not sign the route to Nottingham.
Although the above trip to Nottingham was not the norm, the route would be signed to Loughborough following the opening of a virtual quarry in the goods yard. The stone was brought in by lorry and then shipped out by train, some of the empty trains came in from the Nuneaton area. In fact Dave's first driving turn was taking a Class 47/3 light engine from Nuneaton to Loughborough to pick up a crane. It would have been a class nine unfitted movement on return. On leaving Nuneaton we were notified that the move had been cancelled. The train crew supervisor, Ted Sheldon asked Control if the trip could still be made since it was my first driving turn. The trip was made, my driver's assistant was W Grimstead. In the Syston area it got very foggy and I stopped at a distant signal in the fog!
Bob Daley was the TCS when Trip 57 started going to Loughborough, he made sure that on the first couple of trips a Class 40 was on the job, this would stop the Leicester men from fetching us off the job since they did not know this type of traction. Most of the Nuneaton train crew signed the job after making one trip with a pilotman!
It was a chilly winters night at Nuneaton Trent Valley, I was spare which seemed to be a frequent occurrence at times. Guard Frank Timson was also spare, but I don't remember any Driver being around. I was on the big cushions on the bench in the corner of the mess room on Platform 5. Frank had been playing patience and I heard him get up and go into the kitchen area. We had use of a cooker and a big old gas water heater for instant tea mashing! Frank said something about the pilot light, followed immediately by a load bang and it felt like I was lifted up to the ceiling! I shouted out to see if Frank was ok. He was but both his eye brows were singed!
One Sunday morning we had a permanent-way job taxi to Lichfield to relieve a night crew. Our crew was myself, George Bannister the driver (of orange tea fame - see below) and Mick Brown the Guard. We arrived at Lichfield to find our Class 47 and ballast wagons had already been emptied. George, expecting a long shift got started on the breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage & black pudding. This was cooked in a large frying pan on the electric ring! Since the wagons had been emptied and the line south was clear we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before trundling back up the Trent Valley to put the wagons in Nuneaton south end yard.
The train comprised air braked Sealions and George let me drive. On arrival in the up goods we were signalled along the shunt line to back into the yard, the shunt line carried on past the power box to cemetry sidings. Before the siding got to the Leicester road overbridge there was an 'S' in the track to align it with a bridge arch. Since we had a long train to go into No.4 siding Mick was positioned about half way down the train to oversee the setting back manouvre. The siding contained three vacuum braked wagons which we would have to push further into the siding. For whatever reason, and unknown to us, Mick didn't release the vacuum out of the wagons, but did call on us to back the train down. Naturally the train didn't move and those wagons on the 'S' part of the track lifted up in the air and derailed! So much for our early finish, we had to wait for the rerailing train to come and clean up!
One afternoon driver George Bannister, guard Chris Bostock and myself were in charge of the 6A75 Nuneaton - Willesden stone with a Class 86/0 as the locomotive. One important job for me was to get the water boiling on the hotplate for a brewup. Chris was in the back cab, so it was a case of taking his cup of coffee (not a tea man!) through the engine/transformer room. By the time I got back to the front cab the rest of the water had boiled and George had already poured the tea. The first sip produced an orangy flavour, George asked if I liked it as it was a new brand of tea. As I got to the bottom of the mug there was an orange fruit pastille!
Even Stranger - The Bogey Man
One story that made the rounds involved Guard Ajax and the oil train to Bardon Hill. Guard Ajax with his driver were booked on the oil train which arrived from the north in the early hours with a Class 40 in charge. For some weeks some drivers had been teasing the guard about the bogey man. On this night the train made its way to Knighton Junction where it joined the Coalville line. Extensive mining in the area had produced much subsidence, giving the route a roller coaster like ride with frequently the gradient being up on one part of the train and down on the other. This was a fully fitted train so the guard normally road in the rear cab. Without warning there was a loss of air and the brakes came on. Guard Ajax dropped down on to the ballast to walk back down the train and locate the problem. Out of the gloom he approached a platelayers hut and was startled to find a man sitting in a chair in front of the hut. Somewhat spooked the guard ran back towards the locomotive saying it was the bogey man! The driver walked back down to the hut and sure enough in the wee hours of this chilly November morning there was a man sitting in the chair!
1975 Nuneaton & Coventry Area trips
The following is a brief summary of the local jobs that could be found in the Nuneaton area in the latter half of 1975.
Birmingham Area Trips
London Division Trips
T26 Class 25 Rugby to Newdigate colliery, via Coventry
Stoke-on-Trent Area Trips
Engineers Ballast Locomotives
9L35 Class 25 Sat night/Sun morning as required by DCE
Croft is situated between Hinckley & Narborough on the Nuneaton - Leicester line. The photographs below do not now give an indication of just how large the mining operation is at Croft Quarry. Stone was shipped out by road and rail, presumably the former handled the lion's share of the stone movements.
A Royal Train story
One evening the Nuneaton Supervisor told Beefy Smith and myself to go passenger to Crewe to bring a Class 25 light engine back to Nuneaton. On arriving at Crewe Station we made our way over to the diesel depot. There was a hut which was home to the Holding Siding Supervisor and a cabin for depot drivers and for visitors like us to make tea. We were told our locomotive number & siding number. As we walked down the siding towards our locomotive, the locomotives on either side cast shadows, but the burnished buffers of our locomotive easily stood out. It may have been 25221 or 25222 (it was a gangway door equipped, boiler fitted Class 25 for sure). We started the Class 25 up and checked everything on the locomotive - as you walked through the engine room you could have eaten your breakfast off it! Ron Smith let me drive her back to Nuneaton, it was the only Class 25 that I ever drove that sounded like a Class 47! A special turn indeed.
