After my transfer from Southport to Edge Hill in June 1964, my seniority put me in the extra or relief link, which had booked times on duty but no booked work, so I could be moved up to two hours either side of my booked time, for example if my booked time was 8.00am, I could cover jobs between 6.00am and 10.00am.
It was while I was in this link that I first became aware of the Edge Hill to Carlisle freight trains. There were two trains, the first left at 2.15am and the second at 7.50pm, both were double trips, that is you worked to Carlisle one day and worked home the next day and involved several footplate crews to cover the work for the week.
Lodging houses were provided at certain places for those on double trips. Carlisle had two; one at Kingmoor and one at Upperby, the one used depended on the driver’s preference. Of the two I preferred Upperby because it was more comfortable and the food was better. Edge Hill also had it’s own lodging house in the shed grounds.
It was early 1967 that I last worked a train to Carlisle and so some of the details are a bit hazy or forgotten, like the driver’s names, engine numbers, times and dates and so I will write about what I can remember of my double trips to Carlisle.
My first trip to Carlisle came in the autumn of 1964, it was the 2.15am train and since the regular fireman was unavailable and I was the nearest available fireman I booked on duty at 1.30am. The engine was already prepared, it was a Stanier 8 F 2 – 8-0 and the driver had already arrived. He was known for being on the temperamental side and was not too pleased to find that this was by first trip to Carlisle and also that I had only been at Edge Hill for a few months. After making sure that everything was in good order, like having a good fire and plenty of coal and water we made our way to the shed outlet. After making a can of tea I reported to the outside foreman’s office that we were ready to depart the shed and a few moments later we made our way to Tuebrook sidings, part of the massive Edge Hill goods yard where the Carlisle trains usually departed from.
By the time I coupled the engine to the train, the Guard had arrived to tell the driver the details of the load that we had. Whilst the guard made his way to his brake van at the rear of the train put more coal onto the fire and made sure that there was plenty of water in the boiler. A few seconds before departure I glanced down the train and got a green light from the guard, the whistle was blown and the signal came off and at 2.15am I started my maiden trip to Carlisle.
The journey seemed to start well, we passed through St Helens and Wigan without much delay and the engine was steaming well but my driver was still not in a talkative mood and only said what was necessary.
After Wigan we started getting delays but were only a little late at Preston, after that we went into nearly every loop and so by the time we got to Carnforth we were well behind on our booked time. Whilst getting water at Carnforth my driver said to make his brew, so off I went to the porter’s room on the station to brew -up and then discovered that my driver’s drink was cocoa rather than the tea or coffee “yuck” and only to make matters worse when I was getting back onto the engine I spilt the cocoa. My driver was not pleased and called me lots of names that cast doubt on my parentage amongst them. After this incident things were distinctly frosty between the two of us for a while.
We were further delayed after Carnforth by going into loops again whilst more important trains went by, going into these loops gave me a chance to go into the tender to pull the coal forward since a lot had been used by now. When we were approaching Oxenholme my driver through a series of whistle codes asked for a banker to assist us up Grayrigg bank because of our heavy load. On arrival at Oxenholme station our banker was ready, so we stopped whilst our banker came behind us and after another series of whistles we set off again. I managed to keep plenty of steam on the climb; the banker dropped off at the top of the bank and so the next milestone on the west coast main line Tebay and Shap.
While approaching Dillicar water troughs just before Tebay my driver whistled for a banker at Tebay station while I was getting water at the troughs. We stopped just passed Tebay shed exit and the banker buffered up behind us and whistles were exchanged and off we went up just about the most famous incline in the country “Shap” The banker came off at the summit, we went in a couple more loops to let some passenger trains go by and finally after some thirteen hours on duty we were relieved by a Carlisle crew at Carlisle no 13 signalbox. We stayed on the engine until we got opposite Kingsmoor shed and booked off duty whilst the Carlisle crew disposed of the train at Kingmoor Marshaling yards and the engine into the shed.
