Memories Of a Railwayman

My name is Gordon Jackson, a regular volunteer at the Ribble Steam Railway. I started working for British Rail on November 23rd 1960 at Preston Loco Shed.

My dad had a mate who worked on the Railway at Preston he came home and told me that I had an interview with the Shed Master, a Mr Grant, at Preston Shed on Wednesday the 22nd of November. I turned up in the morning had an interview; he sent me down to the medical office on what was Platform 9. (This is now a footpath to the Car Park) After the medical I returned to the Loco Shed, He said that my eyes were not fit for the footplate, (we had steam locos in them days). But you can start tomorrow in the shed. Just a note to say that the shed did not have a roof it was lost in a fire on the 28 June 1960.
When l started l was introduced to a man called Billy Ash who told me that my job was to assist the boiler cleaners. My wage was £8-8s-0d a week (that was big money)

I had to look in the fire boxes (they had been cooled down) to look at the fire bars to see if they needed changing. I also went out with the Breakdown Crane when required.
One job we did on Saturday night the 22 July 1961 was to go to Singleton to recover the Colne to Fleetwood Boat Train which crash in to a standing ballast train on Sunday the 16 July 1961 the Driver and six passengers lost there life’s, A Diesel Multiple Unit on it side down the bank in a field, We started at 9.00 pm and finished at 12 noon on Sunday.

The shed closed in October 1962.

I was offered a Goods Guards job at Preston and started my training on the 10th of October 1962 at Manchester Victoria. This was 6 weeks in the class room, then l was sent to look over the routes for the next three months. This meant that you had to know all the signal boxes on the route that you worked trains on. You also had known all the signals and gradients.
The first train l worked was in March 1963, it was the 6.50 pm parcel train to Morecambe.
My first derailment was at Oxheys sidings (Preston cattle market), my fault new on the job.
I went on to work on various goods trains for the next five years including the Longridge number 7 trip which started at Preston 8.30 am up to Longridge, and back to Preston for lunch. We had a job No 15 trip booking on at midnight, I went to Lostock Hall sidings to meet up with my Driver and Fireman Sammy Waterworth and Bob Jackson. Bob started at Preston in October 1960.
We got the train ready then of to Maudland sidings. We shunted the coal train splitting it up in some for Longridge – Dock St Sidings – Deepdale sidings and Courtaulds Rayon works at Red Scar. We then went to Ribble Sidings for more coal wagons back to Maudland shunting once more. At 5 o’clock we prepared a train of coal to go to Dock St sidings then back, Loco and brake van back to Maudland. If there was lots of a wagons for Courtaulds we had to take them one morning there was too many for the Longridge Trip we got 22 wagons of coal and set off thro Maudland Tunnel this was a steep up hill run. Going though the tunnel slowly I had to get a brake stick out and rub it on the tunnel wall to see if we were going forward there was a lot of steam. Out of the tunnel into daylight and fresh air. On arrival at Courtaulds we shunted the train in to the sidings Bob said to me it was so bad in the tunnel, me and Sam got of the Loco and walked to the end and was waiting for the train to come out.

Other jobs we had was the Dock no 8 & 9 trip on this job we worked on and off Preston Docks mostly with coal. If we had a lot of empty wagons to come of the Docks up a gradient of 1/ 29 from the dock to North Union yard thro Fishergate tunnel. We needed an assistant loco in the rear to the yard at the top of the bank. We then went to Bamber Bridge to shunt the train in to the sidings. Then over to the other side of the main line to attach another train of loaded coal wagons. Off back to the Docks. At the top of the branch we had to stop, I had to pin down the brakes on the last three wagons then went to the front of the train. The driver set off, my job was to pin down two in four wagon brakes as we went down the steep bank 1/29. When we got to the bottom (Strand Rd) I had to pick all the brakes then across the road on to the docks.
A nice day job we had was the Ribble Cement train to Shap Summit. We went light engine (English Electric type 40) to Horrocksford Cement works at Clitheroe. We picked up 15 cement tanks then of to Shap on to the main line at Preston. On thro Lancaster, Oxenhome and Tebay, we did not stop for a bank engine. On passing Scout Green Box the we started to slow down the engine was taking the strain passing Shap Wells and Queen Victoria’s statue we was down to 10 miles an hour only 2 miles to go the engine was getting hot and the fire bell started to ring stick a rag in it we got to the Summit safe and sound. On return we were booked relief at Preston but more often than not we had to take the empties back to Horrocksford.

One day I booked on at 9.30 am to work local trains around East Lancs area. I went to book off and the clerk there said that there was a derailment just south of Standish Jn. on the goods line that bypasses Wigan.
It was a Soda Ash train and needed the Preston Breakdown Crane (this was the biggest in the area, I think it is now at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway) and asked will l do it. So off to the shed to get the Crane and off to Standish. When we got there at midnight what a mess. I got relieved at 6 am and made my way back to Preston, I booked off at 8 am and went home to meet Linda my wife on the door step going to the end of the street to phone the office (no mobiles or home phones in them days 1960’s). That was a long shift, 21hours 30min.

Inter-City started in 1966 and I was promoted to a Passenger Guard in March 1967 that meant more route learning 6 weeks to London. Preston to London was 209 miles and more via Birmingham.
I worked the APT (advance passenger train) this train ran up to 125mph in places and also tilted on bends this was the founder of the Trains of today.
One of the trains worked was the Lancashire Pullman. I had some tie’s made with the Pullman logo with the Lancashire Rose we sold them and other ties that l made The Scottish Pullman – Preston Guild 1992 – and one to celebrate 21 years of Inter-City. With the money we made we took some of the Children on holiday from the Elms Special School.
In October 1988 I was promoted to a Senior Conductor so off to Wolverhampton for a week to learn about issuing tickets etc. As Senior Conductors we had to examine all tickets on the train.
One day I relived the 0710 from Glasgow to London. This due Preston 0950 it had an extra coach next to the loco I asked the Glasgow Guard who is in that he said “ONLY THE BRIGHTON BOMBERS WITH A POLICE ESCORT” we had a special stop at Bushy just south of Watford Jc. On the platform was armed police to meet us the passengers in the extra coach got off (all on free tickets and fed from the dining car).
Another shift was to work the sleeper from Preston to Crewe on the front of the train was two coaches for Penzance they was detached at Crewe. I also got relived there. I then worked the London to Perth train to Wigan, then had to walk to Springs Branch about 2 miles, then work a Goods train to Carnforth, then home passenger.
I never did have the honour of working the Royal Train.
Booking on and off was at variable times of the day. But if you was late back you had to have 12 hours rest before starting the next shift.
I got on the LDC this was Union rep job we did the rostering for the conductors at Preston. The railways started a four day week 9 hours.45 minutes a day this meant two day off a week. So when we did the rosters week one was rest days Fri & Sat week two was rest days Mon & Tues week three rest days Wed & Thu. That gave us a long weekend every four weeks. In 1992 I got a co2 office job this was train announcing from the Preston Power Box. I worked in the station enquiry office looked after disable passengers that required assistance.

In October 1998 I retired after 38 years at the age of 55.