A Form One
One Satuday evening we were rostered on a ballast turn, we picked up our Class 25, collected the loaded dogfish/sealion wagons and went north to Tamworth. We entered the blocked portion of line and our instructions were to stop at the river bridge north of Tamworth. The work site was just south of Hademore crossing. It was a summer's evening so after making a brew the Driver shut the engine down. No one had appeared to give us instructions on what to do with our loaded ballast wagons.
As the evening wore on and darkness set in I started reading a book for a while. Following this and having just shut off the cab light, there was a load banging noise on the cab door! The Engineering supervisor had arrived, having had to walk three quarters of a mile to us (even though that's where we had been told to stop). He was furious and accused us of being asleep! After a while he grumpily told us to draw onto the work site to unload, providing hand signals on my side of the locomotive. He gave us a green to proceed slowly, followed by a red to stop us. I passed the instrutions to the Driver but there was a slight delay in stopping which really made the supervisor angry, he threw his hand lamp to the ground!
We did manage to unload the wagons, after being relieved by another crew we took a taxi back to Nuneaton. The next week we were issued with a 'Form One' because the supervisor had reported us asleep on duty, which included the guard who was in the back cab and was not even seen by the supervisor. It was left to our union representatives to intercede and sort it out, in the end the 'Form One' was dropped.
Train Crew memories
As well as photographing the locomotives, rolling stock and the infrastructure that was a daily part of the railwaymen's lives, Dave also photographed many of the traincrew from Nuneaton. A selection can be found below along with others scattered about the webpage that illustrate the stories being told.
In the three views below its July 26th 1981 and 40130 has arrived at Nuneaton in charge of a Mystery Excursion headed for Coventry. Nuneaton driver Ron Yateman is in charge of the train, posing for the cameraman in the center view and in the right view is seen looking back down the train as it pulls away for Coventry.
In the three views below, all featuring Class 25's are three more Nuneaton drivers. The left view shows Driver George Grubb in the cab of 25242. George acquired the nickname of 'Driver's Slip Grubb' for his meticulous checking of the driver's slip which provided the details of the number of wagons, weight of train and brake force. George would always ensure this complied with the details given in the loading book for the route and the locomotive.
The views below show 25259 on the Up Goods line at Rugby yard with Driver Jack Owen looking out through cab window. The date is August 27th 1980. The right view shows Driver Ray Smith in the secondman's seat on 25272. This was one of the Class 25's fitted with the tablet catcher recess, hence the positioning of the number at the 'wrong' end.
As well as being familiar with diesel traction the Nuneaton train crews also operated the WCML electric locomotives, in particular those that were used on the freight turns through Nuneaton. The three views below portray Nuneaton drivers in charge of AC electric locomotives. The first view shows driver Charlie Randle filling up the doorway of 85039 at Bletchley on September 9th 1980. 85039 was working the 7A64.
The views below shows driver Albert Martin looking on from the cab of 81012. Albert was very quietly spoken, you had to listen carefully on noisy locomotives. When having a brew up Albert ground his own coffee beans, we'd get the water boiling in the billy can then Albert would add his freshly ground beans and then let it simmer for awhile. It smelled far better than the coffee made in today's gourmet coffee shops, and especially so in the small cab of a Class 25. The third view shows driver Dick Patterson on the secondman's side of a Class 86/0 locomotive.
Three hats in a row in these views! Driver George Bannister gives a big smile to the photographer as he hangs on to the door pillar of an unidentified Class 25. George was mentioned in the Orange tea and bacon & eggs stories and was always up to something! He joked that overtime he got for Dave paid for the wheels on his first car. In the center view Driver Bill Cartwright receives his portrait whilst leaning out of a Class 47 driver's side window. In a more formal view Driver Bert Henny is posed next to the nameplate on 87002 'Royal Sovereign'. Bert was about to take the locomotive and its train of empty Royal train stock back to Wolverton, July 27th 1980.
With Nuneaton located on the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line it was host to all the the AC electrics that the LMR operated. And the Nuneaton crews manned many of the services that were electrically hauled through Nuneaton, in particular the freight turns.
The Corby Trip
On May 21st 1981 driver George Grubb and myself were spare at Nuneaton, I can't remember the name of the Nuneaton guard who was with us. I seem to remember we were told this train was heading up from the North bound for Corby steel works. Because the train arrived in charge of a Class 40 the Nuneaton crew would take the train all the way to Corby with a Leicester crew (a driver and guard) conducting from Wigston Junction. The Leicester men were not trained on Class 40's and we only knew the first part of the route. So for us it was an unusual trip out, we went via Manton & Harringworth viaduct.
On arrival at Corby there were already two Class 31's present in the works yard. After we deposited our train the crew had a brew before heading back to Nuneaton light engine.
1970: Nuneaton local workings require four Class 47's, four Class 25's and one Class 08. The Class 47's are supplied equally by the Birmingham Division (D02) & the Nottingham Division (D16), three dual braked Class 25's are provided by D02 and one from D16. Saltley provided the vacuum braked Class 08.
More memories & views to be added as time permits.
Good memory’s great engines to drive & a loverly Sound due to the reostatic brakes (class 68’s have dynamic version though not as load),we used to hit the far end of that platform at 60MPH in full service brake & stop just right !Thats how we were taught. REF Class 86 view at Nuneaton station.
Page added December 23rd 2007.