My driver and I then made our way to the Kingmoor lodging house, we were allocated our bedrooms and after a wash and brush up we made our way to the mess room for a cooked meal and then I realised just how tired I was after shovelling some five tons plus of coal since leaving Edge Hill. After finishing my meal the time was just turned 4.00pm and time for bed after leaving instructions to call me at 11.00pm.
With thoughts of what had happened on the journey to Carlisle and the noise of the Kingmoor shed shunter at work all just made sleep almost impossible. The shed shunter seemed to work when the crews in the lodge wanted to sleep and when nobody needed to sleep it went into hibernation. So I was up and about well before my alarm call and after doing my ablutions I went into the lounge. My driver was already in the lounge because he also had not had much sleep and so after a little chat and a look at some old papers and magazines it was time again for something to eat.
After eating it was time to go on duty again and so we collected our belongings and made our way to Kingsmoor shed to book on duty again around 12.30am. At the shed we found our engine and it was the same one that we had used the day before, Stanier 8F 2-8-0 and now we had to prepare it again. After a thorough check we went and topped up the tender with coal and water and made another brew, by which time it was time to leave the shed for Kingsmoor marshalling yards.
After backing onto our train I coupled up the engine and after doing his checks of the train the guard gave us the load and then made his way back to his brake van and gave us the tip that he was ready. We whistled that we were ready, the signal was cleared and off we jolly well went again.
After we cleared the Carlisle area the climb of Shap started with no assistance from a banker this time it was a long hard slog to the summit and there was no respite until the summit was reached. Once over the top I could only rest for a few minutes and when we passed Scout Green signal box I started again firing in preparation for the climb of Grayrigg from Tebay, I topped up the water in the tender on Dillicar water troughs and then continued firing until almost the top of the bank. Then I could take things a little easier down the bank to Oxenholme and then the line would be level for most of the way home again.
I filled the tender with water at Hest Bank troughs as we continued our journey through Lancaster where we went into more loops before Preston because the rush hour traffic built up and that delays us even more. We managed to get through Wigan and St. Helens without any further delays to arrive back at Edge Hill around 9.30am. By the time we had disposed of our train it was around 10.00am when we booked into Edge Hill shed. I then had a journey of some forty five minutes and twenty miles to get to my home in Southport which I did on my motorcycle and was I very glad that the next day was my rest day and so I could catch up on some lost sleep.
After my initial trip to Carlisle it was some time before I went that journey again in fact I think that it was early in 1965 when I next went that way. Then I had several trips over a few weeks but I cannot remember much about them except to say that the engines were the usual mix of Stanier Black 5’s or 8F’s with the occasional standard 9F’s and Britannias thrown in for good measure. It was either late 1965 or early 1966 that I moved from the relief link to no 1 goods link, which contained the Carlisle jobs. I cannot remember how many weeks work there was in the link but the Carlisle jobs covered six weeks. The Carlisle jobs were spread through the link, so that you would work a week to Carlisle followed by a couple of weeks on other jobs.
It was some time during 1966 that I had my best trip to Carlisle, having booked on at 6.20pm for the 7.50pm train I had a look at the engine board to find that my engine was to be Britannia 4 -6 -2 70045 Lord Rowallan of Carlisle Kingsmoor shed 12A. As I boarded the 70045 with some trepidation I was met with “Cheer up mate” from my driver “She’s a good one” My driver’s name was Fred a senior driver on the Carlisles and one of nature’s gentlemen and he had been with me before and so I knew I was in for a good trip. During preparation of 70045 I noticed there was a coal pusher fitted to the tender which would be handy if needed and it would save me having to go into the tender to drag the coal forward towards the journey’s end.
After filling the tank with water and topping up the coal I did the most important job so far – BREW UP the tea for my driver and coffee for me. I then reported to the outside foreman’s office that we were ready to leave the shed and a few minutes later we left for the Tuebrook sidings. Whilst the guard was checking the train I coupled up the engine including the vacuum brake as all the wagon brakes were operated from the engine. The guard gave my driver Fred the load information and said that he would test the brake when he got back to his brake van and when the test was complete we would be ready to leave. This done the engine whistle was blown, the signal changed to green and at 7.50pm we departed Edge Hill.
70045 was steaming well and all the signals were in our favour and by the time Wigan was reached we were a little ahead of time. We kept our good run through Preston but we did think that our run was at an end when we went into one of the loops between Preston and Lancaster, but we were in there a few minutes with just enough time to get a good fire on before an Express Passenger Train went by and after a few moments our signal turned to green and off we went again.
A tank full of water was got at Hest Bank troughs after we passed Lancaster and then we thought a stop at Carnforth was likely but all the signals were green for us on the main line. Approaching Oxenholme Fred the driver said that as 70045 was in good nick we would not have a banker over Grayrigg and the summit was reached with the safety valves blowing off.
Fred took water at Dillicar troughs whilst I used the coal pusher for the only time to get some coal forward to take us to Carlisle. Fred decided not to take a banker Tebay for Shap, but he said that if we did stick on the bank the guard could get us out of his brakevan and give us a push. However 70045 took Shap in it’s stride and passed the summit without any trouble. We arrived at Carlisle number 13 signalbox early and our relief arrived out of breath as they had to dash and they thought that we must have taken a short cut or sprouted wings. We remained on the engine till Upperby shed and booked off and went to the Upperby lodging house.
After a wash and brush up Fred and I had a meal and chat before going to bed around 1.30am. This time I slept well and awoke around 8.30am did my ablutions and went for breakfast. I was half way through eating my bacon and eggs when Fred showed his face to start his meal. Then we went into the lounge together to read the morning papers. With a couple of hours to spare Fred and I decided to walk to Carlisle City centre, which was not far from Upperby. We did some window-shopping and since I smoked at the time I bought some cigarettes. We arrived back at Upperby lodge around lunchtime and enjoyed a leisurely meal. It was time then to make our way to Kingsmoor shed and so we caught the staff minibus, which ran between Upperby, Carlisle Station and Kingmoor. We arrived at the shed to book on duty at 3.30pm.
We located our engine and it was a black 5 but I cannot remember the number. Fred and I set about preparing it and after getting coal and water we set off for Kingmoor Marshalling yards arriving some ten minutes later where we coupled onto our train. The guard arrived at the engine to give us the load details and said he would test the brake when he arrived at his end of the train. In due course with the brake tested we departed Carlisle on time at 5.00pm or I suppose in modern terms 1700 hours.
The engine was steaming well on the climb to Shap summit and an incident happened that sticks in my mind to this day. The cigarettes that I had bought earlier in Carlisle and which I kept in the top pocket of my overalls slipped out and landed on the shovel full of coal and ended up in the firebox just as I was firing up. The engine’s safety valve blew off as if it was laughing at my misfortune and of course I was without cigarettes for the rest of the day.
We continued our uneventful journey home, I got water at Dillicar and Hest Bank troughs, we went into loops between Lancaster and Preston before we finally arrived back at Edge Hill at around midnight. We booked off duty and I made my way home.
I did go to Carlisle again during 1966 on both jobs, but as traffic was dwindling sometimes the 2.15am job was cancelled, so we went passenger to Carlisle to work our train back the next day. Then we lost the 2.15am train altogether, but we kept the 7.50pm train until early 1967 but it was diverted over the Settle to Carlisle line. This route was gained via Farrington just south of Preston then Blackburn and Hellifield to Carlisle and return home via Shap. I did this route a coule of times but it was always in the dark and so I never saw the scenery properly and by the Spring of 1967 the double trips to Carlisle had gone forever.
Working the Edge Hill to Carlisle freight train was never easy. If you had a good driver and engine the job was reasonably good but if the driver and engine were bad the job seemed almost intolerable. However, I am so glad that I had the experience and will never forget my DOUBLE TRIPS TO CARLISLE…
ARTHUR G. NETTLETON
FORMER RAILWAY FIREMAN AT SOUTHPORT AND LIVERPOOL EDGE HILL